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St Maarten Cruise Port at a Glance
Welcome to the worlds smallest piece of land divided into two nations. We hope this guide to St Maarten Cruise Port (and St Martin) will help you make the most of your day on this beautiful island. This half French (Sint Martin) half Dutch (Sint Maarten) island offers a fascinating mix of cultures, gorgeous beaches, hidden bays and some of the best cuisine in the Caribbean.
St Maarten Cruise Port - Where do cruise ships dock?
Ships dock in Philipsburg on the Dutch side and it’s just a short walk from shops, cafes, bars and the excellent Great Bay Beach.
St Maarten Cruise Port - What to do with a day in Port
Philipsburg, the capital of St-Martin/Sint Maarten's Dutch side, arcs out along a wide bay. It's well worth strolling down Front Street for a peek at the restored historic churches and other colonial-era vestiges tucked among the designer boutiques shops. Numerous alleyways link Front St with the beach and the Boardwalk, packed with lively bars.
Enjoy great views of Marigot Harbour from the historic bulwarks of Fort Louis. True there is little left of the bulwarks themselves but the views are worth the making the trek up the winding paths to see this crumbling historic site. The sweeping 180-degrees view across the harbour, encompassing the deep-blue ocean and, if lucky, the silhouette of Anguilla Island in the distance is amazing.
People don’t flock here for the sand and sea, although it’s a nice enough beach. Most come to gawp upwards into the sky when the colossal aircraft of various airlines begin to descend. The runway of the Princess Juliana International Airport is mere metres from the beach, meaning the landings here bring those giants of the skies within an arm’s length from the ground. Takes-off are equally thrilling with people trying to hold onto the perimeter fencing without being blasted back into the ocean from the aircrafts mighty engines.
Ma DouDou's Rhum Shack
One of the most bizarre and interesting places we have ever visited on a cruise vacation is Ma Doudous Rhum shop in St Maarten. Not far from Orient Bay its a fascinating little place to visit. You can try a variety of different flavoured rums which I can personally vouch are delicious. You can find them all over the island though in various shops.
St Maarten Cruise Port - Beach Day
Great Bay Beach
The most convenient beach for cruise ship passengers. It is within walking distance of the cruise ship terminal. Or you can take one of the water taxis over to the beach. The beach has every type of facility you could need. Shops, bars and restaurants line the boardwalk where you can intermittently shop for souvenirs, sip cocktails or enjoy lunch.
The wide sandy beach at Mullet Bay, lined with palm trees, is close to several snack and beach bars. The water can be a little choppy and has some riptides so caution is advised when swimming
A mile-long stretch of white sand that curves along the coastline makes Grand Case a very enticing spot to spend a few hours. Nearby shops and restaurants with excellent Caribbean and French cuisine add to its allure. The water is calm and great for swimming
Friars Bay Beach
Known in French as “Anse des Pères”, the very scenic Friars Bay Beach is a sheltered, family-friendly beach in the northwest of the island. The beach is famous for its two well-known beach restaurants, Friars Bay Beach Café and Kali’s Beach Bar.
Orient Bay Beach
Known as the "Saint Tropez of the Caribbean", Orient Bay beach is situated in the north-eastern part of the island, is one of the island’s largest and most popular beaches. The beach offers a full range of tourist amenities, including beach restaurants, hotels, shops and watersports. Orient Bay is a favourite celebrity and jetsetter hotspot.
A naturist beach can be found to the extreme south of the bay.
A simple yet delicious dish comprised of rice, chicken, a variety of vegetables, and plenty of seasonings. It’s all cooked together in one pot to let the flavours truly combine. Think of it as a type of stir-fry dish or a Spanish paella
It looks like guacamole but it has a ferocious kick. Made with avocado, desalted and shredded cod, cassava flour and pepper, avocado “feroce” owes its name to its spicy taste –“feroce” meaning “fierce” in French.
Conch & Dumplings
The national dish of St Maarten is conch and dumplings. The conch is pounded and then pressure cooked with seasonings. The dumplings are prepared with flour, and with or without cornmeal. The thick sauce from the conch and dumplings is used as gravy. Conch and dumplings are a favourite year-round but especially during carnival season.
Buses are by far the cheapest method of transportation, but if you need to be somewhere fast, take a taxi, or better yet rent a car. Buses run daily from 5am to midnight but do not have a set schedule. Tickets cost between US$1 and US$2. Service mostly moves through Philipsburg, Mullet Bay, Simpson Bay, Marigot and Grand Case. When you need to get off, simply shout a friendly ‘stop.’
On the Dutch side, never get in a car that doesn't have a license plate reading 'TXI' indicating that it's a registered taxi. Day or night always agree on a fare beforehand.
Located right as you depart the port you can hop of one of the frequent water taxis that will take you over to the centre of Philipsburg in a matter of minutes. If you are not in a hurry then we recommend you hang back as there will be long lines to board first thing in the morning as everyone else rushes off the ships.
Good to Know
There a distinct difference between the french and dutch sides of the island. The Dutch side will be more familiar to regular caribbean cruisers as everyone speaks english and you can pay in dollars. The french side is very European and they mostly speak french and use Euros (although dollar still accepted)
There are numerous Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists and Nurses on the island.
Tipping can be confusing
On the Dutch side, you tip, like in the USA, 15% or more if you are satisfied. In French side Restaurants, the tip is included in the meal price just like in France. So check it or you may be tipping twice.
Currency: Sint Maarten - Netherland Antilles guilder. Sint Martin - Euros. US Dollar widely accepted.
Language: English, Dutch, French
Money: ATM’s are common and most bank open Mon-Fri
Visas: Not required for citizens of the US, EU or Australia