Tuesday, 9/25/01...Everything went very smoothly getting off the ship in St. Maarten. The transportation, rental car facilities were all together, and as soon as the locals see you walking up towards them, their all over you to get in their bus or taxi or rent from them. Stephan recommended that we rent from a reputable company, so we went with Hertz. We paid $60 for the day and extra for the gas we used. For the six of us this proved cheaper than taking an excursion; we felt limited in our choices of excursions since we didnt want to leave my mom alone. After a short drive around St. Maarten we were on our way to Orient Bay. We found the bay quite easy and paid only $5.00 each for a cushioned lounge chair (we bought four). Since there were many entrances to Orient Bay, we avoided the crowded section where the excursions stopped and went down a bit more. We parked, got out, walked a very short distance and enjoyed the beach immensely. We had brought a soft cooler with us and filled it with bottled water and soda. Well worth it! We had been warned about nudity on the beach and were prepared. But much to my DS's disappointment the only naked person on the beach was a sixty something year old man - HEE HEE HEE - it was quite a sight! It was so funny at first and then like everything else, you get used to it and we didn't look twice. (Although he did wind up in the background of one of our pictures!! ) My DH and two older DS's took a walk toward the more crowded part of the beach and passed a number of more attractive females, sunbathing naked. When they returned they were smiling. Now they can say, they've been to a naked beach. The water at Orient Bay was beautiful and very warm. The sun was shinning bright - we couldn't have asked for a better day. After a few hours, we were afraid of getting sunburned too much, we drove back to the ship to shower and eat lunch. From there we wanted to do some shopping. From these posts we learned that St. Maarten has the best shopping. We left our oldest DS on the ship with his friends (his choice) and our 7 yr. old in the Oceaneer's club. (Good choice!!) My mom was going to shop for cigarettes and us liquor, we were on our way. After driving around awhile, we finally found the shopping area. Not what we expected. St. Maarten (Dutch side at least) is a rather depressed area. My mom got what she wanted (4 cartons of cigarettes sell for under $28.00). My DH bought a cigar to enjoy on our veranda and decided to wait on the liquor until we got to St. Thomas. He surprised me with a shopping trip in some of the many jewelry stores. We went into a number of jewelry shops and found that allot of them are one and the same but go under different names. We spotted a ring that would replace my current engagement ring and wedding band, and fell in love with it. (Turns out, fortunately, the shop we found was the one recommended by friends back home.) Now, we had to have it sized and my diamond moved to it. Here comes an adventure their jeweler left early so we had to accompany one of the salespeople to their back-up jewelry maker. Hey we thought, no problem. But his location proved something less than desirable. We walked a couple of blocks up, down an alley, up concrete stairs complete with broken railings, through a room with locks, alarms and bars on the windows and doors! Quite a scary experience to say the least. I dont know if my heart was pounding from where we were or the excitement of my new ring! The salesperson had told us all the shops close up promptly at 6:00pm for fear of thieves and vandalism. They said crime was quite prevalent there. This scared us quite a bit since it was 5:25pm already and it would take at least 45 minutes to complete. It gets dark earlier now also. It was suggested that my mom and DS stay at the shop until my DH and I returned with the salesperson. Well to make a long story short when the ring was finished at 6:20pm, we hurried out of there, I stayed with my mom, DS and salespeople until DH ran down the street to get the rented van (fortunately it was still there). We jumped in, dropped mom and DS off at ship to get our 7 yr.old. DH and I drove over to return van to rental shop, raced back to ship, washed up, changed and got to our 6:00pm dinner at 6:50pm looking like we just ran a marathon! Much to our oldest DS surprise! He had been waiting for us at the table since 6:00, wondering what happened to us. (He forgot to turn on his walkie-talkie!) Whew! What a day but I love my ring! That night from room service we ordered a few sandwiches, cookies and drinks, I took out the zip-lock bags I brought from home and packed up the sandwiches for tomorrows trip to St. John. In the morning Ill put some of the ice in a zip-lock bag to keep the food cold. Wednesday, 9/26/01 Before leaving the ship for St. Thomas, everyone is asked to come to the WD Theatre at a certain time, to present themselves, with birth certificates and picture ID's for adults for US Immigration. We wait in order, seated in the theatre as they present row by row on stage to Immigration. Everything goes very smoothly and quickly. They even provided coffee, danish and juice before entering the theatre. After that the morning turned into the day from hell (excuse my language). We got off the ship with no problem intending to take a cab from St. Thomas to St. John to Trunk Bay Beach. We have been told that it was one of the 10 best beaches in the world. (And it was!! Sigh). As we got off the ship a cab dispatcher approached us and asked us where we were headed. We told her and she directed us into a red cab which said Red Devil truck written on it and told us the price we had to pay. She also told the driver of the price. All agreed. Sitting behind us was a wonderful family, Sue, John and their son Jonathan. With the cab now full, we waited. When the driver finally decided to get in, off we went. We arrived at Red Hook dock and exited the open air taxi when all hell broke loose. I went to give the driver, Rupert, the money and he started screaming that we owed him more money. He carried on, screamed and waved his finger in my face. We told him that he was trying to rob us and that this was the amount we all agreed upon before entering his cab. He turned a deaf ear and continued his animalistic behavior. At one point he threatened to grab my tote bag and not give it back. This went on for about 10 minutes; my mom and children were scared, while my DH and I tried unsuccessfully to talk to him. People stared at him. Our boat was pulling up and we had to leave, at the same time another cab pulled up and I tried to get his help. He tried to talk to Rupert, but to no avail, the other driver suggested we just give him $4 more and to leave. Well we wanted to catch the boat and did not know what he would do to us if we just left so we gave him the $4 extra. Others told me I shouldnt have given in to the thief, but we were scared. He was really carrying on like Ive never seen before. Later in the day, before I got back on the ship I stopped in the US Virgin Islands Tourist Office and reported him. They took all the information and said they take these reports very seriously and that theyve had problems before. They said they would get back to me Im waiting. Dave from Marietta (the man with a wealth of information), if your reading this do you know of anyone else I can call or write to, to complain?) So warning to all stay away from an elderly, tall, thin, black man, named Rupert who drives a red open cab that says Red Devil truck written in script in small letters on the side. I tried to get his last name but couldnt get that close to read it. That chapter complete we continued our journey meeting Sue, John and their son was a day saver. They were so nice and we had so much fun with them. They sat with us on the ferry over to St. John and rented a cab with us to take us to Trunk Bay. (In contrast, this driver was Dr. Love, and he was very nice. He told us about all the places we passed along the way and stopped for us to take pictures. He even waited for us after Trunk Bay to take us back to the ferry.) The beach was beautiful; I never saw clearer water, almost blue-green. We brought our own snorkeling equipment but still had to pay $5.00 for a lifejacket. (We should have just used their snorkeling equipment, same price with lifejacket.) We took pictures of the fish underwater and enjoyed the beach and the company of our new friends. We ate the lunch we brought, and before we knew it time to go back to the ship. From the cab we were able to take a different ferry back that left us off right at the nose of the Disney Magic. DSs went back to the ship while we stopped off at the shopping are for my DH liquors. Great deals We brought home 15 bottles for under $195.00! And they were all big bottles! Note to all if you want to do any shopping in St. Thomas, you DONT need to take a cab. It is in walking distance, directly across from the ships plank to exit/enter. We were told by USVI Tourist Center that some people get duped by the cab drivers to take a taxi to the shopping area only to have them take you in a circle! If Sue or John read this, please e-mail me. We forgot to exchange addresses! Would love to get back in touch with you! The evenings show on the ship was Who Wants To Be A Mouseketeer. I knew it would be slim to get picked for the hot seat, so I thought the next best thing would be the panel of six helpers. When they asked for volunteers, I raised my hand and cheered as loud as I could - I was the first one picked! All who were there for the 8:30 show yep that was me! This made up for the horrible start to the day. It was fun to be up there. We did pretty well helping out the contestants. As helpers we received an awesome pin, which you cant buy elsewhere! After that we shopped a bit more on board for souvenirs, headed to the Cabaret and went dancing till the wee hours. At this point we are averaging 5 hours of sleep a night! Thursday, 9/27/01 Had breakfast in the dining room for a change this morning, our servers are more comfortable with us now and Zoltan, our assistant server, has starting showing us some tricks. Nice young man from Hungary. If you get a chance, ask your servers about their backgrounds. It is really quite interesting to find out what their countries are like, how they live and how long they have been in the cruise business, etc. We had an opportunity to talk to one of the cruise entertainment staff one day for a few minutes Sean, a young man from Africa. Its amazing how mature these youngsters are. They are so far away from home and family. He was very personable, polite and always upbeat whenever we saw him. He was so excited to be working for Disney. Disneys recruiting program is really something else. One class act Company! This afternoon was the final bingo jackpot. I think everyone on the ship was playing today. There are so many people for the last day that they have to hold it in the WD Theatre instead of the Rockin Bar D. We didnt win, came close though. The games paid out a few hundred dollars each time, with the final jackpot paying over $3,000! Not bad! That evening was our semi-formal night at Animator's Palate. We were joined at dinner by one of the ships Officer's. Kyle was such a gentleman. We enjoyed his company very much and he and our youngest DS shared quite a number of laughs together. We told a little about each other and I hope we have the opportunity to have dinner with him again someday. He really made our night special and "magical"! Well, my trip report is almost complete I hope your not finding it overly wordy. My husband thinks Im nuts Im hoping those who read this find it helpful. Just trying to give back to this post what I got out of it. My next report will be the last; I promise!