Could anyone recommend what to do on these ports without taking a tour. We are a party of 9 people, (5 kids, 4 adults) and tours can get pricey. The kids' ages range from 3-9. Can we walk to the beach on St. Maarten? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
In St. Thomas you may want to just get a cab at the pier and have them take you to Meagans Bay, very pretty beach, although not much in the way of snorkeling. If you want to do that, I'd head over to St. John/Trunk Bay, even prettier beach, but it involves taking the ferry over, once you get a cab ride to Red Hook Bay. It does take some time to get there, but worth the time and effort.
When we were in St. Maartens, we took a cab to Orient beach, but since is right next door to a nudist colony, you may not want to do that with young kids, but it was a nice beach, with lots of water activities.
We are doing this itinerary with 2 kids (13 + 5) on 2nd November on Explorer of the Seas. I also asked for suggestions on what to do. Go into the "chit chat" section on these boards and choose "family cruising". About half way down the page you'll find my original post "What to do on shore, E. Caribbean, with 2 kids". I got 4 replies, which I think you will also find very helpful.
Go to the beach. In St Thomas go to Megans Bay or Coki Beach(and of course go shopping). In St Martins there are a number of family friendly beaches. You can actually go to the beach right in town ( behind all the shops in Great Bay). I suggest Dawn beach. A cab ride from the pier (ask taxi dispatcher how much for your group, cabs are usually vans big enough for the whole gang).Dawn has a bar, restaurant, beachside food vendors, beachside chair and umbrella rentals and the friendliest beach vendors in the Caribbean. Families, tourists and locals inhabit this beach.
Nassau I recomend Cable Beach. You can take the bus and the entire beach ( even in front of the hotels) is public.
On St. Thomas another good beach is Sapphire. No one has touched San Juan yet so I would suggest you head for El Morro fort. Pick up a cheap kite or two to take with you. There is a big grassy area that is great for flying kites - you don't have to run at all - just let go of the kite and it will head right up!! I had read about it and when we were there I saw some families doing it - they were having a great time! It costs $3 or $4 to tour the fort but it is pretty cheap entertainment. I hope this helps - email me if you have any other questions.
Strongly recommend against the Nassau historical tour. One company serves all ships in port, which in our case was four mega and one monster ship.
You are a dozen to a mini van. The driver takes you where he damn well pleases. We did hit the high spots, many you could easily walk to from the pier, only to find most of the 10,000+ passengers milling about.
Recommend doing what I normally do; find a reasonably aware cab driver, tell him what you want to see and how long you want to spend seeing it, then negotiate a price. It will probably be cheaper and I guarantee more comfortable.
The ship docks at the capital on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. There is a nice beach right there. I believe you can rent jetskis if you want. But you can also visit all the shops or restaurants right there. That's what we plan to do when our ship stops there in April. We went to St. Maarten for a week earlier this year.
St Maarten: There is a beach close to downtown Phillipsburg where you dock. THere is a restaurant there called "Everything Cool". You can get beach chairs there and they rent jet ski's etc. The kids can go to the beach which is very close to the shops for those who want to shop. They have great bargains there, better than St Thomas.
St Thomas: St Thomas is OK but I have taken the ferry over to St John where there is a gorgeous beach called Trunk Bay. It will take your breath away and they have a snorkel trail there. St John is absolutely beautiful.