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Cruises to St. Maarten

4,889 Reviews
4 Awards
St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

About St. Maarten

St. Maarten is busier than ever, as cruise lines call on Philipsburg with their biggest ships. (Sometimes there are a half-dozen in port at one time.) There's also more to do once you disembark, with shopping and beaches serving as the primary attractions.



That can be viewed as either good news (more shopping choices, better deals and more beach activities) or bad news (more people) for this port of call, which, along with neighboring St. Martin, makes up the world's smallest island inhabited by two countries.



St. Maarten, like many other Caribbean islands, was spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1493. But the island's real history began with French and Dutch settlers who divided the island in 1648. They have lived side-by-side ever since. St. Maarten, governed by the Netherlands Antilles until 2010, is now a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (along with Aruba, Curacao and the Netherlands), while St. Martin is part of the French West Indies. What's particularly fun is that you can easily swing back and forth from the Dutch to the French sides and enjoy the best of both.



On either side of the mountainous island, lovely beaches -- including the famed clothing-optional part of Orient Beach -- rival the best in the Caribbean. Plus, duty-free prices for electronics and liquor in Philipsburg might be the best deals around.



  • More about St. Maarten

  • Why go to St. Maarten?

  • St. Maarten Cruise Port Facilities?

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Cruise Critic Favorite
Enchantment of the Seas
Enchantment of the Seas

12 Night
Southern Caribbean CruiseDetails

1,930 Reviews
Leaving:Baltimore
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Feb 11, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Gem
Norwegian Gem

11 Night
Eastern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

2,523 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Feb 27, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Sky
Norwegian Sky

9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,080 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Gem
Norwegian Gem

11 Night
Eastern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

2,523 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Mar 10, 2023
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7 Night
Southern Caribbean CruiseDetails

1,455 Reviews
Leaving:San Juan
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Feb 26, 2023
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10 Night
Caribbean - Other ProductDetails

3,108 Reviews
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
May 1, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - Port CanaveralDetails

3,108 Reviews
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,080 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
May 8, 2023
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9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,080 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Mar 30, 2023
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10 Night
Eastern Caribbean - New YorkDetails

2,523 Reviews
Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,080 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
May 17, 2023
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Eastern Caribbean & BahamasDetails

1,902 Reviews
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Caribbean - Eastern CruiseDetails

2,685 Reviews
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Eastern Caribbean - MiamiDetails

2,080 Reviews
Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Southern Caribbean CruiseDetails

1,455 Reviews
Leaving:San Juan
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about St. Maarten

Why go to St. Maarten?

Pros:

This island is shared by St. Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French), giving visitors two ports in one

Cons:

You'll need to take your passport with you if you plan to visit both places

Bottom Line:

This destination is ideal for cruisers who like to maximize their time in port

St. Maarten Cruise Port Facilities?

A five-minute walk from the cruise terminal (going toward Philipsburg) takes you to the small boat marina named Dock Maarten -- pun intended. There, you'll find shops, water taxis and boat tour operators and a popular waterfront bar and grill, Chesterfield's.



Slightly farther, Philipsburg's pedestrian-friendly downtown is a definite duty-free shopping destination; great buys can be found on electronics, liquor and jewelry.

Good to Know?

Tourists tend to be robbery targets, so don't flash valuables or cash, and do not leave anything valuable in a car or on the beach.

Getting Around?

On Foot: The main on-foot attraction at the base of the pier is a set of duty-free shops. After that, it's a 20-minute walk into downtown Philipsburg. For a more scenic view, take a brief water taxi ride from the port to Captain Hodge Pier at the foot of the boardwalk. Then, continue your on-foot exploration from there.



Taxis: Taxi operators in St. Maarten are under government regulation. Passengers at the port facility queue up under signs designating per-person rates and destinations -- everything from one-way to Philipsburg to a full island tour. Charges are based on two passengers and destination. Additional passengers cost extra. Check out the Dutch St. Maarten Taxi Association for more information.



Vehicles range from standard taxis to large vans and open safari-style vehicles, and rates are per vehicle, so you'll pay less if you have more people. The per-person savings aren't that huge, so if you are on a tight schedule and don't know your taxi-mates well, it's probably best to go it alone (they might pipe up that they want to add an island tour or a detour to the beach).



Water Taxi: A water taxi operates between the cruise pier and the heart of downtown Philipsburg; the cost is reasonable, and a roundtrip discount is often available.



By Rental Car: This is a destination where renting a car can be a benefit (particularly if you have four or more people and want to see sights on both St. Maarten and St. Martin). There are a handful of agencies at the cruise pier.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The local currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder on the Dutch side and the euro on the French side, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Banks and ATMs are readily available, and most establishments take credit cards (although you'll have to pay cash at the smaller beach bars).

Language?

Although the official language is Dutch for St. Maarten and French for St. Martin, virtually everyone speaks English.

Where You're Docked?

The Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facilities, St. Maarten's pier and cruise terminal, is a boon to cruise passengers, especially those who find tendering unpleasant, inconvenient or physically challenging. In most cases, ships will dock there, where it's less than one mile to the heart of Philipsburg. (Inexpensive water taxis are available for those who don't want to walk.) On busy days when lots of ships are in port, tendering to Little Pier, right in the center of Philipsburg, is a possibility.


St. Maarten Cruise Reviews
St Maarten was a shopping day for us. Our 6th trip here. So wondering down Front and Back streets made for a great day. Read More
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Cruising Cindy Lou
Did the historical tour by bicycle - for reference it was my first bike ride in 25 plus years. The good news is I made it lol and realized how much I missed it - it was great cycling around in St Maarten, the weatherRead More
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georj41
As we have been here a few times we just did our own thing and went to the beach. This day was the biggest number of cruise passengers in St Maarten on one day with 6 big ships in port so quite a sight. Still plenty Read More
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Karl Howes
We did the Kim Sha beach excursion through Royal Caribbean which was nicely organized. The tour guide gave a very interesting description as we drove through the mountainous island on a bus. The beach itself was smalRead More
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SunsetGirlVT

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