We rarely book an established cruiseline port excursion. Cruiseline offered port excursions tend to be quite expensive and structured. DW and I consider ourselves to be adventuresome and will usually just set out, on our own, for a day of exploring. Sometimes its planned, sometimes we just wing it. It all depends on the port. This message board and the cruise critic message boards have a wealth of information about what to do at different ports. I suggest you read up.
If you do decide to explore a port on your own, be sure you leave enough time to get back to the port before the ship sails. They wont wait for you, when you set out on your own. Also, make sure to arrange your return transportation ahead of time, be it a cab or something else. What could be worse then being on a remote beach at 6:15, finding out the last cabs leave at 6:00 and your ship sails at 8:00? This happened to us once. Thank goodness for cell phones, international cell service and American Express Global Assist
As a child, a library card takes you to exotic, faraway places. When you're grown up, a credit card does it.
-- Sam Ewing (Readers Digest, Dec, 1997)
This is just what we do....if we have never been to a port before, we generally book tours through the ship. Yes, they are more expensive, but also safer and you know you will be back on board the cruise ship before it sails.
Once we are comfortable with a port, we go out on our own. Part of that is whether a port is safe enough to explore solo. The other factor is, believe it or not, traffic. St. Thomas is certainly safer than a lot of US cities, but can be hard to get anywhere in a timely manner. WHen you do ship's tours, they will hold the ship if need be. Have had this happen.
I am SO jealous that you are going to Isle of Marguarite. I love that place. But, it is one where I would go via ship's tour. I've done Taquantar Village tour twice and would do it again in a hearbeat. Also, Barbados might be one to do a ship's tour.
Another factor is the sheer size of a port. Sometimes, just getting off the ship and walking around a tad is enough. But, you don't really get to see anywhere near as much that way.
I think I've been to all your ports, so ask any questions and I'll tell you what I know and/or think.
We are thinking about going to El Agua Beach in Isla Margartia (a ship excursion) and to Mambo beach in Curacao (also ship excursion). In Barbados, we are looking at Brandon's beach, they rent wave runners there. Any opinions would be appreciated. I'm just in it for the sun and sand so walking and sightseeing tours aren't for me this trip.
We stop at St. Thomas, Barbados, Dominca, Isla Margarita, Curacao . I'd like to go to St. John's Island but the tour only gives an hour at the beach.
I've only cruised once before so I'm a little nervous about going out on our own.
Thanks for the advice.
St. John is very easy to do on your own. Just give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. The ferrys are VERY reliable. Check out www.vinow.com for a lot of info on St. John. If you PM me, I can give you specifics on how to get there and back.
We did an excellent private catamaran excursion on Barbados. It was highly recommended on another board. We liked it so much that we are repeating it this upcoming cruise!
Mariner of the Seas 3/30/08
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."