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Chocolate Festival To Premier Locally The Caribbean Chocolate Festival will, for the first time, take place in St. Maarten come July 24, through 26, 2015, at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino. The event will feature Award-winning Chocolatier and Executive Chef Veerjoruth Purmessur amongst its pastry chefs.  Starting in Barbados in March, the festival will come to St. Maarten and continue on to Jamaica in November. It is expected to be held here annually.  The festival will showcase local, regional and international pastry chefs with emphasis on local St. Maarten chefs demonstrating the fine art of pastry making with chocolate as a main ingredient, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) quoted organiser St. Maarten Culinary Foundation as saying in its latest newsletter.   St. Maarten “was handpicked as the ideal location and home base for this regional growing event because of its location and airlift throughout the region with over 2 million high-end visitors from around the world annually.” 

Only 2 Disney Ships For 2016, Despite Good Feedback
St. Maarten cruise tourism has made major strides in terms of arrivals over the years, but the Disney Fantasy will not be including the destination in 2016 and the Disney Magic will make only two stops here in November 2016. This is not because of negative customer feedback, however; the feedback has in fact been positive overall.  When asked why the destination was all but being dropped for the next season, Disney Cruise Lines Public Affairs Manager Rebecca Peddie told The Press that the company is continuously evaluating its itineraries and makes changes from time to time while looking for new opportunities. At the moment, St. Maarten is included in two itineraries each of the Disney Magic and the Disney Fantasy. The Disney Fantasy is approximately 40 per cent larger than the Disney Magic, accommodating 4,000 passengers comfortably, as well as more than 1,450 cast and crew members. The Disney Magic comfortably fits 2,700 passengers and 950 cast and crew members.  In 2014, St. Maarten hit a historic two million cruise passenger mark.

RBC Volunteers Clean Simpson Bay Beach More than 20 RBC Royal Bank volunteers cleaned up Simpson Bay Beach on June 20, 2015, in an effort to help make the turtle-nesting area on that beach more accessible for the endangered Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green sea turtles.  The beach clean-up was organised in conjunction with Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFS), and initiated in connection with the “RBC Blue Water Day 2015 Project,” which is the environmental priority programme for RBC Royal Bank. The project focuses on the preservation of the world’s most precious natural resource: water.   “RBC in St. Maarten has been committed to clean Guana Bay in the past and now Simpson Bay for the duration of the turtle-nesting season from March until November each year and commits to support with building awareness on sea turtle nesting,” RBC said in a press release.   “This project of cleaning up the beach for the turtle nestingseason fi ts perfectly into RBC’s philosophy on the sustainable development of the environment. RBC Royal Bank fi rmly believes that it is the responsibility of the bank to positively infl uence the social development of the community in which it operates by maximizing its contributions to the state of environment of the island.”

Airport Starts July With Celebrations
Princess Juliana International Airport SXM kicked off a festive month of July, celebrating Emancipation Day on July 1 and United States Independence Day on July 4, 2015.  “From the very first day, to the month’s end July is never without exciting events for the people of St. Maarten and their visitors,” airport officials said.  Folkloric group: “The Jolly Boys from Grand Case entertained passengers on July 1, making them aware that the island was marking the freedom of its ancestors from the evil institution of slavery.”  The seven-member band sang songs of old, bringing to its performance “a St. Maarten energy that was felt by all.” They showed passengers unique handmade instruments as they danced and were interviewed by the band members regarding the purpose of their visit.  Similarly on Saturday, July 4, the airport hosted three hours of entertainment on Independence Day for a large group of passengers. Popular island entertainer, Ricky da Foxx and his dancers headlined the event.  Airport management decided to highlight the occasion for the USA travelling market, which is the largest group making use of the terminal.

Oyster Bay Beach Resort Awarded 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate Of Excellence for Third Consecutive Year.  The resort is recognised as a “Top Performing Resort” as reviewed by travelers on the world’s largest travel site. For the third consecutive year, Oyster Bay Beach Resort (OBBR) has received a “TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence” award. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located worldwide and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a formula to determine the honorees, taking into account reviews and ratings.  Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five, a high response volume and recent reviews. Additional criteria include a business’ tenure and popularity ranking on the website.

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for three straight years is a true source of pride for the entire team at Oyster Bay Beach Resort. We would like to thank all of our owners and guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said OBBR General Manager Ricardo Perez. “There is no greater seal of approval than being recognized by our customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence in our resort and our continued commitment to excellence." 

Perez added the multimillion ongoing renovations and refurbishments of the resort have played a key role in exceeding their guests’ expectations. For example, the resort recently completed the new Oyster Bay Marina located on Oyster Pond, just off the lobby of OBBR. The Marina features 38 condominium boat slips. Entry to the marina is opened to owners, renters and their guests or visitors from the resort who are participating in activities hosted from the Marina. The Oyster Bay Marina includes first-class amenities such as a resident harbour master, solid concrete construction, access to Wi-Fi, showers, restrooms, individually metered water and electricity, a private gated entrance with 24-hour security, rental programme and services. For more information about OBBR, call 1-866-978-0212 (1-721-543-6040 locally), email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

13 Hotels Get TripAdvisor Certificate Of Excellence

TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence has been awarded to no less than thirteen of St. Maarten’s tourist accommodations for 2014, showing that they demonstrate “hospitality excellence and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site.” World-wide honorees are limited to those that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews.   

The following properties Have received the certificate: The Horny Toad Guesthouse, The Villas at Simpson Bay Resort & Marina, The Atrium Resort & Spa, La Vista Resort, Turquoise Shell Inn, Holland House Beach Hotel, The Azure Hotel, Oyster Bay Beach Resort, Pasanggrahan Royal Guesthouse, Royal Islander Club La Plage, Royal Palm Beach Resort, The Summit Resort Hotel and Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Condo Hotel. The last two Hotels announced receiving the certificate for the fourth year in a row. Honorees received a congratulatory letter, a printed certificate, a window sticker, as well as a badge on their TripAdvisor webpage and access to a custom-made widget.

Note: Several articles provided courtesy of Caribbean Gems Weekly Newsletter.