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The Standard at Sea: Day 4

The Standard cruise takes its shore leave on the islands of adventure.

11:00 PM, Feb 9, 2005 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Road Town, Tortola

WE SPENT NEARLY the entire day in port yesterday at beautiful St. Maartens where, for the first time since Sunday, our feet touched dry land. Both staff and cruisers had the day off, so I went ashore with Victorino Matus, Catherine Lowe, and Tina Winston. We rented a Jeep, took the top off, and set out in search of a pristine beach and a good lunch.

Tina and Catherine were in charge, respectively, of driving and navigation, which suited me just fine since the islands don't have traffic laws so much as traffic suggestions. Cars go where they will, when they will, with little regard to safety, courtesy, or common sense. St. Maarten is a little like Los Angeles in that way. (Our ship's tourism summary puts the situation more romantically: "the activity remains distinctly Caribbean--evident in the un-orchestrated rhythm that seems to course through the streets.")

The island is divided into two sections, one controlled by the Netherlands, the other by France. Since the French have a better reputation when it comes to fun in the sun, we settled on Orient Beach, a wide swath of white sand and warm, turquoise water about 30 minutes away. The beach was crowded, but we found a nice patch run by the Coco Beach Club where, for a couple bucks we procured comfortable lounge chairs, an amazing view of both the sea and the hills, and a wide variety of fruity, girly rum drinks. We had lunch on the beach, too. Hard to beat that on a February afternoon.

We didn't see anyone else from the Westerdam at Orient Beach, but as we were packing up to return to the ship we did see one elderly gentleman strolling along the shoreline with nothing but a cane and his dignity. Like I said, the French know about these things.

Today is another beach day--this one on the British Island of Tortola, and then it's back to STANDARD panels and discussions about the war on terror, the new intersection between politics and religion, and other interesting topics. If this life of leisure sounds enticing, drop us an email at and we'll let you know about the plans for next year's cruise so you can get in on the action. Girly drinks optional, of course.

--Jonathan V. Last