Friday, September 18, 2015

Vacation Starts at the Destination Airport

Finally time off! Travelling is stressful. The destination airport is where your vacation should start (and pleasantly ends)! 

How does St. Maarten/St. Martin rank?
The island has two airports, one highly modern and heavily frequented airport on Sint Maarten ("Dutch" side) and a smaller, more regional airport on the French side near Grand Case. Let's talk about the St. Maarten airport, also known by its airport code SXM and its name "Princess Juliana Int'l Airport" (PJIA).

Airport Building Princess Juliana Int'l Airport
Not only has the terminal building been continuously updated to high comfort, also the runway has been extended and improved. Although the airport is known for its challenging approach and dozens of airplane watchers right next to the touch down point show their appreciation, it is a safe airport for passengers. See some of the videos and images, here.

Frequent past problems with slow immigration processing are overcome. As the island does not raise import duties, controls are restricted to immigration without regular customs checks.

Inside the Terminal
The airport is modern and well equipped with the usual services, such as chain restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and an upscale 'Executive' Lounge for which you got to pay or be a member of one of the cooperating airlines. Email for membership requests.

One of my favorites is the free WiFi of the airport, which facilitates communicating with your family or friends waiting for you at home.

Despite the modern facilities, check-in can be time consuming. Come early to the airport.
The airport handles more than 1.6 mill. passengers a year. It is done better than at other overcrowded airports. The airport received multiple prizes for its good performance, see here.

Transportation
Leaving or returning to the airport is by cab or rental car, for example this company. Cabs are usually passenger vans. Rental car offices are at the airport, but the cars are all in shuttle bus distance. Some hand over cars on the "fly" at the airport parking. No public transport available.

Some of the tourist centers are 5 minutes or less from the airport, mainly the Maho beach area. The Cupecoy area is about 15 minutes away. The French side popular area of Orient Bay is about 30 minutes away. Philipsburg and Great Bay are about 20 minutes drive from the airport.

Where to Stay
Although the island has a considerable number of hotel rooms, it is more common to rent a condo or a villa. This got to be arranged before arrival, usually months before high season (Xmas to Easter).

Websites with a verified range of quality accommodation are www.st-maarten-vacation.com and www.st-martin-vacation.com. The number of available, mostly privately owned accommodation is vast. Most rates are shown in USD, some French side properties are shown in Euro. Due to the strong competition, rates are rather low, when compared to other Caribbean islands.

My special tip: Look out for Happy Bay (see photo above). It is the last untouched, non-commercialized beach on the island.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is It Too Hot in Summer?

The Caribbean is a typical winter destination. Stable, mild weather with temperatures in the low eighties are common, almost guaranteed. But, what's about summer? Too hot?

Big Misconception
The month of August is the time, when people rush to the South of the United States or Europe. Here a few daytime high temperatures at any day in August at some tourist destinations:
Miami/Florida:  95 F./ 36 C.
Albuquerque/New Mexico: 100 F./ 38 C.
Marbella/Spain: 97 F./ 37 C.
Please, compare:
St. Maarten/St. Martin: 83 F./  28 C., low humidity

Summer Season on St. Maarten/St. Martin

The beaches are almost deserted, lodging rates are lower by 10% - 30%, the sea waters are calm and warmer than in winter season. As the destination is not so much requested, your choice of accommodation is much better and you can be more selective. Short term bookings are possible. Flight tickets and rental car rates are lower priced, too.

Think about these facts and forget, what you assumed about the weather, instead check the weather page on www.Sint-Maarten.net.
A great selection of prequalified apartments and villas can be found at www.St-Maarten-Vacation.com, starting at $60/night. Villas start at roughly $2,000/week, for example Villa Canoua.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Get the Full Picture - Don't Stick to Smart Phones

Smart Phones Suck

No, I am not against the use of smart phones, but they are not suitable for informing yourself about your next vacation destination. Web pages with plenty of photos, text, rate tables and videos do not fit into the small screens of iPhones and all the other miniature screens.

Get the Full Picture
The designers of one of the major vacation rental websites on St. Maarten/St. Martin, www.st-martin-vacation.com realized that people increasingly asked for information, which has been shown on the website. They just don't find it on their micro-displays.



A new mobile friendly website has been introduced, www.st-maarten-vacation.com. All web page information automatically resizes, horizontally placed photos are squeezed vertically one after the other, panorama photos are shrinked to tiny thumbnails, and tables are reorganized into vertical sequences. 
Do people now see better, what they are looking for? No, still the same redundant questions are asked because users just cannot find, what they are looking for. Would you watch TV on your IPhone? This is exactly what is happening. Take your time and the right tool, an iPad at least, or a notebook, or even better, a well sized laptop PC in order to get a real impression of your next vacation destination, vacation rental, or hotel. Your vacation is too precious to be decided by a reduced view at the equivalent of a Twitter Tweet of 140 characters.