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Home > Member Reviews > AvalonLady's Port Reviews of St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, Labadee

AvalonLady's Port Reviews of St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, Labadee
Independence of the Seas cruise in January 2014
Member Name: AvalonLady
Cruise Date: January 2014
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Member Review: AvalonLady's Independence of the Seas Review
St. Maarten
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+

Our shore excursion, booked through RCI, was “ Butterfly Farm and Marigot”.
One of the highlights of the cruise for me was the butterfly farm. It is not a huge place but lovingly cared for, and the passion that the owners have for preserving butterflies is inspiring. Marigot was interesting, but seemed a bit more “run down” than Philipsburg on the Dutch side. The harbor area and French fort on the hill are the highlights, although there was not time to visit the fort. It is mainly a shopping stop. The drive through the countryside was interesting, with huge iguanas in the trees and some lovely panoramic views. Be sure to sit on the left side of the bus, behind the driver, for the best views.

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St. Kitts
Beach Break Rating: 2.0 out of 5+

Our shore excursion was “Caribbean Plantation and Beach”

The beach part of the tour, Frigate’s Bay Beach, was the most disappointing excursion we took. The beach is tiny, crowded, and has lots of rocks in the water. It has volcanic sand which means you don’t get the turquoise blue water. I could easily have skipped this part of the tour. Surely there are prettier beaches on St. Kitts !

Historic House Rating: 5.0 out of 5+

Another highlight of the cruise was the Clay Villa Plantation. The delightful owners gave the tour. They use tour money to pay for rehabilitating abandoned animals, some of which you can see on the garden part of the tour (they are in large cages, not roaming free). Be advised that the tour does have several steps in the garden. The house is decorated with the owners’ collections (which are interesting) and is not in 18th century style, but the house itself is original and in great shape. This place has a wonderful “spirit” and I would love to visit again !

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San Juan
City Tour Rating: 3.0 out of 5+

We took the “Old and New San Juan City Tour.”
Since my husband cannot do a lot of walking, this was the only tour available that allowed us to see the city. I don’t know why they bother with the new part of the city, as it is just a drive past lots of condos and hotels. The one highlight is a brief stop at a beach area for photos. In old San Juan, there is a 45 minute stop to tour San Cristobal fort, which provides great views of the city. It is a self-guided walking tour with no interpreters to give information; be sure to pick up the brochure provided by the park service. We also drove past El Morro Fort but did not go in. The bus does NOT go through the streets of Old San Juan (it literally probably could not fit through the narrow streets!) but they give people the option of getting off the bus there to walk. The ship was within easy walking distance to Old San Juan.

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Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+

We did not pay for any excursions here, but enjoyed Columbus Cove beach which has calm, turquoise waters and smooth sand. You can take a free shuttle bus there, which is highly recommended as it is a bit of a walk from the ship, and that way you can ride through the “Artisan Village” and avoid the pushy vendors. There are plenty of trees for shade at the beach, and free lounge chairs (tip the man who sets them up for you). The floating mats are an expensive $14 to rent. I definitely recommend Columbus Cove over the Atlantic side beach, which is rockier and has no shade. The ship provides a beachside picnic style lunch which was very nice.

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