My husband and I are cruising on the Carnival Spirit in November and wonder what the best options are in these ports. We are especially interested in anything people did that didn't involve tours through the ship, but also which tours are especially good. We are avid snorkelers and also enjoy seeing ruins. We are in our fifties, but are pretty fit and speak some Spanish.
Sorry, I don't have an answer - BUT I'll be curious as to what the answers are, as that will be my next cruise. Picked up some brochures today, and that's the one I picked! I've been wanting to go to Costa Rica, so that's why I picked it. (Wish I were going when you are!) Mine will be in the spring. SO, I'll be looking forward to seeing your review when you get back, OK?
We took a tour in Panama to Portabella, It was VERY interesting and I am not a big history buff. The ruins were so preserved even after all these years. You get to hear lots of lore about Sir Francis Drake. We took the trip through Carnival. From what I understand it is not recommended to go on your own. Our tour bus was followed by police and they had machine guns, it was a little funky. But we had no problems. I will say that there are some towns people selling fabrics and weavings and all kinds of craft items. I think buying them there would have been better than at the mall. I think that the money would have gone directly to the artist. I do suggest you bring some water with you and maybe even a snack, we were very hungry by the time we got back to the ship. A soft sided cooler and maybe a bagel from breakfast and some bottled water would have been perfect. The mall at the port is safe and not a problem. We enjoyed going to the grocery store and checking out all the foods and packaging. They had entertainment in the grocery too. Music singing and dancing. They also have great deals on coffee, wine, booze, fruit juices and mixers if you want a cocktail in your cabin. We had no problem bringing it on to the ship. They also served samples of rum and coke in huge glasses, as well as coffee and some other things.
I found Panama to be the most depressed of our stops. And I felt the least safe there.
Costa Rica was fabulous! Go to the rainforest awesome awesome awesome!!!!!!! Go as early as you can so that the tours aren't running late and you are not rushed! It was so beautiful. The flowers, trees, birds, etc. are so very beautiful. You go through the rainforest in a cable car seeing the canopy and the ground of the rainforest. Each car seat 4 people and a guide. The guide we had was wonderful and he pointed out all the neat things to see. I wish we had gotten there earlier but our bus was held up due to traffic. The guide said that you see more animals in the cooler part of the day. After we were done we were taken back to the entrance and we were served lunch. It was unexpected and we were happy it was there. The lunch was delicious too. I would do this tour again.
When we went to Costa Rica we did do the ship tour. Took the Whitewater Rafting tour and would do it again in a heartbeat! Took about 45 minutes by air conditioned bus to get there and saw alot (took pictures thru the window ~ turned out great). The rafting in itself was fabulous, on the way back we stopped to change our wet swimsuits/clothes, we bought a bite to eat, everything was a $1.00 including the chicken, rice & beans plate I had ~ it was wonderful! The straw market in town is small but very worth going to, bought a hammock for $20.00, this was 3 yrs. ago and still have it and it's still in great shape. Lots of carved wood there also and don't forget the coffee, some of the best I've had, wish I still had some!!!! If I can help w/anything else let me know.
Thanks for some great pointers on what to do at Colon and Limon. We will cruise on the new Carnival Pride on 4/11/03, so we hope to do ship's tours unless something specific is recommended by other cruisers who have recently sailed.