I have been on many cruises, but have always booked the ships excursions. Yes, I know stupid and a waste of money. We are going Western Caribbean in October and I want to book excursions outside of the ship. We are of course, going to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We definiely want to go to Stingray City and spend as much time with the rays as possible, not just 30 or so minutes. Does anyone have any past experiences with outside tour companies? If so, I would really appreciate the advice. We are also going to Jamaica, but I think I will stay on the ship at that port. Been there done that!! Thanks to anyone that can advise me.
There is nothing wrong or foolish about booking excursions through the ship. I have done two dozen cruises now and still often book excursions through the ship, especially in ports I am not totally familiar with or if they offer something I want. Cozumel and GC are two of the very good ports that you can book on your own and be fairly safe in most cases. I still would not book a fishing or SCUBA expedition on your own though unless you really know the tour operator and have someone with experiance with them to provide recommendations from past tours. As for Stingray City, there are a number of independant operators but they still all spend about the same amount of time there as the ships tours. The only way they may do it longer is for more money and for a complete group. They like to take two tours a day and you would probably have to end up paying them double and that means for everyone, in order for them to miss the second tour.
We always book our shore tours through the ship too. Not because they are they least expensive ..but we like the assurance of the ship waiting for us if we are delayed. That happened to us at Stingray City and the ship actually waited almost an hour for our group to get back.
February 25, 2011
In agreeing with AK, I would not book an independant tour in GC for the later tour. You can experiance delays and if you don't make it back, just too bad, they leave anyway unless it is a ships tour.
An excursion, whether it be through the cruiseline or independent of them, is never a waste of money if you enjoyed it. A few dollars here or there isn't the end of the world and you're probably going to spend it on something anyway. Besides, you can't take it with you so you might as well enjoy it. I just imagine the millions of investors, who lost thousands of dollars in the stock market over the last few years, wished they had spent that money on cruises and excursions. At least they would have received some enjoyment out of it. I don't know if you are a drinker or not and what cruiseline you're going on, but if you are a drinker, you could maximize the value received by choosing an excursion offering complimentary adult beverages. For instance, when I went on that itinerary on Carnival, I took the Wet and Wild Party Tour in Jamaica, the Stingray City and Island Tour in Grand Cayman and the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel Tour in Cozumel and received enough complimentary drinks on each of them to make the tours quite reasonable and memorable. Have a good one.
In Grand Cayman, we used Nativeways for Stingray tour - excellent. You are there with ship tours, but instead of 150 people on your boat, you have 10 with two guides and they take care of you and make sure everyone gets to hold and feed a ray. In Roatan, we booked the city tour from the ship and it was TERRIBLE. Total waste of money and time. Friends got off and hired a taxi driver for $20 for the day and they saw so much! In Cozumel, I booked a two hour snorkel trip from the ship and it was fine. In Belize, I had arranged a private tour with "cbelize." All in all, I would say that I much prefer the private tours, not just because of cost. On our private tours, we had 6-10 people. If it is a reputable company, they will make sure you are back - their livelihood depends on their reputation and if they didn't get you back in time, you can bet their business would suffer!
I tried to book the dolphin swim for our October trip from outside vendors. Totally booked up--they said you should book 3 months in advance. Will remember this next time. I tried 2 different web sites, both booked up. I will have to try the ship trips this time, but I would book from outside if I saw something I really wanted todo. Probably less people--just watch the times you book, should be ok.
I would like to point out that this figure of 150 plus people is not really accurate. I have done the ships excursions twice at StingRay City and both times we had much less than that, once being about 40 and the other time about 20. I guess it just depends on what boat you get assigned to. No matter what, everyone is in the water in basically the same area so...<G> The other thing is you really have no way of knowing who is really 'reputable' unless you get to talk with others who have done the tour. If anything happens you have no recourse when you are on your own. With a ships tour you do have the cruiselines considerable pull on your side to ensure that they deliver what was promised. Let me make that clear, it is what they promised and not if you liked it. Private tours do not have to do anything but take your money. I also might add that we often take private tours and have almost always done very well for ourselves but we are experianced travelers and I have the added advantage of speaking Spanish which helps tremendously in many places in the Caribbean.
Hi cmac, I just returned (first cruise) from Grand Cayman and Jamaica aboard the Imagination and wanted to let you know that my friend and I found the ship's Hell/Turtle Farm/Stingray City tour to be AWESOME! We highly recommend it! A real bargain, in my opinion. I really didn't think I would find the Turtle Farm interesting, but was amazed at these creatures and we had an hilarious time at the touch tanks taking pictures. I enjoyed the Tortuga Rum shop next door, samples of rum cakes and liquors. The absolute brightest highlight of our cruise was Stingray City, though. Our boat guides, brothers Chris & Eddie, were great with the people and rays. If you choose that tour, I recommend sitting with the guides (top deck on the Ken Ken). You'll get added info about the area and their experiences with the rays. They pointed out starfish and a sea turtle when we asked about the sea life, which we wouldn't have noticed on our own. Have a GREAT time!
Can you tell me anymore about the Imagination (age groups, etc). We are going on the cruise 10/13 with our 16 year old daughter and she is concerned there won't be anyone her age group on the ship. Also did you do any excursions in Jamaica, and if so, which one's. Any other info you can give would be much appreciated as this is our first cruise.
Deb, do the Dunns River Falls in Jamaica. This was fun. Just be sure to bring water shoes amd water proof camera. In some areas the falls will just rush over your head. As for your daughter, there are always kids their age. Our daughter has cruised 3 times at 10, 14 and 15. Never had a problem meeting others.
Golden Princess 12/04
Enchantment of the Seas 4/02