Over the years, St. Maarten’s reputation as the perfect spot to start or end a Caribbean yacht charter has grown exponentially.
The island’s half French, half Dutch status affords it enviable and wide-ranging accessibility while its geographical Northeastern location in the calm, natural lagoon of Simpson Bay - virtually equidistant between Antigua and St. Thomas - makes it an obvious choice for owners and guests wishing to make the most of the BVIs, USVIs and St. Barts.
With IGY’s recent launch of Isle de Sol’s newly upgraded F&B offering Anchor Bar, the glamorously updated Sky Lounge and upcoming events offer even more great reasons to visit the island’s premium superyacht marina.
Anchor Bar: the ultimate crew clubhouse in St. Maarten
Unveiled in mid-November, this popular outpost has undergone an exciting and modern refurbishment to elevate it to one of the most well-equipped and enjoyable crew-oriented marina facilities in the entire region.
Centred around a beautiful pool, Anchor Bar’s high end yet comfortable and down to earth ambience aims to provide a home away from home, social clubhouse feel for off duty crew to kick back and relax with their peers.
“We’re happy to look after everyone, but first and foremost, this is a crew-oriented space with video games, a pool table and foosball table where we can get crew off the boat, make them happy and encourage them to meet up and explore what St. Maarten has to offer,” explains Brian Deher, IGY’s VP of Operations for the Caribbean and Latin America.
“It’s their club – the video games, pool, gym, tennis, basketball and pickle ball courts are all free for them to use as a benefit of being a marina guest. A happy crew makes for a happy charter after all, and they have the chance to work hard, play hard right here at IGY!”
Upscale food and cocktails for crew downtime
Anchor Bar is overseen by a former Culinary Institute of America manager who understands that yachties are excited to experience familiar comfort foods such as great burgers and freshly made pizzas after spending time on the yacht catering to owner’s and guest’s culinary desires.
“The biggest challenge for the highly experienced chefs and kitchen staff is creating dishes that give the feeling of home without their traditionally upscale presentations - we have to keep reminding them to keep it simple, because they are tempted to go artistic!” adds Brian with a smile. “Anchor Bar chefs make their own bread, pizza dough and focaccia. While the emphasis is on more casual dining, everything is very authentic and I think people will love it.”
Casual it may be - with bookings not necessary – but there’s no compromise when it comes to quality. Typical dishes include passion fruit tuna tataki, truffled parmesan, cheddar bacon or chili garlic home fries, hummus with roasted bell pepper and caramelised onions, tomato bruschetta and Bourbon BBQ chicken wings as well as a delicious selection of salads.
“We are focused on the crew, making sure they have a good experience, but we want to provide good food as well,” adds Andy Caballero, IGY’s Regional Manager for the Caribbean and Central America.
“Our chefs and managers have pushed the level of food service as high as possible – they create outstanding chicken wings, amazing double smash burgers and incredible pizzas, so the crew feel comfortable and don’t have to leave as everything is here. After long trips and excursions, they can take a break and just relax, eat, have a couple of drinks and dance.”
A signature cocktail list features fun concoctions such as a Basil and Cucumber Smash with gin, Picante Jalisco and Amaretto 4ever, as well as classic cocktails, beers and wines and Brian adds: “One of our bartenders makes the best espresso martini that quite a few guests have ever tasted!”
The perfect venue for private events at Isle de Sol’s Sky Lounge
Isle de Sol’s impressive third floor Sky Lounge, which boasts spectacular views across the whole lagoon, is being primed as the ideal entertaining space for launches, corporate hospitality, and intimate parties.
‘Whether you want a corporate event promoting your brand, you’re targeting yachting as a service provider or even just thanking your customers, we want this to be the place you think of to do that,” says Brian. “It’s a new offering in terms of hosting special events to promote brands and it’s also available for IGY Trident members to come in at any time and host parties for their crew or guests as part of their VIP experience.”
The venue’s large kitchen will also cater for big events and service Simpson Bay Marina’s new upland build, which includes an events space, pool and gym, so that guests staying there can also enjoy a full resort-style experience.
While Anchor Bar is aimed primarily at crew, IGY hopes it will also become a hit with the local St. Maarten community. “We’d love to keep it open through the summer months and year round,” adds Brian, “and we’re aiming to do that through offering an events program and summer camps using our sports facilities to attract locals.”
Crew Year’s Eve Event at Isle de Sol
At the height of the season while the crew are gearing up for their most highly anticipated charters over Christmas and New Year, the Isle de Sol team is preparing an alternative Crew Year’s Eve, one week after the real thing.
“People are so happy to see each other because it’s the time of year when they have just completed their most important charters of the season, so early January is their time to have fun, relax and ‘be the guest’ for a change, so that’s when we shift gears and put on more activities for them.
“On January 6th, we are holding the Crew Year’s Eve Event with a firework display that you’d usually expect to see on New Year’s Eve, so that crew who were working and serving over the holiday can experience the countdown.
“For us, it’s a whole other holiday event which neighbouring businesses and restaurants can also enjoy, so it’s good for the island and the marina. We hope a few people on other islands come back in time for the Saturday night fireworks and celebrations. We’ve been hosting this event for years but we recently started working more closely with the community and we’re hoping to grow this event and others in the future.”
Regattas, festivals, and community spirit
Further highlights of the St. Maarten social calendar include the Caribbean Multihull Challenge at the beginning of February, the Heineken Regatta at the beginning of March, Carnival in April and May and the SXM Electronic Dance Festival, which is hugely popular with owners’ families, who often fly in specially to attend.
“At the end of the season, we have the SXM Lagoon Festival - a series of events which take place at each of the largest marinas on the island - with opportunities for learning new skills, mentorship, attending sailing schools, seminars and taking courses,” adds Brian. “The marinas do a great job of collaborating together to create this fun showcase, which attracts boats here from surrounding islands.”
Where better to start or end a Caribbean yacht charter?
St. Maarten is unique not only in being ideally situated for easy access to other islands but in offering the best of all worlds thanks to its dual French-Dutch heritage. “The French side is part of the EU and technically a French department, so all the regulations for companies and individuals working in Europe can be done on the French side, just as if you’re in France,” explains Brian.
“And while the Dutch side is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it is not part of the EU so it provides different opportunities. It’s a little more Americanised, and The Friendship Treaty dating back to World War II means a US citizen can get residency and a job permit to work on St. Maarten just as easily as a Dutch national can.”
Consistently voted one of the best marinas in the world to start and end a yacht charter, Isle de Sol’s location on a private island in the middle of the lagoon, with just one access point, makes it a super secure little enclave adjacent to the busiest part of St. Maarten, the Simpson Bay strip. It has played a key role in building St. Maarten’s reputation as an idyllic, ideally located, can-do Caribbean playground.
“Both St. Maarten and Isle de Sol are best in class brands,” says Brian. “While IGY’s marina offers a Four Seasons type of service, St. Maarten has become recognised as the place to find high service levels, great provisioning and accessibility. Quite simply, it’s the place to go.”