St. Thomas, San Juan & St. MaartenAuthor: Alyce
Date of Trip: December 2004
We went ona cruise was for our 20 year anniversary so we really wanted to splurge and not cut too many corners like we've had to do on previous vacations.
Unfortunately, our splurge did NOT start with the hotel we booked for the night before in Ft Lauderdale. We stayed at the Ramada Inn Cruiseport. I DO NOT recommend this hotel at all. It was old, under renovation and room was extremely musty. I can't think of anything positive except that their shuttle service to the port was prompt and efficient. My hubby forgot something in the room and they had no problem turning around to get it. That was probably the only nice thing they did. Once we got to the port and the line started moving, it was less than an hour to get to our cabin. The cruise was most enjoyable, and if you'd like to read more about cruising, check out cruisecritic.com. It's a really awesome site!
In San Juan we took a tour (found online) that I arranged for my cruise critic friends while still at home. It was a 14 passenger van and we toured Old San Juan and several other areas that I don't remember the names of. We went to a very nice two story open air restaurant on the beach for a wonderful authentic Puerto Rican style dinner at sunset. Our tourguide was very knowledgeable of the area and gave a good narrative of where we were, etc. It was a lot of fun, very reasonably priced and a nice way to get to know our new friends also.
In St Thomas we booked the Champagne Catamaran Sail to St John. Unfortunately, it rained the entire time, we were not able to even GET to St John and only found mediocre snorkeling (in the pouring rain) at Christmas Reef. The captain and his crew were very nice though, they had a nice spread of food and plenty of free drinks for the trip home. They did their best I suppose under the conditions, but it really felt like we didn't' get our money's worth. Can't predict the weather I suppose. I was really looking forward to going to St John though.
Oh well. In Saint Maarten, we rented a car (did that online in advance) and toured the island on our own. Price was reasonable, car was clean and comfortable. The views were spectacular and we found several areas to take some beautiful scenic pictures that will soon be on my wall. We found several secluded beaches to hang out on, including Orient Beach which was everything it was supposed to be. We really were not impressed with the beach itself though. We thought the others we found were much nicer. If, however, you are wanting to do (or see) the clothing optional feature, that's the place to go.
One BIG tip ... LISTEN when they say do not leave anything of value in your car or unattended at the beach. We learned this the hard way when my husband's watch and two traveler's checks (had them wrapped in towels to dry) were stolen from our locked trunk. This was at Pic Paradise (top top top of a mountain). Of course, the checks were replaced, but not the watch. Kids are there just waiting in the bushes for tourists like us. Someone else who had just driven up had to shoo these kids away from their car. The car also was screaming RENTAL CAR, RENTAL CAR, TOURIST, TOURIST. So listen when they say to be careful in that respect. Otherwise, this was our favorite island. We luckily, did our shopping last after returning the car. Lots of great deals on jewelry, camera equipment, linen and more.
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