We realized with research that there is very little shade on this island – and renting a clam shell doesn't do much but put you in a sea of other clam shells, essentially ruining any view of the beach you may have had. We approached the excursion desk to ask if perhaps there were any cabanas left for rent, as they were all sold out when we booked the cruise. They had some small and large cabanas available to book – the small fits 4 people and is $200 while the large fit 6 people and was $250. We rented the small – so that we would have shade and a place of our own to relax if we chose. I think having the cabana was a big part of why we enjoyed the island so much. You have to tender on GSC, and if you rent a cabana you get priority tender included with that. That means you do not have to go to the theater to get your tender ticket and then wait in long lines to get off of the ship. There was a very long tender line when we walked down to the deck – but we flashed our cabana ticket and were whisked passed most of the line so that we could get on the next available tender boat. I don’t think I would have been happy with the tendering process otherwise, I heard others complaining that it took long.
Once on GSC we were shown to our Cabana – Cabana 11 – which was further than the main beach – and further than the food pavilion even. Because of this, the beach our cabana looked over was quiet and less traveled. Cabana 11 was right next to the Lighthouse Bar and also a bathroom was down a short path on the other side – perfect location. The cabana had a table with 4 chairs, 4 loungers, a beverage cooler, a storage cabinet, an outdoor shower, and even towels. We were also provided floats/mats for all 4 of us. The beverage cooler was filled with both still and sparkling water and we were given a bowl and fruit and chips with salsa. The beach was right in front of us – a small hill to walk down to get to water. There were fish, hermit crabs, urchins, and other sea life that we came across. The water was clear and warm. We really enjoyed relaxing on our mats in the water.
When it was time for lunch my daughter and I went to get plates for everyone. It took a while, there were three repeating stations to get your food at but the flow was a little confusing as it was hard to exit from two of the stations. All in all it took almost 30 minutes for us to get our food which was a bit too long. The food was good , though – normal BBQ fare - burgers, hot dogs, salads, and desserts.
There was a line to get on the tender to go back, but it moved quickly and we were off in about 10-15 minutes total.
I probably would have rated this port a lot lower if we had not rented the cabana
We booked an independent excursion through Bernard’s Tours after doing our research on the Cruise Critic boards. Our tour included stops at Oyster Pond, Orient Beach, Marigot, Maho Beach and also small stops along the way for photo opportunities. It was a good way to learn about the island and to see a good deal of it in a short time. The bus was air conditioned, clean, and the driver provided both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Oyster Pond was fun, there was a man there who had different sea creatures for the kids to hold and learn about.
We stayed at Orient Beach for almost 2 hours. We were taken to La Playa – you could rent chairs for $5 each and it came with a free rum punch or fruit punch. If you wanted chairs in the first row they were $10 each with the same free drink per chair. They have food there as well, a pretty good sized menu, but we were not ready for food. The beach was beautiful – not too many vendors – and the water pristine. The restrooms were clean. They have free wifi but you need to be close to the bar for it to work. We enjoyed our short stay here.
Marigot was a short stop – enough time to get a quick glance at the shops and something to eat if you were hungry. At the suggestion of many on the boards we went to Sarafina’s to get French pastries. The prices were reasonable and the food was good.
Maho Beach is the reason we booked this tour. My kids wanted to go so badly, while I did not want to spend all day on a tiny crowded beach. We got to Maho around 1:30pm and the beach was jam packed, the beach bar/restaurant was jam packed and it was HOT! The street runs right up against the beach so you need to be careful with your kids. We were there long enough to see a few small and one large plane land – and then began our journey back to Philipsburg. I was not particularly a fan of Maho but it was neat to see. I wouldn't spend a full day here, but would suggest to see it if you can as part of a tour.
We figured going here we had to see the Baths since we had never been. We booked the ship’s tour because we did not have a long day in port. The group the ship hired out to do the tour was Romasco Tour Group. The price was not cheap but it included transport to the island via a speedy catamaran and then the van ride to the top of the Baths. There was also a drink of punch provided on transport back – which was either alcoholic or non, dependent on your preference.
The Baths are definitely a wonder if you have never seen them before. You can walk down a path – about 10 minutes – which takes you right to the Bath’s beach – beautiful clear water with awesome rock formations. The other option takes a bit longer 25-30 minutes and you must be able to walk/climb to do this. This path takes you through caves to Devils’ Bay Beach. It is fun trying to figure out if you are going the right way as you climb up and down through the caves, and even some pools. At the exit of the caves you are presented with a beautiful, quiet, less crowded beach. The view is gorgeous, being surrounded by rock formations and caves. The kids had fun too.
Tortola and Virgin Gorda were so beautiful that this area is one of the first places we have ever wished to come back and stay longer.