Shopping in Philipsburg is phenomenal (better than St. Thomas in our opinion). Go get naked on Orient Beach or any other excellent beach. Go tour the French culture, couture shops and restaurants in Marigot. Casino gambling is all over the Dutch side. Go to Sunset Beach Bar and watch the 747's land over your head (amazingly closer than you will ever get to a runway anywhere else). Just have fun, it;s our favourite island in the Caribbean!
They won't tell you but the water taxi from the ship's pier to town in the way to go. Several boats run constantly from the pier to Philipsburg north pier, then to the main pier (about four blocks away) and back to the ship. Takes minutes.
Fee is $3 one way, five dollars to ride all day.
Taxi is the usual down island ordeal clambering into jammed minivan, waiting forever, then wondering if you are going to get there.
Re: St. Marten. We just came back this Sat. and ours was changed as well. If you got to St. Marten Orient Beach is very nice. One half is for nudes and other half clothing but beach very nice. We have been on 17 cruises but I was not impressed with the entertainment on board the ship. Their regular singers and dancers gave two good shows but the rest of the shows were lacking, a piano player, comedian, not the best. They do not have any 11pm Caribbean parties on the deck and late night shows like the comedian, only did a 20 minute one, not worth staying up for. Guess they are still catering to the older crowd, although there were 300 children on our cruise. Food weas excellent and ship very nice but would not go Holland America again. Chocolate buffet not near as good as one we had on Norwegian cruise lines, nothing to compare to it. oh well we live and learn.