St Maarten, where you work haard but play haarder

Our home to be in St Maarten is a marina called Port de Plaisance, or PDP for short. It’s part of a hotel resort, admittedly on a far smaller scale than that of Atlantis, but nonetheless provides a plethora of activities to choose from. We were all generously given rather expensive gym passes by our captain, which includes access to the pool, bar, top of the range tennis courts, with a big ole casino next door. One night, three of us spent a grand total of $1 on a single slot machine, which provided an hour of giddy entertainment, two gin & tonics and a tall glass of Baileys. If you’re keen for a cheap night, this is clearly the place to be.

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Having had the bare minimum amount of days off since the crossing, a few of us decided to splash out and book a hotel for the weekend. We ‘Hotwired’ it, and found a cushy 4 star hotel for the night. What a treat it was, being away from the boat for an entire 24 hours!

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The cocktails were flowing, and at two for $8 who could blame us?! I overheard some English voices at the poolside bar, and as luck would have it, met a lovely crowd from Wigan. Their suitcases had been left behind in Paris so they were kitted out in all this island souvenir paraphernalia, and when I told them my aunties all lived around Wigan we got on like a house on fire, and had about 12 Painkiller cocktails between us throughout the afternoon.

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Lounging around by the pool with our free welcome drink, a Caribbean rum punch.

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The morning after the night before, nursing our Mudslide leaving drink before returning to the boat. Feeling a little bit hungover & slightly rouged by the sun.

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Pan seared seabass with a Moroccan salsa.

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Grilled tuna with a garlic & herb dressing.

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Monstrously sized pork chops, in Michael’s signature rub.

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Moules a la creme, Maria’s favourite.

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Prawn saganaki, with lots of feta and dill.

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Monkfish tacos, with siracha mayonnaise.

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From left to right we have Maria, Rory, Tim & myself, hitting up a local crew bar called Dirty Sanchez. Tim is our new bosun, an Australian chap who can make magic on Heather’s guitar that lives in the crew mess. A wonderful addition to our gang!

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Christmas angels of tree in PDP reception.

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Impatiently waiting for our taxi to take us to the next bar. Maria was trying to teach me how to pose (again), to show off my new $10 sandals. I actually got the same pair in black – what a billy barg.

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Sundried tomato, basil, garlic & cheese twisted bread. Shame that the exposed tomatoes burnt to an absolute crisp! I must make sure to tuck them in next time.

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Mum’s tomato, red onion & basil salad. Marinade tomatoes for half an hour or so in generous amounts of olive oil, salt and pepper, and you have a beauteous dish on your hands.

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Harissa marinated asparagus. Spicy, crunchy, delicious.

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A simple tomato & burrata salad. Burrata is basically a ball of mozzarella wrapped around a centre of molten cream. A winner every time.

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St Maarten is probably most famous for its airport. Low-flying planes come in from the sea, to a runway that is fronted by a small stretch of beach. This is Maho Beach, and it is a must-do for every visitor to the island.

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It’s windy as anything, and the sea swells are so strong that I worried for the few swimmers who were getting battered by endless waves breaking over their heads. For once, I was glad to have left my bikini behind at home! But we grabbed a perch at the edge of the beach, sat back and waited for the planes to come.

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And that they did! You can hear and feel the rumble of the engine before you’ve even seen them. Only a few bigger jet planes came our way, with the majority being little tin can propellers. Other, more experienced, plane-spotters were telling us that the last Boeing 747 to come through was in October 2016. Apparently the blast was so strong that you simply had to hold on tight to the railings to stop yourself from being blown away. How much fun that would have been! But apparently there were a fair few injuries in the process.

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We ended the day with cocktails at Sunset Bar. Back onboard, the department heads were all called into the bridge for an impromptu meeting with captain. That hilariously included me, being the only member of the galley department onboard at the time. So we had the chief stew, chief officer, chief engineer, and the very new, inexperienced crew chef. Captain dropped the bombshell that our Christmas and New Year ‘off’ was to be happening no longer, as the son of the owners wished to bring his wife and friends onboard, to spend their hollibobs cruising the US Virgin Islands. Well, that was a difficult pill for many to swallow. After a fair bit of blind panic and freak outs, the wheels were set in motion and it was decided that Steven, the third head chef that I’ve never worked with, was to come onboard a couple of days after Christmas, for the duration of the trip. They usually have two head chefs on for owners, but as these guests are 30 something year olds with nowhere near as sky-high expectations, it was totally fine and dandy for me to become the acting sous chef. Happy Christmas to me, I say!

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