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Home > Member Reviews > creativegenius's Port Reviews of Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten

creativegenius's Port Reviews of Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten
Nieuw Amsterdam cruise in November 2012
Member Name: creativegenius
Cruise Date: November 2012
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Member Review: creativegenius's Nieuw Amsterdam Review
Grand Turk
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Grand Turk:

The stunning thing about Grand Turk is that the ship literally pulls right up to the beach. This is the perfect, free, do nothing, convenient beach directly off the ship and with plenty of palm tree shade. Is is probably THE best set up port as far as a relaxing beach we have ever seen. It's now 10:45 and there are still hundreds of beach chairs available so don't feel like you have to "fight the crowds" for a chair. As Half Moon Cay requires tenders for that Island, we are thinking this is an even better beach experience in terms of convenience. So if you want a really nice relaxing beach day, plan to stroll off the ship and directly onto the beach in Grand Turk. No excursion required.

This is THE place to get a stunning photo of the ship in port. Walk over to the beach and shoot the ship through the palm trees, then walk down to the water line and get some shots from there. A remarkable sight to see a huge ship about 200 feet from the beach.

As a space and science nut I was happy to learn about Grand Turk's role in the early NASA Gemini and Mercury programs. There is a great exhibit in right hand side of the port shopping area with a replica of the Friendship 7 capsule and a John Glenn statue. He splashed down in the Grand Turk area after his historic first orbits.

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San Juan
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
San Juan:

The ship started a commentary about noontime on what we were seeing as we entered the harbor.

A tip if you really want to get some great shots entering the harbor, about 30 minutes or so before arriving, the stewards open up the observation area on the bow, directly below the Bridge. Go to Deck 5 and walk all the way forward to get out. Great spot for taking pictures of the forts and harbor as you come in.

This is our first time in San Juan so we booked the Old San Juan Walking Tour. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning as the bus that was supposed to get us to the starting point was 35 min late. But once we started we had a pleasant guide. It went the best walking tour we have been on but certainly not the worst. It was a great way to get the lay of the land of San Juan, see one of the forts and then get some good advice on where to go if you want to shop or eat in San Juan. As the tour was only 2.5 hours, we had about 3 hours or so to explore the city if we wanted. But the temps were about 86 and very muggy today so once the tour was over, we headed back for a swim.

Word of warning on this tour. This is a WALKING tour up and down hills, through the fort and then all the way back to the ship. The bus only takes you to the starting point and that's it. From there you walk the tour and all the way back down to the ship. Dress comfortably, have good shoes on and you'll be fine.

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St. Maarten
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
St. Maarten:

St Maarten and San Juan are both extremely well set up for just walking though there is far less car traffic in St Maarten. When you do get out and walk, be sure to explore the streets back away from beach. There are great shops, street vendors and restaurants for about 5 blocks back from the beach and about 20 or so blocks across. And because all of the roads here are narrow and one way, it's very easy to walk around. There is a great water taxi service for $7 round trip that drops you off in the center of the shopping. Easy on/off, or if you prefer you can walk right out to the shopping directly.

We had nothing planned here but i would recommend the America's Cup excursion if you are looking for something unique to do. We did that a few years ago and had a ball. They are the actual 12 meter boats from the mid 80's and you do a race out in the harbor. Good fun. And you still have plenty of time to explore the island.

There are two MUST stops for us in St Maarten. The Guavaberry shop and The Yoda Man shop. We highly recommend the Guavaberry coladas though they are a little strong So be aware of that. All sorts of great flavored rums and hot sauces in that shop, it's on the right side of the beach about one block back. Can't miss it, it has the image of an Uncle Ben type of character with a top hat and a sign proclaiming the World Capital of Guavaberry. You can sample everything before you buy.

I will say we came out with a bottle of their Mango rum as it was outstanding.

The Yoda Man shop is literally what it says. It's the guy who created the Yoda character for The Empire Strikes Back for LucasFilm. When we visited four years ago the shop was in the Old Street area, but he has moved to a larger space that now includes an interesting museum with Star Wars and other action film memorabilia. Today I got the chance to actually meet Nick and we chatted for about ten minutes. Super nice guy and if you are a Star Wars film fan at all, don't miss this shop. Very cool full sized Darth Vader among the neat things in the museum along with a host of facial masks of a lot of famous folks I picked up some artwork today too that he personally signed to me.

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