Why go to St. Maarten?
This island is shared by St. Maarten (Dutch) and St. Martin (French), giving visitors two ports in one
You'll need to take your passport with you if you plan to visit both places
This destination is ideal for cruisers who like to maximize their time in port
St. Maarten Cruise Port Facilities?
A five-minute walk from the cruise terminal (going toward Philipsburg) takes you to the small boat marina named Dock Maarten -- pun intended. There, you'll find shops, water taxis and boat tour operators and a popular waterfront bar and grill, Chesterfield's.
Slightly farther, Philipsburg's pedestrian-friendly downtown is a definite duty-free shopping destination; great buys can be found on electronics, liquor and jewelry.
Good to Know?
Tourists tend to be robbery targets, so don't flash valuables or cash, and do not leave anything valuable in a car or on the beach.
On Foot: The main on-foot attraction at the base of the pier is a set of duty-free shops. After that, it's a 20-minute walk into downtown Philipsburg. For a more scenic view, take a brief water taxi ride from the port to Captain Hodge Pier at the foot of the boardwalk. Then, continue your on-foot exploration from there.
Taxis: Taxi operators in St. Maarten are under government regulation. Passengers at the port facility queue up under signs designating per-person rates and destinations -- everything from one-way to Philipsburg to a full island tour. Charges are based on two passengers and destination. Additional passengers cost extra. Check out the Dutch St. Maarten Taxi Association for more information.
Vehicles range from standard taxis to large vans and open safari-style vehicles, and rates are per vehicle, so you'll pay less if you have more people. The per-person savings aren't that huge, so if you are on a tight schedule and don't know your taxi-mates well, it's probably best to go it alone (they might pipe up that they want to add an island tour or a detour to the beach).
Water Taxi: A water taxi operates between the cruise pier and the heart of downtown Philipsburg; the cost is reasonable, and a roundtrip discount is often available.
By Rental Car: This is a destination where renting a car can be a benefit (particularly if you have four or more people and want to see sights on both St. Maarten and St. Martin). There are a handful of agencies at the cruise pier.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder on the Dutch side and the euro on the French side, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Banks and ATMs are readily available, and most establishments take credit cards (although you'll have to pay cash at the smaller beach bars).
Although the official language is Dutch for St. Maarten and French for St. Martin, virtually everyone speaks English.
Where You're Docked?
The Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facilities, St. Maarten's pier and cruise terminal, is a boon to cruise passengers, especially those who find tendering unpleasant, inconvenient or physically challenging. In most cases, ships will dock there, where it's less than one mile to the heart of Philipsburg. (Inexpensive water taxis are available for those who don't want to walk.) On busy days when lots of ships are in port, tendering to Little Pier, right in the center of Philipsburg, is a possibility.