Best Ports to SKIP Excursions?

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34 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Hello! We're a first-time cruise family heading out on the Oasis of the Seas this summer. We decided as a family we'd prefer to spend more time on a cruise vs. more money on excursions, so we're taking a 7 day to the following spots:
St. Maarten
San Juan
Laradee (sp?) Beach (private beach in Haiti for RCC)

We're looking at the various excursions, and a lot of them are tours. We're all relatively fit, so my question is if any of these ports are worth skipping excursions and to just go exploring (close by) ourselves? For example, we'd like to see some of the ruins in San Juan or the old city - Do we really need a tour for that? Is there a close-by beach or shopping in St. Maarten that makes buying an excursions unnecessary?

I'd rather splurge for 1 or 2 of the bigger excursions for the family than buy ones for all three where it may be underwhelming and with minimal risk to missing the boat if we do it ourselves. Thanks in advance for any advice!
Central Illinois
113,904 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
We just did the same cruise and didn't do any excursion at Labadee or San Juan. You are in San Juan such a short time, that there's not a lot of time for an excursion. We went to one of the forts and had lunch at a nice local (non-chain) restaurant.
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Boston area
19,085 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
In St Martin you can walk downtown to the beach and shopping or take the water taxi. With two adults one person can watch the kids while the other can shop and then switch off. Only expense can be the chair and umbrella rental.

In San Juan there is a free shuttle that will take you up to the forts and you can walk back via the gates of the city and the waterfront Boardwalk/esplanade.
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Central Mississippi
1,206 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
Yep, St Marten and San Juan are both good walking ports as the others have said. So, I will just say welcome to Cruise Critic and to the magical and addictive world of cruising! Have a great cruise!
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Life's a Beach!

Next Cruise: January 8-15, 2017 Carnival Dream!!
12,132 Posts
Joined Sep 2005
Labadee is a beach stop - no problem.

San Juan is great for self-guided walkabout: beautiful 16-17th century Spanish colonial city with fortress.

St. Maarten - you can walk to Philipsburg in 15-20 minutes -for shopping and so-so beach (sometimes polluted) there are several really good beaches you can taxi to - no need for excursion.
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77 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
I agree with San Juan..Old San Juan is easily accessible on foot. Explore the forts. We ate at a local restaurant El Jibarito and it was amazing. They have a chocolate bar that seems really cool but we didn't have time to get to.

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321 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
In San Juan you can pick one of the many tour buses that will be right at the port. We just picked on and for $ 20 the guy drove all around the old area, stopped at the fort, took us into one building ( I think it was City Hall) helped us buy some souvenirs near the fort and gave us a real feeling for the city.
Well worth it.
2,876 Posts
Joined Jun 2012
San Juan is easily DIY. There's a free tourist trolley that takes you around to the sites, or if you are a walker the whole old town area is walkable.

St Martin can go either way. We've done a boat tour and an ATV tour there and enjoyed both of them. But if you prefer to DIY can take a taxi to maho beach to see the plans land and/or shop and lunch close to port.

Labadee is a free beach day, really no need for an excursion.

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Fredericksburg, va. USA
83,761 Posts
Joined May 2001
Almost ALL of the Caribbean ports are very easy to DIY! A guidebook will be most helpful! Libraries have them, you know! Get it! There is seldom a reason to pay someone to show you a "good time".
Palm Coast, Florida
342 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
I have been to all these ports multiple times, and I agree with what everyone has said. You can spend not one cent and have a marvelous time at all three places.
North Carolina Coast!, USA
5,964 Posts
Joined Oct 2002
In San Juan there are two free local buses you can get across from the pier. These are regular big buses that the locals use too.You can get on and off either bus when ever you want to. There are real bus stops though so you have to get them at the stops- they are well marked. Once we just got on one bus then came back to the ship for lunch then got on the other one and explored San Juan and pigeon sq. where there are more pigeons that you can believe!

I highly recommend going to El Moro! This is the fort you pass going in and out of San Juan. It was built in the 1500's and is fascinating to explore. They do have a small open air bus that will take you right up to the entrance. Otherwise it is a long walk up to it by the bus or a cab. The small bus will take you right back to the ship if you take it "home". Goggle El Moro!
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Cape Canaveral Cruises
Royal Caribean
17,645 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
I agree that Old San Juan is easy to explore on your own. Visit the forts, the capital, etc. You can also get off the ship and find a cab to give you a tour for just your family. That is a relatively inexpensive proposition.

Labadee is just the beach, there is no need for a tour there.
New York City
7,460 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
The only excursion would suggest is just the bus shuttle transfer from your ship to Orient Bay Beach in St. Maarten. This is a beautiful beach, they give you a lounge chair and a drink. It's worth it for a three or four hour beach day.

Otherwise as others have noted San Juan is easily done on your own, Old Town is great and El Morro Fort is excellent full of great things to explore.

Labadee, Haiti is a private island. You will have to pay for zip-lining, snorkeling, water slides and dragon coaster.

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South Carolina
28,478 Posts
Joined Dec 2001
Labadee is a cruise line beach stop ... enjoy!
San Juan is easy to walk around to see things like the forts on your own.
A taxi to Orient Beach in St. Maarten is enjoyable.
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North Carolina Coast!, USA
5,964 Posts
Joined Oct 2002
In case you didn't know, Orient beach in St Maartin has a large portion that is a nude beach and yes we saw a old nude man and an old nude woman walking down the beach when we were in the area where cruise people are taken with no nudes . So you can see nudes anywhere at Orient beach. (and the women are not playboy bunnies by a long shot!)
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Royal Caribean
88 Posts
Joined Sep 2016
In Saint Martin go to Maho beach and watch the planes fly feet over your head or hang on to the fence and get blown by jet wash .

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