My DH is the kind of guy who refuses to pay for an excursion. It's kind of a game to him to figure out how we can do things on our own for cheaper. Since we've traveled plenty, I have confidence in him by now! Plus, the excursion options if you want to take your infant with you are pretty limited.
I think I mentioned this earlier, but we did not bring a car seat with us. Honestly, most of the taxis readily available in St. Thomas and St. John do not even have the means to attach a car seat in them. San Juan has regular car/minivan taxis, so if you wanted to haul a car seat with you, I'm sure some drivers would wait for you to install it for your taxi ride. We just put DD in an Ergo carrier when we were on the buses/open air taxis/taxis...and prayed for her safety. It was all fine.
On the advice of my parents and some friends, we decided to spend our St. Thomas day on St. John. I wanted to go to the beach (DD's first beach experience!), and DH figured out how to make it happen. Trunk Bay on St. John is the most popular beach, so it could be crowded, however it is also the beach with bathroom and shower facilities, a food stand, and umbrellas for rent. We thought all those amenities might be helpful with a 9-month-old.
We were some of the first off the ship. Somehow we made our way off with a group of people who were all lining up along the pier (we assumed to get through the customs officials). Then DH noticed Disney cast members taking papers from everybody in line ahead of us. We pulled another cast member over to ask what we were in line for: the champagne catamaran tour. Um. Yeah, guess that's not one of the excursions we're allowed on with a 9-month-old!
So, that only set us back a few minutes. The taxis are all right there by the dock, and lots of people are generally going to the Red Hook ferry to go to St. John, so we hardly waited at all before our full taxi was headed to the ferry. I think since DD was in a carrier the entire time, none of the taxi drivers charged us anything for her ride. The ferry over to St. John and back does require a ticket for everyone, but I'm pretty sure DD's ticket was a reduced price.
I'm not sure how long the ferry ride is since DD spent the entire trip screaming her head off...I think she had gotten sunscreen in her little eyes. Anyway, the screaming made it seem about eight hours, but I'm pretty sure it's closer to 25 or 30 minutes.
Once in St. John, the taxis are, again, right there by the dock. So, you just ask for a taxi going to Trunk Bay. We were lucky to be the last to fill our taxi, so we didn't have to wait at all. The taxi drivers will stop at an overlook of Trunk Bay for a photo op. The ride is probably 20 minutes.
Getting off the ship early was not a problem for us since DD wakes up so early, and really it wasn't crowded at all when we got to Trunk Bay! We stayed from about 10 to 2, took turns doing some snorkeling, had fun watching DD play in the sand, got some food at the food stand (I brought a bottle and baby food in our bag for DD), played some more, then rinsed off and got a taxi in the parking lot back to the ferry. DD took several naps during our cruise up on DH's shoulders! It's so funny how she just slumps over and can sleep up there for half an hour! This happened while we walked up and down the beach at Trunk Bay.
Unfortunately, our taxi driver must have thought we were leaving with some Holland America excursion group or something and took us to a ferry dock that was going back to a different place on St. Thomas. Just be sure you specify you need a ferry going back to Red Hook. Even though we got dropped off at the wrong dock, we only had to walk 5 minutes down the road to get to the correct ferry.
St. John is absolutely beautiful, and we had a really fun time at Trunk Bay, so I don't feel any regret about missing St. Thomas. And to sum up the transportation: taxi to Red Hook ferry, ferry ride, taxi to Trunk Bay, then back again. It does take time to do the transportation, but you also get to see some beautiful scenery. I say do it if you can enjoy the ride!
Since we did the beach in St. John and knew we were going to do the beach again on Castaway Cay, we decided to spend our day in Puerto Rico in El Yunque, the rainforest. We rented a car from Charlie Car Rental, which worked out pretty well even though we couldn't get them to come pick us up at the port like they had promised. When we called in the morning, they asked at which pier we were docked. We didn't know, so told them we'd find out and call back, but when we tried to call back (repeatedly for 20 minutes) no one answered the phone! We had the address for Charlie's and ended up taking a taxi to their office. This must be a somewhat regular occurrence because they reimbursed us for our taxi with no problem. They had car seats available for the rental cars, so that was a plus. We rented a small SUV (a Jeep), and having the back area was great for diaper changes and letting DD crawl around a little bit.
It's about a 45 minute drive to El Yunque from San Juan, and the rainforest is beautiful!!! We made a few scenic stops (Yokahu Tower and La Coca Falls) and went on one hike (Big Tree Trail to La Mina Falls). The U.S. National Forest website has info on all the hiking trails in El Yunque. Appropriately for a rain forest, it rained while we were on Big Tree Trail, so it's a good idea to bring a rain coat if you're planning to hike around in El Yunque. DD was strapped into her Ergo carrier, which has a little sun shade/rain cover that snaps over her. She stayed dry and got a nice nap on the way back to the parking lot from the falls. A bit further up the road from the Big Tree Trail trailhead is a little restaurant called Yuquiyu that has great hamburgers, quesadillas, and several authentic Puerto Rican items on the menu. I believe there's an ad for Yuquiyu in the Big Tree Trail parking lot. We stopped there for lunch and had some nice conversations with other visitors while eating on their covered patio.
Originally we thought we might stop at Luquillo Beach on the way back, but we were all tired after getting in and out of the car and hiking a little bit in the rain, so we just headed back to the rental car place. They took us back to the pier right where the ship was, which is probably less than a ten-minute drive.
Renting a car is also great if you happen to need anything from a Walgreens or Walmart (especially with kids, you never know what you may run out of or lose by mid-week of the cruise). A GPS would come in handy if you're looking for a specific store. We made a quick Walgreens stop on our way to El Yunque because we happened to notice one on the road we were traveling. I really loved the beauty of El Yunque, but I know there is so much to do and see in San Juan as well. Puerto Rico is definitely a place where we could vacation for a week; maybe someday we will!