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SXM Airport Departure MESS


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I can not begin to tell you what a great job in our opinion St Marten did on the arrival from being welcoming to the process.  Sadly, it seems when it’s time to leave it was simply get out…. Never have we seen a bigger uncaring mess then we did at the airport for departures.  
 

Upon our arrival from the ship at 930 with no pre-provided details on what to expect we were challenged by overworked staff to leave the area and get into a sunny line until 1245.  Sure go ahead and say it.  We should have booked a celebrity tour before departure to eat up some of the waiting time.  Well glad we didn’t as heard from a number of fellow celebrity guests who booked this option that they got ripped  off with plan ordinary longer bus ride.  While I understand this it is simply not acceptable that some sort of shaded seating area outside isn’t provided.  A simple tent would work.  We were lucky enough to capture 2 of the 6 ~’shaded” seats in the small food truck spots.  Disappointing to see trash cans so overflowing that any attempt to throw away trash just sent the pyramid of trash falling onto your feet.  Once in line after over 3 hours of running from the sun we found a frustrated employee because we didn’t have the proper form filled out to go with our COVID test results.  I understood why she was frustrated as it seemed almost every person she interacted with did not know or have this form.  we sure didn’t hear anything from Celebrity about this form.  Simple signage with some tables, forms, and ink pens could have avoided this during our 3 wait.  ~now we are in the door and encountered the worst employee at your airport who checked us in at American.  She was simply sour and no matter how hard we tried to be friendly with her we couldn’t crack her angry presentation.  Ok, now we thought the worst is behind us but nope we were wrong.  The gate waiting area was simply to small and many spent we spent 2 1/2 hours standing as not enough seats available and didn’t look like this is solvable.  I have difficulty hearing well at 69 years old but my wife can hear a pin drop.  But even she struggled to hear the garbled message onslaught that seemed constant with the buzz of a packed room.  Once we got close to the boarding process it was a mass of people who’s lines crisscrossed one another for different gates much to close together with no preplanning on his best to separate and manage these customers.  If you haven’t been at the boarding gate take the opportunity to do a fake booking with your own secret shopper and spend 6 hours going through the mess that is the departure from st marten.  All this mess resulted in our flight departing 45 minutes late and it appears that will be the normal for all flights on these busy days.  Thank god we had Global Entry and that the US was having some bad weather causing other delays as with only 15 minutes after landing we streaked through the Charlotte entry process.  Hundreds, and hundreds of others without Global Entry clearly were not going to be so lucky. 

In closing if this process is improved and managed by some folks who care about the experience these tourist get then this can be a long term boon for st marten tourism.  If not it will have a negative effect as people were indeed frustrated…..

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Sorry about the comment about do a fake booking and walk through the process in my remarks.  I copied and pasted a much longer e-mail I had sent to St Marten Tourism congratulating them on the great job for arrival passengers and listing frustration with departures and simply missed deleting that line.  Again sorry!  
I want to add that again St Marten did a wonderful job in creating a welcoming and seamless arrival process and for thus I thank them.  We go back to St Marten on Windstar sailing in 2 weeks and we are now dreading the repeat departure.  Staying over until Monday to avoid the crowds won’t work as we have to be in Miami on the same day we have to get off the ship so hopefully they work on the departure process.

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Sorry to hear about your experience. I can understand why a situation like this develops, but that makes it no easier for those, like you, who have to live through it. Thanks to your post, maybe those booking later cruises out of Sint Maarten will spend a night post-cruise in order to miss the crush of passengers on disembarkation day.

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Hopefully others scheduled for upcoming sailing will see your post and make plans for something to do after debarkation so they don’t arrive at the airport so early.

 

Different Caribbean location but similar situation last month.  Small airport, limited seating.  Passengers were not allowed to enter the terminal until  2 hrs before the flight.  Our resort told us this and scheduled our taxi to the airport accordingly.  It was still a zoo, limited seating, one place selling food & of course it was hot.

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Posted (edited)

And this is surprising !?!?!? These islands are difficult enough to fly in and out of regularly....never mind now throwing a ship load of people into an airport that never had cruise ship passengers embark and debark from before.

Edited by bajathree
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4 minutes ago, bajathree said:

And this is surprising !?!?!? These islands are difficult enough to fly in and out of regularly....never mind now throwing a ship load of people into an airport that never had cruise ship passengers embark and debark from before.

Sooooo, the airport was ready to receive cruise passengers but not ready for disembarkation.  Remember.....this was not a full ship.  The airport needs to step up.

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4 minutes ago, bajathree said:

And this is surprising !?!?!? These islands are difficult enough to fly in and out of regularly....never mind now throwing a ship load of people into an airport that never had cruise ship passengers embark and debark from before.


Agree. I have a feeling that next Saturday we will see similar complaints coming from the Adventure OTS guests in Nassau. One of the main reasons that those cruises did not appeal to us. 

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7 minutes ago, Dr. Pam said:

Sooooo, the airport was ready to receive cruise passengers but not ready for disembarkation.  Remember.....this was not a full ship.  The airport needs to step up.


Passengers were arriving in St. Maarten at different times and it’s a totally different scenario with everyone leaving a ship and arriving at a small airport at basically the same time. Other than San Juan most of the Caribbean islands are not equipped to handle large crowds at once. Thank goodness this was not a full ship. Not an excuse for the airport or the employees but clearly Celebrity needs to be more involved here.

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.....and how many people have argued that it would be "easy" for the cruise ships to leave behind all the infrastructure in the US ports and take their business elsewhere?

 

Clearly St. Martin can barely handle one ship that is not even sailing at capacity. 

 

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1 minute ago, Dr. Pam said:

Sooooo, the airport was ready to receive cruise passengers but not ready for disembarkation.  Remember.....this was not a full ship.  The airport needs to step up.

Easy to say, but the airport is simply not structured or staffed for a large influx of passengers. I doubt that they will want to hire and train additional employees or make physical changes to the terminal when there are only 8 or so more disembarkations to deal with. I'm sure that they learned a lot and will make minor adjustments, but I wouldn't expect any major improvements.

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1 hour ago, Dr. Pam said:

It will be awhile before we decide to cruise again.  One flight to Maui seems a lot less stressful  Just Sayin"

 

Did you have to quarantine when you got home?

 

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2 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

.....and how many people have argued that it would be "easy" for the cruise ships to leave behind all the infrastructure in the US ports and take their business elsewhere?

 

Clearly St. Martin can barely handle one ship that is not even sailing at capacity. 

 

I have been saying this since the day they said they were moving ship to these islands.

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The chaotic airport departures have been the case in St Martin ever since the last big hurricane when the airport suffered extensive damage.  Large air conditioned tents would be an appreciated upgrade!

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The problems with St. Martin have been well known for many years.   Many cruise passengers just stay an extra night so they can have access to the airport when it doesn’t have a crowd of debarking passengers.   St. Martin airport is well known on the Seabourn board.

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All I can say is there was no way I was going to fly to St Martin or Nassau to take a cruise. Until they announced sailings starting back from the US I wasn't even considering sailing.

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If I had to do all over again, I would book a next day flight post cruise. Or at least book the earliest flight available. Arrival the week before was easy and super smooth. 

I spent 5 minutes trying to explain to one of the AA agents that 3 hours before my 4:30 flight would be 1:30. He insisted that it was 2:30 and kept saying, "2:30, 3:30, 4:30 is 3 hours ma'am." I don't know how you reason with someone like that so I just left that line. 

TIPS:

We tried to fly standby for earlier flights on AA with no luck. So don't count on that as an option. The flights are full.

Any group after 1-4 on AA is a crap shoot. Just get in line. No one can hear the PA anyways, and they aren't checking the groupings after 4. 

There was a line at one of two restrooms that was at least 30+ people long...near the bar. A short walk up the stairs towards Gates 1 & 2 had a bathroom with no wait. 

The $20 Executive Lounge is closed. I was told due to construction. 

There is no sit down restaurant at the airport. There is a bar with tables and that's it. All the other food options are counter service and then hope you find a chair somewhere. 

They would not let us check luggage until 3 hours before our flight. So if you thought you might check your luggage in the morning and then head out to Moho (or anywhere else) for a few hours before your late afternoon flight, it won't work. 

If you have to connect to a flight through MIA be sure you have 3 hours. We landed at MIA at 7:30 and the only reason we made our flight was because it was delayed. We were running to the gate at 10:05.
7:30 - Flight lands from SXM.
8:05 - Finally allowed off the plane
8:20 - Immigration line 
(CLEAR will do you no good as you now have to wait at baggage claim)
8:45 - You must now get your bags and RUN to checkin again. Just like it's a totally new flight. 

9:00 - Super long re-check your bag line due to lots of people not being able to get to their flight in time. Seems mostly to be California travelers. 
9:45 - Short Security line BUT they were being extra special and SUPER SLOW. I'm thinking they must have been training someone. 
10:05 - Ran to gate for our 9:45 flight that was fortunately delayed to 10:15 and then 10:45. 

 

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8 hours ago, Oldsweets said:

I can not begin to tell you what a great job in our opinion St Marten did on the arrival from being welcoming to the process.  Sadly, it seems when it’s time to leave it was simply get out…. Never have we seen a bigger uncaring mess then we did at the airport for departures.  
 

Upon our arrival from the ship at 930 with no pre-provided details on what to expect we were challenged by overworked staff to leave the area and get into a sunny line until 1245.  Sure go ahead and say it.  We should have booked a celebrity tour before departure to eat up some of the waiting time.  Well glad we didn’t as heard from a number of fellow celebrity guests who booked this option that they got ripped  off with plan ordinary longer bus ride.  While I understand this it is simply not acceptable that some sort of shaded seating area outside isn’t provided.  A simple tent would work.  We were lucky enough to capture 2 of the 6 ~’shaded” seats in the small food truck spots.  Disappointing to see trash cans so overflowing that any attempt to throw away trash just sent the pyramid of trash falling onto your feet.  Once in line after over 3 hours of running from the sun we found a frustrated employee because we didn’t have the proper form filled out to go with our COVID test results.  I understood why she was frustrated as it seemed almost every person she interacted with did not know or have this form.  we sure didn’t hear anything from Celebrity about this form.  Simple signage with some tables, forms, and ink pens could have avoided this during our 3 wait.  ~now we are in the door and encountered the worst employee at your airport who checked us in at American.  She was simply sour and no matter how hard we tried to be friendly with her we couldn’t crack her angry presentation.  Ok, now we thought the worst is behind us but nope we were wrong.  The gate waiting area was simply to small and many spent we spent 2 1/2 hours standing as not enough seats available and didn’t look like this is solvable.  I have difficulty hearing well at 69 years old but my wife can hear a pin drop.  But even she struggled to hear the garbled message onslaught that seemed constant with the buzz of a packed room.  Once we got close to the boarding process it was a mass of people who’s lines crisscrossed one another for different gates much to close together with no preplanning on his best to separate and manage these customers.  If you haven’t been at the boarding gate take the opportunity to do a fake booking with your own secret shopper and spend 6 hours going through the mess that is the departure from st marten.  All this mess resulted in our flight departing 45 minutes late and it appears that will be the normal for all flights on these busy days.  Thank god we had Global Entry and that the US was having some bad weather causing other delays as with only 15 minutes after landing we streaked through the Charlotte entry process.  Hundreds, and hundreds of others without Global Entry clearly were not going to be so lucky. 

In closing if this process is improved and managed by some folks who care about the experience these tourist get then this can be a long term boon for st marten tourism.  If not it will have a negative effect as people were indeed frustrated…..

What sort of form did you need to go with your test results? Perhaps something the rest of us could work on ahead of time?

Thank you for the heads up.

 

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I did send a letter to the st marten tourism folks and awaiting my review documents or will indeed customer service.  Sorry no pictures and don’t have a copy of the form.  Thus form is clearly something celebrity should and could easily take responsibility for as a simple customer service function.  The airport is so small that they would only allow you in once you were within a booking window.  No we didn’t need to quarantine upon our return home.  We tested on the ship negative and a tip of the hat to celebrity this process was quick and easy and most professional.  Not once on the ship even after the announcement that 2 tested positive deal we feel uncomfortable with the process.  Buy now that someone asked that one could make the point that with all the effort put in by st marten for Covid prevention most of it goes out the window inside the airport.  

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