Category Archives: St. Maarten

Tending the Gardens of Little Bay

How many gardeners does it take to make a hotel gorgeous?  4 +2 + 1 + 1 is the winning formula at Divi Little Bay in St. Maarten. Eight Divi employees – four gardeners, two landscapers, one supervisor and one engineer – are always hard at work making Divi Little Bay such a verdant oasis.

The lush and lovely grounds are a key attraction of the property. Words like “impeccable,” “lovely,” and “gorgeous” pop up frequently in reviews.  Nor are we surprised when we read, “most beautiful spot on St. Maarten.”

But, as anyone who’s ever planted a garden knows, the property blossomed over time.  A considerable revamp of the landscaping was necessitated by the arrival of Luis and Marilyn, a couple of hurricanes that came ashore in 1995.  The storms dealt a heavy blow to the resort, leading to its shuttering for a do-over.  In 2000, a much expanded and upgraded resort was opened, with the new buildings, layout and landscaping taking full advantage of Divi Little Bay’s unique topography.  The resort rose again, literally, you could say, with new villas climbing up the hillside toward historic Fort Amsterdam.  And, you could also say Divi Little Bay Resort came though with flying colors – with myriad tropical flowers now putting on a show all year long.

St. Maarten, with its subtropical climate, is an exceptional place for flora.   The grounds of Divi Little Bay Resort feature flowers, shrubs, ferns, palms and cacti.  There are brilliant hot pink bougainvillea, yellow blooming plubago, red hibiscus, white lily and coral ixora, adding color at every turn.  Bismarck palms drip with feathering red berry branches and the royal palms add a sculptural note with their giant fans of grey-green foliage.

There are also flamboyant trees.  Yes, that is the name and a fitting description, too.  They blossom from June to September in brilliant red, orange and yellow.  The flamboyant tree is also the national tree of St. Maarten. I guess you could say, that’s fitting too.

There really is no peak time to enjoy the landscaping at Divi Little Bay, given the diversity of plants and bloom times.  According to Barry Richardson, Chief Engineer at Divi Little Bay, the grounds look good all the time.  We agree.

And, Richardson knows his plants. He and his head landscaper, Eduard O’Donel, have been tending the grounds at Divi Little Bay for over 20 years.  Twenty years creating paradise.  Nice work, guys.

All Dressed Up and Someplace to Go – It’s Carnival Time!

Oh, how they love a good party in St. Maarten.  Carnival, the annual festival that has more music, rhinestones and feathers than a Grammy Awards show, is now going on in St. Maarten.  And, it’s going on and on and on.  The island has been partying for two weeks already, and they are not done yet.  But, almost.   The festivities end today.

According to Carnival connoisseurs, St. Maarten has one of the best celebrations in the northeastern Caribbean. There are events day and night.  A festival village is the hub, but parades fan out through the downtown of Phillipsburg.  There are also beauty pageants, numerous heart-pumping concerts, lots of food and costume competitions.  The latter is serious business.

After all, Carnival is THE biggest event of the year on St. Maarten, so it is no surprise that the fashions come out for the occasion.  Front Street, the parade route, turns into a red carpet of sorts with revelers strutting the stuff of the Caribbean’s finest Carnival designers.  There’s every color of the rainbow and then some, plenty of feathers, rhinestones, fringe, beads, netting and towering headdresses three feet high and three feet wide.

Planning what to wear next year begins nearly the day after Carnival ends this year.  Creative minds get sketching, colors envisioned, fabrics ordered, and soon nimble fingers are sewing, beading and spangling for months.

And, that’s not all.   There has to be make-up to go with the outfit.  Revlon commissioned Sandra Hordatt, a top Carnival costume designed based in Trinidad, but who works throughout the Caribbean, to develop some Carnival make-up looks last year. Stunning, we think you’ll agree, but judge for yourself with these make-up pictures.

And, here’s something else we’ve learned.  On Carnival Info, a website which tells you everything you didn’t even know you didn’t know about carnivals around the world, you can order a costume custom made for you.

And, now that you know the dress code, mark your calendar for April 2014.  There’s a party going on.

Since Carnival comes at a very popular time of year for vacations, book a stay at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort well in advance.  It’s never too soon to plan accommodations or party attire!

Knock, Knock. Holland Has a King!

Today promises to be a very colorful day in certain parts of the Caribbean – all stemming from the rise of a new king in Holland. His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange ascends to the throne that day. Hear ye and welcome King Willem-Alexander.

The investiture of the new king is taking place on Queen’s Day. Confused? If you’ve ever found yourself in The Netherlands, on St. Maarten, Aruba or other Dutch provinces and states around the globe, you know that April 30th is huge holiday, called Queen’s Day. When Queen Juliana ascended to the throne in 1949, she marked her monarchy with an annual celebration on her birthday, April 30. Her daughter, Beatrix, who became queen in 1980, didn’t think January 31, her birthday, was a good day for outdoor parades and merry-making, so she kept her Queen’s Day on April 30th.

Note to travelers: Queen’s Day next year is cancelled. Lest you think an uprising is about to occur at the loss of a national holiday, no worries. Starting in 2014, King’s Day fittingly will replace Queen’s Day; but the celebration will move to April 27th, which is the new king’s birthday. The king has already concurred that April is indeed a splendid time of year for a day off and grand party. This decision continues a long line of service to the people and practicality by the Dutch monarchy. (They’re also known for abdication, too. Queen Beatrix is handing the reins to her son, as her mother did for her, believing it is time for a new generation to lead the monarchy.)

Of this you can be certain: the national holiday that celebrates the monarchy – be it king or queen – is a great day for the wearin’ of the orange. Orange is the national color of The Netherlands because the Dutch royal family is known as the House of Orange-Nassau. The dynasty traces its lineage to the marital union of the royal house of Nassau-Breda in Germany with the Chalon-Orange line from France Burgundy in 1515.

The soon to be King Willem-Alexander is the first male heir to the Dutch throne in over 100 years. He and his wife have three daughters. And, you know what that means: King’s Day will become Queen’s Day once again.
The historical signs at Fort Amsterdam in St. Maarten, which are a very special part of the grounds of Divi Little Bay Resort, already have been repainted – with a fresh coat of orange, of course – to note the change in leadership of the Dutch Kingdom. At a ceremony there on April 27, SIMARC, an organization that works to preserve the island’s heritage, was awarded an Orange Bow, a very special honor indeed since it is the last bestowed under the reign of the outgoing queen.
Orange you glad you read this?

St. Maarten’s New Top Dining Spot

St. Maarten, regarded as the dining capital of the Caribbean, just got a new “top” dining destination:  historic Fort Amsterdam.  The promontory, on the grounds of Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, is now the backdrop for a special dining experience under the stars, hosted by a pirate costumed waiter, serving up history and memorable cuisine at one of the Caribbean’s most enchanting and exclusive settings.

By day, a hike to the summit of Fort Amsterdam, which dates to the 1600s, provides a stunning vista across the Caribbean, all the way to St. Bart’s and Saba.  No wonder the peninsula served as the island’s lookout, protecting valuable salt ponds from advancing navies and marauders.  Now, by night, the fort at Divi Little Bay Resort hosts Dinner Atop the Fort, an epicurean event that combines history, pirate’s tales and Dutch cuisine amid the native flora and stone ruins of the fort.

A waiter, dressed in pirate garb and well-versed in local facts and yore, welcomes just a few couples nightly.   Diners are driven to the top of the fort by golf cart, tiki torches illuminating the ascent. The specially conceived menu takes inspiration from long ago and includes Dutch stew with beer and vegetables, a true Dutch apple pie and an old-fashioned Dutch dessert called Dutch poffertjes.   Diners will also be enthralled with the twinkle of lights in the capital city of Philipsburg far below and ships sailing in and out of Great Bay Harbor.

The cost of the dinner is $350 per couple, $185 per person; wine is included.   Reservations are required due to limited seating. To ensure availability during your stay at Divi Little Bay, reservations are suggested at the time of booking by calling Divi Resorts at 800.367.3484 or 919.419.3484.

What’s Your 2013 Travel Resolution?

Did you make resolutions for 2013?   Did the list include:  Be a better person, work smarter, be more organized and take more vacation days? It might come as a surprise that those four resolutions are connected.  Workplace experts highly recommend taking vacations.  Yes, that was an “s” on the end of the word “vacation.”  Vacations recharge the batteries, replenish the creative juices and make a person more productive at work, according to those who study workplace behavior.  So, think of it this way: vacations are a good thing for you and your business.

Planning is key. January is a good time to sit down with the calendar and map out optimum times to be away from work and accommodate the whole family’s activity and school schedules.  There are also early booking specials that help stretch the vacation dollar.  (Was “find ways to save money” a resolution, too?)

Divi has a few vacation ideas for you in 2013.

  • Be part of the yachting set that will gather in St. Maarten-St. Martin for the island’s Classic Regatta, March 29-31.  Divi Little Bay’s Regatta Package gets you a discount on a room; a sail on a catamaran to watch one of the races and VIP passes to opening and closing festivities.  So party with the yacht crews during one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful sailing events. Ever done that before?
  • Or meet on the beach with “top chefs” at this year’s Taste of St. Croix.   Noted chefs from across the US descend upon St. Croix to cook up a party each night of the six-day St. Croix Food & Wine Experience.  The Thursday night event is the Taste of St. Croix, held under the stars on the beachfront of Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort. Planning ahead is absolutely crucial as tickets sell out to the Taste of St. Croix in less than 30 minutes (1200+ tickets gone in minutes).  Get a guaranteed ticket by booking a three-day stay by January 30th.
  • Need a photo for next year’s holiday card?  How about dressing up for the Carnival parade in Barbados in August during Barbados’ famed Crop Over Festival?  Last year, Divi Southwinds provided costumes for guests to join in the fun.  Watch the website for details of this year’s plans.
  • Is 2013 the year you learn to golf?  Make an tee time appointment with a golf pro at the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort in Aruba.  Golf in the morning, relax at the beach in the afternoon, and fine dine at night at the resort’s gourmet restaurant, Windows on Aruba.  Is there a better way to spend a vacation day, or two, or ten?

The Blue Flag – Long May It Wave At Divi Little Bay Resort

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort gets lots of compliments on its beach. Newcomers and long-time repeat guests value the lovely arc of sand, but they rarely see the work that goes into maintaining it. If guests rise early, they might catch a glimpse of the new equipment that grooms the sand or observe work crews making sure the area is spotless for guests. Behinds the scenes, Divi monitors water quality, implements safety procedures and conducts environmental awareness training with its staff. In fact, there is a check list of 37 things members of the staff at Divi Little Bay Resort do routinely to ensure the beach is a winner, not only for guests but to earn the Blue Flag, an international eco-label. On December 7, the Blue Flag was raised on Little Bay Beach at Divi, signifying the second consecutive year the resort has been recognized for environmental management of the beach.

The flag was handed over by Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet together with local Blue Flag Coordinator Rueben Thompson of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation and partner St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. Divi General Manager Celine van Meer was on hand to accept the flag. The flag will fly for one year, when the honor must be earned again. Little Bay Beach at Divi is the only beach in all of the Netherlands Antilles to be honored with the Blue Flag.

Van Meer spoke at the flag raising ceremony, noting that the clear water, clean sand and abundance of fish and sea turtles in the bay are a part of the Divi Little Bay experience. “To merit the recognition a second year in a row bears witness to the keen sense of purpose and inspired dedication all of us at Divi share in caring for this beach.”

Divi Resorts president EJ Schanfarber has often referred to the people working at Divi’s ten resorts across the Caribbean as “stewards of the land.” The Blue Flag is evidence that indeed they are!