The Amazing Race Excursion, St. Maarten

 

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Fill the cup up with sea water using a single sponge

 

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Ferry Ride

We’re always looking for something fun an exciting to do as a family while on vacation. Our kids are very athletic and love to be outside. So, after reading about Tri-Sport Eco Tours – The Amazing Race, we were all in!! Since our favorite family game is Clue, a scavenger hunt was right up our alley. The Amazing Race tour is the perfect way to sightsee while running (or walking) through St. Maarten. 3 hours of fun for $75 per person. A staff member was waiting at the meeting location to lead us to the ferry for a short ride over to the race starting point.

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Reading the Challenge Card

Enjoy the gorgeous views while sailing on over to the starting point. The waters of St. Maarten are emerald-green with tropical breezes and colorful umbrellas lining the white sand beaches. We were fortunate to meet fun and energetic competitors on the ferry. Upon arrival, the guide suggested that we team up in groups of 4-10, so we teamed up with two other people. Then, it was time to choose a team name. After careful brainstorming, we came up with Team Mana (magical power).

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Philipsburg

Next, the guide starts handing out the first clue and reviewing the rules. Pay close attention, to ALL of the rules as we learned the hard way and took a penalty. E.g. don’t use your phone to research answers on the quizzes. You may use your phone to snap pictures of sites and structures that you’ll need to remember later. Keep in mind, there is a quiz at the end of the competition so be sure to read the information on the monuments and statues. The guide ran through the rules very quickly and people were talking all around us.

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Team Mana

Team Prep~ Get to know the strengths of each person on your team. For example, my knee wasn’t real strong at the time so we chose another team member for the intense exercise drills. Choose a team leader and know who can interpret the clues fast and reiterate to the rest of the team. Since our family of four was on the team, we chose a ‘non-family member’ to spit out the clues to avoid any arguing. Ha! Most of all, designate a photographer to capture all of those candid moments.

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Ready, Set, Race!!! Let the race begin through 2.5 miles of downtown Philipsburg. Each team is IMG_7340issued clues and must use those clues to find the location of an item, which may be in a shop, store window or a symbol on a building. The guide encouraged our team to walk the race and take in all the sights; however, our team consisted of an IronMan and an avid runner so we all chose to run the race!

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Racing through Philipsburg

The website mentions bonus point challenges consisting of mental and physical challenges such as building a sand castle or sampling foods. We were not presented with bonus challenges.

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If you have questions during the challenge or if you’re heading the wrong direction, there are friendly staff in bright green shirts along the way to assist. At one point our entire team was running the wrong way and the other teams were following us, so the staff turned us around. Ha!

IMG_7377The finish!!! Keep in mind that the team who crosses the finish line first doesn’t necessarily win. The final score is calculated based on the finishing time AND the total points for the challenge.  Our team crossed the finish line first but did not result in the most points. Either way, we’re winners in our own right and scored a bottle of rum! It was refreshing to have a cold cup of rum punch (punch for the kids is available) at the finish. The staff is really fun and friendly. Although, I do believe the rules could have been outlined or explained more clearly.

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Winners!!

IMG_7354Tips~ Definitely wear tennis shoes, a hat and apply sunblock. A bottle of water is provided, but I highly recommend bringing your own. It was a long, hot day and we were running a lot and would not want to be limited to one bottle. Eat a hearty breakfast as only a small snack is provided at the end and there isn’t much time to go out to lunch afterwards if returning to a cruise ship. Most importantly, have FUN and LAUGH a lot.

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Book your tour at:

https://www.trisportsxm.com/the-amazing-race-tour-9.html

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St. Martin, Caribbean

St. Martin

St. Martin

St Maarten cruise port

St Maarten cruise port

 

Driving through the Dutch side of Sint Maarten

Driving through the Dutch side of Sint Maarten

Saint Martin in French or Sint Maarten in Dutch is an island in the northeast Caribbean. The island is divided 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and they are pretty equivalent in population. St. Martin is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations since 1648. The southern part is the Dutch side and the northern end is the French part. As of 2009, the population of the entire island was 77,741, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side, and 36,824 on the French side.

Sunken Ship

Sunken Ship

The Dutch side is known for its nightlife, beaches, jewelry, exotic drinks which are made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and casinos.

More about the guavaberry- it is exclusive to Sint Maarten.

Guavaberry Colada

Drink Ingredients:

  • 2oz Sint Maarten Guavaberry
  • 1oz Coconut Cream
  • 3oz Pineapple Juice or Pieces
  • Ice

How to mix the drink:

Put ice in blender, add Sint Maarten Guavaberry, Cream of Coconut, pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with pineapple, toasted coconut & fresh nutmeg.

Guavaberry Sunrise

Drink Ingredients:

  • 2oz Guavaberry Liqueur
  • 2oz Grapefruit Juice
  • 2oz Orange Juice
  • ½oz Grenadine

How to mix the drink:

In a tall glass of ice pour Guavaberry Liqueur. Add fresh grapefruit & orange juice. Carefully pour in  Grenadine. Decorate with grapefruit, orange & flowers. Grate cinnamon on top.

Guavaberry Margarita

Drink Ingredients:

  • 1oz SM Guavaberry Liqueur
  • 1oz Tequila
  • 1oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Ice

How to mix the drink:

Muddle ice. Add Tequila, SM Guavaberry Liqueur, 1/2oz Lemon/Lime, shake well. Use salt rimmed glass. This drink can also be made in the blender. Decorate with lime.

http://www.guavaberry.com/recipes.php

 

West Indies Shopping Mall

West Indies Shopping Mall

The French side is known for it’s nude beaches, clothes, shopping, outdoor markets, and rich French and Indian Caribbean food. English is the most commonly spoken language along with a local dialect. The official languages are French for Saint-Martin, and both Dutch and English for Sint Maarten. Other common languages spoken are French-based creoles, Spanish, and Papiamento.

 

View of St Maarten from ship

View of St Maarten from ship

We were in port for just a day and therefore did not rent a car. We booked a tour with a guide to take us from one end of the island to the other. The guide was hilarious and kept us laughing throughout the tour. He was clearly from the Dutch side, but covered the history and lifestyles of both sides.

The bus was air conditioned, very comfortable with huge windows to take great pictures all the way. We pulled off to view a sunken ship, future property of a resort, and the town of Marigot on the French side of the island. When we reached Marigot, there were a shopping area called the West Indies Shopping Mall.

Rental cars are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on island. A four-wheel drive is recommended if driving off road to get to beaches. Traffic on the island is a major problem, resulting in long traffic jams between Marigot, Philipsburg and the airport. Be sure to allow plenty of time to get to the airport or back to your cruise ship.

The neighboring islands include Saint Barthélemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius “Statia” (Dutch), Saint Kitts and Nevis (independent, formerly British). All of these islands are easily visible on a clear day from St. Martin, except Nevis.

Saint Martin uses the euro as its currency, while Sint Maarten uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder.

Shops at St. Maarten cruise port

Shops at St. Maarten cruise port

Almost every store on the island also accepts the United States dollar, although sometimes a more expensive exchange rate is used.

We ended our day in Marigot with frozen yogurt, known as “yogart”. It was a very, hot and humid day and my daughter was a bit under the weather so frozen yogurt was a perfect treat!! We did not choose to spend the day at a beach, as we live on Kauai and have the best beaches in the world in our backyard. However, I would return to Marigot and spend more time. Passengers on our cruise ship were saying that the beaches were very nice. I highly recommend visiting Marigot, as it was a really quaint, little town tucked away with small hotels and beach front rentals. Marigot reminded me of a casual, laid back French Riviera. The French side of the island was definitely more resort-like and touristy, whereas the Dutch side appeared to be more local and residential.

Yogart in Marigot

Yogart in Marigot

Royal Caribbean has built shops at the St. Maarten Cruise Port which only passengers with a cruise pass card, cruise staff and tour guides can enter. There is music, bars, shopping and restaurants in the port area. The nice thing about this shopping area, is that vendors are not allowed in.

$$ saving tips: Shopping on St. Maarten and Saint Martin offers duty-free goods in numerous boutiques. Some of these goods include local crafts and arts, exotic foods, jewelry, liquor, tobacco, leather goods, as well as most designer goods. Most often the designer goods are offered at significant discounts, often up to 40% lower than US retail prices. We had a few hours to walk around and shop. My daughter collects snow globes from each place that we travel, so we picked up a nautical snow globe displaying the word Marigot. I found St. Martin to be rather inexpensive over all. If you are there for just a day and don’t know your way around, it is best to book a guided tour. Our tour was about 4-5 hours in length and only cost $24 per person! That’s a deal.

 

St Maarten Cruise Port

St Maarten Cruise Port

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