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Home > Member Reviews > CastroValley1's Port Reviews of San Juan, St. Maarten, Half Moon Cay, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)

CastroValley1's Port Reviews of San Juan, St. Maarten, Half Moon Cay, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Westerdam cruise in March 2013
Member Name: CastroValley1
Cruise Date: March 2013
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Member Review: CastroValley1's Westerdam Review
San Juan
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
Puerto Rico: In the morning, we headed for San Cristobal up the hill from the cruise pier in old Town. A Disney ship is docked beside us. We walk up the hill and enter the fort. The views did not disappoint. The ocean and shoreline were magnificent. We could see El Morro and the old walls of the city. We have been to El Morro but San Cristobal is a little different. It has tunnels and views of the city. We notice a demonstration with plenty of police. It turned out to be a protest by the police asking for their pay. They haven't been paid in months. We left looking for the post office to send a post card home. We ask directions but are still not sure where to go. We wander a bit and with luck found it. After that, we walk down to the pier and get lunch before our tour to El Yunque Rainforest in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, we took the shore excursion in Puerto Rico to the El Yunque Rain Forest. It took about one hour to get to the Park and it seemed rushed once there but we saw some incredible views of the park and ocean.

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St. Maarten
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
St. Marten: Daughter went to French Riviera with family and enjoyed the beach. The two countries tour was sold out so we decided to explore Philipsburg. We paid $7 each for the round trip water taxi to Philipsburg. We walked around Front Street and then Back Street when we saw a group of people loading on a small bus. I asked if it was a public bus and where it was going. I was told by passengers of another ship that it was going to Marigot and it was $2 one way per person. I decided that we should hop on. When we reached Marigot, we weren't sure where to get off so my husband asked a local passenger and she said, if you want to go to the Royal Pier, get off here so we did. We found ourselves in a shopping district and started to walk downhill toward the harbor. At the harbor, we met some fellow passengers who was looking for a return bus. There was a bus stop but no buses running that they could see. We suggested they walk up a couple of blocks. They said the visitor information center was a couple blocks away and some great French pastry shops a few blocks back. We decided to look for the pastry shop. We found a large one called Sarafina and the pastries were works of art. We each ordered a pastry plus an extra chocolate croissant and one fresh squeezed orange juice. It cost about $20 US. After the snack, we walked to the open air market. The tourist items were overpriced because it appears to be a tour bus stop. We left to walk through town to find our way back to Philipsburg. We saw a sign indicating bus stop and asked a shopkeeper if buses stop there. He said yes and a few minutes later, we saw a Toyota minivan with a sign "Philipsburg". The bus was empty and paid him $2 each as we stepped in despite the fact that I noticed on the first bus, the locals paid upon exiting. Cesar was the driver. We asked him what the procedure was. He said that originally, riders paid first but some didn't and later claimed to have paid so they require the riders to pay on exit to avoid disputes. We are of Chinese ancestry but born and raised in the USA. We asked him about the abundance of Chinese businesses along the thoroughfare. Many restaurants and groceries were run by Chinese on St. Marten. He told us the natives, particularly the young don't want to operate businesses or farms. Everything is imported into St. Marten. He had operated farm machinery on his home island but switched to driving a bus on St. Marten to earn more money. He told us which roads flood during rainy season and about where the fishing was good. He seem to know everyone on the island by honking often to say hello. It was nice to ride public transit and speak to the local people. We were dropped off in the middle of town and headed for the water taxi back to the ship. No beach time but my son and husband stuck their legs into the cold water of Big Bay to say they waded into the Caribbean.
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Half Moon Cay
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Half Moon Cay: The beach is a crescent with fine white sand. The ocean is the promised Caribbean blue. There are buildings such as the cafe and bar. My son-in-law reserved a 2 story villa with hot tub, snacks, and drinks for the seven of us. It is a new amenity and costly but for a family, it is worthwhile. The ocean is a little cold so the hot tub was very welcome. The only problem was that the preordered snorkel gear never showed up. We asked three different staff people but no one ever got back to us. When my son-in-law trekked over to the cafe to get the barbecue lunch for all of us, he checked with the snorkel gear hut and was told that he could get them there. He got three sets of gear but time was limited so snorkeling was limited to ½ hour to 45 minutes. The gear is suppose to be in the villa so improvement is needed by the staff on that island. My daughter says that Half Moon Cay is wonderful. Princess' private island cannot compare with Half Moon Cay. Holland should have substituted either Half Moon Cay or Nassau for skipping Grand Turk.

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Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Everglades Tour Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
We were taken by bus to the Everglades about 45 minutes from Port Everglades. The tour guide on the bus was pretty informative. We took a fan boat that held the whole group. You are given ear plugs but with younger children, it would have been hard to keep the plugs in their ears. My son-in-law got first in line and picked the first row of seats, the farthest away from the fan propeller. It was windy in front and the 1 year old got wind burn. We saw one alligator in natural surroundings on the tour. There were some at the dock near the boats but didn't want a closer look. It was earlier in the day following a cold spell so they don't like to come out of the mud bottom. There is a small zoo with gators and snakes and farm animals and a rescue animal group presentation that we found interesting. The rescue group showed a baby alligator, a small fox and a panther. The bus took us back to the pier to drop off a passenger who was going on a second leg of a cruise. Then we proceeded to the FLL airport to be dropped off.

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