The whole vacation started because of a quip from my cousin Becky (no actual blood relation, but as far as I’m concerned you don’t have to be related to be family): “We should all go on a cruise together for spring break.”
After over a year of debating whether or not a cruise would be affordable, practical, or even possible, we were boarding Ruby Princess for seven days of fun and sun (which we hadn’t seen after about 4 months of Minnesota winter) in the Caribbean.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Long before the vacation started our parents had decided the ship-run excursions were way too expensive, so it was up to us to plan our own excursions. Most of the time, that meant quick visits to landmarks close to port followed by time at a beach or meeting up with friends on different cruises who just happened to be in the same port on the same day. But in St. Maarten (St. Martin on the French side of the island), my uncle Steve found an extra-fantastic beach we just had to visit.
Maho Beach, located on the Dutch side of St. Maarten in the Netherland Antilles, is just across the road from Princess Juliana International Airport. Airplanes, from small propeller planes belonging to über-rich to commercial jumbo-jets, land and take off barely 100 feet over beach-goers’ heads. Landings and take-offs create huge waves in the ocean and blow sand around at the top of the sloped beach. Maho also has a cluster of outdoor bars and grills where travelers can grab pizza, a cooler of drinks, and enjoy live Caribbean music (complete with steel drums) that can be heard all over the beach (unless a large plane is screaming overhead). Just watch my video:
We snagged a cab at port in St. Phillipsburg and made the half-hour drive to Maho Beach, but not before picking up my youngest sister’s friend and her family at the Hard Rock Café. The cab ride took a loop around the island, giving us a free look at everything from local areas to Limitless, a yacht belonging to the owner of Victoria’s Secret.
The first signs of adventure were the sticker-covered posters that ran along the fence separating the beach from the runway that read "DANGER: Jet Blasts From Departing and Arriving Aircraft Can Cause Severe Physical Harm Resulting In Extreme Body Harm or Death.” Daredevils braver than us held onto the fence, hoping to get blown horizontal from the force of planes taking off. We opted for a safer way to enjoy the planes: sitting in the water or standing at the top of the beach to enjoy the big waves and blowing sand created by landings and take-offs.
Steve had printed off a list of landings and take-offs for the time we would be at the beach so we could have a guess of when the biggest planes (and biggest waves) would come. I brought my video camera along to capture the images, but not before covering the lens with cling-wrap to keep it safe from sand scratches. I even managed to get a picture of my bewildered cousin Shannon after she was swept from 10 feet out in the water to the top of beach by waves created when a jumbo jet landed.
With our special family on the verge of being splintered as the kids start heading off to college, making memories has become more and more important. That vacation is one that will stick in our minds forever. No matter what, we’ll always have Maho Beach.
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