Single Gal's cruise ports (what to do?)

Old Dec 11th, 2002, 10:35 PM
  #1  
Liza
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Single Gal's cruise ports (what to do?)

We are a group of four women ranging in age from 23-26. We are stopping in San Juan PR, St. Marteen, and St. Thomas in May 2003. We like to shop and lay out in the sun. No scuba, snorkeling, golf, etc. Ironically that is about all I have found for excursions so far... Needless to say I am looking for some ideas on what to do while visiting these islands...
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 04:10 AM
  #2  
xxx
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That requirement should be easy to fill on any of the Islands you are visiting. They usually have a tour for just the beach, just for shopping, just for scuba etc. I would not take a tour from the ship if I were you. I would get off the ship, and do it myself. For instance, in St. Thomas, ask the taxi man to take you to Megans Bay for a day at the beach. Make sure you get back to the ship on time. Simple as that. If you choose to go shopping instead in St. Thomas then just do it. You don't have to reply on the ships excursions for any of your interests. Have fun.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 06:41 AM
  #3  
amia
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There is excellent shopping at Plaza Las Americas in San Juan and a trip to Old San Juan is recommended. In St Thomas you come right into the West Indian Dock which is the home of the Havensight Mall - a delightful shopping area or, either on your way to or way back from the beach (Magen's - not Megans - Bay is an excellent choice) you can shop "downtown". You'll find that the ship will have numous options available for shore trips on any of these islands and if you're a first-time visitor I'd recommend one of these rather than going it alone. That way you won't miss the ship!
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 08:17 AM
  #4  
xxx
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The chances of missing the ship is highly unlikely. People in the cruise/travel industry often use this 'scare tactic" to force people in using the ships excursions. Once you go on a cruise and pay the prices they ask for you will see how ridiculous it is to pay them rather than do it on your own for 50% less. Many have said "never again" when they realize how they have been taken. Cruises are really a good value for the money. Of course they need to make up for it in other fashions. Casinos, alcohol, drinks, and last but not least Shore excursions.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 10:55 AM
  #5  
Statia
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In St. Maarten, you could spend the day shopping and dining in Marigot (preferable over Phillipsburg)

or

Hang out at Orient Bay (some parts of the beach are clothing optional, however, so beware). I think that Orient Bay would give you the most things to do in one beach area, and they do have things other than water sports.

Have fun.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 08:43 PM
  #6  
amia
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I have to reply to xxx because I worked for 10 years at the WICO dock in STT and have first-hand knowledge of many people who went out on their own and missed the ship. What a debacle that always was - and continues to be. Heavy downtown traffic - oops, ship gone. Sometimes if the ship isn't QUITE out of the harbor area, the pilot boat can take the passenger(s) out to the ship. However, for the most part, the passengers end up staying at a local hotel and being taken to the airport to catch a flight in the morning to the next port of call. At the passenger's expense, I might add.
I have cruised numerous times and have NEVER heard anyone on a cruise ship using any kind of what you term a "scare tactic" to persuade passengers to go on a regulated tour as opposed to an independent tour.

And I couldn't disagree more about the comment about the cruise shps making their money through the tours as though that were a rip-off to the nth degree. Of course there's a pay-off. Business is business. However, I can assure you that the people in the tourist industry here work very hard for their living and - over many years - form viable relationships with the cruise ships, with safari drivers and taxi drivers to ensure that visitors have options which will show them the best that the island has to offer in many different areas. All designed so that hopefully these people who come for just one short day will have a a memorable enough experience that they may come back for an extended period.
It would seem that xxx had a bad experience somewhere but I resent the implication and generalization.
Gee whiz, Liza, you're getting a load of responses here!
You'll have a blast!
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 06:05 AM
  #7  
xxx
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I was not implying cruise ship employees do not work hard for there money. That was not even the implication and has no bearing on the subject. MOST people in life work hard for there money! So what! To go shopping and walk around a town does not require a tour. The prices one is charged for some of these tours are outrageous. I know of many people who would not do that again, once they have been on a cruise. They are to wise. If you are going on an excusion that would require a tour--fine. For example, horsebackriding, or scuba diving and you have no equipement or a Safari in some distant jungle. But to go to a beach, or just shopping is silly. Most of these tours last about 3-4 hours at the most. If the ship is in dock for 7 or 8 hours that is plenty of time to go to a beach and get back in time. These girls only want to go shopping and to the beach. If you read the post! ("No scuba, snorkeling, golf etc".) They are young girls on a budget no doubt. For what they are interested in they would be foolish to pay ship board tour prices. What a rip they are and everyone knows it!!
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 11:30 AM
  #8  
xxx
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Liza these questions could be addressed on the cruise forum. FYI go to the Cruise forums. Read the one St/John/St. Thomas. You may be able to get some valuable input on the subject. There are posters there and travel agents debating the excursions versus on your own.
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 02:38 PM
  #9  
Peter
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Liza - besides checking the cruise forum on this site, check our cruisecritic.com and go to the ports of call section or any of the major cruise lines sections.

The three ports you're going to are very, very easy ports to get around yourself. We have been to those a half dozen times and shopping and beaches can and should be done on your own. San Juan - shopping is within walking distance of the ship - no need for a taxi - old san juan is just up the hill from the pier. Check out the Information Center area first for the local vendors. To your left as you leave the terminal about four blocks.

St. Maarten - Grab a taxi to Orient Beach and specifically Bikini Beach where there is a restaurant/bar, clothes changing rooms and a taxi stand. Its far enough away from the nudist colony so that the naked traffic is at a minimum. Stop in Philipsburg on your way back for some shopping.

St. Thomas - grab a taxi to Coki Beach. Same program as Orient Beach. Shop on your way back in town or if you're running a little late and don't want to chance the traffic (it does get bad around 4:00) go to the Havensight Mall right next to (hopefully) your ship is docked. The stores are identical to downtown except they're about 20% higher priced.

Trust me, it is a scare tactic thats repeated by the cruise lines and travel agents all the time. Our family of four (two teenage girls) arrange our own excursions exclusively. All it takes is a little research and planning. You will save a minimum of 50% from the ship's prices for exactly the same thing. Actually, you own excursions are better because you design them specifically for you, your interests and your timeframes. The ship's excursions are designed for the masses and are extremely restrictive. Just to give you an example - on our Med cruise a few years ago, we docked in Livorno which is about 50 miles from Florence, which is where most everyone wants to go. The ship's excursion which was a bus ride to Florence, a drop off at the inner cirle of the city, a pick up at the same place five hours later and a bus ride back - was $125 a person. We took the train, got to the train station in Florence in less time than the bus, spent six hours going to the same places, took the train back all for a grand total of $53 which included two taxi rides to the station in Livorno.
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 05:46 PM
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John
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I have to agree with Pete and XXX. The cruise ships do promote thier excursions and DO pressure you with ideas that one could miss the ship if they were on thier own all day. I have heard this many times on many cruises. A majority of the cruise ship sponsored tours are outrageous in price.
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 05:51 PM
  #11  
John
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Sorry, I forgot to reply to the original question. I lived in St. Thomas for a couple years and reccomend depending on the time you have- taxi to Magens Bay-Beautiful!! or a quick ferry ride to St. John. Beaches over there are incredible. Many cruise ship passengers do this. The cabs all know what ferrry you need to take back and you will have no problem getting your ship. St. Maarteen-definitely go to Orient Bay. Huge beach with lots of people watching. Lots of fun. In Puerto Rico I would do some shopping at the big mall. Another person mentioned it. Mostly, I would really try to make it to St. John. You will not regret it one bit!
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 07:18 PM
  #12  
Cathy
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Liza, you have picked a nearly perfect itinerary for shopping and sunning. If you stick to those two activities you will have plenty of time on the islands.

Being a person that travels alot both on long term land based vacations and cruises and has almost ten cruises under her belt, the three islands you are going to do NOT require shore excursions. The shore excursions offered by the ship are for those people who are into sports and activities.

As a matter of fact, a good cruise director and/or shopping director on your cruise will advise you not to take a shore excursion to shop.

As far as recommendations, Peter has given some good advice. I second the advice to go to Orient Beach and shop in Phillipsburg, although if you are interested in French goods, Marigot can be interesting. Be aware that Orient Beach is a beautiful beach but it has a nude section and the European women may go topless! In the section where your cab driver drops you off, you will see little nudity or toplessness.

I like Havensight mall, but you should experience the downtown main shopping area as well. This is the duty free capitol of the Caribbean - crystal, jewlery galore, electronics, and good liquor prices. I usually buy my perfumes and cosmetics in the Caribbean and save from 20% to 40% on prices. Just make sure to DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Make a shopping list and get prices on items at home. Sometimes you can get better deals stateside. Magens Bay is great and very easy to get to and only $6 a person in a taxi. Don't go to St. John since you don't snorkel. Magens is one of the prettiest beaches on St. Thomas. You can easily shop in the morning and spend the afternoon at the beach. Just time your visit so that you leave in enough time to get back to the ship and you will be fine.

I don't care for the beach in San Juan. The water is not clear and the beach is not impressive at all. There are some interesting shopping in Old San Juan. Stick to the Puerto Rican crafts since the other duty free items will be much cheaper in St. Thomas and St. Martin.

I almost always do my own excursions and have never been left because I plan and time myself well enough.

Enjoy and post if you have any more questions!
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 09:14 PM
  #13  
Liza
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Thanks for all of your help!!
one more question,,,Where is a good place to eat on these islands? Two of us are vegetarians. Price doesn't matter as long as it is a place that can accomodate us..
 
Old Dec 14th, 2002, 05:40 AM
  #14  
xxxxx
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My one cruise (never again!) we watched the ship set sail waving to a handful of late passengers who rejoined us at the next stop so be aware of the time. Remember the I Love Lucy episode? The taxi drivers will be aware of the time needed to clear security and reboard your ship. On St. Thomas you can head to one of the less touristy beaches like Sapphire or Secret Harbour (Secret Harbour has a nice restaurant on the beach for lunch). Coki Beach or Magen's are the popular destination for day trippers. Others take the ferry and head to St. John for the pretty National Park beaches. Might want to head to Honeymoon Beach there with a buffet lunch at Caneel Bay ($$$$) and then some shopping at the boutique-type shops in Cruz Bay. In Charlotte Amalie you can shop for a couple of hours (watch the prices!) and have lunch at Cuzzins on Back Street for authenitic cuisine. Maybe Gladys would satisfy too. You'll find much more selection and variety in Town than at Havensight but haven't found prices higher at Havensight. Take a taxi into Charlotte Amalie. No matter how short that walk looks, it is a long hot walk!
 
Old Dec 15th, 2002, 08:05 AM
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Janet
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Hi,

you should be fine getting taxi' on your own and heading to the beach or shopping. Just keep time/traffic in mind for your return.

On our cruise visit to each of the 3 ports you mentioned, we did the following:

In PR, we arrived later in the day. we spent the time walking around Old San Juan; had a buggy ride, had a drink at the hard rock and shopped at a couple of outdoor markets.

In St. thomas, we spent the day on St. John; we did not do the ships excursion. However, as beautiful as St. John is, if you are not interested in snorkeling, then I would visit Magan's Bay beach and shop in Charlotte Amalie. As a previous post stated, it is walking distance from CA to the cruise dock, but it is a long walk and longer if you're hot and carrying packages.

In St. Marteen, we had planned to beach; however, the day was overcast and drizzly when we arrived, so we ended up shopping. the prices were comparable to what I have seen in St. thomas and we actually bought a couple of nice watches. The drizzle cleared and the sun started to poke through, so we spent some time at a small Public beach right in town. Not a beautiful beach, but get's the same sun and was nice and relaxing.

Enjoy,
 
Old Dec 15th, 2002, 10:08 AM
  #16  
Cathy
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I am not sure about St. Maarten as far as vegetarian restaurants but definitely in the USVI you will be able to find veggie places. There used to be a place called Pita Express in Charlotte Amalie. The other place that I know of is the Grateful Deli, but it is in Red Hook, which is the dock on the other side of the island where you take the ferry to St. John from. I am sure that if you do a search engine search and check with the USVI tourist bur. , you will be able to find others. Puerto Rico - I am not sure of either, but I am sure they are there. Do a search.

Again, I would stick to St. Thomas and not go to St. John since you do not snorkel. Enjoy your cruise! And go to the shopping talks on board, but check out other stores as well.
 
Old Dec 15th, 2002, 07:23 PM
  #17  
Peter
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Liza - I'll give you one more recommendation for San Juan. We booked a room at the Condado Plaza, about a ten minute cab ride from the cruise terminal right on the ocean. Its a five star hotel with all the amenities and has two great outdoor pools and a nice sandy beach is just next door. We got it for $65 on priceline. If you're interested, post and I'll tell you how to get it. For that price, its like a cheap excursion.
 
Old Dec 15th, 2002, 08:30 PM
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Linda
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The ships dock in Philipsburg on the Dutch side; you can walk right off the wharf and down Front Street to shop to your heart's content. While you see tourists herded to buses for a tour around the island there are also lots of taxis and you could negotiate for your own tour or just for a ride to the French side. Orient Beach is absolutely beautiful and if nude bodies don't put you off that side of the beach is less crowded with beach restaurants, etc. The other side of the beach is wall-to-wall restaurants, boutiques, beach chairs and umbrellas like the beaches of the Riviera. My fave is the clothing-optional side but I always walk along the whole beach for a look-see. There are para sails, sea-do's, etc. As for eating if you're in the Marina in Marigot try Brasserie de la Gare, on the harbour front try Bar de la Mer. If in Grand Case, a whole village of restaurants try the lolos or rib shacks. At each of these you can get salads for the vegetarians. Enjoy your trip...2 weeks today I'll be there myself.
 
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