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Mirabella or Golden Eagle Catamaran in St. Maarten?


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So there are four different catamaran excursions that Royal offers while in St. Maarten, and we've narrowed it down to two based on the descriptions and the Trip Advisor ratings (both 4.5 stars with hundreds of reviews) -- The Mirabella catamaran sailing, and the Golden Eagle. But we're having a hard time figuring out what each one does exactly or if the descriptions don't reveal anything we should be aware of.

It looks like the Golden Eagle trip is a bit more "upscale" and the crew pampers the guests a bit more. But if I'm reading the description and the reviews right, it only goes to one beach (which you have to swim a fair distance to reach), and all snorkeling is done at that beach. Haven't really seen if you get to see any more of the island apart from what's en route, but it looks like no. That excursion goes for four hours.

The Mirabella excursion looks like it isn't as "upscale" as far as what they provide the guests, but I think it's the more interesting one in that you visit four different snorkeling spots (including one with a sunken sub and helicopter). It seems like this would be the better option, although with this one I've read that the places it visits tend to be more crowded with other cruise ships sending their own excursions to the same locations. This excursion is a little shorter at 3 1/2 hours, so I'm not sure how much actual snorkeling time you get at each spot.

Has anyone here done either of these trips, where you could give some more details about the actual places you went, what the pace was like, how you were treated by the crew, etc? I'd love for the family to have something like the trip my wife and I did on our honeymoon, where it was a few spots with about 45 minutes at each to actually snorkel and look around / take underwater photos / relax and enjoy the island views. I'll be sitting on the catamaran the whole time due to my mobility issues (which pretty much make snorkeling impossible for me now), so a steady supply of mojitos / margaritas / rum punches would be welcome! :10_wink:

I'm trying to book it this month / on the current billing cycle, so we can move on to picking another port's excursion in mid-May. Appreciate whatever feedback you can give!

 

[EDIT] if there's another excursion of this sort that you can recommend but doesn't happen to be through Royal / has to be booked on my own, please let me know! I'm certainly open to an "external" booking if it's a better option! Especially if it avoids the crowds and gives a more private / secluded option.

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So I checked TripAdvisor for the #1 snorkeling / boat tour type thing in St. Maarten, and by far the favorite is "Soualiga Destinations Boat Tours" with "Captain Bob" or "Captain Matt" depending on the trip that was reviewed. Has to be booked independently, but it also looks like it doesn't go to the same crowded spots as the ship-booked excursions. Nearly 3,000 reviews and this trip has a near-perfect rating! https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147347-d2083816-Reviews-Soualiga_Destinations_Boat_Tours-Philipsburg_Sint_Maarten_St_Maarten_St_Martin.html

I've got a feeling this is what we're going to book, but if anyone's done it and can offer their own feedback I'd be happy to listen!

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4 hours ago, JLMoran said:

So I checked TripAdvisor for the #1 snorkeling / boat tour type thing in St. Maarten, and by far the favorite is "Soualiga Destinations Boat Tours" with "Captain Bob" or "Captain Matt" depending on the trip that was reviewed. Has to be booked independently, but it also looks like it doesn't go to the same crowded spots as the ship-booked excursions. Nearly 3,000 reviews and this trip has a near-perfect rating! https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147347-d2083816-Reviews-Soualiga_Destinations_Boat_Tours-Philipsburg_Sint_Maarten_St_Maarten_St_Martin.html

I've got a feeling this is what we're going to book, but if anyone's done it and can offer their own feedback I'd be happy to listen!

JL,

Just checked this out with google. Wow, this excursion looks great! We'll be in ST. Maarten next April, I would greatly appreciate your comments on this excursion if you do it!

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4 hours ago, bcarney said:

You might be interested in sailing on Random Wind - we did it a few years ago and loved it:

https://randomwind.com/index.php/2012-07-19-17-39-29/paradise-sail

It's not a catamaran, but an actual sailboat.  Lots of fun!

Thanks for the link, @bcarney! Going to talk about it with my wife. Doesn't seem to have as much snorkeling as the other trip, but it's a true sailboat and not a speedboat (which is a plus in my book), lunch is prepared and served on the ship, and my older girl's ears perked up at mention of the standing paddle board. Plus, it's a little more within our budget (about $40 less than what the one I linked to will cost).

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1 hour ago, rjac said:

JL,

Just checked this out with google. Wow, this excursion looks great! We'll be in ST. Maarten next April, I would greatly appreciate your comments on this excursion if you do it!

@rjac, I won't be there myself until April 4 next year, far too late to fill you in before he's booked up.

When are you going to be there? Are you on Freedom out of Ft. Lauderdale March 31? That's our sailing, for the Eastern Caribbean.

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10 hours ago, JLMoran said:

@rjac, I won't be there myself until April 4 next year, far too late to fill you in before he's booked up.

When are you going to be there? Are you on Freedom out of Ft. Lauderdale March 31? That's our sailing, for the Eastern Caribbean.

JL,

Will be on the Allure leaving Ft. Lauderdale on April 1st 2018, eastern Caribbean also.

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15 minutes ago, rjac said:

JL,

Will be on the Allure leaving Ft. Lauderdale on April 1st 2018, eastern Caribbean also.

Oh, OK. What are your other ports? We'll be in St. Kitts on April 3, St. Maarten on April 4, San Juan on April 5, and Labadee on April 6.

If we don't see each other on that St. Maarten excursion, maybe we can wave to each other from our cabins while the ships are docked. :10_wink:

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So I talked it over with the family, and while we all liked the size of the Random Wind sailing ship (and my kids LOVED the idea of the trapeze swing), we've booked the all-day snorkel trip with Capt. Bob / Soualiga Destinations. We all agreed that three snorkeling spots instead of just one, having lunch with 3 options on shore instead of one option on ship, and getting a full circuit of the island was going to be a better experience for all of us.

A speedboat isn't exactly my preferred way to travel, but it's one con in a big list of pros. And I was assured they can help me out with getting on and off the boat with my mobility limits, so maybe I'll even be able to go snorkeling with the rest of the family!

The owner has a US business address and takes payment via PayPal, so no worries about the charge throwing a red flag on my card. For anyone else considering this trip, he normally charges 25% of the total fare plus 5% sales tax, and then takes the balance in cash (ONLY cash) when you arrive at the dock. However, he was fine with me paying in full up front, long as I was OK with paying the sales tax on the full amount. Was small enough that I was fine with it.

Really looking forward to this trip!

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