We really enjoyed the cruise. Normally we prefer the larger “fun” ships with NCL such as the Epic, Getaway and Escape but with five ports of call and only one day at sea it really didn’t matter not having the waterslides and other activities found only on these ships.
Some (negative) general comments first. Although we still enjoy cruising with NCL, we have noticed increasing costs and certain cuts since we first started with them 6 years ago. Perhaps they are just following a trend in the industry but the changes have been noticeable. Some examples:
- Adding a room service fee, first for overnight orders and now at all times.
Just a first quick note. Everyone we met during our port of call was really friendly. Even the vendors on the beach weren’t pushy or anything. It was so nice to see. We’d consider coming back to the island for a week’s stay from what we experienced that day!
We spent the day at the Harbour Lights beach club in Carlisle Bay. It took us around 10 to 15 minutes in a shared taxi to get there. I think we paid $5 pp each way. You can decide ahead of time whether you want to arrange a pickup time with your driver but it is not necessary as you can get on other taxis to head back. You also aren’t obligated to stay here. You can walk along the beach and check out some of the other places as well before making your choice. I did a quick walk around and in the end decided to stay here. There are a number of other places, some similar as Harbour Lights and some really small. In general the prices are pretty much the same for the bigger places. They have bathrooms, showers, wifi, etc.
Chairs are $10 each and every 2 chairs there is an umbrella so you will get shade even if you only take an odd number which is nice. They also have the option for $20 that includes a snorkelling tour and the chance to swim with a turtle. We stuck with the chair/umbrella only option.
However, bring your snorkeling equipment if you want to swim with a turtle anyways. The boats actually do this not too far from the shore, maybe 50 to 75 meters away. You can actually see where they all head to. I was amazed at how big the turtle was, maybe the size of a 10 year old child!
We spent the day at Ffryes Beach. Took around 20 minutes by shared taxi and we had to arrange our return time with the driver. It’s a crescent shaped beach, with turquoise colored water and a restaurant at each end. On the north end, you will find Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant while on the south end you have the Tiki Bar. The former is an open air restaurant with bathrooms and a varied menu where as the latter is more of a largish beach shack with a limited menu. We ended up eating at the Tiki Bar. For $10 we got a plate with salad, pineapple, stir fried noodles, rice and beans and BBQ chicken. It was really good and the portion was large. They were very friendly and the place had a great vibe to it.
For chair and umbrella rentals, you actually have a few options and don’t need to go with one of the restaurants. We rented 3 chairs for $5 each and placed ourselves under a tree.
We spent the day at Cockleshell Beach on the southern end of the island. Took around 20 to 30 minutes in a shared taxi we had to arrange our return with the driver. This seems to be a theme at most of the ports of call we’ve been to. At one point you come to the top of a hill where you can look down to the narrow stretch of land with the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other. It is quite scenic.
There are a number of places on the beach from which you can rent chairs and umbrellas and order food and drinks. Prior to our cruise, I had shortlisted the following three places; The Lion Beach Bar and Grill, The Reggae Beach Bar and Grill and Mundo Water Sports. The first two are more developed and have bathrooms with plumbing and are located at opposite ends of the beach. The last one is more of a large shack near Reggae.
In the end we went with the Reggae Beach Bar and Grill. The setup is really nice and there is a lot of natural shade there as well. Chairs were $5 each. We didn’t bother getting an umbrella because we were right under a tree. Service from the bar/kitchen was pretty fast and you can open a tab and pay with your credit card (we used Mastercard)
We went to the Sunset Bar and Grill to watch the planes landing at Maho Beach. Spent around 90 minutes there and took around 30 minutes to get there. The beach is really small so the only real reason to go there is to watch the planes. If you take a taxi from the port, it will cost you $16 return per person. Instead, we left from Philipsburg and took a bus for $2 per person each way. We got on Walter A. Nisbeth Road near Tamarinde Steeg. Just ask a local or even better someone at a souvenir store like we did. Or if you want to take it from near the port, I’m sure that tourist information could tell you.
One thing, most if not all of the “busses” are really vans that show their destination. Our driver also told us that we could take a bus back to the port from Maho for $5.
For the rest of our day, we walked around the shops in Philipsburg before heading back to the ship. It takes around 15 minutes to walk. You also have the option of taking the water taxi for $7 return or $5 one way.
There are a number of electronic stores but I suggest you do your research beforehand and/or have access to the internet so you can compare prices. I was interested in getting an unlocked phone but the prices were pretty much the same as to what I can order back home on Amazon. Then again, maybe I’m just not good at haggling:) In all honesty, I don’t even like to haggle.
We got pretty lucky in St Thomas. Normally this is a busy port of call which we thought would be made worst with the fact that we were coming in on a Saturday. Surprisingly, we were the only cruise ship in port that day!
We headed to our favourite beach when we cruise the Caribbean, Coki Point. It is not very big but has beautiful blue water and a very local feel to it. Chairs go for $5 each. You can also rent umbrellas but we always head down to a spot shaded by a large tree. It’s a bit quieter further down you go from where you are dropped off. One nice thing here is that you do not need to arrange for your pickup time. There will always be a taxi there for you or you can ask for one to be called.
Now you can rent chairs and umbrellas and order food and drinks all along the beach. The only thing that I haven’t figured out is who you are actually renting and buying from. For example, we rented our chairs close to the furthest point away from where you are dropped off. However, the waitress who took care of us (Wendy who was really great!) came from further up the beach even though there was a place right next to us. It seems like the waiters/waitresses can service any part of the beach and they all respect each other’s customers. The place we ordered from only accepted cash but the place next to us did advertise that they accepted credit cards. I suggest you ask ahead if you want to find a place that will.
You can snorkel here. Usually the best spot is closer to Coral World. Bring dog biscuits as the fish love that. There was also what looked like a baby shark. I’ll be honest though, there did seem to be less fish this year than in the past. The water was choppier than what we’ve had before so maybe that played a part. Also, you normally see a lot of lizards on the rock face but this year we didn’t see any.