Two years ago, I was with a group that chartered the Random Wind. Our group was so large we had to secure a second boat which happened to be the Celine. What a blessing that turned out to be! Because of our good experience with Capt. Neil on that trip we decided to charter the Celine for a excursion this trip.
Our group of eight chartered the Celine for an excursion for our cruiseship stopover in St Maarten. Fornot much more than the price of what we would have spent on taxis,day use passes, food, and drinks while we fought the crowds around the city and on the beaches we received excellent personal service; a little scenic tour and gourmet lunch, open bar and a great time on the water!
We were picked up by Junior with Thomas Transportation Services at the Bus Terminal just off the pier when the Carnival Dream docked at 8AM. It was actually Junior's dad who picked us up but he took great care of our group. The bus was very clean and comfortable. After about a 20 minute ride through the city (it was only that long because of a stalled car at one point) we arrived at Skipjacks on Simpson Bay.
The Celine was fresh out of drydock and beautiful! We filled out paperwork required by the legal folks which took only a few minutes and then we were on our way. While we enjoyed a light breakfast of fresh pastries, fruit, cheese and yogurts, Tamara gave us the two minute tour of the facilities, helped us get settled and started fixing drinks. Bread may not seem like a big deal, but when you live in a place that considers Wonder bread as really good...you learn to appreciate really good bread when you get it! Breakfast was delicious!
We got out of the marina area and undersail in just a matter of minutes. One of our group was thrilled when Neil allowed him to steer as long as he wanted! Neil made sure he was heading in the right direction and took over whenever we got into areas that called for real skill but what a treat for someone who never gets out on the water to get to man the wheel!
We sailed around the island - couldn't have paid for a more perfect day by the way. I know we just got lucky but it certainly added to the experience. Neil sailed around to Long Beach, a popular spot for day charters but it is a huge area so you won't feel crowded even if other boats are there at the same time. We tied onto a bouy and spent the next couple of hours playing in the water (feeding fish and saw three progressively larger baracuda!) while Tamara kept our thirst quenched and Neil cooked lunch. He has snorkeling gear for those who wanted to do that and noodles for those who just wanted to hang in the water. There is nothing quite like the feeling of bobbing around in perfect water while you catch the occasional whiff of amazing food from the galley! I'll confess I expected to have lunch "reheated" but no - the meal is prepared fresh by Neil and beautifully presented! This meal rivaled anything we were served in the specialty restaurants onboard the ship! BBQ ribs, a fish dish but I can't remember the name - I hate fish and I even went back for a second taste of this! Shrimp&Calamari paella, potato salad, pasta & mushroom salad and a green salad topped with fresh fruit and rasberry vinagrette with garlic bread. All delicious and certainly way better than anything I would ever cook at home! How you can beat a wonderful meal eaten while you sit on the beautiful Caribbean? We dallied a bit longer than we probably should have swimming after lunch so we didn't have time to make a second stop as was originally planned but that was okay! We enjoyed a thrilling ride around the island to get back to the French bridge for the 2:30 opening. As we made our way back to Skipjacks, Tamara brought us all a shot of the signature Celine BBC - don't ask me what was in it - I can only tell you it was frozen, sweet and yummy!
After a few more photos and hugs all around we finally got off the boat and boarded Junior's bus back to the ship. We had a few minutes so Junior accomodated one of the guys request to stop at the Harley shop we passed on the way! We might have had time for a bit more shopping but I wouldn't press the issue. As much as I loved my day onboard the Celine, I wouldn't want to deal with missing the ship! We made it back with time to spare though, no worries! This was a perfect excursion for a group looking for a little more laid back experience where conversation and interaction is more important than thrill and adventure. The snorkeling was okay according to others in our group but this was more about being able to chill and the Celine provided the perfect atmosphere for that!
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to most anyone. Accessibility getting in/out of the water is a little difficult. I have really bad knees and an artifical ankle joint - I had to be real careful on the ladder but as long as I took my time and was careful it was fine. After all - you are on a boat - you should be careful all the time anyway!
This works out great if you aren't interested in the beaches and the ship excursions with their huge crowds - Neil was wonderful to work with while reserving the charter, patiently answered my thousand questions along the way.
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