Out last port day was St. Maarten, which I’d remembered really loving in the past. White sand beaches, gentle tides, some people hustling trinkets and braids, but not at overwhelming of them. This time, St. Maarten was a total shit-show. Immediately off the boat, things weren’t too bad. There was generic cruise shopping right past the pier, but the main beach and the better shops were downtown –accessible by ferry, cab, or a very long walk. Mom and Dad took a cab and we went with the ferry, and that was all well and good, but once we got to the other side, cabbies and merchants were mobbed up at the exit, hollering at prospects as they stepped off the ferry, “Hey! Lady in the black dress! I’ll give you an island tour: twenty dollars!” We attracted a little less attention than most folks, due to size of the family and ages of the kids, but a guy renting beach chairs attached himself to us right away. Then what sounded like ten dollars for a couple of chairs became ten dollars per chair once we were on the actual beach, so we made due with just the one.
Then the beach itself was horrible. We remembered crystal blue water and soft waves, but it was a crazy heavy tide, and the water was lousy with churned up seaweed and stray bits of actual garbage. The kids weren’t put off in the least and they had fun, but we were constantly stressed out. They were wearing their floaties, so they were fine in the deeper water, and the shallower water only pushed them around in a safe way. But there was a zone in between very deep and very shallow that was dangerous – where the kids could easily get knocked over and end up rolling around under the tide. So it was all a big game of pretend we’re having fun, but constantly herd the children out of danger. And we had to keep Susannah out of the water almost entirely, which she of course loved. We spent maybe forty-five minutes at the beach and then went back to the ship. Huge disappointment. Probably one of the reasons that the tide was so heavy was that the Oasis of the Seas was in port that day. The Oasis is the largest cruise ship in the world, and it was docked right beside us making the Reflection look like a dinghy in comparison.
I’m writing this all weeks after it happened, based on notes I’d made during the trip. These notes were very fact and event related, and what I regret is that I didn’t take more notes about the conversations I had with my parents about how the cruise was for them. I remember everything we talked about, it’s just the order of what happened and when that’s fuzzy. I remember that it came out early on that they were having a great time and were very happy they’d come. We’d of course hoped this would be the case, but there was no telling whether they might find themselves bored, or (the greater fear) that Mom