Our family is on the 12.26.04 Cruise. We have never cruised before and would like some advice about excursions. We are considering the Mayan tour through Carnival at Progresso, but are not sure what to do about booking excursions for Cozumel and Belize. How do you know the independent tour guides are reliable and what about credit card security when booking on-line? Any experience out there?
I'm not much for Progresso. I would stay on the ship, and enjoy the pool, spa, and half empty pool deck. The people there will hound you to know in tring to get you to buy something.
Last time I was there, they had open meat markets in town. Yes, no doors, just walk in and get your meat. Its all hanging there for you too see. I was so ready to leave.
Cozumel- You have so much there to choose from. I guess the most popular is the tStingray and Island Tour. They all so have a Dolphin Swim and Meet Tour at the park too.
Belize-I've never been there personally, yet ! But, I hear alot of great reviews about the cave tubing, and the beaches there.
As for as booking excursions, I book all mine through the ship, before I get to each port.
We have already researched all the excursions from on-line at home, and we know what we are going to do. The reason for this is, if something happens to your tour, and your late returning to the ship, they (ship) will wait on you. If you go on your on, and your late for some reason, your fault, there fault, someone else's fault, that ship will leave you there.And yes, they do have some very good independant operators that do a great job.
I may pay alittle more for excursions, but I got the insurance that the ship will be there when I return.But, once your excursion is over, and you hike out on your own shopping,
You still must be back on board early enough to make the ship. Also, if your a last minute person, beware! When the captain tells you the ship is leaving at 5.00 pm, be on the ship no later than 4.30. At 5.01 pm, that ship will be moving. On every cruise, I get to watch someone being left behind on the pier waving, because they showed up at 5.05 or 5.10. Or they are running around on the pier tring to get a water taxi to jet them out to the ship. And lord knows what that would cost.
Sorry, didn't mean to rattle on, or be so negative. Just be on the ship on time (early) and everything will be wonderful.
Your going to have a wonderful cruise. Leave all your worries at home and relax.Enjoy the high life !
Unfortunately there is no way to ensure you will get what you pay for with an independant contractor. Yes they are often a little bit cheaper but that is because they do not have to meet the requirements that the cruiselines place on them such as the GTY that you will actually get what is promised, they will get you back to the ship on time, they have the proper safety requirements and inspections, and they have someone who speaks fluent English. Not all private tours are bad and many are actually pretty good but if there is any doubt or you feel the least bit uncomfortable in a foreign country and you do not speak the language fluently yourself or have not been there before I highly suggest the ships tours. It is just much safer and they will fulfill the promised tour or you will be compensated or reimbursed.
As to what to do, In Progresso the ruins tour, either Chitzen Itza or Xumal are wonderful and you will learn much about the areas cultures and history. The tour of Merida is also great in a beautiful Spanish Colonial city.
In Cozumel my suggestions would be the Lagoon which you can easily do on your own by cab, or shopping, again get there and back by cab if not docked downtown. You can also rent your own transportation, (stay away from the motorscooters), and tour the entire island and even check out San Gerversio which are minor ruins on the island. You can also take the ships tour to Ux-Hal which is much like a water park and very nice.
In Belize the River Wallace/Altun Ha tour is nice as is the Cave Tubing. Xunatunich is a great tour of the country and ruins far inland is you haven't had your fill of Mayan history yet. Some pretty good shopping right at the port but not really anything downtown and the poverty might surprise you. Understand you tender in Belize and if you don't make it back to catch the last tender, tough cookies so I would not recommend any private tours even though many have had good luck with some private cave tubing guides.
In general, it is your responsibility to catch back up with the ship. You don't want to risk this. However, if you see the ship pulling away from the dock as you arrive, go to the port authority worker and tell them you just missed the ship. They may radio ahead and the ship MAY (may not) wait for a pilot boat to bring you out. The cruise lines state though that you will be held accountable for any expenses the cruise line incurs (e.g. stopping an idling a cruiseliner is not inexpensive). I saw this happen once in St. Thomas on Princess.
As for tour operators, message boards like this are your best bet. Identify who you are interested in and then ask for information on that operation on this board. I have been very lucky with tour operators, however I did get stung once in Alaska (with an American operator).
In Progresso, Uxmal is easy to reach by car. There is only one car rental place though within 20 miles, so have a reservation if you do it alone (search on these boards for my id to find their direct website, it's much cheaper).
Cozumel. This is very safe, however I would not rent a moped/scooter. Too much traffic. Cabs or car rentals are plentiful. Chankanaab Park is nice as is Punta Sur.
Belize: Seems like everyone cave tubes here, but I haven't been.