Despite its tiny size, there’s no shortage of things for cruise visitors to do in St. Maarten, an island territory home to an estimated population of 40,000. Renowned for its natural beauty and vibrant culture, adventurous activities such as jungle canopy zip lining, diving, snorkelling, and sailing are also very popular pursuits here.
St. Maarten is located in the North-east Caribbean, southeast of Puerto Rico, and separated from the British island of Anguilla by the Anguilla channel.
Unique in the fact that half of the island, known as St Martin, is under French rule and the other half, being St Maarten, is under control of the Dutch, the two territories share a common border. While Dutch and French are the official language of each side of the island, English is understood and widely used.
Cruise lines such as Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Costa are among the many cruise companies that have ships that call at St. Maarten.
Many large cruise liners arrive on the Dutch side of the island and dock at the modern Dr. A.C Wathey Pier and Port Facility in Philipsburg Harbour, which is around 3 kilometres from the heart of the charming capital of Philipsburg. Margiot, the capital of French St. Martin is around a 20-minute drive away.
As many as 6 cruise ships visiting St. Maarten may anchor in Great Bay, or along the Dr. A.C Wathey Pier on Point Blanche, making it one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. The John Craane cruise terminal can accommodate four cruise liners at once and has a number of facilities for passengers.
- Tourist information centre
- Restaurants and bars
- Currency exchange.
How to Get Around
Passengers have a number of choices to travel between the cruise terminal into Philipsburg and further afield. Licensed taxis are plentiful and reliable in St. Maarten and available at the end of the pier. Most fares are set in advance and the most common destinations have prices listed.
It’s a relatively easy walk into town from the cruise terminal; however, the easiest way is to catch one of the many water taxis, which is approximately USD$4 and USD$6 for a round trip.
While in port, visitors in larger groups may also wish to rent a car for the day from one of the main rental car kiosks at the pier.
Travel Times from port:
- It is a 25-minute walk to central Philipsburg
- It is a 5 minute walk to the beaches at Great Bay.
- It is a 20-minute journey from Philipsburg to Margiot by car
- It is a 15-minute journey to Princess Juliana International Airport by car.
By water taxi
- It is a 10-minute journey by water taxi to Philipsburg
- It is a 25-minute journey from French St. Martin at Margiot to Anguilla.
- Currency - The official currency of St. Maarten is the Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG) soon to be replaced by the newly created Caribbean guilder. Guilder coins are available in 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cent and f1, f2½ and f5 denominations. Banknotes come in f10 f25, f50 and f100 denominations. Almost all businesses accept US dollars.
- Time Zone - St. Maarten operates on Atlantic Standard Time (AST), which is 4 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC.)
- Weather - Temperatures are considered ideal all year round on St. Maarten with an average annual temperature of 27 degrees Celsius and humidity mitigated by trade winds. Unlike other tropical climates there is no typical ‘wet’ season, with the peak tourism periods being during the slightly cooler dry months of December to April, where minimum temperatures are around a very comfortable 22 degrees Celsius.
- Butterfly Farm – Send yourself into a flutter as you immerse yourself in the tropical vegetation and admire hundreds of colourful and exotic species of butterflies from around the world. Open 9am-3pm daily, the admission is USD$14 for adults and USD$7 for children. Tours at the farm last for approximately 25 minutes.
- Orient Beach -There are many beaches where seclusion is possible on St Maarten, but this is not one of them. Along this 2 mile stretch of paradise, you’ll almost find every water activity possible including jet skiing, parasailing, snorkelling and banana boat rides. Out of the 37 beaches on the island, visit Orient Beach for some water-based fun.
- Casino Hopping - Have a punt at one of the many European themed casinos and resorts in and around Philipsburg, such as the Casino Royale in Maho Village. The largest casino on the island, Casino Royale has 21,000 square feet of gaming opportunities, including roulette, poker and black jack. The casino is on Rhine Road and is a 23-minute drive from the port.