Shore excursions excuse me if this was already forumed. We are taking our first cruise ever We will be on Carnival Victory sailing Feb26th to the western Caribbean. What is the best way to book excursions
Should I stay with Carnival or use another company that offers them on the websites. Will I save very much I do realize that with the ships bookings they are responsible for your safety and getting back on time.
I welcome your responses,I am sure I will have many more questions as we get closer
Where will you be going? What ports? I am sure you will get many opinions on this, but this will be my second cruise, and what i have done is go through Carnival when the port is one that I have never been to. They the next time, go with someone else, if possible. You have enough unknowns already, without having to worry about getting to the place where you booked the excursions, etc. If you book with Carnival, they will get you there and back, and if something comes up, and you are late, they will wait for you. It's all about peace of mind.
We are going on our first cruise also. On Victory - Dec. 18. We have read everything we can get our hands on and have found that with referrals from past cruisers that there are times you can book through a private tour for much cheaper and have less of a crowd and seemingly, a better time. As an example, we were scheduled to go to Cozumel until recently, and were going to book a beach excursion through a private tour. For $35 they offered the beach, water toys, buffet lunch, and drinks. It was a much better deal than Carnival offered. There is also a father/son team in Jamaica that gives awesome tours and for a better value than the ship. Read on the Destinations for your ports of call and I think you'll find them. We are going to post a review as soon as we return from our cruise and I'd be happy to make note of any questions you may have and find the answers, if possible while we're on ours. A lot of the reviews we've read have been great but invariably I have a question that isn't addressed since most are written by people that have cruised before.
As Luanne mentioned, when not familar with a port or being a "new cruiser" you may prefer a "ship sponsored" tour unless you feel confident in a recommendation from a "seasoned" cruiser. This board as most prefers that we do not make personal tour guide recommendations so I will try to keep it general as possible. First cruise we did ship tours especially to foreign speaking ports like in Europe or when the cruise ship has 100% control of the tour/vendor like recently at Puerta Vallarta and the Rhytham of the Night tour; $89 from the ship vs. $65 for hotel guests who booked the same tour. I wanted to do it and it was OK.
Cozumel may or may not be an option for you. If you get to tender in and don't want to see Tulum (ship tour recommended) or drive in a jeep tour, I would take a taxi to Paradise Beach Club which is up and running. The use of water toys; kayak, Iceberg, Trampoline, etc. costs a minimal $5 (before hurricane at least). Lounges are free but the facility relys on your purchasing food & beverages. It is a lovely place to spend the day. Allow enough time to return to town for some local shopping. If Poncho's BackYard is open at the end of the main street in San Miquel, take a peek or stop in for a cool drink.
Jamaica: If you must climb Dunn's River Falls go with a Ship tour. If you wish to see and do something to experience the real beautiful Jamaica, pre-book with a local reputable tour provider like Belinda at A-Z, Ionie, or one of the recommendations from previous cruisemates or other cruise forum participants.
Grand Cayman: the best Swim with the Sting Ray or land tours is with a private vendor. Also, Private vendors may sail when ship tour vendors will not (often cancelled for rough seas). It is up to you. But the Swim with the Sting Rays is the #1 best rated tour at GC. Go for it. You don't need to be a strong swimmer or an experienced snorklet. The sand bar will put you in knee high water or waist deep in most places. Morning swims are preferred as the Rays are hungry! They know when "breakfast" is served when you get there. There are many reputable vendors like Nativeway, Capt. Marvin, etc. again check out the many recent reviews.
Hope these 3 ports overviews help you not knowing exactly where you are going. Do make plans before you arrive at port as you will want to make the most of each port day. Have room service and get off ship early. Return for a late buffet lunch, then return to town for shopping or a drink unless you are tendering. Stay at port. Dont' forget the time especially if you are tendering.
While I usually recommed taking the ships tours for first timers the Western has some places that are very tourist friendly like Cozumel. In any case you would probably be better off taking a ships tour for most things even though it will be a few bucks more. Jamaica either take a ships tour or walk to Margritaville. In GC take the ships tour to Sting Ray City or snorkel on your own right there to the right of the tender dock. Cozumel or Costa Maya, take a ships tour of the ruins or anything other than shopping or tours of the town. Those you can do on your own very easily and safely. To feel and be safe, ships tours are better.
A lot depends upon your own personal comfort level. If you feel confident in booking an independant tour, by all means do it.
Grand Caymen has so many reputable tour operators that will take you snorkeling and to Sting Ray City Sandbar - a must do.
Cozumel - if you plan on touring the ruins, book a ships tour, if you want some awesome snorkeling book a ships tour to the Palencaar Reef, if you just want to veg out on the beach,or walk the shops do that on your own.
Jamaica - ships tours or a reputable tour operator.
Pre-book whatever you choose, the popular excursions sell-out fast.
for me personal i take the carnival tours the two reason they will get you to your shore trip and back second if some thing goes wrong and your late they will wait for you i don' won't to pay extra to catch up with the ship the shore trips we have taken with carnival we have enjoyed