We had never been to St. Maarten and used Bernard's Tours for this trip. Our driver was named Sugar and he was very entertaining. We enjoyed the stop at the Sea Urchin Man (Calvin) and were able to hold the live sea urchins he was pulling out of the ocean.
We did not have much time at Orient Beach (the regular side) or in Marigot. We did stop and have some pastries at Sarafina's in Marigot and it was the best eclair I have ever had.
We spent the most time at Maho Beach watching the planes fly over. This was a really cool experience and your kids will never forget it! I was surprised at how many planes actually come over in an hour!
We shopped briefly on the way back to the port. There are a few shops as you walk up to the dock. I did get some great jerk seasoning, honey and a beautiful hand-painted Christmas ornament from one vendor and we did try the famous Guavaberry frozon drink as we headed for the ship. The Guavaberry is good - but fairly potent!
I would like to go back to St. Maarten when we had more time. There is just too much on this island to see in 6 hours.
St. Lucia is a beautiful island - probably one of the best. We had a great tour guide that I would highly recommend - Andre with A-Touring Service. He is not as well known as some of the major names, but is more reasonable and provides great service! When we arrived, Andre told us there had been a mudslide, and we were unable to get to some of our planned destinations, such as Anse Chastanet or Jalousie Beach, unless we wanted to go by boat. He did take the time to find us a vendor that would take us by boat if we wanted. He did not want us to be disappointed. We decided to stay with Andre and trust his judgement on where he could take us. We saw most of Castries and several overlooks that were beautiful. Andre took us to Marigot Bay and to a banana plantation. We spent a lot of time in Anse La Raye Beach which was beautiful, but the waters were really rough! We lost 2 snorkel masks here! I found the people to be really friendly but there are many salesmen in St. Lucia! We bought a lot of souvenirs here, but I must say, my favorite of the whole trip came from the beach at Anse La Raye. I bought a bird feeder made from coconuts - that looks like a flying bird - from a local on the beach. It is hanging from my front porch and a great reminder of the trip! We also sampled coconut candy and banana ketchup and banana BBQ sauce in St. Lucia that was really good! We ended up this trip driving back to Castries as Andre sang us 3 Caribbean songs. He has a great voice!
Dominica was our favorite island and we have been to 11 now. (Tortola is my 2nd favorite). Dominica is a beautiful island and the least developed of all the Caribbean islands. Donaldson from Nature Isle Explorers is a great young man. He and his lifelong buddy Alvin do a great job showing off their island. I cannot say enough good things about these guys. We started out at Champagne Reef which is absolutely beautiful, but a fairly difficult area to snorkel without good equipment and a life preserver. There really are lots of bubbles coming up from the ocean floor, but you will be in VERY deep water.
We then went to Ti Tou Gorge. This is another cool experience, but the water is very cold (67 degrees) and it is a little challenging. Swimming out with the current is much easier than swimming in and the rocks on the bottom are difficult to maneuver as you start out. If you can do this, you should, and then go back and watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and you will see Orlando Bloom in the exact same spot you were in! We also saw some large crabs in this area that made for some great pictures!
We ended up this trip at Trafalgar Falls. This hike through the rain-forest is amazing. The rain forest canopy goes up forever and you can climb down into natural hot springs while it is raining on you! Donaldson was great in making sure we could all do this safely and he carried a back pack to protect your electronic equipment from the rain. We were able to get some great pictures deep inside the rain-forest this way. I would love to go back and it was the highlight of the trip for my boys!
We had been to St. Thomas before. Since we went to Magen's Bay and Coki Beach last time, we tried Sapphire Beach this time. It is a spectacular beach. There are many shades of blue - hence the name. This is a good beach for kids and easy to swim in. We were able to snorkel here - good calm waters and we saw some sea urchins and fish as well. We looked for a sea turtle but never ran across one. I think I enjoyed all 3 of these beaches equally.
Half Moon Cay is another great family beach. We rented some of the floats and walked the beach. We really enjoyed talking with Marlin, one of HAL's staff members, who was working the "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever" bar. He had worked for HAL for over 20 years and had a lot of great stories. Captain Morgan's bar is cool too. I loved the large stained glass picture of Mr. Morgan.
We thought the BBQ was really good and it was nice to have an island stop where you could use your ship card for souvenirs and drinks and have free lunch!