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first time cruisers...shore excursions?


PeanutBudder

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We are a family of 4, and our children are 6 and 8. First time cruising and we are on the Epic with ports in Nassau, St.Philipsburg and St.Thomas. With it being our first cruise and small children we were thinking of not booking any shore excursions and just "roam" around on shore and take in beaches.

 

What do you recommend....excursions or not? If yes, then any suggestions of what ones that are the best.

 

Thanks for the input!

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We are a family of 4, and our children are 6 and 8. First time cruising and we are on the Epic with ports in Nassau, St.Philipsburg and St.Thomas. With it being our first cruise and small children we were thinking of not booking any shore excursions and just "roam" around on shore and take in beaches.

 

What do you recommend....excursions or not? If yes, then any suggestions of what ones that are the best.

 

Thanks for the input!

 

On St. Martaan (Phillipsburg) look into the island tours with "Bernards" We had a blast with "the Mailman" as our guide. We not only got a great tour of both sides of the island, there was beach time near Orient beach and Maho beach. Check out the attachments... the airplanes were coming into the airport over Maho beach.

 

In St. Thomas, we took a ferry over to St. John. Nice beaches there... including the one in the Jodi Foster movie, "Contact."

 

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699044810_NCLGeminStMaarten.jpg.8280480a81347687a108673711622d82.jpg

 

1982582104_NCLGeminStThomas.jpg.1cbb4286519a1afc6496476bc518775c.jpg

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We are a family of 4, and our children are 6 and 8. First time cruising and we are on the Epic with ports in Nassau, St.Philipsburg and St.Thomas. With it being our first cruise and small children we were thinking of not booking any shore excursions and just "roam" around on shore and take in beaches.

 

What do you recommend....excursions or not? If yes, then any suggestions of what ones that are the best.

 

Thanks for the input!

 

 

Here is the link to the Ports of Call main page.... there are separate sections for most ports with lots of information.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=5

 

Have a great cruise on the Epic - we'll be on her for the second time in January.

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This post will garner a lot of replies, so I will just talk about St Thomas. But first, what to do depends on many things. Time, $$, preferences and others. I really like Coral World and arrange it without going thru the ship. Much cheaper. So much available, check their website, especially the pricing. They do have food, lockers and a place to shower. The shower comes in handy as there is a beach there where the fish swim around you and also their is local food and drinks available for purchase as well as souvenirs. After the swim, the shower is refreshing. However, the last time I was there ,2010, there was a problem with the locals. never noticed anything, just hired a taxi who talked about it.

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thank you for the ideas!

 

My main question is whether we should book excursions or just "go with the flow"once on shore....especially being first time cruisers...should we just check out things and then when we cruise again, take in some excursions?

 

Only you know what kind of experience you want. I would check out the Ports section as suggested and find out what each port has to offer and then make a decision. But I would definitely have a plan for each port, whether by tour or on your own.

 

Since you are on the Epic, which has so much to offer that it is difficult to see and do everything on sea days, many people choose one port day, usually Nassau, and stay onboard to relax, enjoy the pools and slides with no lines, get a massage, whatever.

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My main question is whether we should book excursions or just "go with the flow"once on shore....especially being first time cruisers...should we just check out things and then when we cruise again, take in some excursions?

 

For first-time-cruisers I'd suggest taking some of the best tours where they are recommended to get a good overall picture and going to a beach where that is the best choice - on later cruises you can then choose what you'd like to do next as you already know what to expect from a port. I agree with previous info about Bernard's Tours in St Maarten, in other ports there is not as much to see so beach or shopping days could be great choices.

 

Anything you decide to do, read recommendations from independent tours here, usually you can save a lot of money compared to possibly same excursions sold via the cruise line - especially with 4 people it adds up.

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thank you for the ideas!

 

My main question is whether we should book excursions or just "go with the flow"once on shore....especially being first time cruisers...should we just check out things and then when we cruise again, take in some excursions?

 

I am never one to recommend "practice" trips. I would suggest you figure out what YOU want to do, this trip, then make the arrangements to do it.

 

Even if you just want to "roam around", you are still going to have to make some plans and transportation decisions. The immediate dock areas offer nothing.

 

Look over your shore excursion list, then go to each port board on this message board. Get all your information that you need easily.

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I am never one to recommend "practice" trips. I would suggest you figure out what YOU want to do, this trip, then make the arrangements to do it.

 

Even if you just want to "roam around", you are still going to have to make some plans and transportation decisions. The immediate dock areas offer nothing.

 

Look over your shore excursion list, then go to each port board on this message board. Get all your information that you need easily.

 

 

Thank you....I just assumed the port area would have things right there...i will definitely research the port boards.

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Thank you....I just assumed the port area would have things right there...i will definitely research the port boards.

 

Some do, some don't. Like others have said, only you can decide what it best for you & your family. When I visit a new place, I like to identify something the place is known for and then go there or do that activity - so I can truly experience the new place. However, you and your family may like to visit new beaches and chill - and there's nothing wrong with that! The wonderful thing about cruising (especially Norwegian cruising!) is that you really get to design your own experience.

 

Enjoy your adventure!

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On our first cruise my kids were 7 and 3...we did not book any excursions. I was afraid of how they would be temperament wise. We did not get off the ship at our first stop and instead let the kids play in the pool and use the waterside when the ship was practically empty. We did get off at the other 2 but did not do anything organized. They ended up being fine so we probably could have done excursions.

 

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I personally think you should have a plan. Decide ahead what you're going to do, then do it. It doesn't have to be an actual excursion. Maybe your plan is to go to a beach and just have a lazy, sunny day. That's fine. But decide which beach, and how you're going to get to that beach. Decide if you want to use a taxi or a bus. Decide if you want a beach that will rent you chairs and have food available for the kids or if you want something that has practically no one there so the beach is basically all yours. Or maybe you want a beach that you might do some freestyle snorkeling.

All I'm doing is pointing out all the different things you might do with one idea....the idea of simply going to a beach.

Lastly, personally for my first cruise I would want to do at least 1 excursion. Since you're going to be in the Caribbean, I would go snorkeling. The kids would love it, I bet. Pick the port to snorkel at that works best for you.

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I personally think you should have a plan. Decide ahead what you're going to do, then do it. It doesn't have to be an actual excursion. Maybe your plan is to go to a beach and just have a lazy, sunny day. That's fine. But decide which beach, and how you're going to get to that beach. Decide if you want to use a taxi or a bus. Decide if you want a beach that will rent you chairs and have food available for the kids or if you want something that has practically no one there so the beach is basically all yours. Or maybe you want a beach that you might do some freestyle snorkeling.

All I'm doing is pointing out all the different things you might do with one idea....the idea of simply going to a beach.

Lastly, personally for my first cruise I would want to do at least 1 excursion. Since you're going to be in the Caribbean, I would go snorkeling. The kids would love it, I bet. Pick the port to snorkel at that works best for you.

 

 

Thank you so much for the help.....I hadn't even thought that I needed to arrange transportation to a beach. I just assumed they would be there within walking distance. So thank you for clarifying...I agree....I will be researching that out.

 

And I think we will take in 1 excursion. My oldest wants to snorkel but my 6 yr old is Leary....that concerns me. Maybe we will split up and each take a child on an excursion of their choice.

 

The sad part is that I have an agent....NO help! It is so hard finding a good travel agent. Would love to find one that truly helps with ideas and suggestions! This forum has been my life saver!

 

So thank you again!!!!

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We are a family of 4, and our children are 6 and 8. First time cruising and we are on the Epic with ports in Nassau, St.Philipsburg and St.Thomas. With it being our first cruise and small children we were thinking of not booking any shore excursions and just "roam" around on shore and take in beaches.

 

What do you recommend....excursions or not? If yes, then any suggestions of what ones that are the best.

 

Thanks for the input!

 

In Nassau...mostly only shopping/straw market near dock. There is Junkanoo beach that is walking distance, but it is not a short walk (come out of dock area turn right). Or grab a cab

 

St Maarten....take water taxi Beaches, stores. Nice area to walk around(one of our favorite spots)

 

St Thomas .... Shopping near dock area.....great scenic tour is Godfrey tours,,, not expensive, will pick you up dockside, and stops at beach( look on line)

Safe sailing

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Beach time can be done on your own. For 1st timers with kids I would recommend Magans Bay. Can catch transportation right at the pier and come back when you are ready. Kids would love Orient Beach though you may see some nudity. Adults make more of it than the kids would. Again transportation at the pier and back when you arte ready. Phillsburg does have shops at the pier for shopping and eating and drinking but not much at St Thomas to wander around and see.

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Thank you so much for the help.....I hadn't even thought that I needed to arrange transportation to a beach. I just assumed they would be there within walking distance. So thank you for clarifying...I agree....I will be researching that out.

 

And I think we will take in 1 excursion. My oldest wants to snorkel but my 6 yr old is Leary....that concerns me. Maybe we will split up and each take a child on an excursion of their choice.

 

The sad part is that I have an agent....NO help! It is so hard finding a good travel agent. Would love to find one that truly helps with ideas and suggestions! This forum has been my life saver!

 

So thank you again!!!!

 

You don't need a TA - just go to the ports of call boards! Before asking what you should do, read the threads, to get a better idea of what is offered at the port. Almost all excursions offered by the cruise can be accessed for a lot less money on your own. The cruise ports tend to be the crummiest parts of the islands, so it is worth it to research.

 

We've been to Nassau several times. We've done day passes at hotels (Sheraton, Hilton, and Comfort Suites for Atlantis - we've actually booked Atlantis through NCL this November because it's more inexpensive). Atlantis is fun for older kids (the last time, we left our 6 and 8 year olds back on the ship, and took our 9 and 11 year olds). Blue Lagoon Island sounds like a really nice day - probably would've booked it if not for the drop in the Atlantis price. There are 2 public beaches - Junkanoo on Cable beach, which has restroom facilites, vendors, food, etc, walkable from the port, and Cabbage, which doesn't have restrooms, and the waves can be really rough (you need to take a cab).

 

There is also a small zoo that gets pretty good reviews, and a pirate museum. Definitely research - it's so sad to hear people complain about certain ports, when all they did was get off of the ship, and look around a bit.

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If the kids like the beach, definately do beaches on your cruise.

 

The kids will LOVE Maho Beach on St. Maarten, especially if they are interested in airplanes. You can easily catch a van/cab that will take you there, there are plenty of them available to go back. It's about $18 per person, each way, may be less with more people in the van. There's waiter service or a beach bar there for munchies and drinks. You can also rent lounge chairs and an umbrella, or just put your towel down and enjoy the beach.

 

On St. Thomas, there are many things to do and tours available once you get off the ship to take to the beach or wherever you like to go. The kids may be too young to drag them over to St. John (requires rushing to a cab, then ferrying over). There are plenty of beautiful beaches right on St. Thomas. Or you could just take the tram ride up the mountain and back down and forego any beaches in St. Thomas.

 

Nassau, this will be our first time, but we decided to head over to the Nassau Hilton for a day pass, use of their pools, non-motorized boats, and pool beds. You can google for more information. I can't see spending big bucks to visit Atlantis.

 

You should check out the Port of Call boards, there is a wealth of information there.

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Have to agree, if in St Maarten Bernards is the tour for me. WE had a large party so they asked what we wanted to do and tailored the time for our wants. Had free water, sodas and beer all ice cold. Do not miss the low flying planes on Maho Beach, check You Tube for details. A good guide is a must as local roads vary, and if you do your own arranging of tours, your late, you wait. Ship will not wait for you. Ship tours, the ship will wait or arrange for you. Up to you to keep track of times and that can determine how and what you book.

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On St. Martaan (Phillipsburg) look into the island tours with "Bernards" We had a blast with "the Mailman" as our guide. We not only got a great tour of both sides of the island, there was beach time near Orient beach and Maho beach. Check out the attachments... the airplanes were coming into the airport over Maho beach.

 

In St. Thomas, we took a ferry over to St. John. Nice beaches there... including the one in the Jodi Foster movie, "Contact."

 

[ATTACH]286001[/ATTACH]

 

[ATTACH]286002[/ATTACH]

 

[ATTACH]286004[/ATTACH]

 

[ATTACH]286005[/ATTACH]

 

Thanks....Bernards tour is not a "NCL" tour. I know you recommended it & others have said it is great but so many say that you should stick with "ship tours". I am not sure since I Have never done a cruise...I know its less expensive but any pitfalls?

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Thanks....Bernards tour is not a "NCL" tour. I know you recommended it & others have said it is great but so many say that you should stick with "ship tours". I am not sure since I Have never done a cruise...I know its less expensive but any pitfalls?

 

Not unless you don't do your research first. Which tours are best, ship's or independent is going to vary by port and the type of excursion. In some ports, some ship tours are actually run by the same company you can book with independently, whale watch tours in Alaska for example. They are cheaper to book independently, and a little research on the Alaska board would tell you they are highly rated and very reliable. The main reason, IMO, people book ship tours is for convenience. It is less research, and the fact that if the tour is delayed on the way back to the ship, it will not leave without you. That said, most independent tours are very reliable.

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Nassau, this will be our first time, but we decided to head over to the Nassau Hilton for a day pass, use of their pools, non-motorized boats, and pool beds. You can google for more information. I can't see spending big bucks to visit Atlantis.

 

You should check out the Port of Call boards, there is a wealth of information there.

 

If it hasn't sold out, NCL has Atlantis for $100, which is cheaper than what Atlantis charges. We had such a great there during our last cruise - the lazy river is like nothing we have ever experienced, and the beach was beautiful, with dramatic crashing waves. We enjoyed the Digs, too.

 

The Hilton is alright (although IMHO overpriced - the last time we got a daypass there, it was $15). It's on the harbor, no waves, small beach, simple pool. We preferred the Sheraton, with a larger beach, and more pools. Plus, we actually got to see some of the island on the ride there (we lucked out and got a cab driver who acted like a tour guide).

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If it hasn't sold out, NCL has Atlantis for $100, which is cheaper than what Atlantis charges. We had such a great there during our last cruise - the lazy river is like nothing we have ever experienced, and the beach was beautiful, with dramatic crashing waves. We enjoyed the Digs, too.

 

The Hilton is alright (although IMHO overpriced - the last time we got a daypass there, it was $15). It's on the harbor, no waves, small beach, simple pool. We preferred the Sheraton, with a larger beach, and more pools. Plus, we actually got to see some of the island on the ride there (we lucked out and got a cab driver who acted like a tour guide).

 

The only problem with the Atlantis excursion is that you'll need to buy your own food and drink. At Atlantis, I heard that gets really expensive.

 

The Hilton was nice since it was $60 with a $40 food and drink credit. We are a group of 5 ages 16, 50s and 80s, one walks in a cane and the other in a wheelchair. I don't think 90% of us would use the water slide. I'd hate to see them lose money in the Atlantis casino. So, should be do Atlantis or Hilton?

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We were first time cruisers last year. I don't know if I'd expect just to be able to roam the area. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on excursions so I did some research on the islands and found cheap or free beaches we could use. I made sure these places had cab access for returning to the ship.

 

I can't help with those islands in particular, sorry.

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The only problem with the Atlantis excursion is that you'll need to buy your own food and drink. At Atlantis, I heard that gets really expensive.

 

The Hilton was nice since it was $60 with a $40 food and drink credit. We are a group of 5 ages 16, 50s and 80s, one walks in a cane and the other in a wheelchair. I don't think 90% of us would use the water slide. I'd hate to see them lose money in the Atlantis casino. So, should be do Atlantis or Hilton?

 

We brought in water and some packaged snacks from home, but I think now that my kids are older, I will have to give in and buy some food (my sister just stayed there, and knows the cheapest places to grab food). When we went to the Sheraton, we made do with just a cheeseburger for my 12 year old ds, and got room service when we were back on the ship. The $30 for the Sheraton vs. the $60 for the Hilton with the food credit is pretty much the same (you can get lunch and a couple of non-alcoholic drinks at the Sheraton for under $30 - but not much).

 

In your situation, there is no way I'd pay for Atlantis! The last time we went, the younger kids stayed on the ship with the grandparents. The only reason why we are doing it this time is because A. I feel guilty my younger 3 didn't get to go, B. It's financially a pretty good deal, especially with 3 of my kids being only $60, and C. We went this same week 3 years ago, and there were hardly any lines.

 

Having been to Nassau 3 times already, I did want to try something new, but maybe next time!

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