|This was our 5th trip to SXM out of the last 6 years.
We have found that visiting SXM this time of year is very relaxing with
less traffic and smaller crowds. This is our annual vacation for
rejuvenation and rekindling the closeness which sometimes gets put aside
during the normal lifetime activities. The beaches and the
Ocean Club atmosphere are just what
Flights were on AA on our AAdvantage Citibank points. We always book as early as possible to get the flights we want. This time June 21st was a blackout day which resulted in AA shorting our timeshare stay by one day. But, this was our longest stay of all five visits and we really enjoyed not having to rush back to civilization at the end of one week. Next year...maybe 3 weeks???
The beginning of the trip on Saturday, June 7th, gave AA another black eye. We left San Antonio at 6 A.M. and were scheduled to connect to the 9:25 A.M. flight at DFW to San Juan (SJU) in Terminal A. We were put on that flight and we taxied out a ways only to stop for a mechanical problem. The "elevator" would not elevate. We went back to a gate and after about 45 minutes were told to unload and wait at that gate for further instructions. They said they were getting another plane. After about an hour, they said that the replacement plane also had a problem and they were looking for another one. We tried to change our 4:00 P.M. connecting Am Eagle flight from SJU to SXM to the 9:00 flight, but it was oversold by 12 people. So we waited hours with about 200 others for a plane that could fly. About 12:30 P.M., they proudly announced that they had found the plane, but it was leaving in 30 minutes from Terminal D. All 200 passengers picked up their "now heavier" carry-ons (caused by the extra baggage charges) and rushed for the Sky Link. Those of you who know the system will remember that there is a 4 story escalator going from the terminal level up to the Tram.... Well, wouldn't you know it? The up escalator was broken. All of us had to lug everything up the stairs. DFW needs to put defibulators near these stairways!
We all boarded the new (3rd) plane rapidly because the crew was needed in SJU quickly to avoid being timed-out for the return trip to DFW. Again, wouldn't you know it? The air conditioning was not working properly so we sat at the gate another 45 minutes before departing....4.5 hours late. When we finally arrived in SJU, there were departing passengers standing in long lines trying to get on AA DFW flights which had been delayed since 10:00 A.M. because of our flight delay. No one was happy. We received a voucher for the airport hotel in SJU, a $20 meal voucher (not to be used for the drinks we needed), and a reservation for the 8:15 A.M. flight to SXM on Sunday morning. AA shortened our vacation by one more day. We received an email from AA in a couple of days soothing our souls with 4,000 extra frequent mileage points each and an apology. We arose early on Sunday, ate the free breakfast provided by the hotel and waited for the SXM Am. Eagle flight. To our surprise, there were only 7 passengers on the 8:15 A.M. flight. That was strange since we could not get on the 9:00 P.M. flight the night before and there were plenty of people wanting to get on it.
Upon arriving at SXM, we really enjoyed the beautiful new airport!
Princess Julianna must be proud. We wish that San Antonio had
one like it. Lesley Bruce of
Kenny's Car Rentals picked
us up at the airport with our requested "well-dented" Corolla and we were
on our way to the Ocean Club.
Week 23 is our home week and using points, we reserved week 24 in
our unit as well.
After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we made the trip to the Maho Express to get some supplies. Since it had been 2 years since our last visit, we were surprised at how expensive groceries had become. But, we were buying more this time to do some meals in the room since we were staying an extra week. We loved the price on the rums and vodkas. We discovered Three Olives chocolate flavored 'sippin' vodka and kept a liter in the freezer all the time. We took a walk to check out Cupecoy below OC and were pleasantly surprised to find plenty of sand.
After taking a quiet, relaxing nap, we took a swim and met other folks staying at OC.
The OC grill was seldom open the entire two weeks we were there.
Talked to Tim, the new lessor, who said that there was not enough business
to warrant hiring anyone to keep it open. Occasionally, he would
come by during the 4-6 time period and be ready to sell drinks, but we
never heard of any food being served there. From the conversation
with Tim, he was surprised after investing in the grill and buying the
Blue Wave boat that the OC would not be full all year round. He stated
that before he invested that he was not familiar with the timeshare
environment where residents had kitchens and frequently provided their own drinks and
meals. We had great times at the Oasis Grill when Bert & Jill
ran it, but we often wondered if it generated enough revenue to support
them and Petra.
We finally found our good friends Bob & Jo who stay in Unit 10 at the same times as we visit. We have become part of their network of friends who also visit SXM the same weeks: Bill & Mae, Bud & Sandy, John & Wanda, George & Debbie. This has become a valuable support group for information and safety when away from home. It is quite comforting to know that these great people are there if any problems arise. We are so lucky to know them, and they are so much fun to be around!
One night during each stay, this group gets together for a steak-cook-out. We all contribute and have a great evening laughing and remembering times on the island. Some of these folks have been coming every year for over 20 years.
Sunset Beach Bar ( SSBB) and Orient Beach on Monday. We went to SSBB for the Wi-Fi connection and ordered orange juice. Hard to believe that they do not serve breakfast or Heineken anymore. My, how things change. Btw, an orange juice in a 10 oz. cup was $3.00, but the Wi-Fi worked great.
Orient Beach welcomed us with a calm beautiful day with rain on the mountains. Baywatch was closed so we had a light lunch at the Pirate next door. Met this nice wait person; think his name was Greg. Spent a quiet evening at OC with homemade pasta salad and our chocolate vodka (which was delicious right out of the freezer!)
On Tuesday we took a long walk to look at some of the development around the Cupecoy area. The question about the location of the new "Blue Mall" is shown below. The website has lots of pictures and information. This aerial was taken several months (corrected to 1.5 years) ago. The Ocean Club, Sapphire, Rainbow, and Cliffs are on the right.
The other big project is the the Cupecoy Yacht Club located to the left in the picture above. It is well underway and will have 180 residential units, three slips for mega-yachts, and a marina for numerous smaller craft. It will also have a Grande Marche. The picture below is looking north from the Ocean Club Apartments.
We walked down the dirt road to Danny's and took a few pictures on the
way. Shore Pointe
is almost finished and they are expanding La Samanna in the distance.
photos are thumbs and will enlarge.
Continuing Tuesday, we stayed on Cupecoy near the Ocean Club. The
cliffs offer some shade. The surf was smooth and the water was
wonderful. There was some seaweed, but not a bother.
Besides us, there are often suspicious characters who lurk around the Cupecoy beaches. We are always aware of who is nearby and how many there are. It is regrettable that one has to worry about these people, but most of them are cowards who are either trying to watch, be watched, hook up, or take your things. They often run away when approached with a camera. We feel more comfortable when there are several friends with us. I would never leave Linda alone on the Cupecoy beaches unless it was near Danny's. Often one lookout will be posted near the cars while another one will be on the prowl. I suspect the intention for these teams is "grab and run," since they seem to be on cell phones most of the time. Just be aware and confront them if they get too close. It has always worked for us. If they out number you and the other beach goers, just leave and come back later. We do not let them ruin our Cupecoy sand time.
Otherwise, we did not experience any crime or have any uneasy situations the entire trip.
Tuesday evening, we took a nap and tried out the "Alley" after dinner at Pineapple Petes. We were pleased with the meal, but disappointed in the "blues" genre dance that was very well advertised. It was supposed to begin at 10 P.M. but no one was there and the music was not playing. We came back at 11 P.M., but besides the music, it was empty.
In general, we heard that tourism was at it's lowest level in years. The merchants are hurting and and the resorts have low occupancy rates. Sapphire had about 70 guests and there were only about 15-20 at OC.
Wednesday was another Cupecoy beach day with a movie at the Mega-7 in the evening. Did I forget to mention that the chocolate vodka was really, really good?
If it is Thursday, it must be time for Orient beach with our friends and BayWatch for lunch!
Friday: After visiting the Mailbox for the internet, we took a drive to Oyster pond and observed the new terrain around the Westin. Looks like a prison. After that, OC pool time, washing clothes and having dinner at Cheri's. We parked in the Sonesta Maho underground garage. The band was our favorite same ol' with the name "Sweet" Chocolate instead of "Hot" Chocolate and they added three females, one a very good vocalist. "Big Guy" was back, bigger than ever (but can still do the back flip)...Ramon was not there. Our favorite waiter "Hot Sauce" welcomed us. We found Bert (&Jill) with his daughter having dinner and greeted them without interrupting.
The food was not as good as we remembered, but then again, that chocolate vodka can change your taste buds for a while.
Saturday: We took a walk to the Summit and the Kissing Fish to meet Thierry and Chloe. We wanted to check out the location for the TTOL party on Sunday. What a wonderful couple. They said they would be ready. (We had no idea they were leaving until we returned home)
Today was the day to follow the advice of many TTOL'ers and try out Baie Rouge. The parking area looks "uninviting" but we had listened to the TTOL posters and found it was indeed safe. We drove in and went to the Chez Raymond to rent chairs and an umbrella ($15). This beach is beautiful. Softer sand than Orient; the cliffs and the water are gorgeous. The rocks on the right with the hole in the wall were particularly spectacular. There is not much breeze there but the surf is very friendly. Linda swam to the hole in the cliff and back. What a mermaid!
Sunday, Father's Day: Internet at the MailBox, Cupecoy, nap and two parties.
Party 1: The June 15th TTOL party hosted by Debbie (scuba1deb) at the Kissing Fish and her friend Lynda from Tennessee was a success. .
Party 2: The annual steak-off with our OC friends at Unit 10 in the OC. We managed to find a grill and Bill found a bunch of 2 inch steaks...a lot more than we could eat. Everyone brought something and a good time was had by all. The chocolate vodka was wonderful!
Monday: Cupecoy all day long with our early morning, annual photo shoot of Linda. Later, Bob/Jo and John/Wanda from our OC bunch came down and it was a wonderful day. Linda got her exercise walking back to the room for more chocolate vodka and sandwiches. Quite a few other couples enjoyed the beach below OC with us.
I just gotta show off a couple of photos of my soul mate here...bear with me...I will keep it in the G-rated category:.
Tuesday: Another great day at Orient and lunch at the Perch. Happy hour was really happy today!
Wednesday: Linda was massaged at Sapphire and then we went to Marigot marina and Tropicana for our annual salad lunch. Best in the world! We also shop a little at the glass shop, Laguna Blue, next door to Tropicana. They have some of the most unique Italian blown glass. We always pick up gifts there for our special folks back home. Check out the pendant (it has matching ear rings too, but they don't show here):
After another nice nap and a walk on Cupecoy, We finished off a few leftovers in the room and watched a good movie. Then to the Atlantis to watch our OC bunch gamble away their kid's inheritances. Linda deposited $1 in the penny slots and walked away with $6.00. We are going to have to investigate this type of luck which I have not witnessed before. Another romantic dip in the OC pool (a must event before nitey-nite) and we turned in. This was a really "bonding" evening for us (not in all the ways you might think).
Thursday: OMG!!! Last day!!!! Went to Orient again. We met Michelle and Louis from Virginia, visiting OB from a cruise ship. Great people! We took them back to Front Street and then left off our phone with Sharon. Spent $45 for the phone which included $20 worth of minutes. We found the phone useful to contact kids back home and to check voicemails in the States. One interesting note: The GSM phone keypad signals sometimes will not register as responses to certain computer voice messaging systems...like RCI . There was no way to reach RCI using this GSM phone. I had to stop at the MailBox and place another $4.40 call to a representative to reserve our home week for 2009. My Sprint voicemail system recognized the GSM keypad. We checked out of OC and did the wash. We paid $100 per week for electricity. It was worth it to stay cool. We packed and set our alarms for 4:00 A.M. to get to the airport for a 7:00 A.M. flight. (Took the little bit of chocolate vodka out of the freezer and left it on Bob/Jo's terrace.)
Friday: Arrived at the airport at 5:15 A.M. No one else was there. The attendants did not show until 5:30 A.M. and security did not open until 6:15 A.M. Makes you wonder why they want us there 2 hours early?
Flights from SXM to SJU , customs, SJU to DFW, and DWF to SAT were smooth, on time and uneventful. Made it home with our luggage by 4:00 P.M. and picked up a WhataBurger on the way. Sumo and Pi were sooooo happy to see us.
Thanks to everyone who contributes to TTOL. We read it everyday. We are still laughing about the thieves who took two of the four beers and all the responses to it. (Can't find that thread).