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Our focus shifts to the Caribbean

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Now that we're back from Bermuda, it's time for us to start thinking about our next Cruise, the Noordam to the Caribbean on 11/25/06. Unlike most Crazies, the Caribbean is unknown territory to us, largely because neither of us likes heat, we can't take vacation time between December and May due to Joe's business (indeed, this will be our first ever vacation after Thanksgiving!), and redheaded Joe has to avoid beaches between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Other than business trips to San Juan (where we'll meet friends and walk around Old San Juan, so we don't need any help), we've never been to any of the ports in our 40 years of knowing each other, and Joe's only trip to any of the ports (St. Thomas day trip from St. Croix) was in 1958. Your thoughts on what to do, assuming we can't be on a beach in mid day, would be appreciated for the following five ports:

Tortola, St. Thomas, Dominica*, Barbados, and St. Maartin. Thanks.

*That's the small southern Caribbean island, not Dominican Republic!

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We truly enjoyed both Tortola, and St Maarten....We were scheduled to see Barbados when we were on the Century but it was canceled and we are not much help on Dominica either...St Thomas is a tourist trap we didn't care for it at all..

Wish I could have been more help.. but that's all I know

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Tortola is the home of the original Pusser's Rum store with the Painkiller as the specialty! It has beaches and excursions to the baths at Virgin Gorda. Not really much shopping there.

St Thomas is fine for shopping at the mall near the ship, but we usually take a taxi to the 20 minute ferry at Red Hook and ride over for the day to St John. Half the island is National Park and the beaches, such as Trunk Bay, have marked snorkeling trails and showers, etc. Back in town there are numerous small shops, and restaurants. Then a 20 minutes back by ferry and a taxi to the ship. Just be sure to allow enough time. One of the last times we were there we booked seats on a sailboat, the Winifred. Link is http://www.sailwinifred.com/ She is very conscious of the sun's effects. We usually shop after our outings near the pier.

Dominica is undeveloped and most noted for its rainforest. An excursion into it will keep you out of the sun.

Barbados is a favorite of our. The port is a short taxi ride from downtown, which features major department stores. These is good beach near downtown. We located the bus terminal across from St. Mary’s church, and for 75 cents per person, each way, we rode about 20 minutes to Folkestone Park, the national underwater park and beach just beyond Holetown. Entrance is free, and there are restrooms, showers, souvenirs and refreshments, picnic tables, a children’s playground, and chair rentals ($5). At high tide the sandy beach is limited, but there are plenty of sunny areas. Snorkeling is best over the reef about 100 yards offshore to the right of the beach in front of the rocks to the right. Nice coral and schools of multicolored fish….hundreds in a school. Water was very clear. Took the bus back to town and shopped at Harrison’s, downtown, then took a taxi for $5 to The BoatYard, a beachfront bar and grill with water sports, trampoline, rock climb, and a great bar/music with inexpensive drinks ($2 beer and $3 rum punch). Taxi to ship $6 at 7pm. Most shops in the cruise terminal closed at 7pm, but a few were open till 8.

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St Maarten/Martin is another of our favorites. We usually rent a car at the end of the pier and drive around the island (rentals about $50 for the day, much cheaper than taxis). Driving is on the familiar side of the road, and there is really just one highway that circles the island. We start in Phillipsburg at the pier, go past the airport to Cupacoy Beach, a sandstone beach, then into the French side at Marigot. It has a fort overlooking the city and lots of French shops and restaurants, at EU prices! After picking up bread, cheese and wine in the super market we head into the French side, stopping at Grand Case to sit on the beach and picnic. Then on to Orient Beach. The eastern side of the beach is clothing optional, but the western side is, at most, occasional topless. Then you can drive to the Butterfly Farm, and then head back into the Dutch side into Phillipsburg to shop. I find the best prices here, better than St Thomas. The last time we were there, instead of the car we tried a sailing excursion on the Lord Sheffield http://www.lordsheffield.com/

Hope these help.

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Don't forget to take that sunblock. It comes as strong as SPF +60 now.

St. Maarten has become one of my favorite islands and it's nice and clean, at least the sections that I visited. Look for Ma Doudou Rhum. If you like to collect bottles they have rum in beautifully hand painted bottles.

You also have a larger liquor allowance in St. Thomas. So if you have to restock you liquor cabinet that's the place to do it. The flavored rums are very good there. The "Cruzan" brand is very good and very inexpensive. They offer banana, coconut, mango, pineapple and other flavored rums.

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Thanks for the suggestions. Keep them coming. Is anyone familiar with the synagogue in St. Thomas?

This is a real test for us. After avoiding both islands and large ships for so many years (in 38 years we've never had an island vacation other than our honeymoon, or a beach vacation of more than two nights), we're hoping that we love both. the ship and the islands That would open up a lot of vacation doors for us. If we can't take the heat, sun, and/or a ship as gigantic (to us) as the Noordam, it will limit our future vacation choices. We chose this itinerary because of its NYC departure port, and becase of the mix of islands, large and small, overdeveloped and fairly pristine.

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Love Barbados, St. Thomas and St. Martin. We hired a cab driver for a tour of Barbados. We went to Folkstone Beach and to the caves. We paid the entrance to the caves seperate from the fare which was about $50 for 4 hours. It's been several years so I'm sure it's more now. The island is beautiful!

St. Thomas we usually go to Coki Beach for the day. Just take a cab. For shopping we went where the crew goes..........On the outside of the pier shopping gates is a store on the hill...... sorry the name escapes me but they had the best prices for everything including liquor.

St Martin we have done the beaches, just strolled through town, and last time went to the Butterfly farm which we loved and wished we could have stayed longer. This trip we're planning the America's cup Regatta race since I've always wanted to do that one and I hear it's marvelous!

Sorry can't help with the others.

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Thanks for the great questions. We are looking for something that offers a little of everything. We want to be able to relax when we want to relax and party when we want to party. Exciting night life is a plus. Because we are first year teachers, salary indicates budget so something that is reasonable is best. But we also have eight months to save so we do want something more than cheap less than expensive (if that makes any sense). There are no specific excursions that we are looking for just something different to get away from the students. Thanks again for any help.

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