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Man I love the Eastern itinerary and partly because you can safely book your own excursions.
St MAarten - my favorite stop. Get off the ship, walk to the water taxi and for $5 you can ride it all day. Its only a short trip to the beach and for $25 you can get 2 chairs, umbrella and a bucket of beer. Best thing is, the town is directly behind you. You can do a little shopping, swimming and at lunch hop the water taxi back to the ship. Grab some lunch, fresh towels and back to the beach. Don't forget to visit the Belgian Chocolate Shop and the Guavaberry store.
St Thomas - normally I'd say head out to Coki beach but with the unrest in that area, I guess you should head to Magen's bay. Just grab a cab to this really nice beach. I'd go out in the morning if its nice and then do some shopping downtown or if you're docked at Havensight do some shopping there.
Nassau - We usually go to the public beach on Paradise Island. Just grab a cab outside the terminal and tell him you want to go to the beach on Paradise Island. You might also consider Cable Beach. Either way, just do a cab. We usually do that in the morning and then wander around town for the afternoon.
We always visit Gladys Cafe in St. Thomas. It's in a very old but quaint area. The "mall" was built in the 1700's and has cobbled streets. There's a chocolate shop down a few alleys that is wonderful. We take private taxis to take us around. You can get the taxis right at the pier and bargain with them. We have never gone wrong this way. Some taxis will give full one or two hour tours, or they'll take you to one location. It's up to you.
This is all very helpful, especially as this is our first cruise. We will be on the Carnival Glory in the Eastern Caribbean. The cost of everything on the ship and the excursions is a bit overwhelming. I am excited to see that there are alternatives, as suspected.