Club Orient Trip Report - September 13, 1997

If a person is lucky, they find that one place in the world that makes their souls sing. Orient Beach is that place for us. We have just returned from a trip from 9/13/97 to 9/20/97 to St. Martin. This was our fourth weekly trip to SXM, with numerous other trips there on cruise ships.

This trip was driven, to some extent, by the fact that we had "bump" tickets from our last trip to SXM in February 97, which had to be used within one year of the date of our original bump, so we elected for September, since we had already had another cruise planned for November. Going to SXM in September turned out to be a serendipitous (SP!!) choice, and we are already making plans to return in September next year. Many of the resorts and some restaurants are closed in September. Among the resorts closed in September (in 97, anyway) are L'Hoste and LaPlantation, either one of which we would have probably booked, if they had been open. Among the hotels on Orient Beach, Club Orient, Green Cay Village, and Esmeralda are about the only ones open, although I presume that Grand Case Beach Club and Mount Vernon were open, without knowing. The price for Esmeralda was going to be a couple of hundred dollars more than Club Orient, so we elected to stay at Club O. This was the first time we had actually stayed at Club Orient, although we always go to the beach there. We highly recommend it, IF you are interested in clothing optional accommodations. If not, some place like L'Hoste or LaPlantation would be our recommendation, unless you can afford the luxury of Green Cay Village at $1800 for the week.

I was not particularly looking forward to staying at Club O, as I had always thought that it was too rustic for me. It turned out that we both loved Club Orient and will stay there again next September. The only bad thing about Club Orient in September is that the Tiko Tiko (the catamaran that does cruises from Club Orient) is often not there, as it was not this time. I'm sure that Guillome had left with the Tiko when Erika came by about 7 days before we left for SXM. He lost his previous boat during Luis, so I'm sure that he takes few chances these days, although he was supposedly having maintenance done also.

The price for the hotel was $700 for the week for the type accommodations we booked. This was the price in September, when Club Orient was running a special. The price in February for the same accommodations is $1400 for the week. What we both enjoyed so much was being able to be nude all day until dinner (or through dinner, if one wanted to eat at Club Orient for dinner). If you have to have a pool, hot tub, room service, TV, phone, CD player, etc., Club Orient isn't for you, but it fit the bill nicely for us. A full report on Club Orient is under that topic. Well, anyway, I thought this was a TRIP REPORT??!!?? G!!

We spent the night in a hotel near BWI airport, since our flight from BWI left at 6:50 A.M. for Philly. The flight is supposed to be only 20 minutes, but we ended up getting delayed in the air by other traffic, then delayed on the ground waiting for a gate to open up, and therefore had only 20 minutes from when our plane landed until the plane to SXM was supposed to take off (instead of 1 hour and 20 minutes) but we (and our luggage!) made the transfer fine and the trip to SXM on US Air was uneventful, on a half-full plane, so we enjoyed 3 seats for the two of us. Another reason to go in September!!

We arrived about on time around noon SXM time, and were the first plane on the ground and were through immigration in a world record 5 minutes. Of course, the baggage guys are also on SXM time, so it took some time to get bags, but then we were off to Hertz for our car. We had a more "used " car than in recent past this time, with 31000 km, but had no problems for the week other than it made some sounds like it needed oil. We went by Match on the way to the hotel to pick up essential supplies--cheese, grapes, alcohol, mixers, wine, OJ. Interestingly, even though the OFFICIAL exchange rate is right around exactly 6FF to $1, Match was giving 6.2. It made supplies cheaper than we expected. Then it was on to Club Orient, arriving by 1:45 P.M. After check-in, we checked out the Club Orient store, (L'Orientique) which is a kind of overgrown 7-11, with prices to match. Unfortunately, since Match had not had charcoal other than a 25 pound bag, we had to buy charcoal at Club O, which was outrageous, at $5 per bag. A roll of paper towels at L'Orientique was $2.50, a medium sized box of Ritz crackers was $4.00, and a variety of steaks was an expensive $10.00-$25.00. A good reason to bring meats from home, if you plan on cooking here, and to buy everything else you need at Match or Food Center. Overall, we didn't buy much at L'Orientique, except they had fresh croissants for purchase every morning, ($1.00 to $1.50 each) which was a great convenience for us, as we had usually gone to Marigot most days to purchase croissant when we stayed at other places before.

Before we had been at Club Orient for barely a half hour, Victor, one of the security guards, came by to introduce himself. Victor had been told to look out for us by our friend David Mitchem, from the internet. Since we had no lunch, Victor caught us as we were having some cheese and fruit and sharing the pretty decent bottle of white wine in our refrigerator which Club Orient provides to all guests. After a couple of hours of sun, we checked out the Club O happy hour, which is half price drinks from 5:30 to 6:30, and met two people who would be good friends over the week, Herbie and Marian, who are from Brazil. She did not speak much English, but she laughed a lot and was a lovely person. Herbie was an outgoing, fun-loving guy who often had to explain our English to Marian. We had a wonderful time with them all week. Tired from our travels of the day, we ate dinner at Papagayos, which is the restaurant at Club Orient.

Papagayo's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all somewhat overpriced, based on the competition. This evening, Eric had the prime rib ($23.50) and I had the NY strip ($21.00), both including baked potato and vegetable. The beef (ordered medium rare) was cooked correctly and was very good. The meal, including 3 glasses of wine, was $71.00, including tip. By the way, at Papagayo, the exchange rate was 5 to 1. As we were just finishing our dinner, Jim and Mary Ruos (our travel agents, for those not reading this report on $Prodigy) came up to introduce themselves. We found out a couple of months ago that Jim and Mary were going to be in SXM when we were, but Jim asked us to keep his cover, which we did, not posting that he was going to be in SXM when we were. They try to stay at all the hotels they sell, and stayed at Club O this time.

Sunday morning we had our usual breakfast for the week--danish which Eric purchased at L'Orientique, coffee and orange juice, on our patio at Club O. Sunday was kind of cloudy all day, which was not necessarily bad, since we were not yet used to the Caribbean sun. We had intended to go to Pedro's for lunch, but there was a huge crowd of cruise ship people there, so we walked on down to Paradisio Beach (between Pedro's and Kontiki) for lunch. It wasn't bad (chicken and fries, cheeseburger and fries, 2 beers, 1 mixed drink and 1 coke for $25), but it wasn't Pedro's. We noted on most days that there are ships in, that there is live music at Pedro's, which isn't bad, However, there is almost always a large crowd there these days, which makes it hard to get a table, and somewhat uncomfortable to be nude.

After another happy hour at Papagayo, we headed to Grand Case for dinner. Some of the restaurants are closed in September, which is one negative to dining in September. However, the major positive is that those that are open are very unlikely to be busy on any night. Several nights this trip, we just walked into restaurants which were totally empty at 8 P.M. Since we are constitutionally opposed to reservations whilst on vacation, this was nirvana. Also, something one could appreciate only by having been there before, it took us less than five minutes to drive through Grand Case on Sunday night. (!!!!!)

It appeared that some restaurants were open some nights and not others, as L'Auberge Gourmande was open one night and closed another. It appeared that the Fishpot was closed, Le Tastevin open and Bistrot Caraibes open every night. The Cloud Room was apparently open for lunch only, Surf Club South apparently open Friday and Saturday only.

Sunday night we opted for Bistrot Caraibes, and it was lovely. Eric had an incredible tuna steak with rice pilaf on a bed of corn and peppers and I had chicken with mushrooms and a potato side dish, served on fantastically beautiful plates. We had one creme brulee, 2 coffees, and a bottle of gewurstemeiner. While dining, we watched the guy deliver the fresh lobsters and wished that we had ordered the lobster at $23.50 instead, although what we had was marvelous. At $66.00 including tip, this meal won our nomination for best value in the French restaurant category.

After dinner, we headed to the casinos to begin our week of misery in the casino. As one astute Prodigy member reported to us upon returning "If you go to St. Martin during hurricane season, if you have wonderful weather (as we did), the gods of fortune make you pay for it in the casino!!" Over the course of the week, we donated much more to the island economy than ever before. We never saw any match play coupons available without doing timeshare deals except at the new Diamond Casino, which is right by Bobby's Marina. Diamond is a nice looking casino, with all new tables, etc., but very small. The Atlantis had some match play coupons in the St. Maarten Nights, but they were refusing to accept them, claiming they were expired, even though they were in the St. Maarten Nights that we picked up at the airport. We spent the week at either the Pelican or the Atlantis, but had the same bad luck for most of the week. Atlantis has much better drink service than the Pelican, as at Atlantis, they provided free drinks to me even if I was only watching Eric play, provided in glass glasses. At the Pelican, If one was extraordinarily lucky, if you were playing you got one or two drinks for the whole night, served in a plastic cup. The dealers at the Pelican were much nicer, however, and the Pelican did have $.50 roulette, a definite plus in my book.

For those who are interested in football, we didn't go there, but apparently the Coliseum Casino has NFL Sunday Ticket, as their marquee proclaimed that they had 10 NFL games on Sunday. Probably Rick's Place (bar in downtown P'burg) also has some football games, and Atlantis should have at least two games at a time, as they had the Monday Night Football game on.

Sunday night, Eric did manage to buy an inside straight, a flush, and the 2nd pair for wins at Second Chance Caribbean Stud at the Atlantis, so we thought that the week would be OK for gambling. Overall, we were losers for the night and headed back to Club Orient, waking up the security guard to let us in. He must have had a busy Saturday night!! G!!

Monday we had breakfast at the room, as almost all days this time, with croissant Eric picked up at L'Orientique. While there, Eric observed the "blessing out" that the store proprietor gave to the bread delivery man, who arrived at 8:30. The store proprietor told him that he had to get there earlier, as there were people waiting for their bread when the store opened at 8!!!

Monday was a perfect day at the beach, with lovely weather and a nice (although not gale-like) wind, as is sometimes the case at Orient. At lunch time, we had hamburgers on the grill at the room. Eating lunch at the room, as well as the convenience of drinks from the room, were two of the real joys for the week. We had wonderful weather, but if the weather had been bad, it also would have been much easier to walk back to the room if we were staying there. We had brought a very small cooler with hamburgers and steaks from home, which proved convenient and economical.

Monday night we went to Sambuca for dinner--mozzarella sticks, one pepperoni pizza, and a pitcher of Coke for $23. Cheap and filling and what we were looking for this night. Off to Atlantis to watch some Monday Night Football and lose some more money, then home to Club Orient.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast at Papagayo at Club Orient, which is served from 8:30 to 11 A.M. We each had omelettes--ham and cheese for me and western for Eric--with some potato garnish (supposed to be home fries, but there were so few pieces, it looked like garnish to me G!!), toast and jelly, for $6.50 each, plus coffee. Also available were french toast and pancakes for $4, side meats for $2, juices and coffee for $2 each. An OK breakfast for those who don't wish to leave Club Orient, but otherwise unremarkable, and nothing like the many great breakfasts we have had in Marigot.

Tuesday was an absolutely fabulous weather day, with beautiful sun and a wonderful breeze all day. I sent Eric down to Pedro's for chicken and fries--more chicken and fries than one wants for lunch for $7 each, which we ate at the picnic table at our room, looking out at Orient Beach. Wonderful!

Tuesday morning we had made arrangements to have dinner with Jim and Mary Ruos, so we met them at their unit for drinks, then headed out to Grand Case for dinner. We ate at LeCottage, which was good, but I thought the portions somewhat small, compared to the other places we ate. I had beef tenderloin, Eric the lobster, we shared a bottle of wine with Jim and Mary and had an additional glass each with dinner, 1 creme brulee, 1 white chocolate mousse and 2 coffees. $80 total for our part of the meal, which was OK, but the service was very slow. I doubt we would go back there.

Tuesday night was a full moon, which we couldn't resist upon returning to the room. We carried our bottle of champagne out to the beach and sat drinking in the moonlight and enjoying the champagne and the warm breezes, then waddled off the bed, thankful that we didn't have to drive anywhere this night.

Wednesday morning we had intended to go to Marigot for breakfast but weren't hungry, so we headed directly to P'burg to do some shopping for gifts for secretaries, family members, and some junk jewelry for me, etc., etc., which was hot, tiring, crowded, etc., etc. Back to Marigot to pick up a couple of items which we had missed at Match, then back to the room for a lunch of hamburgers on the grill. After three good hours of afternoon sun, we headed back to the room before 5 P.M. when a hard shower came down.

It cleared off before the Wednesday night wine and cheese party at Papagayo, which we know from personal experience is not limited to Club Orient guests only. They serve (free) red and white wine, plus OJ and non-alcoholic punch, plus cheese and pate, from 5:30 to 6:30. It's a very nice little party. Take a tip, though, BRING BUG SPRAY!! We never noticed any bugs any other time other than at happy hour, but there are LOTS of little biting bugs around happy hour that will make your time there miserable if you don't have bug spray.

Wednesday night we cooked steaks brought from home on our grill at the room, along with a nice bottle of French wine purchased at Match, along with some frozen corn and macaroni and cheese from home. Not a gourmet meal, but cheap and satisfying, before heading out to more losing at Atlantis.

Thursday we again had breakfast on our patio, and recognized that our time in paradise was growing short. Being a collector of souvenir bears and coffee cups, I bought a Club Orient bear and coffee cup. Thursday was one of the very few days of the week when it didn't appear that there were any cruise ships in, as the beach was fairly empty, as was Pedro's. We headed down to Pedro's au naturel and had a lovely lunch with only about 3 other couples. Kind of like the good old days at Pedro's. Eric had a swordfish sandwich (which was kind of like a Philly cheese steak made with swordfish), with fries, and I had a hotdog with fries, along with two drinks each. $25 total and some of the best money we spent all week. Interestingly, Pedro's now has a t-bone and a sirloin steak, which I don't remember before. On Thursday, the special was the sirloin, for $12. Sounded like a good deal, but we didn't take advantage of it. That evening we had a mini "happy hour" of our own at the room enjoying a bottle of wine, some cheese and fruit on the picnic table outside our room. Herbie and Marion came by on their way to the Papagayo happy hour and we passed an enjoyable few moments with them.

For dinner Thursday night, we opted for the Greenhouse, in P'burg. On previous trips, we had had lunch there before, and happy hour (GREAT half price appetizers), but this was our first time for dinner, but we doubt it will be our last. It is not Grand Case, with french onion soup, fantastic plates, and creme brulee, but they serve great food--mostly American and some Caribbean specialties, with an accompaniment of classic American music on the side (live music on Friday night). We had an appetizer of the Island Sampler (conch fritters, spicy shrimp, pork satay--yummy!!), Eric had REAL Jamaican jerk chicken and ribs (HOT and wonderful) and I had pork satay (good--although a trifle overcooked), 2 mixed drinks and 2 glasses of wine. A great bargain and one of the best meals of the week at $50 total, including tip.

Friday morning it was again breakfast at the room, and lunch at the room also, with steak and frozen corn on the cob, brought from home, along with wine from Match. There are some various assorted dogs which inhabit Club Orient from time to time, at least one of which belongs to the Brinks, which dog decided to glom onto me for the week. I rewarded his patience on Friday with some leftovers, for which he was suitably appreciative. He was probably more appreciative of the half hour of air conditioning on the tile floor of our room which I afforded him. He, and the couple of other assorted dogs who hung around, were not obnoxious and would not hang around unless encouraged. After lunch, I headed down to Jim and Mary's chalet to take some pictures for our home page.

I had decided that we must return to Grand Case for our last meal and we chose Auberge Gourmand, at which we had enjoyed a wonderful meal last time in SXM. This time was much the same, other than the crowds. Last time in February, we arrived just at 6 P.M. and were asked if we had a reservation and ended up getting seated at the last table in the back room. This time, we arrived at 8 P.M., to an empty restaurant. The waiter asked if we had a reservation, then said "no need". It was a kind of a joke which he repeated to the others who appeared after us. Eric had the French onion soup (the waiter somehow knew to bring two spoons--G!!) and the salmon ravioli, I had the chicken in pastry. Eric had an assortment of chocolate for dessert that I called "Death by Chocolate" and I had creme puffs with chocolate. We had two coffees, and a bottle of white bordeaux--the meal fantastic at a total of $84, including tip.

As we were walking down the street in Grand Case heading to our car, we saw Herbie and Marion having dinner at Bistrot Caraibe. We walked up and asked them who they were, as they looked quite a bit like people we had seen on Orient Beach all week, although this time with clothes on. We shared an after dinner drink with them and laughed a lot.

Saturday was, unfortunately, time to go home, so I woke up somewhat early for us, around 7:50, and headed out with my camera to take some pictures of Orient before it filled up with people. Even though our plane was not to leave until 3:30, we had to check out at 11, unfortunately, as someone was supposed to come into our room right after us. If someone had not been coming into our room right after us, we could have checked out much later. In any event, we had all our stuff ready to go early in the morning on Saturday, headed out to the beach for a couple of hours of sun, then back to the room to clear out the remaining drinks out of the refrigerator. Back for another hour or so of sun, then we headed to Papagayo's to share lunch (the last meal--G!!) and some drinks with Herbie and Marion. Eric had the jamaican jerk chicken (not nearly as good as at the Greenhouse, but OK) and I had a chicken salad, which was lovely except for the maraschino cherry and the CANNED (!!!) pineapple on the side. We had a lovely time and promised to meet again in September next year.

Papagayo's has a shower in the back, so we showered off the salt and dressed for the trip home on US Air. The flight home left around a half hour late, so Eric was forced to have a couple more drinks at the airport before heading home. The flight again was thankfully half empty, so we again had three seats for two people. Again, a reason to return in September.

Overall, other than the horrible week in the casino, we had a marvelous week. This time as we prepared to leave on Saturday, I was not nearly as sad as I normally am when it is time to go home. In fact, as I was sitting on the beach Saturday morning, my eyes filled with tears of joy thinking about this place, this Orient Beach. It is a place of rest, of relaxation, of rejuvenation of a soul worn down by the worries of life. We shall return.

Carol & Eric

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