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Home > Member Reviews > OhhWell's Port Reviews of CocoCay, St. Thomas, St. Martin

OhhWell's Port Reviews of CocoCay, St. Thomas, St. Martin
Freedom of the Seas cruise in September 2012
Member Name: OhhWell
Cruise Date: September 2012
Embarkation: Port Canaveral
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Member Review: OhhWell's Freedom of the Seas Review
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
I absolutely love CocoCay and think it is probably the best of the private islands in the Bahamas. There are so many places on the island to set up camp and something for about everyone. We snorkel so usually setup right by the main swimming area. If you like a quieter and calmer beach experience, they have that too on the farther side of the island. There are also hammocks and beach chairs in grassy shaded areas.

The snorkeling is pretty good and very safe here. There will be plenty of fish to see and some underwater features to look at like two fake bits of a "sunken ship" and a small airplane they sunk. There are two floating rafts out a ways to rest on and several life guard towers with wave runners to save people and keep a lookout for sharks. Off to the left there is a rock wall that sticks out of the water and it is here that one year we saw a very large manta ray as there are not that many swimmers there usually. There is also an opening to the left to the "deep water" area available to snorkelers and on the way out there you will finally come across a little bit of coral on the floor. I've gone out to the deep area once and you will hardly ever see anyone swimming out there. It gets to about 35' and can be a little creepy alone. After we got back to the ship the one time I did snorkel out there, we saw a white tip shark swimming around the ship which is not that far from where I was. Still it was pretty neat to be allowed out there.

If you are heading on to Nassau, I would not recommend buying anything at the little market on CocoCay as almost everything will also be at Nassau but a bit cheaper. Of course, if you want something that says CocoCay, then you will have to buy it there.

The ship will feed you on the island with a large BBQ buffet and it is usually pretty good. In addition, the pool band from the ship will provide entertainment on the island.

Transport to and from the ship is by tender. In the morning it is pretty smooth but at the end of the day you may want to leave early to avoid the long line in the sun waiting to get out.

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St. Thomas
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
This was our first time in St Thomas so all I can tell is what we experienced:

For St Thomas, we decided to rent a minivan on our own. We had 7 people and weren't sure exactly what we wanted to do so figured the $100 for the van would be cheaper than multiple cab rides for that many people.

We reserved the van through Avis on line and made sure it would be waiting for us at the location by the port, Havensight. It was and everything went smooth. I picked up additional insurance after seeing the quality of roads and the traffic there. In St Thomas they drive on the left side of the road but still have American Style left drive cars so it's not too bad of a transition. I had driven in Bermuda before so was somewhat familiar. The best advice was to just be very careful and think it through the whole time you are driving. We brought our Tom Tom GPS and it had maps in it for St Thomas. Addresses didn't always work right but it was good enough to get us to our destinations and back to the port. They give you a map when you rent the car but the street signs range from non-existent to small. The roads in the mountains are pretty small and usually have no guard rails. That is when you are driving next to a several hundred foot almost straight drop. If you have the right nerves for that it is fine. One thing I will say though is that while driving, I saw several of the open air taxis flying down the roads with tourists hanging on for dear life and looking terrified.

We wound up driving to Coki beach for some snorkeling and it was very beautiful. The water was amazing. There is no reef or anything but a lot of coral on the ocean floor and a few fish. The shallowest we found some coral was about 12' deep and an easy swim from the shore. We found a very interesting group of small squid that liked to just line up on the bottom and watch you swim. There are bars all along the beach. One end of the beach has a parking lot and is more of a local atmosphere (Not that any of it really is) and the other end is where the Taxis drop tourists off and is more of the gift shop atmosphere. There are showers, bathrooms and changing rooms on that side. The beach is not a very long walk from one end to the other. Some of the people in our party got the fish from the bar and said it was very good.

After the Beach, we decided to take the scenic roads through the mountains. This was enjoyable for everyone but the driver (Me). It wasn't a bad experience for me but I really had to concentrate on my driving and couldn't enjoy the views. Eventually we made it to the scenic overlook which allowed a breathtaking view of the port side of the island from high up. There were some vendors there with surprisingly good merchandise at surprisingly already low prices. We picked up some very nice cotton caps for $5 each.

After that, we toughed out the increased downtown traffic and returned the car. We went around the shops in the port area. Some are over priced, some are not too bad. Right across the street from the port area and next to Avis is a large duty free liquor store that had slightly lower prices and MUCH more selection. I will say though that if your cruise is moving on to Sint Maarten, you will probably want to wait for there to purchase Duty Free booze for home.

There are is a Senior Frogs and another bar at the cruise area. We went across the street and found a Bar called The Dog House or something slightly tucked behind a building to the left of the Avis shack. They had happy hour $2 Coronas or Coors light. Everywhere else only had cheap Coors Lights. My wife ordered a Pina Colada and said it was very good.

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St. Martin
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We really enjoyed St Martin or Sint Maarten, whichever one you call it. I think it has to do with whether you are on the Dutch or French side. Royal ported on the Dutch side. The port area here is not terribly big but not too bad. There is no Senior Frogs silliness but a small bar is there for drinks and later in the day a few frozen drink stations pop up. Shopping overall is pretty decent here, even in the port area if you haggle some. My wife picked up a new wedding band for about half what it would cost in the States from one of the guaranteed vendors in the port area. That was of course after haggling a bit and letting them know we would go to look in town. There is some pretty darn cheap "St Martin" branded rum in the Duty Free shop there. I'm talking 2 liters for $11. We didn't get any but I was tempted for mixed drinks.....

If you are going to shop, you will really want to head downtown. The cruise port terminal is located a bit away unlike most ports. You will want to either take a Water taxi at $4 each way or Walk. Taking a land taxi to downtown is not cost effective. Once downtown, you will have ample opportunity to arrange for a taxi. You can tell the driver when you want to be picked up at each location and they will be there waiting. You can negotiate the price some for the whole group but not much.

The shopping Downtown is very nice. There is a white hotel or something a little to the right of where the water taxi drops you off that has $3 rum punches. They were pretty good but I doubt they lived up to their claim of Best on the Island. The main street right off the beach has mostly jewelers and more expensive shops. I found a place across that street from the place that sold the rum punch called Caribbean Outfitters that had cold poweraids for $1.25 each.

The main road that runs parallel to the beach is the one with all the jewelers. The locals shop a little further from the beach and on the main road that runs perpendicular to the beach is where the locals shop and prices come down a bit.

We decided to go to Maho beach (Also known as airport beach). Our driver (Tony) was very nice and did a little of the tour guide thing as we drove there. The beach was nice but a bit eroded. There are bars at each end of the beach and we stayed a the one by the Taxi drop off. The food was a little pricey but good. The drinks averaged about $6 for mixed and were good. The Pizza was about 14" and tasty. Probably the best bet to feed a larger group.

When a large airplane comes over the beach, it is something else. Also interesting but not really recommended is standing behind a large jet as it takes off. The wind is pretty awesome but as the sand starts hitting you, that is no fun! As I mentioned, the beach has a tendency to erode and can be different sizes at any time or completely gone altogether. It was pretty small when we were there but accommodated all the people fine. There is a unique phenomenon when the beach is smaller in that a wave will come ashore and then sometimes fall back in a manner which will create a wave going away from the beach. It's kind odd the first time you get hit in the back with a wave coming from the shore.

St Martin is a very nice and safe island. Somewhat similar to Grand Cayman, you can tell that there is more money here than most places in the Caribbean. We didn't go anywhere near the entire island but we did see a lot and overall, it is in much better condition than St Thomas. There are some all inclusive resorts here and if airfare wasn't so darn much to travel to the Caribbean, I would love to come to St Martin for a few days on vacation.

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