First time cruisers here. We leave on August 1st from Tampa and we will be visiting Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Belize. I would love a breakdown of suggestions on what we should do at each port. I have seen posts talking about how certain ports are good for shopping and certain ports are good for an excursion. I have also read about ports where you should avoid the cities and such. Can some experienced cruisers who have visited the ports above help give breakdowns on what we should and shouldn't do there? Also, do you recommend booking with carnival to ensure that the ship will wait for you if there are any problems? My daughter wants to know what the best shopping ports (with bargains) are. I want to know which ones have the nicest beaches and snorkeling. My husband is interested in knowing which is most dangerous and how to remain the safest there. Any help would be greatly appreciated. We are a little nervous about how the days in ports will be.
Kimmy, We haven't been to Costa Maya (yet) so can't comment on that one. My opinion is, best beach, Grand Cayman easily; that 7 mile beach is superb. I'll qualify that by saying that we didn't go to any beaches in Cozumel though. I don't recall seeing any beaches in Belize.
Best shopping Cozumel. We're not big shoppers but we did walk around and there are tons of stores, to the point of being over commercialized in my opinion. Also lots of stores in Georgetown GC but they seemed higher priced.
Belize was my favorite port out of those listed, because it hasn't been hyper commercialized yet like many of the more established cruise ports. There I would recommend a tour so you can see something of the country. I don't even recall local tour operators being there at the pier like at GC and Cozumel, but I'm sure that'll change. Read the other messages about Belize from a few days ago also; some people didn't feel safe there.
We've stuck to using the ship's tours and have always enjoyed them. They're not cheap, but I haven't seen the local tour operators offer them much cheaper either, but many do use them instead also. In GC their local bus system is super easy to use and inexpensive to get to the bech, turtle farm, and Hell. We haven't done the stingrays there yet but Mrs. says next time we will, and will have to use a tour operator for that one.
All the ports are pretty safe. Caymans have great shopping for high end stuff but otherwise pretty expensive. Stingray City is a 'must do' excursion. Cozumel has great shopping and lots of excursions to choose from. Costa Maya is a shopping port basically with a number of nice excursions as well as a great shopping area with entertainment and pool. Belize has some shopping that is very cheap for local crafts just outside the port building but it is mainly an excursion port to do cave tubing, ruins explorations, diving, etc. Very good itinarary!
In Cozumel, Chankanaab park is great for the snorkeling and beach area. We just returned from there and loved it. We just rented a taxi and did it on our own- very safe and there were no problems on time! :-) I would highly recommend this!!!
In Belize, do a shore excursion through the ship! It is not a really safe place for you to be walking around. The port area is fine- lots of security, but beyond the gates of that area- I would not go walking alone. Too much crime. I've been there 3 times, and I am always cautious!!!
Enjoy yourself on the cruise, it goes by way too fast!!! I just got home on Sunday and I'm missing it a bunch!
Just returned from this itinerary. We took two tours with Carnival. One in Cozumel called the highlights and shopping tour. Good tour, great guide. Was looking to buy black coral in Cozumel and this tour ended up giving me excellent advice on how to spot the "real" thing. As well as seeing some of the island, I was able to purchase my black coral with confidence on the tour. The other tour we booked through Carnival was the Altun Ha Ruins and River Wallace Tour in Belize. This was an adventure. We saw lots of wildlife (manatees, small bats, iguanas hanging in trees, monkeys in the trees, etc). The small village we landed at for lunch was interesting and you can see locals carving their wooden pieces there. Then on to the Ruins themselves, which were not as spectacular as Tulun, but interesing just the same. One problem we had on this tour was the bus ran out of gas. Out in the boonies so far that the cell phones of the guides could not get a signal. Needless to say, this was somewhat distressing. On top of everything, the tour guides were clueless as to how to handle the situation. They left us smoldering in the bus while they stood outside. Finally, we are just got up and got off the bus due to the extreme heat. They had no water to offer us. After a little while, another bus came along. Gas was siphoned, but to no avail. The bus started briefly, but they never did get it moving. Several of us piled on to the other bus, others were left stranded to wait on another bus to come and get them. Thankfully, my family was able to get on the first bus and although we were hot, tired, and aggravated we did not have wait on the second bus. I think they took pity on us because we had our elderly mother along. We were by this time very late and knew the ship was already due to sail. I must say to Carnival 's credit that they did refund our money . (I was pleasantly surprised by this) So, I would most definitely advise you to book tours through Carnival in the port of Belize. I know that if we had been on an independent tour and this would have happened, we would have been left in Belize. So, due to the circumstances you will find in Belize, I would not recommend an independent tour operator. Too much could go wrong. I know lots of people do book the independent tours, but I just would not feel comfortable doing it in Belize. Other ports might be fine, but too iffy in Belize for me. Now, in Grand Cayman we rented a car and toured ourselves around. This was fun, because we got to go to Rum Point on the other side of the island. In Costa Maya we rented a golf cart and went inito the small fishing village there. We wanted to take school supplies to the kids, but unfortunately schools were not in session. You might consider doing this if you are so inclined. The ports on this cruise all offer different things. That is why we chose this one, the variety was wonderful and we had never been to Belize or Costa Maya. We had been in the other two ports before. Cozumel and Grand Cayman are both great for shopping. I think Belize would bee the port to be especially careful in. The city itself is quite shocking, and I would not recommend you do any shopping outside the gated area. This is just me personally. Upon the return from our tour we got to see the city and it was very depressing to look at. I know many others can attest to the beauty of Belize, and there are some beautiful spots, however, the overall poverty that I saw made it unappealing to me. I hope this helps.