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Old 06-01-2013, 11:30 PM   #1
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Cruising without Excursions?

We are in the early planning stages of our first ever cruise and I have so many questions!

Have you ever cruised and not partaken in any of the excursions? The extent of my travel history is 25+ visits to WDW and visiting friends at their homes. I have never been to an island so it's hard to grasp what this will be like.

Is it possible to enjoy a port without going on a formal excursion? My DD will be 4 (short of 5 by days) when we visit St. Thomas and St. Maarten next February. Have you ever visited either of these islands during your cruise but without going on a formal excursion? Is it possible/safe to wander around and see things and possibly shop?

On the contrary, have you done any excursions on either of these 2 islands with a child that is under 5yo? If so, did you enjoy them and would you recommend it to me?

We have 3 days at sea and since we haven't been to any islands I'm guessing we'll want to get off the ship and see them but just not sure how to go about this.

Any help, suggestions, information, experiences you can share would be greatly appreciated!
Mommy DD5

Amazing Trips with DD: Nov 2014 (MVMCP with Nana & Papa), Sep 2014 (10 days with Cousins), Feb 2014 (7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Fantasy), November 2013 (2 days with grandparents), Aug 2013 (11 Mommy and DD days. Perfect!!), Nov 2012 (2 days AoA LM with grandparents and DN), Aug 2012 (10 awesome days with just the 2 of us!), Nov 2011 (2 days with grandparents), Aug 2011 (8 days with DN and Nana), Apr 2010 (3 days), Nov 2010 (2 days with grandparents)
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Old 06-01-2013, 11:36 PM   #2
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I book Disney excursions as I don't want the stress of the unknown on my vacation. Plus, I don't want to be late back to the ship.

Just got back from the Eastern last month. I did not get off the ship in St. Maarten. None of the excursions interested us. Hubby went and walked and did a little shopping though, we stayed on board and enjoyed the empty pools, spa and aqua duck.

In St. Thomas some of us did Coral World which you might enjoy. The rest of our group did zip lining.
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Old 06-01-2013, 11:40 PM   #3
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We are excursion free....have never done one. Personally, I have no interest in spending hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins (and similar). We will get off boat, look around, maybe take a cab ride and back to boat. I don't even consider eating in town....way too much already paid for food on the boat.

I am guessing because this is our norm, it does not bother us.
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Old 06-01-2013, 11:59 PM   #4
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We do excursions, roam the ports on our own and stay on the ship. Every port is different and we look and see what looks best for us. Some of the time we book excursions and end up canceling them on the ship because our mood changed. Do not look at ports as one way or the other but all of the above and everything can change based on a mood. That is why I love cruising.
Mike and Nick
Disney Cruise Lines: Wonder Land and Sea – Bahamas 2005, Magic Eastbound Trans Atlantic 2010, Magic Mexican Riviera Nov 20, 2011, Fantasy Western Caribbean June 23, 2012, Wonder Bahamian December 14, 2013
Princess Cruse Lines: Panama Canal 2006, San Francisco Alaska June 19, 2011, Pacific Coast Nov 24, 2013
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines: Mexican Riviera 2009
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NCL Cruise Lines: Mexican Riviera 2008

Last edited by MikeAndNick; 06-02-2013 at 12:08 AM.
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Old 06-02-2013, 04:01 AM   #5
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Actually, port days are the best time to take advantage of the ship since most passenger are off the ship. We love it. We do take a walk around town or even taken the bus in Mexico. Not a big deal. We have done excursions as well so we have enjoyed cruises equally with or without an excursion. The pools and public areas on the ship are empty and very nice during port visits!
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Old 06-02-2013, 07:15 AM   #6
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we are booked for our first cruise going to nassau. i have no interest getting off the boat except at cast away cay!

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Old 06-02-2013, 07:39 AM   #7
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We don't book excursions. We have only been to bahamas so far so i don't have any idea what is available at the ports you are visiting. For our last cruise I went online and searched for info about what there is to see and do at Nassau from various travel sites. I recommend doing this if you don't go with a disney excursion but still want to get off the ship. You might find some free or inexpensive things you would enjoy doing. Or things not available from disney.
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Old 06-02-2013, 08:00 AM   #8
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We have been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten on RCL. We travelled with a 2 year old a couple years ago. Both islands are beautiful and you can walk around the port area at St. Thomas easily. We took a short water taxi ride to the public beach in St. Thomas and had a great time. There are shops there also and beach chairs for rent or free if you buy food/drink from the restaurants that own them. Our son loved playing in the sand and water. Then we caught the water taxi back to the boat.
I wasn't as impressed with the port area at St. Maarten. We took a taxi to Magen's beach and had a great time. But it was a bit of a drive through the hilly terrain. Might be better to enjoy the ship there. Or maybe there is something closer to port to do.
Either way, there are plenty of options to suit everyone. Just do some research to see what might interest your family. Have a great trip!
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:41 AM   #9
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We did a 7 day Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy. I agree.. I would go with Disney excursions just out of fear of missing the boat. anyhow, I don't think I would have missed a thing by not booking the excursions--except for now we have discovered flavored Bacardi! Big deal since we are not generally drinkers.

Last edited by msd1776; 07-05-2013 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:46 AM   #10
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In fifteen Disney cruises, we've done a total of two excursions. We like to either explore a little on our own, or in the cases of some ports (Nassau, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman) don't even get off the ship anymore.
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:51 AM   #11
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it is completely fine not to do them. We have done both. If u don't plan one, depending on the port, the shopping will be walking distance and you can stretch your legs on land a bit and take in the culture.

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Old 06-02-2013, 11:04 AM   #12
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We've done 3 Eastern cruises and we've only done 1 formal DCL excursion (semi-sub at Coral World on St. Thomas - DD was 6, I think).

We have booked the Butterfly Farm on St. Thomas through DCL, but they were "on your own" tickets - the main reason was the price seemed lower than purchasing them at the door, and you had guaranteed tickets for the day (they do sell out!). The butterfly farm is within easy walking distance from where the ship docks, so would be very easy to do with a small child.

St. Thomas also has a large shopping complex at the dock area, along with some restaurants so you can easily get off and wander around and shop a bit. If you want, you can even walk into Charlotte-Amalie - it took us about 30-40 minutes with a 5 year old and no stroller the first time we did it.

If you're interested in beaches, taxis abound at both St. Thomas and St. Martin and they will take you to whatever beach you desire. We've never done a taxi on St. Thomas, but on all 3 trips to St. Martin we've picked up a taxi outside the port (destination prices are set, so they all cost the same) to Orient Beach, hung out there for a few hours (had lunch once), then had the taxi pick us up and headed either back to the ship. There is shopping in the port area, and you can pick up a water taxi from the port to Phillipsburg as well, which has more shopping, a restaurant, and a beach.

We've never felt unsafe in any of the areas we've visited on these islands. Both islands get a lot of revenue from cruise tourists, so it's in their best interest to keep them safe. That doesn't mean there isn't any crime, though - just pay attention to your stuff, don't carry/wear valuables, and be alert (like in any large city) and you'll be fine.

Have a great cruise!
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:01 AM   #13
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Good friends just sailed on the Fantasy with the St. T/St. M itinerary. Their son is 4 (they also had their 17yo daughter and 22yo son along). They loved the Coral World excursion, they said it was perfect for all ages and really enjoyed it. They also did the "Two Flags" tour in St. Maarten and were not impressed at all. They said it was basically a bus tour of the island with a 45 minute "shopping break" in an area that had all the same stores at at the dock. They said that they should have just taken a taxi to the beach or stayed on the ship.

We cruised on Carnival a few years ago and did not do any excursions. Our ports were Key West and Cozumel. We were with a big family group and had fun just wandering the ports.
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:09 AM   #14
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I have not done a disney one yet...researching a possible future disney cruise now. I have done 15 cruises on celebrity, princess and ncl a long time ago. I have done 2 cruises on celebrity with young kids. No you do not have to take any excursions to have fun. As many have suggested you can enjoy the quiet ship, get off and wander the shops at the ports, many I know take taxis, we always return for meals I never eat off the ship. When we do decide to do more than walk around around I do book through the ship bc I know the ship won't leave without me. Less stressful. I would say if you are in st thomas that I think every cruiseline has a trip over to st John's and trunk bay. I plan to take my girls there when we make it to st thomas next. It is a ferry ride and then an open air taxi ride to the beach. If you can find a float with a viewing hole you could pull your DC along as there are plaques bc it is an underwater preserve.
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Old 06-02-2013, 11:28 AM   #15
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We probably do excursions in about half the ports. We love history and trying new things.the more cruises we do the less excursions we do.
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