It was Thanksgiving morning and the island of St. Maarten was just coming into view from my vantage point on a balcony of Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Sea cruise vessel. I could not wait until the ship docked and my family and I could start our excursion activity for the day, which was to be a few hours riding around the water on a luxurious yacht with Marigot Yachting, but we soon discovered that this was not going to be the case.
When we had safely docked and disembarked, we searched the dock for our guide that was to take us to the yacht, but we could not find him. Then we eyed a small, run-down van in desperate need of a wash that held the sign for our excursion. The driver of the van told us that our excursion had been canceled, but so we would not be left with nothing to do on St. Thomas, he was there to take us on a tour of the island.
The rest of the day was spent crammed into that van with around sixteen other people. We toured both the French side of the island and the Dutch side. We rode down every road and alleyway, and up every long driveway. We went through the worst of the slums and the wealthiest neighborhoods. We even drove the farthest back rode up to what looked to be what was left of a hotel that was destroyed, the road to said hotel overgrown and with a few fallen, rotting trees trying to block the path that only our driver would dare forge through.
At the end of the day, after being returned to the dock and boarding the Mariner of the Sea, I was felt like that I had seen every ounce of Saint Maarten. Although this was not the Thanksgiving I had been looking forward to, I was glad I was able to experience a new place in its fullest, and not just in the normal tourist way.
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