Cruise Port of Call Wheelchair Accessibility Review: Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (St. Martin)

Sint Maarten, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is a country on the southern part of a Caribbean island shared with Saint Martin, a French overseas collectivity. Its natural features span lagoons, beaches and salt pans. The capital, Philipsburg, has cobblestone streets and colorful, colonial-style buildings lining its Front Street shopping area.

Immediately upon coming ashore, passengers are welcomed to the Harbour Point Village to the sound of steel pans. That tropical feeling on the “Friendly Island” begins! Built in Philipsburg’s charming old architectural style, the Village contains duty-free outlets, souvenir shops and market stalls as well as bars and a restaurant.

Here most of the tour and excursion pick up and drop off points are found as well as bus tour stands and the cab stand. Friendly harbour staff are on hand to assist visitors and an information center is located in the main building. The Captain Hodge Wharf, Walter Williams Jetty and Bobby’s Marina are three convenient water taxi stops on the Philipsburg waterfront and $6 one-day tickets for unlimited rides can be purchased from one of two private companies. Additionally 100 cabs await cruise arrivals at the terminal for fares to Philipsburg or elsewhere. None of the taxis are wheelchair accessible, so you must be able to self-transfer and have a folding, collapsible, or disassembled chair or scooter.

As mentioned above, once you leave your cruise ship and roll down to the end of the pier, you’ll enter a village with several different bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. If the souvenir shops don’t have flat entry, most of them will have a small blue concrete ramp to enter.

If you have not arranged for a wheelchair accessible tour (I booked one through MSC on the Seaside, but it was canceled the day before due to lack of participation), there are two ways to get into town on the Dutch side when arriving in Philipsburg: taking an accessible water taxi or rolling for approximately 15 minutes to the east end of Front Street and the Boardwalk. Water taxi is easy to board with a flexible metal ramp, and will take you five minutes to the board walk along the beach.

If you choose to roll into town, the route is basically flat. However, you do have some things to deal with. Immediately outside of the port, there are three very large dips in the sidewalk meant for water runoff. One of them is quite deep, so be very careful with any anti-tip devices, and if you have very low clearance, you may want to wait until someone is next to you in case you need a push out of it.

Farther down the sidewalk, it’s very important that you turn left into Bobby’s Marina. If you try to go any farther on the sidewalk, it will end in a very narrow space with no curb cut. Keep going towards the water behind the fence and roll along where the ATVs are parked. You will go across a small wooden bridge, and that path will take you to the east end of the boardwalk.

You can roll all the way to the west end of the boardwalk, and if you wish to do some shopping or eating, you can cut to the right along one of the alleys one block north to Front Street. However, be aware that the sidewalks on Front Street can get very narrow and obstructed by either trees, poles, or vehicles. It’s possible in many spots to roll into the street to go around obstacles, and while traffic is one-way, it can get busy and a little crazy. Many of the stores have at least one step to enter.

There is a narrow beach all the way along the boardwalk – much narrower than it used to be due to hurricane damage – but there are no beach wheelchairs available, and no beach mats to roll on.

Are you ready to book an amazing wheelchair accessible cruise that will take you to Sint Maarten? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel so we can start planning!

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