We are visiting San Juan, Nassau, St Maarten and St. Thomas on the EOS Jan 25/03. Do you arrange for car rentals before you get into port and if so, how do you do it? Is it cheaper to take a taxi? We are a family of 5 and we are travelling with a family of 4.
a lot depends upon what you want to do. Personally in St. Thomas we head right over to Red Hook Harbor and grab the water taxi over to St. John's - and then grab a taxi to the beach - if you want to explore St. John's island then I would hire a driver to take you around. In Nassau we grab a water taxi over to Paradise Island and Atlantis Resort & Casino. St. Marteen - again i would hire a driver for the day to explore both the dutch & french sides, beaches and shopping.- some of the roads are really narrow and bumpy.I prefere to hire a driver for the day, a local who know the island and not just the touristy spots.
For a group that size, skip the car rental and enjoy your day in port. Take Taxi's at each port of call. Van taxi's will work well for your group and often you can agree on one price or a reasonable per person price for a half-day tour of places you wish to see. It is very easy in each of the ports that you will be stopping in.
For ferry schedules and rates between St Thomas and St John, go to http://www.vinow.com In most cases, the cruise lines excursions are much more $$$ than an identical tour you can arrange on your own. However, you need to do some leg work and research on your own in advance.
For instance, I am going on HAL in April with a stop in Isla de Margarita, Venezuala. One of the ships excursions is a horseback trip for $89. I found the identical trip from the same operator for $45, but in small print on the operators web site they said that due to their contracts with cruise lines, they could not offer service to cruise passengers. I plan on renting a car (cheap) and driving to their site directly.
If you are going to arrange on your own, you may want to have some firm (or almost firm) plans arranged ahead of time. On a recent cruise to Grand Cayman, we got burned when we rented a car but were unable to arrange a trip to Stingray City upon our arrival. None of the operators could get us back to our ship in time, so we had to make alternate plans. We still had a great time, but felt bad we missed the stingrays. The price we had to pay to save $$$.