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VOL. 133 | NO. 133 | Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Lance Wiedower

Hospitality Rules in St. Maarten

Lance Wiedower

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Eighty percent of the island’s hotels still closed. That’s all I could think about as our cruise ship pulled away from Philipsburg, St. Maarten.

We spent a few hours lounging on the beautiful beach and decided to enjoy a lunch at the Lazy Lizard Beach Bar & Grill before we went back to the ship.

The Lazy Lizard is owned by a man who moved to St. Maarten from India when he was just 3. He’s been there 34 years now.

I loved our meal there. His Curry Philly Cheesesteak sandwich was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had. Period.

We all loved the food and the restaurant was just great fun. But I also felt terrible. We arrived that morning on a cruise ship and headed out at 3 that afternoon.

And since 80 percent of hotels were still closed because of damage from Hurricane Irma they desperately needed our business. And that saddened me.

Was my extra tip enough to matter, or my drink order that went above and beyond my usual enough? No, but my money does matter, even if it’s a minuscule fraction of what they need to get back on their feet.

The Lazy Lizard epitomized everything I imagined a Caribbean experience would be. The staff was warm and welcoming. The breeze off the Caribbean drifted into the open windows as the reggae and pop music blasted out of the speakers and I sipped on a fantastic rum from Costa Rica.

It was no different with the entrepreneurs down the beach who convinced us to pay $20 for two chairs, two umbrellas, a bucket of beers and use of a bathroom. Many beach bars offered similar deals. We decided on a man who called himself Bob Marley, working outside Lizzy’s Beach Bar. We could’ve chosen any number of spots, but I liked “Bob.”

Turns out his sister attended Middle Tennessee State University a few years back and he connected to the University of Memphis T-shirt I was wearing. He is from Jamaica but has lived in St. Maarten for eight years.

My only regret is not saying goodbye before we boarded our ship. I hope he is well when the next storm comes, just like I hope the tourists return to this beautiful island as soon as the hotels are up and running, which should be later this year.

I want to return and spend more time, maybe dropping over to the French side of the island to explore the shops of Marigot or the beautiful Orient Beach. We could’ve taken a cab to Maho Beach to see the planes come in overhead to land at Princess Juliana International Airport, itself still recovering from the storm.

Maybe next time. I’m happy we made new friends at the Lazy Lizard and on the beach with Bob.

I hope they make it through this hurricane season and are ready for a fabulous tourism season this winter. They need your business. But they also deserve it.

Oh, and the water is amazing. If Caribbean hospitality isn’t enough, consider St. Maarten (or the French St. Martin) for its beautiful beaches. I know I will.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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