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Sue Holland

Disney Cruise Line's Eastern Caribbean Itinerary

Friday, July 13, 2001
by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

After reading my article, "Disney Cruising to the Western Caribbean," several of you expressed an interest in hearing more about the ports on the existing Eastern itinerary.

The Magic at St. Thomas
The Magic at St. Thomas

The Eastern Caribbean itinerary has been operating since August 2000, and with three full days at sea, has an additional day at sea compared to the new Western itinerary. The published itinerary is:

  • Saturday - Sail at 5 p.m.
  • Sunday - at sea
  • Monday - at sea
  • Tuesday - St. Maarten 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Wednesday - St. Thomas 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday - at sea
  • Friday - Castaway Cay 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday - disembark by 8:30 a.m.

Which cruise is better for you has as much to do with your cruising style as your prior history. If you have cruised the eastern ports of call, you might prefer to try something new. If you have cruised both sections of the Caribbean, you might simply choose the itinerary with the ports you most enjoy. If you go on cruises primarily to enjoy the ship, you might prefer the current itinerary, so you have more days when the ship is actually cruising. On the other hand, if you cruise primarily to visit ports, you might prefer the Western itinerary in order to visit more places.

Which itinerary do I prefer or recommend? I would have to say "both." There are enough sites to visit at each port to justify repeat visits. I'm one of those who cruise for the ship experience, and don't really care which ports we stop at, so returning to a port already visited gives me the freedom to stay on board to enjoy the ship while almost everyone else rushes ashore. So let's take a look at the eastern ports of call.

View of the St. Maarten as the ship approaches
View of the St. Maarten as the ship approaches

First stop - St. Maarten / St. Martin.

This is the smallest island in the world owned by two different countries. The ship docks in St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island approximately 16 square miles with its capitol in Philipsburg. The French St. Martin consists of 21 square miles, with its capitol in Marigot.

Each side has its own currency, although American dollars, including traveler's checks, are widely accepted. There is a tourist information office right by the pier, along with a beach and a duty- free shopping district.

One of St. Maarten's shops
One of St. Maarten's shops

Guests wanting to venture further can choose from many Disney shore excursions, or take a taxi from the pier. Cab fares to most beaches cost around $6 to $18 each way for one or two people. For parties of three or more, cab fare is generally $4 per person each way. The beaches on the French side are like those in Europe, which means that topless or nude sunbathing is not unusual. If you may be uncomfortable in this environment, speak to a Disney cast member about which beaches to avoid.

The beach right at the pier
The beach right at the pier

Most of the shore excursions involve being on or in the water, which should come as no surprise. There are different snorkel and scuba tours, kayaking tours, and several beach trips. For about $45 per person, beach trips usually include transportation, a beverage, lunch, and a rental chair. Obviously, taking a cab can be much less expensive. There are a few excursions that transport you by boat or vehicle (or both) throughout both sides of the island. To enjoy this type of tour, you must be willing to give up control over how you spend your time, since you are given specific amounts of time to shop.

A popular spot on the French side is Butterfly Farm, where you can see exotic species of butterflies. Afterwards, you can take in some shopping enjoy some refreshments at sidewalk cafes in nearby Marigot. By far the most raved- about excursion is the 12-Metre Regatta, and although it's open to anyone age 12 and up, there is also a separate regatta just for teens. The regatta allows you to race in a vessel that actually competed in the America's Cup. No experience is necessary, and each guest can do as little or as much "work" as desired.

Gamblers may want to spend some time (and money) in a casino while in port. The Diamond Casino is right on the corner, near the pier, although it does not look very impressive from the outside. I'd advise checking with a cast member for a casino recommendation, as I've heard there are many on the island.

Finally, do not miss a sample of St. Maarten's guava berry liqueur, which, despite its name, is not related to the guava. The guava berry is exclusive to this island, and is delicious when mixed as a guava berry colada. The Guava berry Shop and Tasting House will gladly give a sample, and sells many different rums and liqueurs. The Belgian Chocolate Shop is also worth a stop, where you can also get free samples. Both of these shops are in the shopping district next to the pier.

Second stop - St. Thomas, which is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and therefore very American. The currency is the U.S. dollar, the official language is English, and although it looks like a tropical island, you won't encounter overly aggressive vendors as you may on so many other islands. Unfortunately during the Caribbean high season, as many as seven cruise ships are in port on any given day, making it very crowded!

St. Thomas
St. Thomas

There are two main duty- free shopping districts. The Havensight Mall is next to the pier, while the downtown area is only a $2.50- per- person cab ride away. My understanding is the ships dock on a first- come, first- served basis, so it's possible the Disney ship docks in different places based on what ships are already there.

Disney shore excursions include beach trips, snorkel tours, kayaking, and scuba. In addition, there is a golf excursion to Mahogany Run (a course designed by Tom Fazio) and an Atlantis submarine ride attraction (not related to the new animated feature.) Coral World is a stop on one of the island drives, where you can pet a shark and see marine life without getting wet.

St. Thomas is surrounded by several smaller islands, and there are tours that go to some of them. We did a mountain biking adventure on Water Island last year in the rain, and it was a lot of fun even though it was more effort than I'd realized! St. John is the best known other island, and is mostly National Park land. There is a beach trip to Trunk Bay Beach, an island tour, and also an eco-hike tour. St. John is supposed to be absolutely breathtaking, and it's where we plan to head on our St. Thomas day in November 2001.

St. Thomas is home to Bluebeard's Castle, now a hotel resort high atop the island. The view from here is excellent, and you can see the resort from almost anywhere on the island. One of the most beautiful beach areas is Magen's Bay, which is often photographed and touted as one of the world's prettiest. To get there, take a cab (approximately $4 per person), then pay a $1 admission fee.

Assuming the ship still docks at the pier next to the Havensight Mall, the Paradise Point Tramway provides a great view of the island and the bay as you ascend 700 feet. There are a few minor shops at the top, as well as a restaurant bar that serves the official drink of St. Thomas: the Bushwacker. Even in the rain, it was enjoyable sitting up there under an umbrella, and sipping a delicious, frozen Bushwhacker!

Get a great view of the island and the bay on the Paradise Point Tramway.
Get a great view of the island and the bay on the Paradise Point Tramway.

The final stop is at Disney's own island in the Bahamas - Castaway Cay. Since you can only visit it if you are on a Disney Cruise, wait for a future article from me about the Disney Cruise itself, and about Castaway Cay.

The Disney Magic
The Disney Magic

Until then, happy cruising!


Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.