Cruising to St. Martin

Cruise ships can be a relaxing way to vacation

Photo credit: © Ruth Peterkin |

Cruising to St. Martin

St. Maarten has become a popular destination for cruise ships, and has a major cruise ship port that welcomes about 650,000 cruise ship passengers a year.

The unique port of call, which is located in the middle of downtown Philipsburg, is frequented by many tourists who flock to the duty-free shopping and enticing restaurants located on the island.

In recent years, the island has opened the new $2.5 million(USD) Captain Hodge's Wharf, which has caused much excitement for cruise ship passengers. More than 650,000 cruise ship patrons can now easily walk ashore and easily access the island's top attractions.

There are several major cruise lines that stop on St. Maarten as a part of the journey around the Caribbean Islands.

Cruise Line Contact Info
Carnival 888-CARNIVAL (888-227-6485)
Celebrity 800-221-4789
Holland American Cruise Line 877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425)
Norwegian 800-323-1308
Royal Caribbean 800-659-7225

Cruise Classes

There are four classes of cruises that vacationers have to choose from :contemporary/value, premium, luxury, and specialty. These choices allow travelers to to pick the cruise vacation that best fits their needs.

Contemporary/value cruises are the most popular kind of cruise, and are offered by large cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival, who make up almost 90 percent of the cruising industry. This class of cruise offers its passengers a fun and entertaining experience in package deals at affordable prices.

Premium cruises cost more than the contemporary cruises because they give passengers a little more luxury aboard smaller ships. This class of cruise, which can be found on cruise ship lines like Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America, is set aboard a smaller ship that has less passengers. The patrons on premium cruises receive excellent services by a larger waitstaff.


Luxury cruises are the next step up from premium cruises. These luxury liners have all the extra amenities that passengers could want, including a large waitstaff and superior accommodations. Many cruise vacationers feel that this level of comfort and service is worth the high cost.

Specialty cruises have destinations that are unique and less traveled, unlike the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Jamaica. The passengers aboard these ships are mostly exclusive groups such as senior citizens, gays, and singles.


Your cruise vacation will also be affected by the size of the ship. Larger ships are not able to visit some islands because they can't fit in the port. Only recently has St. Maarten been able to accommodate some of these larger ships. This is important when considering the destination of your cruise vacation. Some larger ocean liners are big enough carry up to 3,000 passengers, which can make it difficult to navigate through smaller waterways.

Cruising on a smaller ship, which carries about 300 people, is better for reaching secluded islands with smaller ports of entry. These ships usually avoid larger harbors frequented by the larger ocean liners.

Megaships may be more comfortable for some passengers, especially if they are prone to motion sickness. These larger ships are not moved around as much by choppy waves and rough weather.

Cruise lines use several criteria to classify their ships:

Criteria Explanation Meaning
Gross registered tonnage Measurement of the ship's volume/vessel's size 1 gross registered ton = 100 cubic feet
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio Number of passengers served by each crew member Smaller ratio = better service
Passenger capacity Based on double occupancy (2 passengers in each cabin) More rooms = more passengers
Space ratio Comparison of ship space/tonnage to passenger capacity Higher ratio = extra spacious


Cruise patrons have two choices when selecting the kind of cabin they will have for their vacation: "run of the ship" cabins and "perfect" cabins. The cheaper of the two accommodations is "the run of the ship" cabin, because it is not assigned until the week of the ship's departure. Passengers will have the choice of an outside or inside cabin if they decide on this type of cabin.

"Perfect" cabins give passengers a little more of a say so on what kind of cabin they will receive. These rooms are specifically requested and reserved, which allows travelers to know exactly what kind of room they're getting. This option if more expensive, but generally the room of choice, because passengers know are assigned their specific room well in advance.

When choosing your cabin, most travelers consider size and location to be of the most important considerations when deciding on a room. There are also some other factors that important before choosing your cabin:

  • Areas that tend to be especially noisy are rooms near anchors, bars, casinos, elevators, engine rooms, gyms, nightclubs, public rooms, stairways, pools and hot tubs, theaters, or thrusters, if you are a light sleeper or just want quieter accommodations avoid booking rooms close to these places.

  • Outside rooms with balcony access are not recommended for those vacationers traveling with children.

  • Keep money and valuables put away in you room, and try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash around the ship.

  • Cabins on the inside middle of the ship experiences less motion than the outer cabins, so those passengers that are prone to motion sickness may want to get a room in this area of the ship.

  • If you want an outside room, contact your cruise line to see what kind of view you will getting. If you want an ocean view put in a specific request.

When and Where to Go

When planning your trip, vacationers should remember that if they travel during the high tourist season, which is from December to April, fares are going to be significantly higher as this is the time of year people visit the Caribbean to get away from cold weather. Travelers can find better deals during the spring and summer months, which do fall during hurricane season, but most of the time the weather is not too bad and you can escape the crowds.

When the cruise ship docks in St. Maarten, most of the passengers head straight for Philipsburgs shops and boutiques for some duty-free bargain shopping. Popular purchases among tourists are liquor and electronics, which can be returned from the island with no import tax. Cruise patrons also enjoy dining in the islands restaurants and cafes. If time permits and traffic is light, may people travel to neighboring French St. Martin to enjoy the delicious cuisine.


The cost of your cruise vacation will depend on several things including the level of luxury of your cruise, the length of your trip, and how many people you are traveling with. Most cruise lines include the cost of meals, activities, and entertainment in one package deal, but generally do not cover alcoholic drinks, tips, or any side adventures you may want to take. Travelers should contact their cruise line to find out the specifics of what items are included in the cost of their vacation.


When deciding on what kind of clothing articles to pack for your cruise vacation, remember to bring light breathable clothing for warm weather. Also, swimsuits, flip-flops, and other beachwear are good items to bring for those vacationers planning on spending any time on St. Maarten or St. Martin's beautiful beaches.

Some ships have dining room etiquete and may require passengers to dress formally for dinner. Contact your cruise line to see if there is a dress code required during mealtime.


Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.

About Food