Two flags rule over this tiny isle – the French and the Dutch. Philipsburg is the Dutch capital and the place to head for a serious shopping splurge. Marigot, meanwhile, is the French capital, where you can divide your time between bistros and boutiques. Add to the mix dreamy Caribbean coves, kaleidoscopic reefs and lashings of sunshine and you’ve got all the ingredients for tropical bliss.
• Give your credit card a duty-free workout in Philipsburg. From cut-price island crafts to cutting-edge designer gear, you’ll find it all here. Front Street’s your starting point, the town’s main artery that has lanes, alleyways and courtyards leading off in all directions.
• Listen to the flutter of hundreds of tiny wings at the Butterfly Farm in Phillipsburg. This place is home to more than 40 different species, including the Tree Nymph and Blue Morph.
• Get to know the island’s underwater locals on the special Seaworld Explorer. This boat is home to an underwater observatory where you can watch sea turtles, stingrays and barracudas swim by.
• Stand on the deck of a classic yacht as the captain races around a 12-metre course faster than your opponent. The America’s Cup Sailing Regatta has been voted ‘the best excursion in the Caribbean’ for the past 10 years. Alternatively, have a go at driving an inflatable motorboat, known as a Rhino Rider.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
St Maarten Island Tour►
Flying under two flags, St Maarten has got something of a split personality. But despite being one half Dutch and the other French, its whole is as Caribbean as it gets. And on this trip you’ll get to see both sides of this two-faced island, with your guide giving you snippets of history as you go. You’ll travel from the Dutch capital to Marigot on the French side, passing through dinky villages hardly touched by time. Once you reach Marigot, you have some free time to explore this four street-wide city. All patisseries, pavement cafés and designer boutiques, it’s easy to see why it’s known as the French Riviera of the Caribbean. Rounding off the trip, you’ll stop at Lookout Point to admire the view over Simpson Bay Lagoon before heading back to the ship.
Afternoon at the Beach►
There’s nothing complicated about this trip. It’s a transfer to and from the best beach on the island. All silver-white sands and turquoise waters, it’s easy to see why Orient Beach is dubbed the ‘French Riviera of the Caribbean’. It’s over a mile long and it comes with everything from watersports to beach masseurs and it’s backed by restaurants and bars. Factor in your own sunbed and an endless supply of rum punch, and you’ve got one relaxing afternoon on the beach.
Discover Scuba Dive►
70% of the planet is underwater. So it goes without saying that sightseeing below the waves is every bit as good as on dry land. And that’s certainly true of St Maarten. Some of the reefs are just a few feet below the surface, which makes it perfect territory for complete beginners. You’ll see colourful reef fish, sponges, soft corals and maybe even a sunken wreck. It’s designed for non-divers, so it’s a great introduction to the water. In small groups of no more than 4, you’ll be given a full safety briefing and be taught basic scuba skills before ducking below the surface to visit the delights of the underwater world.