We always do ship excursions even if they are a little more. We consider it insurance not to be left behind if running late. You tender into Grand Cayman so I recommend ship excursions so you won't be left behind. I highly recommend swimming with the stingrays! Awesome experience. In Ocho Rios, some consider only ship excursions for safety while others recommend independent tours and have had no problem. We climbed the Dunns River Falls and went to Dolphin Park. Very nice but too many human chains at the falls for us.
Teresa and Larry
#36-Carnival Splendor 9/16/12
7 night Mexican Riviera
#37-Allure of the Seas 11/11/12
7 night Eastern Caribbean
We never use ship excursions (except once for snorkelling). We basically get offf the ship (there is usually a group of 4-6 of us), negotiate with the locals for a cab or van, ask for a 1-2 hour tour of the island and then get let off at a beach. We make sure there are plenty of cabs going to and from that beach. We enjoy the beach for about 1 hour and then hail a cab back to the dock. We then venture out shopping at the local shops. There are usually plenty by the dock. However, we make sure about the island first. Grand Caymen is great for this. You are on the island for many hours. the cabbie took us around (same route as the excursion from the ship). There are all the standard things to see in Grand Caymen. However, Ocho Rios, we paid for a bus just off the pier. It had a set route, including the Dunns River Falls. (A must do !!) He dropped us off there and picked up when we were finished. The timing was perfect. We then went back to the pier and spent the rest of the afternoon at Marguaritaville, which had its own beach.
That being said, I would never set up my own excursion if it included going out on another boat somewhere (sting rays, snorkelling) or to some remote area. Anything can happen and you can miss the cruise. If you want to do the exotic excursions, always book them through the ship. If you want the 1 hour tour, experience a beach and then shop, most islands are very safe for this and you have plenty of time. Worse that can happen is the cab break down, and there are always plenty more around.
when we went to ochos rios we took a tour call coyba river garden& dunn's rivier falls
it was throu carnival the gardens were beautfil the falls i have never seen any thing like it there are two ways to see the falls andventer seeker you can walk up the middle of the falls thats the wet why or if you want to stay dry they have stairs you can climb
there places you can rest and take pictures of the falls it was great here is a little
tip for you if you take tour throu carnival an your having troubles get back in time
to the ship they wiillhold the ship but if you did your own tour and get back late
and the ship is gone you will have to catch the ship at the next port of call
in Grand Caymen the Sting Rays are a must see! book on your own - in advance - they sell out fast with a local operator we have had great service with Captain Marvin. The key to any shore excursion that you book on your own is to give yourself enough "wiggle" room to make your trip and to get back to the ship.
Jamaica - would highly recommend booking an independant tour with Peat Taylor, very reliable, again book in advance- sells out fast.
Book on line, web site same as name.
In both cases, do your homework and know what you want to do in advance. I wouldn't recommend just figuring it out once on shore. In Grand Cayman, it's because you are only there a short time; in Jamaica, it's because of safety.
That said, Grand Cayman is easy to do on your own. If you are interested in the stingray tours you can book in advance, or, there are tour operators on the dock waiting for customers. However, the dock area is VERY CROWDED, so a pre-arranged reservation is probably the best option. Most of these same operators also do island tours or stingray/island tour combos. If you just want to go to the beach, taxis are available at the dock. If you just want to shop, the "downtown" is right near the tender dock.
I've been to Jamaica twice and here's where I feel you must pre-arrange, either through an independent operator or Carnival. However, if you don't want to be bothered with pushy vendors, do not book a shopping tour. We took the canopy tour with Carnival (you can only book it through the ship)....it was great! We went directly from the ship to the tour and back; didn't stop to shop; didn't want to deal with it.
Depends on the tours chosen and your level of comfort. Remember that you are really on your own should you chose an independant tour anywhere. In Jamacia I would recommend a ships tour unless you are just going to town for shopping or Margaritaville and even going to the Falls on your own is okay if you are comfortable with it. Tours inland or sightseeing I recommend doing through the ship.
Yes, do what YOU feel comfortable with. If you do excursions on your own, (the only way we do it) book with people that others use on this board and have been very happy with.
G Caymans- We also used Cap't Marvins. Very happy with them. You'll have less people on your boat and much less money than going through the ship. **URL Deleted***
Ochos Rios- Did this port back in Dec. along with GC. We also used Peat Taylor. Very happy with them! They'll do whatever you want. They'll customize a tour for you. I wouldn't bother shopping down town unless u want to be mobbed by people bugging u every minute and second to buy from them. This was the worse port I've ever been to for this. But I enjoyed the shopping mall by the ship. Very nice and they didn't bug you. It was an outdoors "mall". Forget the name. But after our tour of O. Rios, we had them drop us off there and did some shopping. If you like coffee, you have to get the Jamacian Blue Mountain Coffee.
One thing to remember was with Peat, for some reason they didn't let private tour operators come through the fenced area where u wait for other tours. They kept saying he just left and will be back. We just happened to catch him at the fence. Not sure if they were trying to get us to use their operators or what. Maybe it was an honest mistake?
Both of these excursions we booked online. Both we paid for when we got there as well. We paid Peat after our tour was over. You will get an email from him and tell him what you want to do.
While I am not against private operators and use many of them myself understand that you are on your own when you use them and have no legal recourse if things should not please you. Many people state that you always have fewer people on you boat or tour if you go independant and that frankly is not true. Sometimes you do but many times the group is just as small and personal. I have done a ships tour twice with the stingrays and both time the boat had about a dozen to almost two dozen people onboard. We have also done a private tour and there were about 40 people onboard and the drinks were kool-aid in used milk cartons and what appeared to be used plastic cups and he did not have any biat to attract the rays. It was not Capt. Marvin that this happened on but another "Capt." there at the pier.
I have been to Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios twice. Grand Cayman is great, you just
get a cab at the pier and go to Seven Mile Beach. It is not far, also there are shops within walking distance of the pier. For Ocho Rios, I would definitely recommend a shore tour which you can book on the ship. We took a boat to Dunns River Falls and had a great time. I would not just get off the ship and wander around by yourself. There is a lot of people following you wanting to sell you stuff. They are very persistant and it was kind of scary. Hope this helps.