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Cruises to St. Maarten

St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
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.

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DAY 1: Miami

9 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Grand Turk, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Baltimore

12 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
St. Croix, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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10 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
St. Maarten, St. Lucia ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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DAY 1: Bayonne

11 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Barbados, Grenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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12 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
St. Croix, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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Cruise Critic Favorite

11 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Croix ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, Tortola ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Grand Turk, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Port Canaveral
Visiting:
Great Stirrup Cay, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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12 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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12 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, Tortola ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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14 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Aruba, Curacao ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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12 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
St. Croix, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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6 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
St. Barts, Little Bay ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
St. Maarten, St. Lucia ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Bayonne
Visiting:
Labadee, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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56 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
St. Maarten
Visiting:
Antigua, Sopers Hole ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
St. Maarten, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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8 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Port Canaveral
Visiting:
St. Maarten, St. Kitts ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to St. Maarten

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Amber Cove, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Carnival Cruise Line
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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.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2017 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2015 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations

St. Maarten Cruise Reviews

Regal Princess
bookmama22
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Have been to St Maarten previously both on ships and at hotels so not much interest in touring around. Off the main shopping street you can still see hurricane damage. Took sea taxi back to ship, very convenient... Read More
GYBR53
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Like St Maarten. 6 ships in the day we went (including 3 P & O trips). Just walked into town and had a few beers at a beach bar.... Read More
Celebrity Summit
peterwestenberg
Sail Date: Jan 2020
We strolled around st maarten, we are dutch so it was good to see that hurricane damage at least in philipsburg was for a big part restored Very friendly people on the watertaxi from ship to town... Read More
cruiselogic
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Beach and town was a 15 minutes walk ...St.Marten beach is nice..I was disgusted that a restaurant would not allow us to use the washroom.The staff indicated that it was customers only.Upon our return to ship we... Read More
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