St. Maarten is one of the world's most popular cruise ports. Located in the Lesser Antilles, 150 miles from Puerto Rico, it is a frequent stop on Eastern Caribbean cruises.
The island is shared by two nations. Its northern part (called St. Martin) is an overseas collectivity of France. The southern part, where all the cruise ships dock, is called Sint Maarten and is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. For simplicity, most people just refer to the northern half as the French side and southern portion as the Dutch side. (The island as a whole is sometimes referred to as "SXM.")
The French side is slightly larger than the Dutch. However, the Dutch side has a larger population and is somewhat more prosperous. People travel easily from one side to the other. There are no check points or guards. Indeed, the border is marked only by a stone odalisque celebrating the peaceful co-existence of the two sides.
Although the two sides live in harmony, each has its own distinct personality. Philipsburg, the Dutch capital, is busy and commercially-focused. Marigot, the principal town on the French side, is more relaxed. For example, the shops in Phillipsburg are nearly always open when a cruise ship is in port. In Marigot, the shops are usually closed on Sunday regardless of how many cruise ships are calling at the island.
The economies on both sides revolve around tourism. In addition to visitors who arrive by cruise ship, tourists arrive through the international airport. The island has luxury resorts and also hosts quite a few yachts.
Although the official currency on the French side is the euro and on the Dutch side the Antillean Guilder, the U.S. Dollar is accepted almost everywhere.
Along the same lines, English is widely spoken.
The island is principally known for its duty-free shopping as well as for its beaches and water sports.
Above: Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutrch side of the island.
Below: Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island.
Above:The interior of the island has steep hills.
Click here for our index of other cruise port articles
Click here for other Caribbean cruise destinations
Cruise destination - - St Maarten (Caribbean) - Overview (home page)