Plane Spotting in St. Maarten

We were up early again this morning and after breakfast, as we were wandering around the deck taking in our surroundings, we met Colin, who asked us if we were going out to the airport. As we had nothing organised for today, we impulsively decided that it sounded like a good idea. We agreed to meet in Reception at 10:30am.

This is our third visit to St. Maarten, a nation under two flags – half Dutch and half French. It has the most gorgeous beaches, blue ponds and green hills and each side maintains its parent country’s tradition and culture. There is so much to see and do in St. Maarten.

We spent the time going up to the topmost deck and looking to see which other ships were in port. We spotted the Jewel of the Seas which we’d seen in Antigua and saw another RCI giant coming into port, the massive Anthem of the Seas. It towered over everything and we noticed it had eight balcony decks alone, compared to the Adonia‘s three.

Just before half-past ten we made our way to reception where Colin and Christine were already waiting. We were presently joined by Bob and Thelma from our table, as well as another couple who introduced themselves as Ken and Sue. We decided we’d shared a mini-bus to Maho Beach.

We disembarked the Adonia and made our way dockside to the taxi ranks, which were doing a lively trade. We explained there were eight of us so we were taken to an air-conditioned mini-bus, where the female driver, Sonia, told us it would be $8.00 each person, each way.

We all piled into the mini-bus and set off through the busy streets thronging with traffic, looking with interest at the colourful buildings and the bustling, Friday morning activity. It took about an hour to get to Maho Beach, and specifically the Sunset Bar & Grill, situated right on the beach at the end of the International Airport runway.

Yes, you read that correctly; the beach bar was set at the end of the runway. Maho Beach is actually very well-known the world over for its unique location, and already, even though it was only 11:30am, the bar was doing a roaring trade and the beach was crowded with people of all nationalities, but mainly passengers from the cruise ships that were in.

We agreed to meet again around 1:00pm then went our separate ways. There was a board up next to the bar, showing the times of the flight arrivals. The one we were particularly interested in was a KLM Boeing 747, or “jumbo jet”. 🙂

We kicked off our shoes and walked along the shoreline, allowing the warm Caribbean sea to lap at our ankles. The sand was almost white and was powder soft. As we walked along the beach we found ourselves directly at the end of the fenced-off runway, immediately under the flight path of the aircraft. Large signs were in evidence advising against the dangers of jet blast; apparently it was not unknown for brave (or stupid) people to stand right behind the jumbo jets as they were taking off, allowing themselves to be blasted over the road, across the beach and into the sea; that’s if they didn’t do themselves severe damage (or worse) in the process.

We watched as one or two small aircraft came in, just 50 feet or so above the beach, then we decided to find a shady spot and enjoy some freezing cold beer.

The Sunset Bar offered a “bucket of beer”, buy five bottles of Corona and get the sixth free, so we decided to go for that. The bottles were placed into the ice-filled bucket and we enjoyed one each while people-watching, plane-watching and just soaking up the happy, laid-back atmosphere.

Just before midday we spotted an aeroplane in the distance, getting ready to turn for his final approach, It looked as though it was fairly big, so we decided to walk out onto the beach a bit, directly under the flight path, Trevor with his camera at the ready and me carrying the bucket of beer. All around us we could see people getting their cameras, cam-corders, selfie sticks etc. ready and placing themselves in a good vantage point.

The aircraft came closer and closer until we saw that it was, indeed, the KLM jumbo, its landing light shining straight at us. The plane descended, lower and lower, until it was less than 50 feet above our heads. It came in with a deafening roar and a whine of jet engines and, as it landed just beyond the fence, we were sand-blasted with the thrust from the jet engines. Anything not fastened down was just blown away. 🙂

What a great experience! That giant plane which barely seemed to skim the rooftop of the bar was really a sight to behold! We were pleased that Colin had suggested it to us, and we certainly know what we’ll be doing next time we visit St. Maarten. 🙂

We watched a few more planes come in; one was an American Airlines jet and we got talking to a couple of people next to us who were passengers on the Anthem. We passed a pleasant interlude with them and then, because the very hot sun was beating down on us and we had no sun protection with us (!) we made our excuses and fled to the shelter of the bar, where we finished the rest of our beer.

We then met up with Colin and Chris and the rest of the gang and I went into the souvenir shop and bought a t-shirt (yes, you have to buy the t-shirt!) before we made our way back to the mini-bus for the return journey to the Adonia, arriving back about 2:15pm. We then went for something to eat before heading back to cabin A006 for a hot-sun-and-beer induced afternoon nap.

Just before 5:00pm we went out on our balcony and watched the departure of the Anthem of the Seas before getting showered, shampooed and ready for dinner. In the restaurant we all discussed the day’s events, sights and sounds over the usual delicious meal.

The show tonight featured an excellent comedy magician called MarkShortland. We had seen him before on the Balmoral four years ago. He really is very entertaining and we thoroughly enjoyed his show. Afterwards, as ever, it was a case of a relaxing drink in the Crow’s Nest before making our way to the Conservatory for the syndicate quiz with John and Linda. We enjoyed our winnings from last night, a nice chilled bottle of white wine. But no bottle of wine for us tonight – we didn’t win. Oh well, there’s always another night.

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