Written by Linda Kaye on 04 May, 2004
Our afternoon tour of the island of St. John began at 1:30 at dockside, Great Bay, St. Thomas. We boarded a ferryboat just a short walk from the cruise ship for the 40 minute ride to St. John. The ferry took us along…Read More
Our afternoon tour of the island of St. John began at 1:30 at dockside, Great Bay, St. Thomas. We boarded a ferryboat just a short walk from the cruise ship for the 40 minute ride to St. John. The ferry took us along the shoreline of St. Thomas, past beautiful resorts and unbelievable private homes owned by movie and sports stars. In the distance, we could see small, uninhabited islands peeking up out of the Caribbean Sea.
St. John is the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is nine miles long and three miles wide, with a population of only 4,000. Everything that is used on the island has to be brought there from somewhere else. They do not produce anything, do not grow anything and their only industry is tourism. There are two major roads on the island and two-thirds of the land has been dedicated as the Virgin Islands National Park.
When we arrived at Cruz Bay on St. John, we were met by our guide and driver, John. He was an islander with a charming accent and a complete knowledge of St. John. Our first stop was the public restrooms just beyond the ferry landing.
From our Safari vehicle, we have a clear and unobstructed view of some of the most beautiful tropical forest and seascapes. The beaches on the west side of the island include Maho Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Truck Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Caneel Bay, Of these, Truck Bay is one of the favorites for swimming and snorkeling, although John said that his favorite was Hawksnest.
The beauty and simplicity of this tropical island was unbelievable. As we drove around the island my only thought was "I must come back here and stay a week and get to know this place better".
Other tours of St. John Island include:
Written by Linda Kaye on 02 May, 2004
The Island of Sint Maarten/ St. Martin is part of the Netherlands Antilles and is owned by the Dutch and the French. These two countries have ruled the island since 1648. Borders have change slightly over the years. Today, France claims 21 square miles…Read More
The Island of Sint Maarten/ St. Martin is part of the Netherlands Antilles and is owned by the Dutch and the French. These two countries have ruled the island since 1648. Borders have change slightly over the years. Today, France claims 21 square miles and the Netherlands 16 square miles. It has the distinction of being the smallest land mass owned by two countries. The borders remain undefended, as the people have learned to co-exist very well, even with the two distinct governments.
Our tour of St. Maarten began at 8:30 at dockside, Great Bay near Philipsburg where we boarded an air-conditioned bus. The first part of the tour was a drive through the Dutch area and breathtaking views from hilltops overlooking the Caribbean.
We arrived at The Butterfly Farm, a lush tropical paradise with hundreds of butterflies flying around us. The fellow giving us the tour was hilarious and very down-to-earth, explaining how these beautiful creatures come into being. It is suggested that you wear bright colors and citrus cologne to attract butterflies to land on you. Another trick to attracting them to you is to dip your finger in the rum punch they serve you, then place your finger at the head of the butterfly and wait. It really works. According to our guide, these little beauties are also insatiable drunks and love the rum punch. The Butterfly Farm guide encouraged all of us to grow certain plants to attract butterflies to our gardens.
Our tour continued on to the charming French Capital of Marigot, where we had about 45 minutes to do some shopping at an open-air market. The market had mostly T-shirts, tropical dresses and shirts, caps, and hand-made items. We then returned to Phillipsburg by a different route, with new views of the island, its beaches and beautiful landscape.
At this point we had a choice to remain in the downtown area or return to the ship. We spent the balance of our time walking through the market and exploring the town. Through the small streets, there was a caravan of cars, filled with people cheering and honking horns- their teams had just won a trophy for soccer. Everyone on the streets stopped and cheered also as the caravan passed by.
One picture-worthy site was an old Volkswagen parked outside a store completely covered with beer bottle caps.
From the center of town, the best way to return to the ship is to hop on a water taxi at the Town Pier, costs $3.50 per person and takes approximately 10 minutes to a landing very close to where our ship was docked.
For those cruise passengers who choose not travel into Philipsburg for shopping, or don’t have time because of another tour, the Havensight Mall is immediately adjacent to the dock. Many of the stores we saw in town we also saw at Havensight. Prices appeared to be the same as in town.
Written by Samlawali on 02 Jan, 2007
According to Royal Caribbean, St. Thomas is a part of the US Virgin Islands, which has lured more foreign countries that any other territory. The flags of six countries have flown over the islands. Settlements date to 1500 B.C. and people lived here 1,000 years…Read More
According to Royal Caribbean, St. Thomas is a part of the US Virgin Islands, which has lured more foreign countries that any other territory. The flags of six countries have flown over the islands. Settlements date to 1500 B.C. and people lived here 1,000 years before.The First European settlement on St. Thomas consisted of four taverns. Now know as Charlotte Amalie, today it is a haven for shoppers, but was once a pirate sanctuary. Legitimate trade gained popularity in the 1700s when it was declared a free port, making it the trading center of the West Indies. The 1800s brought great change. The indentured population gained freedom in 1843, just as the shipping trade transitioned from sailing to stream engine vessels. Ships traveled faster, increasing sea trade between Europe and the Americas. During WWI US forces feared St. Thomas’ perfect port are a might provide a dangerous base for German foces. The US bought the Virgin Islands for $25 million in gold. Prosperity showered the island. In the 1950s, St. Thomas became a tourist mecca and enjoys this status today. More than 1.7 million cruise ship guests visited here last year to enjoy the duty-free shops, historic attractions, pristine beaches and friendly locals. Some basic facts:The capital of St. Thomas is Charlotte Amalie. The area of the island is 32 square miles. The population is approximately 56,000 residents. English is the official language and the US dollar is the official currency. They have two separate Visitor Centers in Charlotte Amalie, one is across from Emancipation square, the second is in Havensight Mall, right next to where the cruise ships dock. You can walk the 1.5 miles into town or take a taxi for $4-$4.50 per person each way. Close
Written by mwenn2100 on 02 May, 2005
This is Disney's private island, and what a beautiful island it is! There isn't much to do there besides beach activities, but it is relaxing and fun. The crew from the boat run out once docked and set up everything (only a couple…Read More
This is Disney's private island, and what a beautiful island it is! There isn't much to do there besides beach activities, but it is relaxing and fun. The crew from the boat run out once docked and set up everything (only a couple of Disney employees live there full time.) There are a few shops, bars, and a small post office.
The post office offers Castaway Cay stamps and will mail postcards back home for you. Granted, it takes a couple of weeks to get there, but it's a nice reminder after you have been home for awhile.
There are two main beaches on the island. The family beach is located near the dock, while the adults-only beach is harder to get to. You can either walk the length of the island to get there, or they offer a shuttle tram. Unfortunately, the adult beach was pretty gross while we were there, so we stuck with the family beach. There were plenty of lounge chairs available, and Disney even set up a buffet lunch right by. The buffet was nothing special, but it was fun to be able to picnic on the beach.
Written by Amber Autumn on 25 May, 2005
Before we entered Puerto Maya, a man was giving a lecture on what to expect on Cozumel in the Americana Lounge. The city we were about to enter was called San Miguel. Locals call this "downtown." There's only two gas stations on the whole island,…Read More
Before we entered Puerto Maya, a man was giving a lecture on what to expect on Cozumel in the Americana Lounge. The city we were about to enter was called San Miguel. Locals call this "downtown." There's only two gas stations on the whole island, and you have to go to school for 9 years. And the age you have to be to drink tequila is 2.
The place is huge, so, going up to the second floor, I scanned the crowd to find my grandmother after doing some previous touring onboard. I found her on the third floor and sat next to her.
The man was Dave, who was known to be funny. He said if we enjoyed Cozumel's tequila, all we had to do was bring a towel that said "Carnival Holiday" and tell the cab drivers to take us there. The drivers know where they're going, and say, "they're coming, they're coming," a day before because they know they'll make money. The island's economy is supported by tourism. Not many cab drivers can speak English, but they do know simple words.
He also taught us we should shop and haggle. Shop owners will punch in numbers for a small ring and go up to $40. He said to haggle. If you really like it and the price is not what you want, leave. He said they'll see it your way and take your price. I can't haggle if my life depended on it. I bought an amethyst ring at a shop for $20. Real silver, too, because inside there is something like 920 engraved in the band. My grandfather said I paid too much, but with real silver, I got a bargain!
Written by MCJ graduate on 04 Jun, 2005
This was our virgin cruise, so we didn’t know to wait to book excursions (instead of booking online for them) once we got on the boat. Hence, we had to stand in lines for 45 plus minutes to get our excursions. Our first one was…Read More
This was our virgin cruise, so we didn’t know to wait to book excursions (instead of booking online for them) once we got on the boat. Hence, we had to stand in lines for 45 plus minutes to get our excursions. Our first one was in St. Marten and it was called "See and Sea". It basically consisted of us first getting on a bus with a bus full of other cruise passengers and having the driver take us to both sides of St. Marten. The ride was through a hilly terrain. One side is owned by the Dutch, and one side is owned by the French.
The driver tried to narrate what we saw, but it was difficult to hear him due to the intercom system. The narration was cutting out at times and at other times you just couldn’t hear him.
What we saw was poor housing, trash on the sides of the roads, wild donkeys and stray animals looking for food. Then we saw several shops and shop people (hawking for business) along our route. The driver stopped for us to take pictures and shop. We thought this part of the tour was not picturesque at all. And the ride in the bus was pretty uncomfortable because of the heat outside. But then this tour seem to get better when we took to a boat which had a second deck with a submarine-looking compartment. First, we were taken out in the Caribbean waters and had a narration by a tour guide about the locale. Then we were taken down into the second level of the boat to view the tropical fish and the diver whom feed them. Again, we had a narration, but this time it was about the different kinds of fish, sea creatures, tropical foliage, and reefs. We really liked this part of this tour because we could get pretty close to the tropical life without getting wet. We took some wonderful pictures of the diver and the tropical fish. The guide cautioned us to take our photos against the glass of this submarine-looking compartment and not to use a flash. Sure enough, she was right. When we got home, we developed the film and got pretty good pictures this way.
I can’t remember what we paid for this tour in March 2003, but I know it had to cost under $70 a piece for us to go on it, since we are pretty frugal on the land excursions. But all in all, this tour was a decent one, once you were on the Caribbean waters.
Taking the tender to Norwegian’s private beach was a hassle (it seemed like everyone wanted to go and there was around 2,000 passengers on the ship and it only holds about 400 people each trip). However, we managed the ride on the tender and were…Read More
Taking the tender to Norwegian’s private beach was a hassle (it seemed like everyone wanted to go and there was around 2,000 passengers on the ship and it only holds about 400 people each trip). However, we managed the ride on the tender and were glad we did. The cruise line had this organized very well. They had a Reggae Band, huts to shop at, public restrooms, bars, picnic tables, umbrellas and lounge chairs set up and a grand buffet feast. The workers from the boat actually brought all the food off the boat to prepare it for us.
As I recall it, as soon as the food was all prepared and set up, we ate. There was a variety of food, but we ate chicken, cornbread, cake, fresh fruit, hamburgers, etc. You could eat it at the picnic tables or on the beach. In addition, the waiters would come to you on the beach and take your orders and bring your drinks to you. And you didn’t have to deal with exchanging money because it was billed to your room.
Sharon likes to dance, so she danced with a group of people. While she was getting her groove on to the Reggae music, I was pounding down the Miller Lite beers under my beach umbrella. Then later I waded out in the Caribbean water and Sharon took some pictures of me.
Everyone was having a great time here. The ship had its photographer snapping pictures of everyone. I know they want to make money by selling the pictures, but it is still a nice way to remember your Eastern Caribbean cruise. We ended up buying our pictures.
The shopping here was pretty reasonable too, but the quality of T-shirts at some of the shops was not high (see-through). Therefore, look very carefully at the T-shirts and other souvenirs you may purchase here.
I highly recommend you go here. You will not be disappointed with this place. It is great place to unwind and relax.
When we went to St. John, it was a gorgeous day. We saw the mountain terrain, crystal-clear turquoise water, and white beaches.
Our excursion first started out as going through the hilly terrain in a jeep-like open truck with about 15 people. It was a blast…Read More
When we went to St. John, it was a gorgeous day. We saw the mountain terrain, crystal-clear turquoise water, and white beaches.
Our excursion first started out as going through the hilly terrain in a jeep-like open truck with about 15 people. It was a blast just to be in the open air. Then the driver, whom we could understand (good intercom system here), gave a wonderful narration of the views we saw. These included a termite nest/hive in the trees, tropical vegetation, the native mongoose (this is why they aren’t any snakes in St. John), celebrity homes, ruins, etc. He stopped several times for us to take breathtaking pictures and shop at stores. St. John was very beautiful and well kept, unlike St. Marten.
This guide was informative, and most of all, he enjoyed what he was talking about—his native land.
After this part of the tour ended, we were then taken to the Trunk Bay Beach area. Usually there is a small fee to get in, but for us, it was included in the excursion. Along with this excursion, we were provided with a sack lunch. It consisted of an apple or orange, a sandwich, cookie, and potato chips. We ate under the pavilion that was there, and then we walked to the beach.
My partner, Sharon, rented some flippers and a mask and snorkeled there. She followed the underwater trail that was provided for the snorkelers. She said that she saw gorgeous fish, such as the parrot fish and angel fish. In addition, she said she saw purplish coral reefs. Lastly, there was a lifeguard in a kayak paddling around the snorkelers for their safety. While she was doing this, I was sunbathing on the beach. We really liked this whole tour. It was very well organized as well. Everything went like clockwork from the
time we were picked up to the time we were brought back to take another tender to St. Thomas.
We didn’t have long to spend in St. Thomas, so we just walked around and went to the stores around where the tender was to take us back to the ship. I ended up purchasing a T-shirt from Hard Rock Café, and we walked to the Del Sol store to get our free canvas bag (that changed colors) that had the Norway logo on it. From what we saw of St. Thomas, we thought it was well kept and gorgeous.
I highly recommend you take this tour. I can’t remember the price of it, but it had to be under $100 per person since I am frugal about tour prices. The tour provided us with so much information about these islands, and Trunk Beach was magnificent. Lastly, we took some great pictures here.
Written by melissa_bel on 22 Jul, 2004
After a relaxing day at sea (stops two days in a row can surprisingly be tiring) and another formal night dinner (the gala dinner with the champagne glasses fountains which gave us the occasion to talk a little with Cpt. Romano who is Italian and…Read More
After a relaxing day at sea (stops two days in a row can surprisingly be tiring) and another formal night dinner (the gala dinner with the champagne glasses fountains which gave us the occasion to talk a little with Cpt. Romano who is Italian and in charge of this ship), we dropped anchor at Princess Cay, the company’s private island for a day of sun, fun and farniente. Princess Cay is a coralline little cay linked to Eleuthera, one of the Bahamas islands. Tender was required so, we will have a chance to use the lifeboat, which is part of the fun. It’s of course rockier than the Grand but, I love a good adrenaline rush and it seems like the pilot was hitting the waves a certain angle on purpose. The beaches on Princess Cay are all artificial and have a rocky bottom. If you want to find more sand, go the long beach.
Want a quieter place (and have a better chance to find a lounger with a palm tree that shades it? It’s better to go to South Beach. The water, once again, is a different shade here: a bright turquoise-green colour. Nautical activities are a big thing here. But so is beach volley (I probably spent more than 2 hours playing). At midday, a barbecue style buffet is organized and if there is something I like, it’s eating by the sea, especially after some physical exercises… Only problem? The sand in your food *lol*. Doing nothing is also something you might want to try. Unfortunately, the ship stays here only 5 hours and in the middle afternoon, it is time to go… we embark for the last aboard the ship and we’re off for Port Everglades. You might want to know that the last night is somewhat depressing, it seems like a lot of people is in their cabins. It was also the night of the passenger talent search *lol*. Princess requires you have your luggage ready before 11pm so they can be ready for disembarkation.
In short: Princess Cays is really a relaxing spot and it is really an enjoyable conclusion to the trip. No walk longer than a mile to do, if you like action, you can rent a sail boat, or play sports, you can also sleep in the shade of coconut trees (God knows how that sea sound is soothing).
This tiny island is the smallest land mass to be shared by two nations: France and the Netherlands. Does it show? Yes. While St-Maarten offers lively casinos, pubs and is oriented towards mass tourism and fun, St-Martin wants to show itself like a tiny St-Tropez…Read More
This tiny island is the smallest land mass to be shared by two nations: France and the Netherlands. Does it show? Yes. While St-Maarten offers lively casinos, pubs and is oriented towards mass tourism and fun, St-Martin wants to show itself like a tiny St-Tropez or a more democratic version of St-Barthélémy (the stars-studded island of the French West-Indies) with its upscale boutique and fine dining. When I wake up, we are just approaching the island. The scenery is not as dramatic. The island is drier than St-Thomas and a little more flat. Just by the sea lies Philipsburg, St-Maarten’s capital. But the sea has such a beautiful hue and I cannot wait. This time, Justin and I will rent a car. This will be the best decision we made on our adventures ashore. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it! The island is small and you can circle it in an hour. The first beach is really not far away (it’s just in front of Philipsburg) but the most beautiful beaches are on the French side so…
First of all, we had to buy some supplies for the day. On our way to find a supermarket, we cannot help but notice the KFC’s, Burger King and McDonald’s… sad. We come in contact with out first foreign money: the Netherlands Antilles Guilders. Euro is the official currency of the French side and US Dollars are accepted everywhere. We only had a glimpse of Philipsburg but, nothing spectacular stood out. After figuring out which way was were, we ended up going counter-clock wise. Passing the Simpson’s Lagoon that was full of boat, You barely notice you go through the French-side (only a monument and a sign tells you you’re in another country). Soon, here is Marigot, the French Capital, which looks very pleasant. We will have to come and visit. Then, the road goes up with lots of twist and turns and beautiful scenery, passing by Savane (Savanna) which looks like a little corner of Africa, I was expecting to see a lion coming out. Then its Grand Case with its restaurants and… here, signs for Orient Bay, the place we wanted to go. After a drive through the beautifully laid out gardens of the holidays villas that are filling Orient Bay, here we are. How can I describe the color of the water? I have never seen a blue so intense it was literally glowing, like a fluorescent blue. The sea was much ore agitated than at Magens Bay, which definitely made our day. The beach is probably a mile long, soft on the feet (so soft that while in the water, my feet were buried up to the ankles in a few seconds) and dotted by cool beach clubs. A change from the secluded atmosphere from Magens Bay. We rented loungers and an umbrella (15$) and off we go to the sea. The temperature of the water was probably in the higher 70‘s, lower '80's (never had experienced such a warm sea water). Now, Orient Bay, besides being one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beach, is also renowned for its clothes optional area. Yep, naked people casually strolling around the beach, even out of Club Orient, the nudist part of the beach (after all, anybody can take a walk, no?). As a European, it’s not a big deal to me but for some fellow passengers, their reaction was either a big laugh (mix of unease and surprise) or a consternated look. We had a great time there but once again, it was time to leave after a few hours. We decide to carry on toward Philips burg to complete the circle around the island and go back to Marigot. The first impression of Marigot is… to really be in a small provincial French Town. Knowing France quite well, the impression is even stronger: the street signs, the stores, the cars (lots of Renault). Marina Port-La-Royale is a lovely yachts heaven with cafes and restaurants overlooking the boats. The market square (financed the European Union) is empty but seems convivial, above the harbour, on a cliff, stands Fort-St-Louis, which was constructed to defend the island from aggressions. The houses are along the water are really pretty and gives a cachet to the town. Upscale boutiques are all around, beautiful houses with lush front yards… After more than an hour walk, we decide it is time to go check out Philipsburg and those famous "sweet deals" this duty-free part is supposed to offer you. Well… if you are not into alcohol, cigarettes or jewels, you might find it hard to find something worth bringing back. The prices are similar to the US, sometimes even more expansive but you don’t pay any taxes. One thing I did bring back was my favourite brand of Belgian chocolate which is impossible to find in the US so, I’m not complaining *s*. Apart from the Courthouse and an old church, Philipsburg is quite a bland town, sorry to say but strangely, the population is more mixed than the French side with Arabs, Indians, Blacks, Dutch, Americans, Latinos living there. The French side is more "white". The Dutch side is livelier too and I wish I could’ve remained longer to see the stretch Along Simpson Lagoon coming alive at sunset. After our little walk, it was time to drop the car back and go back to the ship.
In short: I loved St-Martin, especially the French side and I definitely recommend it. This island has a lot of things for everyone: beautiful beaches, fine dining, good entertainment… And every time I’m looking at Orient Bay picture, I am still amazed at the colour of the sea. It has two very different flavors: the sophistication of the French-side and the laid-back attitude of the Dutch side. I would definitely come back.
St-Martin/St-Maarten has another advantage: it is close from a lot of islands like Anguilla, St-Eustatius, Saba, St-Kitt's ans Nevis and St-Barths and boat trips (sometimes taking only a few hours which is great for a day trip) can be easily arranged. I cannot wait to swim in those waters again.