We will be visiting St. Thomas and St. Maarten with two other couples in late Sept. Was told we would be better off hiring a private taxi for the day rather than booking an excursion with the cruise line. Any comments or ideas? How do we go about doing this? Thanks .
Not sure what you like to do in St. Thomas, but a trip over to St. Johns is what we like to do. You just take a cab to Red Hook ferry and then once at St. Johns, cab ride to one of the beautiful beaches. Its absolutely paradise there and a great beach day. When we were in St. Maatren, we just got a cab over to Orient beach, very easy to do and there are cabs waiting there to take you back to the pier later in the day. In St. Thomas you can get some shopping in right there at the pier, or another short taxi ride to downtown.
St. John is wonderful for some serious beach time and snorkeling. You can also catch a ferry from Charlotte Amalie (downtown)on St. Thomas to St. John. The disadvantages are that it runs less frequently and the ride is longer than the Red Hook ferry. Conversely, it saves you a taxi ride to and from Red Hook. Either way works. Like Donna, I prefer Red Hook.
There's no need to book a cab driver for the whole day on either island unless you plan to head to some remote place. On both of these islands, cabs are readily available at most attractions and beaches you're likely to visit. You might also consider renting a car for the day, particularly on St. Maarten where beach hopping can be fun.
If you want to experience a nice meal on shore, consider one of the many fine restaurants in Marigot or Grand Case on French St. Martin. Have fun!
For St. Thomas, we recently (end of August) took one of Carnival's tours of St. John. The tour took off at noon, and we took a ferry and bus (one way, a 45 minute trip) from there to St. John - which is awesome!! I absolutely LOVED it!! We brought our own snorkeling equipment and I think the whole excursion was about 40 per person. We had a wonderful time!! It was my favorite island - the water there was so clear and so warm and if you snorkeled out a bit you could see Brain coral and all sorts of beautiful tropical fish~! I was in love!
This was my first cruise, but I would heartily recommend St. John at Trunk Bay to you. There's a place with facilities, so you don't have to worry about being out in the middle of nowhere or in a bad area (there are no bad areas on St. John), plus there is a small place where you could get a coke or hot dog, or something to keep you over if need be. We had a fabulous time there, I could go on and on about St. John in Trunk Bay! I think I just did!
One excursion I have done in St. Thomas which I also loved was the Atlantis submarine. They take you out to near Buck Island which is in a very pristine state for wildlife (people cannot get on the island). There are eels, sea turtles, rays and all kinds of fish down there. You can find the submarine ticket stand right on the water in Charlotte Amalie or you can get tickets on the ship.
I have also done the sub in Barbados, but I think the one in St. Thomas is much better.
One time we rented a boat to take us out to Buck Island just to snorkle and that was great, too. We saw squid and octopus and rays and turtles. You have to be a good swimmer, though, because you have to stay in the water (can't get on the island).
I don't think there is a good reason to use the ship's excursion for either of these stops. Remember, on an excursion, you are tied to the group schedule and may end up limited to 1 1/2 hours at Trunk Bay and wanting to stay longer. Have heard others express this dilema. I will for example spend half my port day of St Thomas, on St John. I've purchased tram tickets before and decided not to use them. Seems like kind of a waste of limited time to ride up the side of a mountain to look at the scenery when I could be on the beach or snorkling. Just my opinion.
I don't usually go in big for shore excursions, but in St. Maarten my husband and I booked one for a Catamaran Sail on The Golden Eagle. They were very professional nad it was the highlight of our trip. I highly recommend it.
If you are planning on taking shore excursions, be sure the shore excursion desk knows what it is doing. We had some awful experiences on the RCCL's Legend of the Seas on a recent Royal Journey from Dubai to Athens. The people at the shore excursion desk did not know what the excursions covered. They were unable to make recommendations or to answer simple questions about local transportation.