The View
from Here:

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline and is the new editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and when she's not organizing the St. Barth Film Festival, or writing for various magazines, she turns her all-seeing eye upon local happenings.

    November '06

    Nightmare in Sint Maarten
    Welcome to the Friendly Island! What a joke! Sint Maarten has become the largest nightmare in the Caribbean now that the new airport has opened. The wheels of progress may be turning but in this case they need a lube job. Everyone I know that flew in this week, including myself, has had a truly horrible experience. If you ask me, this airport has opened way to early, and not only isn’t it finished but there seem to be major issues. I’ve heard of working out the kinks, but this is ridiculous. In my case, I arrived on a day when there was an immigration slow-down, which resulted in a 45-minute wait to get my passport stamped. Then it took a while longer to get my bag (which I wouldn’t have checked but it was full of cake baking supplies: see last month’s article…). So of course I missed by 3:45pm flight, and was scheduled for the 4:45, after I finally found the transfer desk for Winair. Then up an elevator that opened into a corridor full of construction trash. Seriously, the floor was covered with old plastic sheets, nails, and scraps of wood. Pretty nasty. Then some electronically controlled glass doors opened but there were stanchions on the other side with one of those blue ribbons that keep you from advancing. Needless to say I pushed that aside and went on to security. The problem there is that there are no tables before the security conveyor belt. So no one could put their stuff down or put their laptops into bins. There were no bins readily available, but someone finally got a few. Then on the new waiting area, where the majority of the space is up as a shopping mall with boutiques selling liquor, perfume, chocolate, and newspapers, among other items destined for tourists. The stores seem to be functioning, which is more than I can saw for Winair. The 4:25 flight left at 4:45, and then for no explainable reason, my flight, the 4:45 was cancelled. Everyone trooped back to the Winair counter, this time in the check in area, where the staff could not have been less helpful. In fact they were rather nasty all the way around, even though they were offering hotel and dinner vouchers. But a few of us decided it was better to get to St Barth sooner than later — and not have to face that airport again in the morning — and opted to take a speedboat (for a mere 1,200 euros, but thankful for any sort of transport at that hour). So after another hour of getting suitcases (mine however did not show up until the next morning, complete with the orange plastic pumpkin spatula I had been planning to use as a Halloween mask) and battling rush hour traffic to get to Bobby’s Marina, we were on our way in the comfort of Pilou’s African Queen II. The sea was calm and about 40 minutes later, just after 8:00pm, we were happily at the dock in Gustavia. Considering I left my apartment in New York at 6:00am, it was quite a day. I have heard similar tales from many people, some of whom ended up on St Barth Commuter charters and others in Pilou’s fleet of boats, because as it happens, all of the regular ferry boats that service St Barth are out of service this week, so the usual escape hatch via The Voyager was not an option (although I have heard that some St Martin taxi drivers are taking people to the dock in Marigot anyway, and leaving them to wait for a boat that is not running! Could that be?). Some people opt to spend the night in St Martin, on the voucher from Winair (one couple from my flight went off to La Samanna on their own dime). From now on, I pledge not to check luggage and to fight my way directly to the transit lounge, in spite of the fact that I never have a boarding pass in hand. Or maybe there’s a way to avoid Sint Maarten all together…. if there is, I’ll let you know!

    More to come,
    Ellen Lampert-Greaux
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