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  St. Maarten's 30th Anniversary of the Heineken Regatta - 2010

Feeling the sun hit your face for the first time when you are descending the stairs on to the tarmac at
Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten (St. Martin) is truly almost a healing experience.  You close your eyes, point your face towards the sun and it warms every part of your body and soul.  Cliché?  Perhaps, but I LOVE that!  Especially for the sun-deprived Canadians deplaning.

Flying to St. Maarten as your final destination is definitely not a hardship - anymore.  Especially since Westjet has added direct flights from Toronto at a discounted rate.  I saved $400 this year on the flight alone so if St. Maarten was a favoured destination in your travel plans but you thought it too expensive, then check it out again with Westjet. (See press release HERE.) 
The experience on this island of two cultures, French and Dutch, attracts people from all over the world because of it's multicultural charm and multilingual people, not to mention it's stunning beauty and tax-free, duty-free shopping!

This is a special regatta in St. Maarten – it is the 30th anniversary of the Heineken Regatta!  A testament to the success and ever-growing popularity of the regatta.  But for me, the regatta is much more than watching boats race and that culture.  It is always a joy to experience the regatta strictly from the music perspective. 
The 30th edition of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta proved once again that St. Maarten is the Caribbean headquarters for World-Class Sailing mixed with the best in local and international entertainment.

The local bands performing rally the crowd to a feverish pitch, not to mention the headliners on the final night of celebrations.  This year featured Maikal X, Rupee, DJ Outkast and the one and only Maxi Priest.  Conducting the series of concerts throughout the week-long events is former New Yorker, now St. Maarten and radio host, G Money (pictured). 

I stayed at the Holland House in Philipsburg, right on the boardwalk and a very central spot for those attending the regatta.  It's a gorgeous
hotel, excellent bar with knowledgeable and friendly staff, open air restaurant within walking distance of gourmet restaurants, casinos and shops - not to mention free Internet.  One of the BIG pluses for me was the bar and restaurant service on the beach, meaning you can order all the drinks, food and snacks from your comfy chaise lounge while keeping your feet in the sand.  My thanks to Mala from Holland for her exceptional and friendly service! (pictured)

But first I want to cover my first few days there.  My first day, Wednesday, March 3rd, was the talk of the local businesses because six cruise ships were docked on the same day.  Not a huge abnormality but one of the cruise ships was the Oasis, the largest cruise ship in the world, serving 5,000 people onboard!  So, with that ship at harbour, along with the other cruise ships, approximately 15,000 people descended on to the boardwalk, Front St. and Back St. in Philipsburg!  You can see from the picture that the Oasis practically dwarfs the other ships, which we all know are pretty huge all on their own. 

Still on Wednesday, I hooked up with a film crew from Miami who were tons of fun and were hired to capture footage and still shots of the beauty of St. Maarten.  I tagged along on a couple of shoots and they truly captured many gorgeous shots, as evidenced by one of the set shots at Bliss Nightclub, next to Maho Beach (
www.bliss-sxm.com), which was the official after party spot for all those involved with the regatta.

On Thursday March 4th, it was an interesting new element added to the music roster for the regatta - a night for rockers entitled Voices Rock the Dock - an all star ensemble comprised of the original lead singers from among the most iconic classic rock acts of the 1980’s, will star at the opening party of the 30th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in Port de Plaisance. Starring Loverboy’s Mike Reno, Toto’s Bobby Kimball, John Cafferty of John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and Tommy Tutone, the “Voices” collectively boast 6 Grammy Awards, 9 Juno awards, 18 Top Forty Hits, and 4 Billboard Number Ones. With more than 100,000,000 combined worldwide record sales, their hits are the soundtrack of a generation!  The event was well attended but I got the sense that, especially the locals wanted their own brand of music featured at all the parties.  Still a successful event though.

Official press release re Voices Rock the Dock party HERE.

Friday night (March 5th) brought the infamous party on the long boardwalk of Philipsburg.  Four stages, various genres of music and almost everyone on the island came out to party.  Big screens everywhere where you could see what was going on at the various stages. Philipsburg is considered 'downtown' on the island so having one of the parties there, and right outside the front of my hotel, was incredible!  Some pictures of the live action are below.

Official press release re boardwalk party HERE.

Of course I had to stop by my fav beachfront spot, the Great Wet Bar, pictured below is  Shaun and Matt, the Canadians!  I went by there at the busiest time of the boardwalk party to get a seat and some good food.  And what did they have playing on their big outdoor wall?  A Bob Marley live music concert - right in the midst of all the other music going on around.  It was awesome!  Talk about a great and fun place with the best burgers and fries (not to mention poutine!) on the strip.  They are proudly Canadian with all sorts of remnants of Canadian memorabilia posted everywhere.  Service is excellent and friendly (they remember your name!) and prices are good too. So good that a couple from Detroit that were in St. Maarten as one of their ports on their cruise ship, were recommended to eat there by their skipper who told them that this was the place to eat for burgers.  Look for the sign that says "COLD BEER, EH?

Links:  www.getwetbeachbar.com

Saturday night brought around a very special opportunity to have dinner with Maxi Priest and his band!  The Wharf in Simpson Bay (partners Elvis and Bernard and best bartender ever, Matthew), hooked up a gorgeous dinner that included lobster, fresh fish, dessert and liquors, excellent service with fast and furious drinks for the whole gang (all 10 of us!).  The entire crew were very generous with their time and attention and Maxi was hilarious to hang with. Here's some pictures from the evening:

Maxi Priest Maxi Priest and Dawn Lana, Bernard, Elvis and Sarah (proprietors) with Maxi Priest Wharf Staff and Maxi Priest Maxi on a Harley
Maxi Priest Elvis and Sarah (proprietors) with Maxi Priest Maxi Priest Maxi Priest - the joker Maxi Priest and Dawn
Taddy P - bass and Robert Angus - guitar Steve Johnson (tour mgr.) and Richard (Goofy) - keys Taddy P - bass Robert Angus - guitar Paul Kastick - drums

As an aside, please check out Taddy P's newest video HERE

Same night over at the Marigot Waterfront (French side) were the artists Rupee, Cutcreator DJ Outkast and Youth Waves performing before the regatta crowds.

Sunday brought the rain, rain and more rain.  First ever that I've experienced at a regatta in St. Maarten.  But the vibe of both the regatta and party-goers on Sunday night was enthusiastic.  Clearly it was a drag that when the prize-giving ceremonies started at Kim Sha Beach, that it was still raining.  But as the music started rolling in, the rain just faded away.  The night was delayed in the start time, partly to ensure that the rain was not a threat to the crowds.   But once the artists hit the stage, the crowd was jamming, drinking Heineken in ample quantities with local food vendors working overtime to keep up with the demand. 

I arrived (holy traffic am!) when Netherlands artist Maikal X was performing (pictured above).  Even though Maikal X lived all his life in The Netherlands, having a Curacaolenian mother and Guyanese father made it almost impossible for him to loose the Caribbean feel for music. Freshly signed to Rock N Vibes Maikal X ceased the opportunity to go on tour in 2008 as opening act during the “In Transit Tour” of his label mate Ziggi.  Enter Ziggi.  I first met Ziggi when he was performing 5 years ago in St. Maarten as part of their Carnival celebrations.  Growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius the young Ricardo Blijden was given the nickname Ziggi by his grandparents who raised him. In 2001 Ziggi came to the Netherlands to study. It was in that time when he was introduced to Mr. Rude the owner of an independent studio and label called Rock’N Vibes Entertainment.

Links:  Http://www.myspace.com/maxipriest

www.maikalx.com  or www.rocknvibes.com; www.ziggimusic.com  or www.rocknvibes.com  or www.myspace.com/ziggib 

G Money, Host of Ceremonies G Money and Dawn Maxi Priest and Rupee Maikal X Maikal X
Ziggi and Dawn  Ziggi   Ziggi   Ziggi   Ziggi  

Then came the hype and the anticipation of watching headliner Maxi Priest hit the stage.  The crowd had driven through hours of traffic, waited through hours of prize-giving and other musical acts, not to mention rain, and were more than anxious to see the legendary artist take the stage. 

And Maxi Priest did not disappoint.  His band of top musicians were completely in sync with every change up and every move that Maxi made (see photos below).  A fine-tuned musical collaboration evolved and they had the crowd singing along with every tune, every nuance and and were jamming along with them.  And I think a new age group of fans were determined that night.  Maxi has a way of connecting with his audience and gives the love from the root of his soul during a performance.  There's no other way in words to convey that. 

Music is universal ... and Maxi Priest's music continues to grow. 2008 saw Maxi on tour with UB40, Toots and the Maytals, Third World and Rik Rok on the great Reggae Sunsplash Tour. Also Maxi's new video, "Makes Me Wanna Hallah" (from the album to be released soon) is capturing a new and excited group of Maxi Priest fan.

Links: http://maxipriest.com/


The concert left the crowd feeling like they just had a big meal - completely satisfied.  Maxi left us wanting more - the sign of a true professional!  (smile)