Day 1 |
Oct 09, 2011

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist lecturer

Co-ordinates: 18º06’N, 63º08’W
Weather: Bright sun with puffy white clouds
Air Temperature: 29ºC

Ahh…the Caribbean! Bright sunshine, azure blue seas, white sand beaches and lush green vegetation! What an amazing way to start this Caribbean cruise!!!

We had just spent 4 days repositioning from Bermuda to St Maarten, and we arrived early in the morning alongside the port of Philipsburg. This is the commercial center of this small Caribbean island, which is half Dutch and half French. There is an estimated 60,000 people living on the entire island with about 20,000 located here in Philipsburg.

Christopher Columbus discovered this island on 11 Nov 1493, but he was not the first person here. In fact, there was already an Arawak settlement here when he landed. It wasn’t until nearly 300 years later, in 1763, that Philipsburg was founded by John Philips – a Scottish Captain in the Dutch navy.

Our guests started arriving at 12 noon, and were all on board and checked into their suites by 4:30pm, when we had our mandatory Safety Drill. This is always a fun time – it is the first time that we get to see all our guests in one place.

There was a short break after the drill during which many guests trolled around the outer decks taking in the view, before returning once again to The Theatre for the next set of briefings at 5:30. During this session, our Expedition Leader, Shoshanah Jacobs, first introduced the Heads of Department, followed by the Expedition Team. It is an amazing team, with a wonderfully broad spectrum of knowledge and many many years of experience in the area.

Our team consists of:
Expedition Leader: Shoshanah Jacobs Canada
Assistant Expedition Leader: Daniil Elterman Latvia
Staff Assistant: Tim Amm South Africa
Geologist: Juan Carlos Restrepo Colombia
Marine Biologist: Robin Aiello Australia
Ornithologist: Patricia Silva Uruguay
Climatologist: Claudia Holgate South Africa
Historian: Christian Walter Easter Island
Archeologist/Anthropologist: Claire Allum Canada
Botanist: Hans-Peter Reinthaler Austria
Photographer: Lu Davidson New Zealand

After staff introductions, Shoshanah continued with the destination briefings for tomorrow at Virgin Gorda and the next day at Jos Van Dyke. Then, she continued with the Zodiac briefing, and finally I got up on stage, as the Snorkel Master, and gave a quick Snorkel Briefing with a few tips for novice and experienced snorkelers alike.

I am truly looking forward to tomorrow and a chance to go snorkeling and swimming in these warm tropical waters – ah, a marine biologist’s perfect day!!