Category Archives: St.Maarten News

Electric rental cars - a first for St. Maarten and the Dutch Caribbean

SIMPSON BAY — A major development literally on the road towards sustainable tourism in the Dutch Caribbean has been taken by offering hotel visitors and residents alike, the opportunity to rent electric cars. Known as EV’s, five of these vehicles have recently been introduced on St. Maarten by Commodore Suites at Market Garden Supermarket and port side, Marigot (French Side). Once fully charged, these four seater cars have a range of over 55 miles and work out at about half the cost normally paid by renters of gas propelled vehicles.

“This green initiative fits perfectly with our business aim of operating a boutique hotel on the basis of clean and renewable energy.” says Arnaldo Phelipa, hotel manager of Commodore Suites. “Many of our short-term customers, particularly crew members of visiting yachts, only want to rent a car for a matter of hours. At USD 10 per hour, renting an EV is a green, clean and mean bargain. The rental charge includes insurance cover so there are no extra fees and no fuel costs whatsoever. Our rental vehicles are
provided with batteries fully charged.”

Phelipa explains that the batteries of his Mitsubishi MiEV take only four hours to complete full charge. A distinctive EV charging station has been created on the carpark of Market Garden and alongside the port at Marigot. Charging normally takes place overnight. “A trip from say Simpson Bay to Philipsburg via Cay Hill needs only slight energy since the cars are self-charging on the downward slopes. Acceleration is not the same as a sporty cabriolet but their performance is not sluggish. Our EV’s run at a maximum speed of 60 miles an hour and offer a good ride since they are noiseless, quite roomy with smart interiors and plenty of window space to admire the island landscapes.”

Commodore Suites is the only hotel on the island to offer EV rentals. However, Phelipa expects other hotels on the island to follow the green trend. “In future, we shall power our rental cars from solar panels. We are already using solar panels to energize our illuminated signage and we have introduced energy efficient lighting in all of our 25 rooms.”

The hotel was opened in March 2016 and is located in Simpson Bay – above Market Garden on the corner of Welfare Road and Billy Folly Road leading to the Pelican Estate. It is proving popular as a short to medium stay and has fine views of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. All rooms are spacious, have a fitted kitchen and modern interiors. Room service menu is provided by the Double Dutch Cafe below in Market Garden.

Photo Caption:Mirna Hodge from Commodore Suites charges a rental EV at the new EV charging Station in front of Market Garden.

SXM Festival returns with globally leading music event and support for charity causes

ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN – Today SXM Festival, the Caribbean’s premiere electronic music festival, has revealed a discounted local Caraibes ticket for the event’s March 13-17 return to beautiful Saint Martin / Sint Maarten. Set within the iconic beaches, nightclubs and spectacular villas of the island, SXM Festival will once again bring global attendees and locals together for a week of world-class musical programming and cultural immersion.

SXM Festival has deep roots in the local community and is committed to the prosperity of St Martineers and the preservation of the island’s sensitive natural ecosystem. The festival also hopes to continue to bring a new generation of affluent world travelers to contribute to the local economy and help the island rise again after the effects of the 2017 hurricanes.

The 2019 event will once again bring its global family to The Friendly Island, where they will take up residence in the multitude of hotels and Villa lodgings, eat and drink at local businesses and enjoy the various festival venues staffed by locals. This influx of tourism will be matched by the event’s dedication to sustainability demonstrated through its banning of single use plastic at bars, beach and venue cleanups throughout the event, recycling initiatives and planting of thousands of trees to rehabilitate the island post-hurricane. SXM Festival will also continue its use of public transportation throughout the show to minimize pollution and road congestion.

The festival is created by and for its host location, offering its global community an experience enriched by Caribbean culture and artists. It is through such synergy that Caribbean musicians like Allan P, Ivan de la Ganesherie, Jason Myro and more share the stage with some of the world’s biggest electronic music icons – a true coming together of creative heritage. Similarly, Caribbean cuisine will be on full display at the festival’s various venues and local vendors are brought on to give attendees a complete look into the magic of one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated islands.

The event welcomes performances by global electronic music superstars like Ricardo Villalobos, flagbearer of Neapolitan techno Marco Carola, international techno sensation Nicole Moudaber, techno-titan John Acquaviva, psychedelic warrior Rebolledo, Get Physical label bosses M.A.N.D.Y, Visionquest’s Shaun Reeves, one of modern rave’s most celebrated acts Blond:ish, and Swiss icon Sonja Moonear alongside local Caribbean DJs and producers like Allan P, Ivan de la Ganesherie, Jason Myro and Saint Martin’s own Master Gee.

It remains the festival’s integration with Saint Martin/Sint Maarten’s range of beautiful venues that makes it a truly magical week for locals and visitors alike. The SXM journey flows between secluded beach parties at the Happy Bay mainstage, into intimate soirées at Loterie Farms and the Sandyline Villa, through to late night club triumphs at Refuge and Lotus, and of course sunrise celebrations beachfront at Karakter.

The SXM Festival experience is known for its sense of immersion and adventure, guiding attendees through a journey of artistic wonder and cultural connectivity. Each venue is adorned with organic production elements that appear as though to grow from the very island environment in which the event is hosted. Following the devastation of hurricane IRMA, the aesthetic curation has been reimagined to incorporate the debris created by the storm in order to minimize the importing of materials. By using recycled and reclaimed wood sourced from the area, the event continues its legacy of producing stages and art in harmony with the local habitat.

STB opens booth at Regatta Village serving as information mecca for visitors and sailors

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Regatta Village for the 39th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has officially opened and is currently welcoming sailors and visitors all over the world.

The Grand Opening of the Regatta Village sets the precedent for the coming days filled with world class racing and high-energy parties.

The center of most of the events are taking place at the Regatta Village by Port de Plasissance.

The St. Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) as a Premier Sponsor of the 39th Edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, will be present with its own booth, which serves as the information mecca for all incoming visitors and sailors, about the destination.

The St. Maarten Tourism Bureau based on data collected from the previous year, 28% of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta attendees were first time visitors to the island.

The introduction of the Regatta Village, during last year’s St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, presented the Tourism Bureau a new opportunity of having a centralized information booth dedicated to participants, and a good potential moment to convert first time visitors into repeat visitors.

The Tourism Department is constantly trying to innovate and create possibilities for us to measure the effectiveness of events we support, and creating a center for networking of stakeholders all for the betterment of our Tourism product, says Interim Director of Tourism May-Ling Chun

The St. Maarten Tourism Booth @ the Regatta Village will be open until March 3rd from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, with an information officer present to answer all destination questions and give visitors recommendations on places to dine, as well as things to do and see, while on island.

The booth will also serve as a good hub for local bloggers and media, whom are present to cover the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, to recharge and converse.

PHOTO CUTLINE: STB Interim Director of Tourism May-Ling Chun.

Rainforest Adventures rockland estate, St. Maarten Nominated for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for Innovative Shorex of the Year

PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN (August 22, 2018) – Rainforest Adventures is pleased to announce that Rockland Estate St. Maarten’s The Flying Dutchman has been chosen as a finalist for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for “Innovative Shorex of the Year.” A line up of independent judges will select the winners who will be announced at Seatrade Cruise Med 2018 on September 19, 2018, at Pátio da Galé, Lisbon, Portugal.

“Just like The Flying Dutchman, we have had quite a challenging and thrilling ‘ride’ to get to this gratifying moment,” says Scott Swietanski, General Manager of Rockland Estate. “This nomination would not have been possible without the support of our amazing staff, the wonderful people of St. Maarten and the government all coming together to rebuild after Hurricane Irma.”

The “Innovative Shorex of the Year” award recognizes a company or individual who has created, sourced or introduced an innovative shore excursion over the past 12 months.  The Flying Dutchman, the steepest zipline in the world and the main attraction at Rockland Estate, has guaranteed thrill-seekers the ride of a lifetime as they’re dropped 1,050 feet in elevation from the top of Sentry Hill over a 2,800-foot span. Even guests who are afraid of heights credit the kind and knowledgeable staff for a fun, fantastic experience, both at the start of the ride and with “wobbly legs” at the end.

Innovative Shorex Finalist 2018

For more information and bookings email sales.sxm@rainforestadventure.com, visit www.rainforestadventure.com/st-maarten or call toll-free from North America at +1.866.SKYTRAM (1.886.759.8726). Follow us @rainforestadventuresxm on Facebook and Instagram. Rainforest Adventures Rockland Estate St. Maarten has received the 2018 USA Today Travel 10Best Readers’ Choice Award as one of the Best Caribbean Attractions and is nominated for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for Innovative Shorex of the Year.

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About Rainforest Adventures

Each year over 400,000 visitors experience Rainforest Adventures eco-parks located in Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Panama, Jamaica and St. Maarten. In addition to more than 22 years of experience, in construction and operations of eco-parks, Rainforest Adventures owns and conserves 2,700 acres of rainforest, home to more than 1,000 species of birds and 2,000 kinds of exotic plants. With over 400 employees, it also offers sustainability programs for visitors and local schoolchildren designed for the protection and conservation of the environment. For more information visit www.rainforestadventure.com.

About Seatrade Cruise Awards

Seatrade Cruise Awards forms part of the series of global Seatrade events, websites and publications that covers every aspect of the cruise and maritime industries, bringing together key people to encourage innovation and to produce powerful learning, networking and promotional platforms. Founded in 1970, the Seatrade brand is part of the events portfolio for the world’s second largest media and event organizer, UBM.

https://www.seatradecruiseevents.com/awards/seatrade-cruise-awards-2018-finalists

Topper's Rhum celebrates International Rhum Day

PHILIPSBURG, SINT MAARTEN – AUGUST 16, 2018 – Topper’s Rhum Distillery celebrates international rum day in a big way by hosting Everything St. Maarten / St. Martin JMB Website Supporters Summer 2018 Island Party. The well-attended cocktail party was filled with great music, food, fun and of course rhum!

This party was all about the rhum (French spelling of “rum”). Guests were greeted at the door with a welcome drink called “Rhum for Your Life” which was Topper’s entry into the post Irma Category 5 Cocktail Competition. Guest were invited to sample all of six Toppers’ commercial rhums as well as some of their 60 specialty rhums which are only available at the distillery such as Nelson’s Blood, Jalapeño Lime, Dutch Drop, Dark Chocolate, Bonfire, Passion Fruit and Soursop to name a few. Guests were given mini-tours of the distillery by tour manager “Crazy Dave” Herbert, and a discount certificate toward their full-scale distillery tour.

The food was catered by Topper’s Restaurant & Bar. Chef Kimar prepared ribs, chicken kebabs, fish skewers and crudités which guest had fun dipping in their choice of six delicious and unique rhum infused sauces some of which are available for sale at the distillery.

The Topper’s family also made a heartwarming toast to Renee Adams-Pereira who was a dear friend and worked for the distillery. Renee sadly lost her battle to cancer just the night before.

Topper’s Rhum, a truly locally made product, is a world-class premium rhum that is handmade, bottled, and packaged with precision right here in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. Topper’s Rhum uses only all natural premium ingredients and no preservatives. They are committed to producing the world’s best tasting rhum and flavored rhum spirits using the highest standards of quality. They are re-inventing rhum by continually innovating and delivering unique products to their customers worldwide. The company is very environmentally conscientious and well known for their signature reusable swing-top bottles. This official St. Maarten rhum is the only spirit distilled and exported from St. Maarten. They currently export to 6 countries and over 21 states in the USA and are the official rhum of the Dutch Army. By constantly expanding overseas, they are also notably promoting St. Maarten internationally. In addition, the products are sold online to almost anywhere in the world. Topper’s Rhum has been awarded 24 medals given by the most prominent rum tasting contests in the world and recently won USA Today’s 10Best Caribbean Rum Distillery award.

Topper’s Rhum Distillery is one of the top unique places to visit on St. Maarten, according to the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. They are open from 9:00am – 4:00pm Monday – Friday and 9:00am – 12:00pm on Saturdays for free rhum tasting and shopping.

Tours are available for $20 at 10:00am and 4:00pm Monday – Saturday by calling +1-721-520-0008 or booking online at www.toppersrhumtours.com and Sundays are available by appointment only.

For more information about the Topper’s Rhum Distillery please contact the Topper’s Rhum Press Officer at: press@toppersrhum.com or visit the website www.toppersrhumtours.com

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 About the Topper’s Rhum: Topper’s Rhum, established in St. Maarten in March 2008, is committed to producing the world’s best tasting rhum and flavored rhum spirits using the highest standards of quality. Topper’s Rhum Distillery was established in Cole Bay in November 2012. We strive to continually innovate and deliver cutting edge products to our customers worldwide and are experts in delivering unprecedented customer service. For more information, visit our website at www.toppersrhum.com or www.toppersrhumtours.com

GoFundMe Donations Distributed to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort Employees

Campaign raises more than $50,000 for staff in St. Maarten affected by recent hurricanes

LITTLE BAY — Divi Little Bay Beach Resort staff along with a local union representative gathered Monday, November 6, to receive checks from GoFundMe campaign donations.

Set up to assist employees in rebuilding their lives on St. Maarten following devastating hurricanes, the GoFundMe campaign has now raised more than $50,000. $49,025 of the donated funds — the amount in the campaign at the time checks were cut — were equally distributed amongst staff, with the exception of upper management, who chose to opt out.

“We thank everyone who donated from the bottom of our hearts,” said Madeleine Jacob, hostess and cashier at Divi Little Bay’s pureocean Restaurant.

Jacob says this money will help her family recover from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Irma and other storms.

“I lost my roof and lots of my belongings,” Jacobs said. “This will help with the rebuilding of my home. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

The GoFundMe campaign will remain open for anyone who still wishes to donate to the cause.

The resort is expected to reopen and welcome back guests in May 2018.

To see more photos with this article visit http://www.stmaartennews.com.

About Divi Resorts
Divi Resorts is the vacation expert of the Caribbean, with a collection of eight premium resorts spanning the five stunning Caribbean islands of Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, St. Croix, and St. Maarten. For more information on Divi Resorts, call 1-800-367-3484 or visit www.diviresorts.com.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Monitors Salvage Operations in Oyster Pond and Simpson Bay

OYSTER POND/SIMPSON BAY — After the granting of permits to salvage operators active in Oyster Pond the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to monitor wreck removal for any environmental effects; “We have started to monitor and assist where possible in salvage operations that were granted their permit by Government for activities in Oyster Pond,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager, “but we are still waiting for the approval of large-scale salvage in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which is causing us some concern.”

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Calls for Urgent Action for Wreck Removal in the Simpson Bay Lagoon

Although the Foundation has been involved in some preliminary work in the Simpson Bay Lagoon it is estimated that some 30,000 gallons of fuel and wastewater is being leaked into the environment; “While we understand the need to have everything in place we are urging for salvage works to start soon before the situation gets worse. Our request for assistance has largely been unanswered and we now are dependent on commercial salvage operators to clean up the wrecks. We are therefore urging that all technicalities and requirements be handled and the necessary permits be fast-tracked,” continued Bervoets.

The Foundation has been ensuring that oil spill containment equipment is being properly used in the Oyster Pond area; “We are not salvagers and will have to leave technical aspects of salvaging to the experts, but from an environmental point of view we are there to ensure that the ecosystem isn’t impacted more than it has already been. That is why we are urging, not only for the environment but also for the economy, that large scale salvage works commence soon in the Simpson Bay Lagoon,” concluded Bervoets.

Top photo caption: “Vessel Being Salvaged in Oyster Pond”

SBwreck1Photo caption: “One of the vessels wrecked in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”

SBOilspillsGoogleEarthPhoto caption: “Google Earth Image showing fuel being leaked from two major marinas in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”

 

Summit Resort closes its doors after 44 years

GREAT BAY – The Summit Resort in Cupecoy is the first fatal victim of Hurricane Irma. After 44 years in business, the resort has definitively closed its doors. A bit further down the road on Cupecoy, the Ocean Club – scene of the most gruesome double murder in recent history, when the seriously disturbed Meyshane Johnson killed Thelma and Michael King on September 19, 2012 – is in such a bad shape that management has announced its closure until further notice.

Summit-owner Bruce Jakubovitz writes in a letter to his timeshare owners that there is “an enormous gap” between the estimated rebuilding costs and the limited insurance coverage and the limited revenue from timeshare and hotel operations.

Each timeshare-owner will receive a pro rata part of the insurance payment. “This is likely to be a low number given the sublimit imposed by our insurance carrier for damages caused by hurricanes,” Jakubovitz wrote.

The Summit Resort opened its doors 44 years ago, in 1973. This is how Jakubovitz describes the damages Hurricane Irma inflicted on his resort; “Some of the Summit’s buildings were flattened completely by the force of Hurricane Irma’s winds. All but one of the Summit’s two-story buildings had their second floors either partially or completely blown off. Our single-story buildings lost roofs and suffered other damage. The pool deck was completely blown away with pieces from it landing by our front entry gate. Our General Manager’s living quarters were destroyed as were the living quarters of our Head of Housekeeping. Our restaurant, bar, reception office, laundry facilities and maintenance building were each either destroyed or heavily damaged as well. There is not a single part of the Summit that has been spared from the destructive force of Hurricane Irma.”

When we visited the Summit Resort on Monday afternoon, general manager Evans was on site and she said that there is another component to the total destruction of the place. “After the hurricane we had about fifteen rooms that were in a reasonable shape. But then the looters came. They kicked in doors and took what they wanted. There was no police around.”

The plan is to clean up the debris. When that is done, the site will be fenced off. All employees have lost their job.

The Ocean Club has announced on its Facebook-page that the resort is closed until further notice and that members will be updated via email.

Oceans Club Cupecoy 20171023 - HH

Photo caption: The Ocean Club in Cupecoy is severely damaged. Photo Hilbert Haar.

Airlift vital to recovery process St. Maarten

SXM Airport — Just as airlift is vital to St. Maarten’s tourism economy, so it is for the recovery process to normalize the situation on the island, to fly in aid and relief goods, food and water, to evacuate tourists and other temporary visitors, workers and their families and to offer an escape for those in urgent need of medical care, for those with young children and elderly family members and for those who have lost everything on the island during the passing of Hurricane Irma.

Although the SXM Airport was badly damaged, the clean up of the runway was quickly organized and military aircrafts, such as CC-130 Hercules aircrafts, and humanitarian flights were soon landing on the airport. The Dutch Marines moved quickly to put the airport under military command. The Minister of Justice approved a list of airlines that would be allowed to land at the airport to fly out passengers.

Luckily,Air Traffic Controller Tower SXM Airport with Coast Guard the air traffic control (ATC) tower did not incur any major damage. With the assistance of the ATC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, flights were quickly organized into SXM Airport. Military aircrafts could be seen landing daily into St. Maarten and many evacuation flights were executed. Even pets and other animals managed to be evacuated by caring travelers departing the island.

Many news and camera crews arrived on the island on military aircrafts. Initially, mainly from Curacao and Holland on Dutch Marine and Coast Guard aircrafts as his royal highness, the King of the Kingdom of The Netherlands arrived on St. Maarten on Monday night with the press in his entourage. Quickly, other press agencies, including CNN arrived on the island.

On Thursday, September 14th, a news crew from ABC News flew in from Puerto Rico on a private charter operated by Tradewind Aviation with the assistance of AirStMaarten and Halley Aviation Services. If St. Maarten was not already on the map, it is definitely now at the center of world with millions of viewers getting daily reports on the devastation caused by one of the most powerful hurricanes seen in the past 30 years with record-breaking storm statistics. The damage is already estimated to be well over 2,5 billion US dollars.

An image that will remained ingrained in the minds of many people is that of hundreds of people queuing up to be evacuated off the island. This situation has left many with mixed feelings ranging from anger to despair to sighs of relief. Long lines formed for days after the hurricane at the SXM Airport. The military exercised strict control over the situation and at no time did things get our of hand at the airport. So far all people stranded on the island have managed to be evacuated. Either via Curacao to The Netherlands or via San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the USA.

Local airline company Winair, despite having undergone complete devastation of its head offices at the SXM Airport leaving only the mangled remains of the structure behind, executed evacuation flights to Antigua for passengers connecting to the UK and also to St. Kitts and later to Saba and St. Eustatius.

Noteworthy, is the actions of the Dominican airline company, PAWA, that flew non-stop after the hurricane to fly in aid and relief goods and to evacuate and repatriate Dominicanos living on St. Maarten with their MD80 aircraft.

Other airlines operating evacuation flights were American Airlines, Jetblue and Delta Airlines. Also many private jet aircrafts were seen landing and taking off from the SXM Airport as well.

It is clear that the SXM Airport, despite the crippled infrastructure caused by the damages to the main terminal building’s arrival and departure halls, is playing a vital role in getting people out of the country and the necessary aid, help and relief into Hurricane Irma Damages SXM Airportthe island.

With the demand for more airlift in the form of military, humanitarian, commercial and private flights, the military and the local authorities will have to make all efforts to get the SXM Airport fully operational again and this port will be critical to the recovery and rebuilding process St. Maarten will have to undergo to allow the flow of cargo, tourists and US dollars back into the country and into the island’s local economy.

Click here to see more related photos on our travel partner’s Facebook page.

SCELL supports Tourism with Heritage, Culture and History boot camp

GREAT BAY - SCELL, the University of St. Martin’s School of Continuing Education and Life Long Learning supports tourism with the launch of its Heritage, Culture and History boot camp on October 24 and 25 from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on November 9 and 10. The education-based boot camp will provide participants with “cultural intelligence on the island’s historical landmarks, on both the Dutch and French side,” the school says in a press statement. Participants will learn “impressive facts” and “intriguing history” about the island’s culture and that of surrounding islands.

“SCELL is convinced that the 2-day boot camp will directly enhance the island’s Tourism,” SCELL-Director Dr. Natasha Gittens says. “In short, it will ensure that every member of the community interfacing with tourism understands the beautiful heritage, history and culture of their motherland, which in turn will ensure a memorable experience for every guest, vacationer, tourist and traveler to the island. The biggest reward in my opinion is that tourists will want to revisit the island once they hear about all the marvelous activities, landmarks and cultural activities we offer and return for multiple visits. This is a win – win for the island and the vacationers.”

Visitors have indicated time and time again that they want to find out more about the foods of the country, learn about historical monuments, and understand the diverse melting pot of people that reside on the island from all over the world, Gittens said. “They are interested in the facts about our ongoing historical developments and triumphs. However, we need to ensure that the information that is exchanged between the local community and the tourists are facts. This means we are obliged to equip our ambassadors of tourism, the St. Maarten people, with the facts about the history of our beautiful island.”

The boot camp will be facilitated by historians that have academic degrees, studied the history of the island extensively and reside on the island. They will teach participants the “true facts” by engaging them in interactive discussions, introducing videos, films and books and fostering fun, cooperative learning exercises that will reach every learner (i.e. participant) at their individualized level of learning. “SCELL is fully committed to supporting the economic sustainability of the island and this is yet another approach to ensure that an important need is filled as we approach high season,” Gittens stated.

SCELL will offer additional boot camps in October and November. The cost is $399.

Business Writing boot camp, October 11 and 12, Management and Leadership, October 17 and 18, Supervisory boot camp, October 18 and 19, Professional boot camp, October 12 and 13, Email Etiquette boot camp, October 20 and 21, Culture, Heritage and History boot camp, October 24 and 25 and November 9 and 10, Time Management and Project Deadlines boot camp, October 27 and 28.

For more information contact Ms. Blyden @ Jacqueline.Blyden@usm.sx or call 543-3710 or 554-2437. Visit the SCELL website at http://SCELL.usmonline.onl.