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juried's Port Reviews of San Juan, St. Maarten
Norwegian Gem cruise in January 2013
Member Name: juried
Cruise Date: January 2013
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Member Review: juried's Norwegian Gem Review
San Juan
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Our driver Rafael took us to Bacardi (free tour of the plant) the Fort and Old San Juan for some photo ops and shopping in particular the Butterfly Place and Del Sol. At the end of the day it started raining hard and with no place to park our driver kept circling the block while we finished our last minute shopping. He was a very nice young man but did not have much knowledge about the highlights of San Juan, which would have enhanced the day so I just told them what I recall from prior visits. Plus if you just read the insert in the Freestyle it is filled with local info. It was a very nice day.

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St. Maarten
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+
We did not book an excursion but hired a private driver (Winston Churchill), through Florentina.

This was the first time we ever had a driver greet us with his van at the very ship, one foot off the exit ramp (this was awesome!)

Winston took us to Orient Beach, which was very crowded, and then another crowded beach next to the airport and realizing we did not like crowds he brought us to the French side where we all enjoyed a very pricy (all prices in Euros) brunch at a beachfront restaurant. Brunch was a selection of appetizers from Octopussy soup, delicious French bread and truly amazing change-your-life chocolate mouse and of course guava berry smoothies. We learned a lot about the history of Saint Maarten from Winston, he also described to us the story behind the many statues and monuments along the boulevards and rotaries. And when he mentioned that both sides share the same (or similar) National Anthem, we encouraged him to sing it for us and he sang it beautifully. After brunch we stopped at an open air market and we all picked up souvenirs, nice beach cover ups and I got them each a framed print from a local watercolor artist as a memory. Then Winston brought us to a small beachside bar (clothing optional) and had a great afternoon on the beach being served drinks and amazing fish sampler including swordfish, red tuna and mahi ... the food on the French side is to die for.

Finally Winston brought us back to the ship and argued with Port Security to be able to drive us up to the ramp, which he did ... It was great day for all. But I still prefer the Dutch side with 3 dollar draughts and pizza along the waterfront and ladies walking around trying to sell you cheap wraps and hair braiding.

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