A gorgeous stop at St Maarten Cruise Port and Airport Beach!
If you follow along on Instagram with us, you will know that we were recently in the Caribbean on board the Carnival Sunshine! We desperately needed a vacation, but it was made even better because this is a trip I won through an essay contest at Living Well Spending Less. My friends, family and fabulous followers helped us win this trip, and we are so thankful!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into a cruise. Bryan cruised before when he was younger, but this was my first time. I was a tad nervous, mainly because I don’t do well with the unknown and the whole experience was unknown. My hope is to help give you details about cruising and about our port stops through a series of posts so that you can best plan your own experience. If you have any specific questions about cruising, please ask below so I can make sure I give you the answer!
To start, let’s talk about our St. Maarten Cruise Port Stop! We were trying to keep costs down and was looking forward to exploring on our own, so we did not book any excursions.
The St. Maarten Port is a very established port. There is a large collection of shops as soon as you get off the ship, and people standing around with information about tours and cab rides. My favorite thing about this port has to be the access to transportation. They have a row of stations labeled for different areas of the islands. It’s not the most organized of systems as we stood around in a huddle as every taxi pulled up, but it didn’t take long. Be prepared to shout out how many are in your party or hold up fingers as the taxis are group vans.
Our destination was Maho Beach, also known as Airport Beach. In a group van both ways, it cost us under $60 round trip. We, of course, forgot to write down the exact price. I think it was 20 each way. Bryan thinks it was a little more.
Airport Beach is one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island, so it will definitely be busy. As soon as I heard about it though, I knew we had to go. The beach is located right across the street from the Princess Juliana International Airport. It’s one of the few places in the world where planes can be viewed in their flight path just outside the runway. Bryan and I both love airplanes and attend the Air and Water Show every year, so getting to see planes up close like this was a must see.
We got off the ship in the morning and went straight to the beach. Since Hurricane Omar, the beach is smaller than it used to be with a lot more rocks. It was crowded by the time we got there, but we were able to find space for both us and our towels. I hear that as it gets later in the day, the planes get bigger and the beach gets even busier. The beach is nice though – white, soft sand – and the water felt great. Of our two beach days on the cruise, we spent the most time in the water at Airport Beach.
My warning to all of you about visiting Airport Beach. Watching the planes land is a really enjoyable experience. The planes come toward the beach, cross the street and land. Take off is a sand storm. I have a whole new appreciation for movies that show dessert storms now. Seriously. We were discovering sand for days. There are people who actually stand on the fence to feel the force of the jets as they take off away from the beach. Do not do this! People get hurt and then your trip is ruined.
We spent a few hours at the beach and decided to get a taxi back for a late lunch on the cruise (saving money, remember?). It did cross my mind that finding a taxi back might be tricky, but, with it being such a busy tourist spot, there were taxis coming and going all day long.
The Carnival Sunshine was docked until 5pm, so there is time to get back off the boat after lunch. There is a Water Taxi right at port that will take you over to downtown Philipsburg.
- Have cash with you for shops, food, and taxis.
- Port to Maho Beach/Airport Beach costs between $20-30 for two people per ride.
- If you are interested in planes, you should go to Airport Beach
- While we did not go on any excursions, I did hear positive things about Golden Eagle Catamaran Sail and Snorkel, America’s Cup Regatta, and Starfish Cove Beach and Snorkel by Powerboat.
- Always bring your sail card and license with you off the boat.
WHAT WE WORE: Since we knew it was going to be a beach day with no space to change, we left the ship in our swimsuits. My top was like a normal take top, so I just had that with shorts over my swim shorts. With limited walking, I decided to just wear my flip flops. Bryan had on the guy version – swim trunks, a t-shirt, and flip flops.