BORN TO TRAVEL’S INFO BANK: Eastern Caribbean Islands
These are some alternatives to the cruise’s shore excursions. Unless you are in a group of six or more, you may have to book shore tours through the cruise line. But, if you just want to do a little shopping or go to a beautiful beach, you can do it on your own. I have put together some suggestions below that are based on my own personal experiences.
I have used the cab drivers shown below on my previous trips to these islands. In each case, I put the cost of the trip, the length of time I spent and the total cost. Tips are not included. Costs have not seemed to fluctuate in the past five years. But these are for reference only and not necessarily correct today.
If you have good luck with someone else, please get their name, number, email (if available) and let me know so I can add it to my info bank for future cruisers. Dial the complete number below if calling from home (USA), dial local number if you call from the pier.
ALWAYS CONFIRM PRICE BEFORE GETTING INTO THE CAB
Save Money, get your dinner companions to join you!
Unless you are a large group, you probably want to go to El Yunque or Arecibo Observatory with the ship’s shore excursions.
Old Town San Juan is great just for walking around. There is a free Trolley Tour bus that you can take a 40 minute overview of Old San Juan. The Sheraton Old San Juan has a casino, restrooms and outdoor café with music on Friday, Sat. and Sun nights. There entertainment is great. It is right across from the cruiseship terminal in Old San Juan. Note that there are other cruiseship terminals so you may have to take a cab to Old San Juan from your ship. The cost is 4 per person one way. Cabs are everywhere.
There is quite a lot of shopping in Old San Juan. If you are taking a cab from the pier, have them drop you off in the shopping district. You can shop/walk back to the Sheraton (waterfront) and grab a cab back. Old San Juan is on a grid pattern, so it is easy to get your bearings.
There is a Coach outlet store in the shopping area. Taxi drivers know where it is.
If you are hungry, there is a nice café with great Puerto Rican cuisine, about two blocks behind the Sheraton. It is Café Puerto Rico. 208 O’Donnell, Plaza Colon. 1-787-724-2281.
Art Galleries in Old San Juan stay open from 6-9 p.m. First Tuesday of month in Sept-Dec. and Feb-May. The phone number for more information is 1-787-723-0692.
Puff’s Taxi cell phone: 1-340-690-3232
Take ferry from St. Thomas to St. John’s. Ferry from downtown Charlotte Amalie is a little more expensive, but more convenient if you are docket there. Price is $12.00 round-trip and takes 45 minutes. It runs every hour. Call ahead and have Puff meet you at St. John’s ferry terminal at designated time, or just get there and find him. He is very punctual. So if you tell him when to come back to get you, he will be there (tapping his foot if you are late). Price to Trunk Bay is $ 12.00 per person round-trip. There is $4.00 admission to Trunk Bay. Cinnamon bay is same price, no admission charge. Both have showers, snacks, food, restrooms, changing rooms, snorkel equip for rent. If you want to go elsewhere, just negotiate price and times with Puff. Take time to explore the shops in Cruz Bay right along the water where the ferry drops you off. The St. Johns Spice Company has great stuff.
You can walk, cab or take public water taxi to the town. There is a gorgeous beach right there. Find one of the many beach chair/umbrella sellers and he will take good care of you. I usually stay around “Pirates in Paradise” which is a restaurant with drinks, sandwiches and restrooms. I ask for Joseph Baptiste. He will get you chairs, umbrellas, and cooler to keep beer/soda cold. Servers will come around to sell you drinks.
The beach is one building’s width from the shopping. There are also casinos right there.
Do not go to French side if it is Sunday or a holiday—nothing will be open. I have never been able to tear myself away from the Dutch side.
Robert Taxi # 701. Cell: 1-340-690-5178; home: 1-340-775-4789 or any taxi at the pier.
Go to Coki beach (about ½ hour) for swimming/snorkeling. Right next door to beach is Coral World. Round-trip is $14.00 per person. Coki is right next to the Redhook ferry terminal, so if you plan to do St. John’s and Coki, you should get the Ferry in Redhook.
Go to Magen’s Bay to swim. Magen’s Bay cabs around $10.00 per person round-trip.
If you want to do a catamaran sail, swim with dolphins, go on a submarine, etc, you are probably going to get the best price with the cruiseline, unless you are traveling with at least four other people.
Booze: St. Maarten is cheaper than St. Thomas (usually)
Jewelry: Imperial Jewelers-downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Ask for Charlie. Tell him Liz Dalessio sent you.
Cameras: Royal Caribbean International, downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
Clothing: Antigua: A Thousand Flowers, out of this world flax clothing.
St. Lucia: Oasis, located at cruise terminal duty free shops.
Old San Juan: Coach Outlet
St. John’s: St. John’s Spice Company
St. Maarten: Pirates in Paradise
Shallow snorkeling and swimming. All have restrooms and food/beverages.
Antigua: Turners Beach, Long Bay Beach
Barbados: Folkstone Beach, Crane Beach
St. Maarten: Philipsburg Beach, Orient Bay Beach
St. Thomas: Coki Beach
St. John: Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay
Barbados: Orchid World, Harrison’s Caves, Atlantis Submarine, Mount Gay Rum Factory, Andromeda Gardens
San Juan: Old Town San Juan, San Christobel, El Yunque Rain Forrest