Saturday, May 01, 2010

Caribbean Cruise - Day 4

And what happened to Day 3 you may ask ?

Well it was the first of 2 days at sea so there isn't much to report. We got up, we ate, we rested, we ate, we read, we ate, we swam, we ate and then we went to the theatre to see Motor City - A Tribute to The Music of Motown And The Stars Who Created It.

And that was Day 3 !

So at 10am on Day 4, the Emerald Princess docked at St. Maarten, a small island divided roughly 60/40 between France and the Netherlands Antilles with the 60 bit being French, so of course we didn't go there ! The overall population is approx 75,000 but as with most Caribbean cruises, we saw few of them.

After a hearty breakfast, we went up on desk to have a look at the harbour area even though both of us had been to the island before. Yet again we were one of several cruise ships docked close to the main town of Philipsburg and Debby was amused to see that the ship in front of us was the Carnival Dream, the ship she had been on in January. It's a small world after all......oh sorry.

Now you'll have that damn tune in your head for the rest of the day.

There were two other cruise ships to our left and this meant we had to walk along a 'tunnel of cruise ships' to get to the harbour exit.

It's not easy to see from the photo above but there are two ships on the left and just beyond our radar domes on the right side, is the back of the Carnival Dream. Those two ships on the left were long enough and tall enough to block anything to their left so when we eventually got to the end of the pier, it was quite a shock to see another cruise ship docked over there.

And not just any ship. It was the Oasis Of The Seas, at 1,181ft long and 236ft above the water line, the largest cruise ship in the world. On it's way from the shipyard in Finland to America last year, it had to pass under a bridge with a clearance of only 213ft. Something had to give and it wasn't going to be the bridge. The ship has retractable telescoping funnels and so it cleared the bridge but with only 2ft to spare. Glad I wasn't 'driving' it.

Even up against the other 4 mammoth cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas was a sight to behold.

Fully loaded, it can take 6,296 passengers and 2,165 crew so it really is a floating town at sea. Majestic but nevertheless quite ugly in my opinion.

Once outside the security area, there was the typical manicured cruise village where we saw all the usual shops selling the same jewelry and tourist type clothing that you'll find at just about every harbour location in the Caribbean.

We avoided those shops and headed for the taxi rank as we planned on going across to the west of the island to Princess Juliana International Airport and its famous runway that starts/ends only a few feet from a public beach.

The drive there took about 30 minutes and although we did see something of the area, we could've been on any island in the Caribbean.

As we approached the narrow road that runs between the beach and the runway, a large plane had taxied to the end, turned and was ready for takeoff. Our driver stopped as it's too dangerous to drive any further on these occasions and we settled in to watch 'the show'. Suddenly the noise level increased dramatically and just as the jet slowly moved forward on full power, we glanced at the narrow beach and those foolhardy souls who were deliberately standing within range, were literally blown off their feet and most ended up in the water.

Hence the sign........

Once the plane was out of range, our taxi crossed over and dropped us off at the east end of the beach where there was a bar that was probably only there due to the tourists like us who came to experience the landings and takeoffs at the airport. We strolled onto the beach to await the first landing.

Several small planes landed in quick succession but none were worthy of note. Small planes need less runway so there was no need for them to land right at the start of the runway and so no need for them to fly low over the beach.

I'd checked landing times before we started on the cruise (although I later learned there is an upright surfboard somewhere along the beach that gives these times too) and I knew there was a large Air France plane coming in from Paris at 1:30pm and so we only had 30 minutes to wait.

Everyone else knew this too and as the time approached, keen eyes scanned the horizon. A young lad near us saw it first and as the seconds passed, the dot became a plane and I got ready with my camera. I passed my little Nikon to Debby so she could get video footage and I prepared for still shots. I started shooting when the plane was still over the water and I was standing facing it but I hadn't thought about the potential for disaster when swivelling round in the sand to track it to the runway.

I stumbled slightly and although I kept shooting, there was always only going to be one frame when the plane was closest to me and closest to the beach - and I messed it up by chopping off its tail. I was pissed.

(That's a proper technical term used by photographers to explain how they feel when they screw up)

It was a bit of an overcast day, so once the show was over, we decided to head back to the ship. Again it was hard to avoid taking photos of those huge cruise ships so here are a couple more.

Back on board, we had something to eat and a rest before going up on deck around sunset to watch our departure from St. Maarten. We were the first of the 4 closely docked cruise ships to leave and as we reversed out (!!), I hoped the Oasis would still be there, but it had left before us and was only visible as a dot on the horizon.

We stayed up on deck for a lovely sunset........

.....and then after dinner, we went to the theatre to see another set by the excellent 'relationship' comedian, Kevin Hughes.

Going across to the airport to see the planes taking off and landing was a selfish dream on my part and I want to thank Debby for going with me so I could get it out of my system !

Here is the unedited video clip she took and yes, unlike me, she managed to get all of the plane in the frame. I have been suitably humbled.


Daphne said...

When I grow up I'm not going to be a pilot flying into that airport. Not until I've begun by learning parallel parking, anyway. Amazing.

rhymeswithplague said...

Great photos, clipped tail and all (the plane's, not yours), and the video is downright amazing. The sunset is absolutely gorgeous. But why did you say of course we didn't go to the French portion of the island? I'm confused.

As we say goodby to St. Maartin, my verification word is seyinera, which is too much like sayonara to be coincidence.

Debby said...

It was a great day even if it was pissing it down for a while!

I like your picture even if it's missing a tiny sliver.

I could go for some of the fabulous fettucini alfredo I had on the ship right now!

jay said...

Oh, I'd have wanted to see the planes, too! There's a bit in the movie 'Pushing Tin' about a the effect of the 'wake' of a plane on people standing too close - quite fun, it is!

I think you did well to get the plane that much in the frame.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Wow that is SOME huge ship!! I have to say I'm not one for crowds, so it probably isn't me. But I can see the appeal with everything on offer.

Great piccies and wonderful video, have fun!

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