shore excursions in the southern caribbean

Old Dec 28th, 2002, 06:17 AM
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shore excursions in the southern caribbean

First time message sender....hoping for feedback. We're going on a cruise in the Southern Caribbean in January on Radiance of the Seas. Want advise on whether to take shore excursions arranged by the ship (costly, especially for Canadians who need to pay US currency) or grab taxis on each of the islands and go it alone. Stopovers are St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Thomas. Concerns are safety (mainly) cost etc. All input and sharing of experiences will be greatly appreciated.
Old Dec 31st, 2002, 07:19 PM
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We have cruised all over the Caribbean dozens of times. My best advice if you have never been to these islands is to go ahead and take the shore excursions from the ship. You will see more in the short time that you have there rather than spending half of your time trying to figure out what to do. Also, if your excursion that is booked through the cruise has a delay (ie, flat tire on the bus or bus breaks down, etc.) they will hold the ship for you but if you are on your own and your taxi has a problem, the ship will sail without you and you will have to get to the next port on your own, which can be very costly. It depends on what you want to see and do on each island. St. Thomas is a shoppers paradise, especially in areas of electronics and jewelry, but you have to know your stuff or you can easily be ripped off. I would see some of the island first and then shop in the afternoon for several reasons. If you start shopping first, you will never see the island. Plus, the traffic gets heavier in the afternoon and there can be delays in getting back to the ship. If you want a nice, laid-back place with the BEST snorkeling right off of the beach, you can do that excursion on your own. Take a taxi from the dock to Coki Beach...they all know the is about $8 per person each way...go first thing in the morning, and you will get a "free" tour of a lot of the island on the way. Stay about 2 hours and take a taxi back and you can even ask them to take the long way back so you can see Magen's snorkeling is Coki Beach and if you start back on your own around 12pm-1pm, you will get back in time to do shopping near the ship. If all you want to do in St. Maarten is shop, you can do that on your own since there is only one main shopping street on the Dutch side, where you will be. If you just want to go to Orient beach, the clothing optional beach on the French side, you could take a taxi on your own, but go early so you can start coming back early, just like in St. Thomas, and then you can shop when you get back. I would do an organized tour in St. Lucia...too much trouble to hassle with the taxi drivers. I would also do an organized tour in Barbados. The main shopping in Antigua is where the ship docks, but if you want to see Nelson's Dockyard, I would take the organized tour from the ship because the local transportation may not be too reliable and the same problem with a delay if something were to happen on the other side of the island and you were to get delayed. The odds of that happening (car break down, etc.) are slim, but why take the chance??? I was in St. Maarten one time years ago on an organized tour and there was an accident on the highway...the ONE major highway on the island...and the road ahead was totally blocked...the driver had to turn around and drive around the ENTIRE island in the other direction to get us back to the ship, and we got back more than an hour later than expected...even though it was way before the ship sailed....if that happens and you are own your own and the ship sails, you are out of luck. Hope this information helps, and have a wonderful cruise!!!
Old Jan 1st, 2003, 07:42 AM
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Hi Leslie - I was kind of discouraged as the days went by and there was no response to my query. Finding yours today was such a thrill so I thank you for that first. However, an even greater thanks goes to you for providing the most incredible amount of helpful information on an island by island basis which will help us immensely. All the best in 2003 and may you continue to travel and enlighten those of us in need.
Old Jan 1st, 2003, 10:56 AM
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Happy New Year!!! I am happy to help. I forgot to tell you that if you go to Coki beach to snorkel, the beach is located in a small cove right next to Coral World, and that is where the excursion goes from the ship and they charge about $40 or so each. You can take the taxi, pay your own admission into Coral World if you want to, or just snorkel at the beach. The water is extremely shallow...I would say 5-8 feet in most places, and extremely clear. You would only need a snorkel mask and can buy one of those on your own before leaving home. It is a great place for beginner or novice snorkelers and has tons of the neatest fish and other creatures and don't forget to bring a few small boxes of cereal from the ship (just get them on the buffet line at breakfast that morning)...also an underwater throw away camera that you can buy at Walmart at home for about $8-9 and they will charge you $20-25 if you buy one on the ship or on the islands....have one person stand in the water about 4 feet deep and have the cereal in their hands and the other person stand about 6-8 feet away from them in the water with the underwater soon as you throw the cereal in the water the tons of fish will come to eat and it makes wonderful pictures. You can also rent the snorkel equipment at Coki beach, but since we have our own I don't know what the cost would be. Also, in the area of Coki beach you will be able to see the British Virgin islands in the distance and the scenery is beautiful and makes for nice photographs. That is just an additional tip for St. Thomas. Also, on the shopping issue, if you see something that you like, try to bargain down to at least half of what they tell you is their best price, and take notes of the item and name of store and shop at several places to compare items and prices. Many times you will see something that you like better at a better price at another store. The shops where the ship docks in St. Thomas are basically the same stores as "in town", but the "town" has the Hard Rock Cafe and several places such as that if you have to buy the traditional Hard Rock shirts and souvenirs...I would eat my meals on the ship...much better and of course a better in all of the islands is VERY expensive!!! A few years ago, we did go to Dickinson Bay in Antigua to a nice beach that is shared by one of the all-inclusive resorts (I think it was Couples) and they offered a lobster lunch on the beach that was reasonably priced. It depends on what you want...I would think that if it was your first trip to these places that you would not be going to EAT, especially when there is food on the ship. Most of the time the eating is not a priority for me, especially when you have limited time in the ports. January should be a good time to travel (weather wise). Please feel free to ask any other questions and I will be happy to assist. Good luck in the New Year, and have a safe and wonderful trip!!!
Old Jan 2nd, 2003, 06:56 AM
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Went on our first cruise to the southern caribbean in 2001. We did only 2 organized tours and the rest of the time explored on our own. We were very happy with that. Our dinner companions did a organized tour every day and we saw way more for a LOT less money! Just make sure your taxi driver tells you how much they will charge before you get in and you'll be fine. One suggestion I would have is for St. Lucia. Our waiter recommended going to the Sandals resort. It was the best thing we did on the whole cruise! It costs about $40/pp but was well worth it. Once you get there, everything is included - food, drinks, snorkeling, etc. They have a wonderful, if not small, beach and the people were so friendly. There were several people from our ship going there, so we shared a taxi which was less expensive than taking our own. If you decide to go to Sandals, make sure you go to the "big" one. There are two of them on the island. Hope this helps. Have a wonderful cruise!!
Old Jan 2nd, 2003, 01:48 PM
greggs travel
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There are now 3 Sandals on St. Lucia, ask for the Golf and Spa Resort to avoid any confusion....
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