shore excursions vs. car rental on own

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Apr 28th, 2003, 08:09 AM
  #1
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shore excursions vs. car rental on own

my family of 5 (spouse and self, 23, 20, 16) are taking royal caribbean (adventure of seas) southern 7 night cruise june 8th. we are avid hiking, swimming, surfing, sailing snorkeling, adventurous folks, doing all this in many places (hawaii, southeast US, northwest US and canada, etc.). we have never done a cruise, and chose to do so rather than just do barbados, st. lucia, etc. we decided it a good way to see the southern caribbean islands, scout out further non-cruise places to explore. based on our independence in travelling, is it wise to just rent a car and see the sights vs. the shore excursions (at least on some of the ports of call). i was thinking in st. thomas (to go to st. john's), doing a car rental in barbados, doing the western, thru middles, back down east caost drive (bathsheba the turn point). are the car rentals at the cruise dock, do we need pre reservations. i was thinking on st.lucia doing the ship tour to rainforest, maybe in antiqua, doing the same. penny for your thoughts anyone? the ports of call are: charlotte amalie, st. thomas; philipsburg, st. maarten; st. johns, antiqua; castries, st. lucia; bridgetown, barbados.
thank you very much!
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Apr 29th, 2003, 04:22 AM
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This sounds like alot of research is called for on your part.

We would not do this but I have read that some people have rented with good results.

I think I would start with the Tourism bureaus of each of the countries, to see what rental agencies are on the islands-then what their requirements are-and the rental costs is HIGH on the islands.

If you think you can navigate overcrowded, narrow, mountainous, poorly (if at all) marked roads, and in some cases driving on the wrong side, then by all means do it.

I would get a driver for the day-leave the driving to the residents-if you drive, you don't get to enjoy the scenery, spending all your time looking at the edge of the road, with no guardrails!

Don't forget you will spend time getting the car, driving to your destinations, returning the car and getting to the ship ON TIME!

other than that-have fun, would like to hear how it all turns out.
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Apr 29th, 2003, 06:56 AM
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I suggest reservations everywhere.I'm sure you could be a "go-show" and get a car at any dock.But then you might get stuck with a big price tag.My fav is Barbados although I have only been there on a cruise ship.We drove up the west coast swam ate swam some more and then drove down the east coast.The difference is dramatic and awesome.Have your cameras ready!I looked back at some of our research and here's some info in no particular order.
St Thomas
budgetstt.com
discountcar.vi
usvi.net
caribbeancar.com
carribbean-on-line.com
stjohnsisland.com
Barbados
stoutescar.com
carrentalexpress.com
St Lucia
stluciacar.com
drivestlucia.com
stluciaguide.com
St Maarten
stmaartencarrentalguide.com
sxmtravelguide.com
adventurecarrental.com

I was not the driver.I just paid up ike the others in out gang.But we got all the vehicles at the dock or close by and we had minivans,jeeps and SUV's.You'll have a blast.HTH
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Apr 29th, 2003, 06:58 AM
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In Barbados with my family of 8 we hired a van with driver for the day for around $100us and had a fantastic time. Went to Signal Hill, The Caves, visited churches, had lunch in a hut on the beach, went swimming at the beach and visited a local home. We did not reserve this in advance but went in to the Taxi Dispatchers office near the pier and told the lady what we were looking for and she hooked us up with Bernard. With a large Family this is the way to go. We have done the same on Dominica, Roatan and other islands and they were just as good. Just be sure you talk with the driver before, that you feel comfortable with him/her, their language skills and that you agree up front as to the cost (negotiate).
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Apr 29th, 2003, 07:43 AM
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P.S. I meant to add that if you go to the Caribbean forum here,type into the text search box,you will find some really good info on each individual destination.
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Apr 29th, 2003, 10:21 AM
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thanks alot for all the insight. i do have research to do, but that is all part of the fun.
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Apr 29th, 2003, 06:39 PM
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St. Lucia
You can do your own tour cheaper than the ship. There are plenty of taxi vans available that will take you anywhere you want.
Antigua
Nothing in town except a casino and a handfull of shops. This island is known for its beaches. Get a taxi and do the beach thing.
St.Thomas/St.Johns
You can take a taxi/safari bus to Red Hook and get the ferry to St. Johns. Lots of taxis available for a tour then get dropped off at Trunk Bay.
If you want to do St. Thomas there is a tour guide recommended by a lot of people on another board. I will get the name if you want it.
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Apr 30th, 2003, 07:00 AM
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JMM
 
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Antigua - negotiate a taxi tour that will include the following English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard, Shirley heights and Dow's Hill Interpretive Centre (fantastic views - save your Nelson's Dockyard ticket - it is good for both) and a beach drop off and pick up at the end of the tour is nice. The taxi setup in Antigua is good - you speak to the dispatch guy telling him what you want and he gets a driver. Always confirm the agreed price with the driver. Road signage is NOT good in Antigua (although the roads are) which makes it difficult to find your own way around.
Do not attempt to drive yourself in St. Lucia - roads are terrible. A good place to take a ship's excursion.
In Barbados - either a taxi tour or drive yourself
In St Maarten - take a taxi to Orient Beach or rent a car.
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May 1st, 2003, 06:16 AM
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kep
 
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Hi: We also like to rent cars when we visit ports as the are economical with a large family and allow you to do things at your own pace. In Barbados we made reservations ahead to have a car at the dock. I had sent away for the book the Ins and Outs of Barbados which has three driving tours, we modified them and had a great day. We rented a car in Phillipsburg at I believe Bobby's Marina. Very easy to navigate once you are out of Phillipsburg. Marigot is delightful, Long Baie beautiful, Orient beach is busy. In St. Lucia we did the cruise to the Pitons and it is the best shore excursion we have ever done, expensive but breathtaking. Not much to see or do in Castries. After the cruise we rented a taxi to take us into the country side. In St. Thomas or St John you might be ready for a plain and simple beach day, Magens Bay or Trunk Bay are nice spots. The two shopping places on your trip are St. Thomas and Marigot St Martin. They also have the Americas Cup Yachting excursion in St Martin which would be exciting. Have not been to Antigua but it has lots of beaches so it would also make a good beach day. Six days in ports is really busy we have done this twice and have learned not to try to do it all at each stop. You have a variety of islands so you can really enjoy a different experience each day. Have fun on the islands but remember to enjoy the activities on the ship as well. We just got back from the Voyager of the Seas and there was lots to do on the ship as well. Send away to the dept of Tourism in each country and they will send you maps ect, the Barbados book was extremely good. Have a good time Karen
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May 1st, 2003, 07:37 AM
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thanks karen for all your help. i will look into your suggestions. one last thing, has anyone or you ever rented a scooter, mo ped to explore locally, or within reasonable distance from beach, town, etc. just a thought!
thanks again!
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May 1st, 2003, 09:02 AM
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kep
 
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Have never rented a scooter or moped. We usually pack a lunch and have lots of camera equipment with us so it would not have a place (trunk) to store are stuff when we need to. Also there would be more expense renting 3 or 4 scooters for your group, insurance for more drivers ect. On Barbados the protection of a car just seems safer, those buses are something else. Karen
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May 4th, 2003, 07:19 PM
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Some things to consider: How comfortable are you with driving on the left? I know in St. Thomas driving is on the left side. Check out the driving rules for each island. The other thing to watch out for is leaving valuables in rental cars or rental car vandalism.

I have often found it cheaper and much less of a hassle to make arrangements with a taxi driver for the day instead of paying the rental, gasoline, and extra insurance and bad road conditions. I have had taxi drivers to take me to meet their family and other off the beaten path places like restaurants and beaches that tourist never see. I have met locals and gotten a real taste for the island. Just make sure you get a reputable driver.

I rarely take a ships tour. They are usually over priced and can be a "herd" experience. The exception would be on St. Martin - if you are adventurous - you would probably love the America's Cup Yacht excursion where you actually are deck hands on a sailing yacht.

One place I would suggest renting a jeep - St. John USVI - The island is mostly national park and has great snorkeling beaches and hiking trails. Go to Honeymoon beach or Cinnamon Bay for snorkeling. Take the ferry over when you get to St. Thomas.

For St. Lucia - there are also hiking trails in the rainforest. Very good snorkeling off Anse Chastenet.
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May 5th, 2003, 10:29 AM
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snorkelcat: When did the US Virgin Islands start driving on the left as you stated for St. Thomas?
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May 5th, 2003, 07:34 PM
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It is well know that driving is on the left side in St. Thomas, and it has been that way for many years. Do a google search for driving in St. Thomas or call the tourist bureau for confirmation.

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May 5th, 2003, 08:02 PM
  #15
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thanks again for all your help. so far i have decided doing self tours on st.thomas (do st. johns), st. maartens and barbados. taxis or cruise tours on the others. muchas gracias!
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