Can anyone tell me which of the following islands have the best snorkeling and where on the island I can find it: Dominican Republic, Barbados, Martinique, St. Maartin, St. John/St. Thomas? Is it just as easy to sign up for the snorkeling once I arrive or should I arrange it through the cruise line onboard?
When you are in St. Thomas you can take a cab over to the Red Hook Ferry and take the ferry over to St. Johns. Once in St. Johns, take a cab to one of the beaches, we've been to Trunk bay twice now for snorkeling and its really good,
the whole island is simply paradise. If you don't have your own snorkeling gear, you can rent them there and there are changing rooms, etc. If you start out early you can get there before all the tours do and still have time for some major shopping in St. Thomas. You can sign up and do a tour with the ship, but its really very simple to do it on your own and save a few bucks too. I believe the ferry's run every hour back and forth. Its really an island worth seeing, hope you can fit it in your schedule.
Thanks for the snorkling info on Trunk Bay in St. Johns. In fact, my ship stops at St. Johns early in the morning, then proceeds to St. Thomas. Since it is stopping in St. Johns, I presume the ship must be offering shore excursions and a means to get to St. Thomas and return to the ship.
I was not considering getting off at St. Johns. But your note and the beautiful picture you included has given me something to consider at that port. I don't have snorkel gear, but I think I will at least go out and get a mask and snorkel to take along. I prefer not to use a rental snorkel with the proliferation of AIDS and other diseases around. The fins I can rent since they take up so much luggage room and I tend to fill my suitcase up with souvenirs on the way home.
Thanks for the snorkeling tip and the picture. I'll start looking into this.
As a novice snorkeler (one time only), I would second Donna's comments on Trunk Bay. It's awesome. There's an underwater trail on the right side of the beach (facing the ocean), but the best underwater sights we found were on the left side. If you swim far enough left there's actually another somewhat secluded (albeit smaller) beach. The water was a little rougher that day on the left side of the cove but I'm not sure if that's typical.
Depending on how long you're in port in St. Johns, it might make sense to simply disembark on SJ, spend 1/2 the day snorkeling, take a tram to the St. John's ferry (which takes you to Red Hook on St. Thomas), then take a taxi to back to the ship. I'm guessing it's probably an $8 tram ride (for two) on SJ, $10 for the ferry, then $15 for the cab ride back to the ship.
Of course, unless you're the shopping type, you might want to consider spending the entire day on St. Johns as it is a very beautiful island.
I'm glad you are considering looking at St. Johns, you won't regret it. If you can get off there first before going on to St. Thomas, that would make it a lot easier, either with a shore excersion or on your own. Also bring the snorkel and mask is an excellent idea, you never know if the rentals have been cleaned thoughly or not.
I'm sure you will always be able to use your own again sometimes too, so in effect, they will pay for themselves.
Sounds like you plan on some shopping, you'll enjoy St. Thomas, make sure you leave some time for that. If you don't go all the way into downtown, there is a mall right by the port that also has lots of goodies to buy. Its basically all the same stores that are downtown anyway, if the time factor becomes a problem. Have a great cruise.
St. John is the best for snorkeling of the islands you listed above. However, Trunk Bay is by no means the only place to experience excellent snorkeling. Other places to try are Cinnamon Bay and Waterlemon Cay at Leinster Bay. All are reachable by taxi from Cruz Bay. Your ship will also offer snorkeling excursions from St. Thomas that will take you to some of the best areas around St. John, but it's easy enough to catch the ferry if you'd rather explore on your own schedule.
Barbados and St. Maarten also have a few good snorkeling spots, but in my opinion, they don't compare to St. John. In Barbados, try Folkestone Park in Holetown, which has a marked underwater trail similar to the one at Trunk Bay. On St. Maarten, there's Mullet Bay, Baie de l'Embouchure or the waters surrounding the offshore islands of Ilet Pinel or Tintamarre. Have fun.
I would look very closely at the shore excursions which the cruise line offers in each port of call. Even if you decide to go ashore on your own rather than taking a tour, the descriptions will give you some idea of the major attractions and associated transportation times in each port. Your decision where to go snorkelling might be influenced by your interest in the other attractions in each port (that is, you might opt to go snorkelling in one or two ports where you are not interested in the attractions ashore). Also, the cruise line may offer several shore excursions that include snorkelling in some of your ports of call. There's usually an expedition or two led by the scuba and snorkelling staff from the ship, but quite a few Caribbean ports also have excursions by boat or sailboat to more remote snorkelling areas that may be more interesting and less crowded than the areas that are accessible from shore.
There are lockers at Trunk bay, don't know about the other beaches listed in this thread for beaches in St. Johns, sorry. As for the Orient beach, no I don't remember any lockers there, but their might be, we just took turns getting cooled off in the water, no big deal. We never bring a lot of valuables while on tours, just enough cash to get us there and back. Hope this helps a bit :-)
I plan on finding out as much as possible about the shore excursions available at each port on the cruise before I sail. I like to work out my shore itinerary well in advance of my trip to maximize the experience. I cruise for the experience of the island adventures as well as the enjoyment on on-board fun and dining. I chose this Veendam cruise for the ports it will stop at. And I will try to fit in the best activity for each port. There will be some conflicts as I am already aware of at Barbados and St. John/St. Thomas where there are multiple things I would like to do in such short time.
Thanks for your input. As I add to my cruises, (this will be # 3), I am adding to my confidence level to possible head out on my own rather than sign up for shore excursions offered by the cruise lines.You, and a number of Cruisemates have offered some very good suggestions and alleviated some of my concerns. It has all helped me start mapping out my cruise activities. This weekend I bought a snorkel and mask for this trip. I may get a set of fins if I can find a light-weight and small pair that doesn't take up too much luggage room. With this investment, I hope to snorkel at least two times on this trip, maybe more if I can identify the best places ahead of time and fit it into my other port plans. Thanks for your suggestions.
Thanks for the info on lockers to secure my shore clothes and camera while snorkeling. As I said earlier I take a few pictures on my cruises. I have never been to St. Johns so I want to take some pix of the island and the beach around the snorkeling area as well as the community life.
I enjoy my shore adventures and I try to get a representative view of all aspects of my cruise in my photos. I like walking downtown in the port and photograph the normal activities of the residents as they go through their daily chores to add to the flavor of my trip overall. My cruises are more than just vacations. They are an opportunity for me to learn a little about the people on the island I am stopping at.
In addition, I am looking for subject matter to use for some watercolor paintings I would like to do in the coming months.So, my camera travels with me, even when I go snorkling.
Hi again Frank,
Make sure to buy an underwater disposable camera at home at for example Walmart, etc.
They are twice as much in the islands and same for the film. Bring more than you think you'll need, very expensive if you need more. Hope all your pics come out great, you'll love St. Johns then for sure.
Frank. Usually the ship's excursions only allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours of time at Trunk Bay. Not nearly enough. It truely is an island paradise. Just too easy to go from St Thomas. And most lines won't let you disembark on St John without purchasing an excursion. Ferry is $3/20 min ride. I have websites for St John information. I think we paid about $4 for cab from CRuz Bay (ferry landing) to Trunk Bay and maybe five from pier to Red Hook.
No one has mentioned Martiniqe yet. This was the last stop on our cruise two years ago. We took a cab to a dock where we caught a ferry boat to "the beach", a very crowded and not too impressive beach, that was really just the back of a resort hotel.
But once we decided to make the best of it, we snorkled out by a rock jetty and saw some of the best sealife we'd seen on the whole trip. We saw an octopus, seahorses, sea cucumbers, and many different fish.
Be forewarned though that this is a topless beach - I didn't find out until I saw two very interesting "fish" during my first swim!
I'm glad you mentioned Martinique, don't really hear a whole lot about the island and found it interesting that the snorkeling is good there. Do you remember the name of the beach? Good story, gave me quite a laugh, thanks.