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I'm so glad we went with a private tour for our family of 5! Much better experience seeing the island the way we wanted to see it plus the added bonus of having the guide's complete attention when we had questions about things. We told our guide there were 2 things we HAD to do but after that we left it in his hands! He did such a great job showing us things we wouldn't have known about! I will definitely consider doing private tours again in the future since I felt I got my money's worth compared to cruise excursions we've done for about the same price but felt cheated.
Paul was amazing!!! We had a few ideas of things that we wanted to see on St. Martin, but left the rest of the day up to Paul to recommend. We toured the entire island, from the Dutch side, to the French side, and back to the Dutch side. The local knowledge that Paul shared was amazing, including details of the hurricane relief and recovery process and how it differed on both sides of the island. He took us to a great place for lunch on the French side Rosemary's, as well as ensuring that we had some time at Maho Beach to watch airplanes land, as well as swimming at Kim Sha Beach.
I was a little nervous at first because we were sent a disconnected phone number with our confirmation, and were unable to confirm our tour, but they were waiting for us at the cruise terminal when we arrived.
Thanks to Paul, this was easily our best shore excursion of our trip and we booked it through Viator, not Carnival.
We toured the island plus got to spend a few hours on the beach. The guide was on time and had a planned out itinerary for the day. Although we changed it up some to allow for more beach time.
BOOK THIS TOUR!!! This was the best day of our entire cruise vacation! Paul, our driver and guide, was excellent! He was waiting with a clean van with a cooler filled with juice, snacks and water for our kids and a few drinks for the adults. He gave us detailed stories and history of the island throughout the drive. He specifically chose a beach for us that would be suitable for our young children and included stops to feed TONS of iguanas and one to hold live sea urchins and conchs.
Paul was very personable and sweet with out children. He drove slowly and carefully, always giving us a heads up for a good photo op. We learned so much about the differences between with the French and Dutch sides of the island and left with a better understanding of the culture and deepened appreciation for the beauty of the landscape. Learning about the people, economy, history of slavery and rice/salt export really made us feel like we know the island. We saw almost everything we had planned on only missed a couple things bc of time and never felt overtly touristy because we traveled on our own. The flexibility of being on our own allowed us to stay as long as we wanted at each place. Only caveat, if you're not into creole/heavily seasoned food, request a different restaurant. The one we went to that I think they have a deal with was a bit much for us and was more expensive than we'd prefer.
The best part of this tour was leaving with a feeling of contentment and relaxation. We felt like it was well worth the money spent and really appreciated how much individual attention our kids got from Paul. He helped us carry them, showed them cool things and made sure they felt safe and happy. Paul customized our tour to our preferences and made our day in St. Maarten/St. Martin unforgettable! It was a perfect family day. If we were a a group of adults looking to party, I know he would've brought us to the exciting beach and some great bars. We want to go back already!
We had a great time seeing the island from a residents perspective. It is sad to see such a beautiful island still trying to recover from two major hurricanes but the people who live there are determined to make it happen. Paul was great! If his van can be spruced up just a bit we would have given it a 5!
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