We found out a long time ago, that "electronics" are far fheaper in the states, especially NYC. If you have a specific item that you want, do your home work and check prices at home. There may be a few isolated bargains, but they are few and far between. Dt. Thomas depends and encourages a "shoppers frenzy". The bargains there are found in unique jewelery and some clothing items.
Great advice on the shopping! Years ago before all the discount stores, computer places, etc., St. Thomas was great for almost anything. Now you really need to price things before you leave the states.
As far as the beach in St. Maarten...the minute you get off of the ferry the beach on your left is beautiful. You can "rent" the lounges and umbrellas thru the hotel....you can't miss them they're right on the beach. Enjoy!!
The Carib Princess has the best cardio setup of all the Princess ships. Treadmills, Steppers, Elipticals, all top notch. Each one has its own TV monitor and headphones. Very nice weight setup and of course you can walk or run outside on the deck. I think you will be very happy.
I second the person that said know your prices before you go and make sure that whatever you buy has an international warranty! It pays to make sure that whatever you buy outside the US is sold by a authorized agent or dealer of the item. We aren't drinkers so I will leave that to someone else. Have fun...We went in February and are going again in October.
As others have said here, check prices in advance on the net for things you're interested in. However, you might find electronices/cameras available in both St. Thomas and St. Maarten that have not yet been released in the states. When I was there a few weeks ago, they had the new Canon Digital Eos Rebel XT but the US companies didn't have them yet.
From the dock in St. Maarten, take the water taxi to downtown Philipsburg - it has an excellent beach.
Shore excursions - we took the Duck tour in St. Maarten and had a good time, but I hear the excursion that has you crewing an America's Cup sailboat is the best one to take.
Jewelry is a good deal in St. Thomas, and you can bring back up to 5 liters of rum per person if you buy it there. There are many good rums you simply cannot buy in the states at any price.
important - you need to reserve your time to use the cardio-equipment, and they book up really fast. There is a huge demand.
As the others have told you, the electronics deals aren't what they used to be. Attend the port shopping lectures. We found the shopping much more relaxed on St. Maarten and they were more flexible about pricing. It was a "feeding frenzy" in St. Thomas - the stores were mobbed and the clerks only wanted to help you if you were going to drop a good chunck of change at the store.
St. Maarten has some really beautiful beaches - Orient is really fun- there is a clothing optional section. We did the Golden Eagle Catamaran Sail and had a blast, it was beautiful, fun and relaxing.
We bought our liquor in St. Thomas so i can't tell you about the prices in St. Maarten
I bought diamond ear-rings in St. Thomas. A year later I went to the same shop wearing those ear-rings, and with my receipt, I traded up to better diamonds. All jewelry there was discounted 50% immediately, then a little bartering. They gave me full purchase price on original ear-rings, and purchased the shiny new ones for the same amount more. Will return to my shop early 2011 with ear-rings and receipt. Think I'm happy with present diamonds--they are very nice, but will see what they offer.
Have also heard jewelry stores in U.S. often will do the same.