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Saint Martin - Sint Maarten

Overview

By: Editor-in-Chief | Date: May 18, 2017

Docks - At The Pier

Saint Martin or Sint Maarten (in Dutch) is one of the Editor’s favorite island in the Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries for two main reasons - its natural beauty (clean beaches and paradisiacal climate) and the fact that it is very easy and safe to explore on your own.

Pier View Saint Martin

Pier View Saint Martin

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The Island is divided into two areas – the northern side belonging to France and the southern part (more or less one-third of the territory) controlled by Holland as part of the Netherlands Antilles. Cruise ships dock at the A. Wathey Pier with six docking spots for large ships. This pier is fairly close to Philipsburg – the Dutch capital - to where you can easily get to either by walking or by a water-taxi.

Main Terminal Building in Saint Martin

Main Terminal Building in Saint Martin

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Next to the piers, the cruise traveler will find a large open area with a number of buildings where all major services and amenities are offered - Tourism Information, Excursions and Tours, Wifi spots (not free), ATM, Taxis, Water Taxi (more about this below), a good number of stalls with souvenirs, a couple of shops with Duty Free Alcohol, Tobacco (both cigarettes and cigars), chocolates, snacks and beverages. Restrooms (suitable for disabled), and a few of the typical shops the cruise traveler is expected to find in the Caribbean are also in this area: Little Switzerland, Diamonds International, Boolchands, Ballerina’s Jewelers or Effy. Last bu not least, the cruise traveler will find a few nice shaded places to enjoy local drinks and flavors such as Sharky’s or Guavabery.

The A. Wathey Pier is close enough to Philipsburg if you like to walk (both safe and easy) - at a leisurely pace, it will take less than 15 minutes to reach the eastern (and nicer) side of Philipsburg. Along the way, there are a couple of places to stop if you feel like a refreshment – Chesterfield's waterfront restaurant and bar is IQCruising Editor's favorite – and also a small shop to buy Dutch delicacies and souvenirs (the cheese selection is impressive).

Transportation

Water Taxi to Philipsburg

Water Taxi to Philipsburg

Photo © IQCruising.com

Most cruisers prefer to take a very convenient Water Taxi that will take you to the Captain Hodge Pier right in the middle of the Great Bay (and Beach) of Philipsburg and across the Wathey Square. The water taxi runs almost continuously, is a large boat and is reasonably priced - offering a single fare ($5.00) or a day pass ($7.00) that allows as many trips as you want. Because the difference in price is minimal, most cruisers end up using the Water Taxi for both ways.

Along the years, the Editor has found that the Water Taxi is in such demand when cruise ships dock in the morning that waiting in line can take quite some time and – insider’s tip – walking to town become the best choice, only using the water taxi to return to the Pier at the end of the day.

Taxi Dispatch Saint Martin

Taxi Dispatch

Photo © IQCruising.com

Behind the main building in the Wathey Pier (on the right when exiting the gates in the docking area), the cruise traveler will find a shaded taxi dispatch area with all major destinations on offer including Philipsburg ($3 per person each way) – this can be a good alternative to the water taxi or walking. It is also here that you will find the taxis to the major attractions of the Island – Orient Beach, Pinel Island, Dawn Beach, Marigot (the Capital of the French side), DIVI Little Bay, Mullet Bay (and the famous Maho beach next to the airport). If you plan to explore the island on your own and rent a car, Hertz together with local car rentals have their offices close to the taxi dispatch area.

Philipsburg

Many cruise travelers visiting St. Maarten feel tempeted to explore the major attractions of the Ilsland and skip Philipsburg, thinking that the capital is nor worth visiting. You couldn't be more wrong as many a savvy cruise will tell you that they don't even bother to go anywhere else - this is the another extreme. If you have not been in St. Maarten before, most definetely, Philipsburg should be included in your plans.

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