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Old 06-24-2012, 09:43 AM   #106
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Here's our St Thomas review.

We did the full-day Turtle Cove Sail and Snorkel with Honeymoon Beach. This was THE highlight of our cruise! It was a perfect day! It just so happened that our tablemates were signed up for this as well, so we hung out all day and the boys played well together and we all had a blast!

It seemed to be a long wait to get the tour group underway. We met in Sessions, I believe, with lots of other groups. It was a bit frustrating to know we had such a small amount of time on St.Thomas, and to be held up going. But eventually we got on the tender and it was non-stop from there!

The Doubloon ships are just down the harbour a few meters, so no walk at all. There were 3-4 ships in the fleet that day (this was March break and VERY busy), and we got on a pirate ship - The Silent Lady. The sail over to Turtle Cove on Buck Island was really lovely - beautiful scenery, good weather, music and instruction and fitting of snorkel gear. Once anchored, we jumped in, although I'm sure you can climb down the ladder. The water was a bit cold, but was then fine as we snorkelled for an hour or so. Our tablemates found the water cold, so didn't stay in long at all. Too bad, because they missed fabulous fish, coral, squid, stingrays, and of course turtles! The turtles munched on the grass on the bottom and then swam right up beside us to take a breath! We could have touched them - but absolutely wouldn't since they are endangered and wild. Fortunately, everyone respected them and left them alone. After the hour, it was time to go for another gorgeous sail to Honeymoon beach. This trip probably took 45 min or more, but they made the time go by quickly by doing tattoos, having music, chips and salsa, soda and lots of rum punch (painkillers) flowing. The crew was just fabulous - fun, informative and lively!

Once at Honeymoon beach you could either swim or take a zodiac to the beach. We swam and our tablemates took the zodiac and our backpack! This beach was lovely. The water was warm and calm, the sand soft, and the beach was lined with palm trees so there was lots of shade. I'm not sure how many excursions were there. I do know the Tiki Hut was, and one other, in addition to our 3 ships, but it wasn't too crowded. We got a bench in the shade, and laid out lots of towels for our group. The lunch was fair, but made better since we were all hungry. There was chicken, ribs, salads, buns, hot dogs and mac and cheese, soda, water and beer. We had 2.5 hours there!!! It was amazing! Plenty of time to relax and have fun.

We swam back to the ship and it was a short sail back to the tender area. We caught one of the last tenders back to the ship.

It was a very fun, full day and well-worth the price. We'll have a hard time going back to St. Thomas and NOT doing this again!
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Old 06-24-2012, 11:42 AM   #107
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Which ones did you really enjoy with preschoolers? Is Bernard good for that age? I was thinking that the planes landing may be good.

I booked the Tortola Dolphin Experience but it sounds like it gets bad reviews?

Any assistance will help. Him being four really limits the DCL excursions
I would not take a 4 year old on the Tortola Dolphin Experience.

Preschool kids are very excited about new things and show it by moving, wiggling, and getting closer to the things that are exciting them. It's their nature.

Dolphins see something wiggling in the water, think it's food, and try to eat it. It's their nature.

The guides in Tortola tell guests repeatedly to stay back and keep their hands on their bodies, but preschoolers are too excited and forget.

When DH & I went, 2 of the preschoolers got their hands bitten by the dolphins - one of them twice. Neither was seriously hurt (they were right near us), but the guides never even checked to make sure.
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:50 PM   #108
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Three year old and one year old

This discussion leads me to ask the following question:

We will be stoping at St. Thomas/St. John. I have only taken shore excursions to St John with my husband.

Now, a different scenario: I am taking my two grand babies. DGS is 3, DGD is 1.

Any suggestions re a shore excursion that will accommodate them?

23 weeks - one day until we sail!

Leslye
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Old 06-24-2012, 08:59 PM   #109
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Originally Posted by Wendy&Grumpy View Post
I would not take a 4 year old on the Tortola Dolphin Experience.

Preschool kids are very excited about new things and show it by moving, wiggling, and getting closer to the things that are exciting them. It's their nature.

Dolphins see something wiggling in the water, think it's food, and try to eat it. It's their nature.

The guides in Tortola tell guests repeatedly to stay back and keep their hands on their bodies, but preschoolers are too excited and forget.

When DH & I went, 2 of the preschoolers got their hands bitten by the dolphins - one of them twice. Neither was seriously hurt (they were right near us), but the guides never even checked to make sure.
Thank you so much!!! I never thought of the biting.
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Old 06-24-2012, 10:19 PM   #110
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St Maarten: Bernards Tours, we contacted them independently, $40pp. They have a stand right beside the info center by the dock. We really had a great time, our driver took us all over the island and we were able to determine how long we wanted to stay at each stop. We went to Orient Beach, which was really windy and the ocean was choppy, so we only spent 30 minutes and then headed to Marigot and spent longer there. After that, we went to Maho and spent about 1 1/2 hours watching the planes. We also had drinks included in the price.
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We were on the 5/5 Fantasy and booked directly with Bernard's on St. Maarten

Bernards: Easy to book, very quick at responding and very easy to find at the port. First time to St. Maarten for us and we felt like it gave a good overview of the island and for $40/pp it was a reasonable option. The highlight for us was the stop at Maho Beach, although we also enjoyed Marigot but it was a French holiday so a lot was closed the day we were there. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly and forewarned us of anything that people might not enjoy or find offensive. As a group we agreed to shorten the time at Orient Beach and have 30 mins longer at Maho. The first stop is to see iguanas at a "residence" that they could probably drop from the tour and nobody would care. We were warned that the location was run down ahead of time, but it just felt like a waste of time to us. Orient Beach was just OK to us - interesting to say that we did it - but wouldn't go back. The entrance we took (I assume everyone does? ) was directly between the clothing optional beach and the regular public beach - if you LOOKED right as you drove in, then the "Adam & Eve" people, as they tour guide put it, were right there, nothing blocking anything.
Overall: OK - glad we got to see a good overview of the island and it definitely gave us a good feeling for what we would/would not want to see if we were to ever go back. I probably wouldn't do this with kids - just IMO.
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We just got back today from our Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Fantasy, and we were thrilled with our excursions! They totally made the trip!

In St. Maarten, we did the Bernards Tour. It was well-organized, and the service was excellent. We met the guides right at the pier, and since we were early, they took us out right then, and we got extra time at one of the beaches. We went to the iguana farm and one of the shallow pools to hold starfish and sea urchins. We then went to Orient Beach and stayed for almost two hours. Our guide, Junior, then took us to Marigot and Maho Beach. Along the way to each stop, he told us the history of the island and the differences between the Dutch side and the French side. He also stopped several times for us to take pictures. There were also two coolers filled with rum punch, beer, water, sodas, and juice boxes. We recommended this tour to our friends who are going on the June 30 Fantasy sailing.
We also did Bernard's Tour on the June 16-23rd Fantasy Eastern. DH was very very skeptical booking an non-DCL excursion, but agreed after so many DISers reserved it on our meet thread (I think there were 12-15 families). It was myself, DH, and DD5 and we reserved in advance $40/pp. We had tour guide "Sugar" and he was excellent!!! We first went to the aforementioned run-down residence to see the iguanas, but we loved it!!! DD got a HUGE kick out of it. Sugar fed them lettuce, but when someone gave him a banana, it was mayhem!! We stopped at a little beachy area and saw starfish, sea urchins, etc - again, neat. Then, we drove around and went to Orient Bay, the non-nude side. There were 2 topless women that walked by, but no big deal. We didn't swim - we didn't even bring our suits/didn't plan on swimming. We went to Marigot and that was pretty boring for us, but most people made that a lunch stop. No big deal - just drank some rum punch The absolute highlight? Maho beach. The planes landing & taking off were incredible!!! Again, we didn't swim, but I think most people in our group would've been fine skipping Orient Bay altogether and just spending more time at Maho. We skipped the shopping and just went back to the ship. The tour was from 9-3pm. I would recommend the tour

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We did an Eastern Caribbean on the Magic last year, and here's some info from our trip report (saw some people asking about Trunk Bay, so here's our two cents...)

At St. Thomas, we booked the Trunk Bay excursion...

This was perhaps the only disappointing thing about our whole cruise - even though we were prepared and knew about it in advance, we hadn't appreciated the travel time to and from Trunk Bay, and the amount of our "ashore" time it was going to eat up. It took just about an hour (each way) for the boat to get us from St. Thomas to St. John, and then some waiting around to get on the buses, and then another ~15 minutes to reach the bay. So we only had just over an hour and a half to actually snorkel. The water, while just as clear and beautiful as St. Maarten, was a bit colder, and Gillian toughed it out as long as she could, but eventually needed to take a break from being in the water. So while she and Kayleigh played on the beach, Ginger and I got some more snorkeling in. One of the things we had heard about in Trunk Bay was the "snorkel trail", which really wasn't all it was made out to be - some underwater plaques that talked about the various fish in the area, but I'd have a hard time calling it a "trail". But we still did enjoy our (brief) amount of swimming/snorkeling - it was just over too quickly, and we were rushed back on the buses to get back on the boat to St. Thomas.
We did this excursion as well. I was very disappointed at the lack of beach time as well. We took the ferry over to St. John, took the taxi to Trunk Bay and it was breathtakingly beautiful. DD5 & I swam while DH snorkeled. The water wasn't extremely warm, but it was gloriously pretty! There were tons of fish that were close to shore, too. We spent the entire 90 minutes in the water. For the price we paid, there was just not enough beach time. I can't comment on the snorkeling, as DH did that, and he did follow the "trail."

After we got back, we took a taxi ($4pp +tip) to downtown and got some postcards that we mailed from St. Thomas, and took DD to her precious Del Sol store that she loves......Took a taxi back and back to the ship. There was only the Fantasy and a RCI ship in port, which was nice.

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St. Thomas: On our own, Maagen's Bay, 9 out of 10. It's really easy to catch a taxi/shuttle to Maagen's Bay on your own. It was $8 per person one way (which was more than we paid in the past, but I think the prices may have gone up for the holiday season). I think we also had to pay $6 per adult and $3(?) per child to get into Maagen's Bay. It's a huge gorgeous bay with really calm waters so it's perfect for families with small children. They have a counter service restaurant where you can get burgers, pizza, and the like. We got a whole pizza which we thought was a pretty good deal and tasted good too! They have clean bathrooms and beach loungers near the restaurant. We walked further down the beach (the farther you go the less crowded), and got a great spot that had a picnic table and two beach loungers under some trees. We saw lots of fish and even sea turtles. I packed a couple of cheap inflatable inner tubes I got from Target and the kids had a lot of fun floating around in the calm crystal clear waters. A passing storm literally poured down on us for about 30 minutes. While the moms and girls took cover, the boys and dads played football catch in the water during the downpour. They said that was the funnest part of the day. My biggest recommendation is to get there EARLY. This way you miss the huge crowds coming from cruise ship excursions and can get a good spot on the beach. We got there around 9:30 and were done and back on the cruise ship by 2pm.
THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! You are the 2nd person who has told me about doing Maegan's Bay Beach on their own via a cab. That will save us $$$ doing it non-DCL, as we are taking another Eastern in March 2013.
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Old 06-24-2012, 10:23 PM   #111
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Which ones did you really enjoy with preschoolers? Is Bernard good for that age? I was thinking that the planes landing may be good. Any assistance will help. Him being four really limits the DCL excursions
DD is 5 and just finished pre-school, but there were tons of 4 and younger kids on our tour with Bernard's. They totally enjoyed it; I wouldn't hesitate. The price is right, and actually, our tour guide, Sugar, loves kids and was great for them! I think it's actually more a kid-geared tour. They enjoyed the iguanas, the sea life, the beach, and most importantly, Maho beach. You can't get better than beautiful beach + planes landing over your head and taking off right in front of you!!
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Old 06-25-2012, 10:05 AM   #112
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DD is 5 and just finished pre-school, but there were tons of 4 and younger kids on our tour with Bernard's. They totally enjoyed it; I wouldn't hesitate. The price is right, and actually, our tour guide, Sugar, loves kids and was great for them! I think it's actually more a kid-geared tour. They enjoyed the iguanas, the sea life, the beach, and most importantly, Maho beach. You can't get better than beautiful beach + planes landing over your head and taking off right in front of you!!
Fantastic! Did you do the I or II?
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Old 06-25-2012, 10:32 AM   #113
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Here's our St Thomas review.

We did the full-day Turtle Cove Sail and Snorkel with Honeymoon Beach. This was THE highlight of our cruise! It was a perfect day! It just so happened that our tablemates were signed up for this as well, so we hung out all day and the boys played well together and we all had a blast!

It seemed to be a long wait to get the tour group underway. We met in Sessions, I believe, with lots of other groups. It was a bit frustrating to know we had such a small amount of time on St.Thomas, and to be held up going. But eventually we got on the tender and it was non-stop from there!

The Doubloon ships are just down the harbour a few meters, so no walk at all. There were 3-4 ships in the fleet that day (this was March break and VERY busy), and we got on a pirate ship - The Silent Lady. The sail over to Turtle Cove on Buck Island was really lovely - beautiful scenery, good weather, music and instruction and fitting of snorkel gear. Once anchored, we jumped in, although I'm sure you can climb down the ladder. The water was a bit cold, but was then fine as we snorkelled for an hour or so. Our tablemates found the water cold, so didn't stay in long at all. Too bad, because they missed fabulous fish, coral, squid, stingrays, and of course turtles! The turtles munched on the grass on the bottom and then swam right up beside us to take a breath! We could have touched them - but absolutely wouldn't since they are endangered and wild. Fortunately, everyone respected them and left them alone. After the hour, it was time to go for another gorgeous sail to Honeymoon beach. This trip probably took 45 min or more, but they made the time go by quickly by doing tattoos, having music, chips and salsa, soda and lots of rum punch (painkillers) flowing. The crew was just fabulous - fun, informative and lively!

Once at Honeymoon beach you could either swim or take a zodiac to the beach. We swam and our tablemates took the zodiac and our backpack! This beach was lovely. The water was warm and calm, the sand soft, and the beach was lined with palm trees so there was lots of shade. I'm not sure how many excursions were there. I do know the Tiki Hut was, and one other, in addition to our 3 ships, but it wasn't too crowded. We got a bench in the shade, and laid out lots of towels for our group. The lunch was fair, but made better since we were all hungry. There was chicken, ribs, salads, buns, hot dogs and mac and cheese, soda, water and beer. We had 2.5 hours there!!! It was amazing! Plenty of time to relax and have fun.

We swam back to the ship and it was a short sail back to the tender area. We caught one of the last tenders back to the ship.

It was a very fun, full day and well-worth the price. We'll have a hard time going back to St. Thomas and NOT doing this again!
Thanks for this great review. We are doing this one on our June 30 Fantasy sailing! Can't wait.
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Old 06-25-2012, 11:13 AM   #114
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Fantastic! Did you do the I or II?
Back when signed up in Jan, it was just 1 tour - no choices. Looking at the choices, I'd say it was more II, except that we only spent 60 min at Orient beach to get more time at Maho, which I would highly recommend doing as well!
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Old 06-25-2012, 11:51 AM   #115
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Just read through all the great reviews! We're going on the Eastern Fantasy 9/22. It will be me (29), DH (30), DS (3.5) and DD (7 months). My parents (59)will be with us also.

We're planning to just do beach days on our own in St. Thomas and St. Maartin but would like some recommendations. Due to a medical condition DH needs access to a bathroom pretty quickly if necessary so we definitely need something with a decent bathroom. I'd also like the availabilty of chairs/umbrellas.

I was considering Magens Bay, I realize it gets crowded but we plan to go early and only stay as long as the kids allow so hopefully we can beat some of the crowds. Is it additional cost for the umbrellas/loungers or is it first come first served with admission? Is a taxi the best way to get there and how far is it?

Recs for St. Maartin are appreciated. I'd like to go to Maho for DS to see the planes but DH isn't convinced it's worth it. He's an airplace mechanic at a major airline so watching planes take off and land doesn't sound like vacation to him but if there is a good beach to spend some time at near there and then hit Maho for a bit in the afternoon I might be able to convince him.

Are coolers allowed? (I know food has to be sealed) or does it vary by beach?

TIA!!
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Old 06-25-2012, 03:42 PM   #116
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Back when signed up in Jan, it was just 1 tour - no choices. Looking at the choices, I'd say it was more II, except that we only spent 60 min at Orient beach to get more time at Maho, which I would highly recommend doing as well!
Sweet! Thank you so much!
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Old 06-25-2012, 03:48 PM   #117
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Is there a excursion or way to get to Paradise Point besides riding the skyride? I have a huge fear of those but really want to see the point.
Yes, you can take a taxi! It's way cheaper too!
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:44 AM   #118
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In December of 2009 we were on the Magic with DDs 8 and 9 and May of 2007 Wonder DDs 6 and 5. In St Thomas we did the Coral World Ocean Park Park and Scenic drive. It was wonderful!! We spent about an hour at Coral World and our favorite thing to do was feed the lorikeets. Didn't think I could get my 9 year old out of there. Then we went swimming at Coki beach for about 30min. We fed the fish dog biscuits, DH and I got a drink from a vendor on the beach . He just let the rum keep flowing! Tortola was gorgeous!! We took a tour to Virgin Gorda The Baths..beautiful!! would love to go back! Castawy Cay we did the stingray adventure..really enjoyed it! My 8 year old not so much, so they just let her sit in the shade and play in the sand at no charge. Crab races were fun too. The water was a bit chilly for my liking in Decemeber was great in May. Snorkeling is not very good on Castaway Cay though Can't wait to try San Juan zip lining and snorkeling in St Thomas.
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Old 07-03-2012, 08:50 PM   #119
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Great thread. doing August 25, 2012 fantasy and we have bernards booked as well for our group of 11.
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:16 AM   #120
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Bump Bump Bump... Looking for more experiences
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