Well....after being a die hard Disney lover for the past 5 years, my DH and I are taking our 1st cruise. We will be going on the Glory in February!
(and the little devil that I am, I managed to convince DH that we HAD to arrive in Orlando a day early in case we hit bad weather and we might as well use that time to do a day at Disney).
I've been on the Carnival site constantly since we booked the cruise last week and have been lurking around these boards for the past several days.
I'm looking at the shore excursions and I was hoping to get some advice on these. What are some good ones in Key West, Belize, and Costa Maya? Should we do one in each port or is that too much? Is there anything we should not miss?
I already know that I want to go snorkling. Not too sure what DH would like to do.
I would appreciate some feedback on these from anyone who has been to these ports! Thanks!!!!
Congratulations!!! You'll have a great time. I'm a die hard Disney fan too and love cruising.
Costa Maya: One of the most popular excursions here is the trip to the ruins. I haven't done that yet as we are more beach people. Majahual (sp) is about two miles from the port and they have a nice beach there. You can get there by taxi (about $3 each way), walk (too hot for me) or we rented a golf cart ($15/hr). Last trip we went to Uvero Beach through the ship, but I thought the beach at Majahual was nicer.
Belize: We've done the cave tubing here and snorkeling. The snorkeling was fantastic here.
Key West: Sorry I can't help you here as we haven't been there yet. Someone else should be able to though.
Well I know you will soon be bitten by the cruising bug. There are a number of tours provided by the cruiseline in Key West or you can just wander around as you are still in the USA. In Belize there are also many tours to take including the cave tubing, a couple of ruins tours, hoseback riding, and of course snorkeling and scuba diving. In Costa Maya you can enjoy the day at the port where they have set up a tourist shopping center complete with swimming pool and entertainment or chill on the beach, walk down the beach or rent a golf cart and drive down the beach to another real local village and vist there or take one of the many Mayan ruins tours. You will have many choices and I recommend that you do something that you cannot do someplace else. Many people are happy with sitting on a beach or shopping at the tourist places but I love to do and see things that are unique to the area such as the ruins.
Darcy....thanks for the advice. I was torn on where to snorkel but will look into Belize for that.
Jim......I agree with you. I can lay on a beach or shop here in the USA. I want to do something out of the ordinary. And I am afraid I agree...we are about to be bitten by the cruising bug....as long as this trip goes well!
We did the Mayan ruin/Belize City tour and LOVED it! It's really just a "ride" thru the city, but with our excellent guide, was satisfying even though we didn't stop. Learned lots about Belize.
Ruins are an hour or so away and wonderful. You can still climb to the top of several VERY steep ruins at Altun Ha and the view over the jungle is spectacular.
In Costa Maya we rented the golf cart and drove to Majahual. Lovely little village with tons to buy (ever present merchants) and an enchanting little beach with thatched roof umbrellas and cold Mexican beer, topped off by a great view of the cruise ships docked in the distance.
I think my PCD is coming back......
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My first cruise in Y2K took me to Costa Maya. I think it was fairly new then; the port is really just a pier, a beach and a shopping area created by the cruise lines. We rented bicycles and pedaled south to Majahual and it was enchanting. I don't know if it's the same (I kinda doubt it) but then, the streets were mostly sand, many places had no electricity and we were the only touristas in town. Ate a fabulous unpretentious seafood lunch and then hung out at the beach. A local family 'adopted' us, their boy climbing a palm tree to retrieve a coconut that his father opened for us; mama insisting that we join them eating the fish papa had caught earlier in the day (delicious). It was one of those never to be forgotten experiences. I couldn't help but imagine that these same wonderful people would some day have jobs cleaning toilets and changing beds in the Costa Maya Marriott . . . sigh. Anyway: you will never find whiter sand or clearer emerald water. Enjoy.
Haven't been to Key West, but we really enjoyed visiting the ruins at Costa Maya, and cave tubing in Belize is not to be missed. We had four ports on our cruise and we did an excursion at each one, two in Grand Cayman (swimming with the stingrays and the island tour), so I don't think an excursion in each port would be too much, but only you know your energy level/stamina. Also in Belize we went with a non-ship tour (can't remember, maybe Marvin something or Wet and Wild) we paid much less and went through an extra cave. There were fewer people on our tour and the lunch that was included was delicious.
In Belize we took the River Wallace/ Altum Ha (sp>) tour thru the ship. It was wonderful. They took us up the Wallace River where we saw Manatee, monkeys, Dolphins...to the stop for food..then on the bus to the ruins. Great tour. Got back late so we were glad we used Carnival at this port. Yea...the ship waited. Actually, Carnival called the tour guys on cell to check on us.
I'm thinking that in Costa Maya, we may just do what many have recommended here....get off the boat and just walk around.
I think I would like to do the snorkeling in Belize as I have heard good things about that.
Now another question.....these excursions that are not run through the cruise line....how do you find them? Are they just waiting when you get off the ship or are there options through AAA and other such travel companies?
Costa Maya as was mentioned earlier has several mayan ruins nearby. Two of the ruins are along the Belize Border. Ciudad Chetumal is a bit south of Costa Maya and it is and interesting Mexican port city with are fairly nice Maya museum which is a good introduction when you see those ruins. At Costa Maya if they offer it would be a tour Coba mayan city. It is fully as big as some of the oft visited tourist ones and they are in the process of excavating it. That one would depend on the length of stay in the port as it would take ALL day.
Belize is a great little country. Some of the snorkle excusions are right off of the ship instead of tendering into Belize City. The excellent snorkling is off of Ambergris Cay....great little town there too. On land Carnival has offered an excursion that goes the entire width of the country, taking in the Belize Zoo, the Jade Museum in Belmopan then through San Igancio in Cayo province to see the Xunantunich mayan Ruins. It is kind of long day but they do manage to fit all that in. The jungle river tours are both worth while and the shorter boat ride ones include the Altun Ha mayan city.
As per the last question you can go to **Commercial URL Deleted** and see what their offerings are. There was another company but it may now be defunct called **Commercial company deleted**. Both outfits were fine and sometimes had a different variety than ones on Carnival. My impression is that these companies DO get you back to the ship in time or the tender dock as the case may be.
As I recall the Carnival excusions on Key West were all the way from just a city tour, to a sail boat ride all the way to deep sea fishing. I think it is good for first timers to do the short, sweet and inexpensive city tour. Interesting and also orients you as to the town and what you might want to do the rest of the day and where it is. The Hemingway house is great and so is the lighthouse just a short walk away. I don't think any first visit to Key West would be complete without looking at some of the bar scene in the afternoon....Sloppy Joe's, Kelly's Place etc. John NM
when in Costa Maya, you have to try the Blast speed boat snorkle excursion. It was a blast!!. The cost is about $100 each but it includes a two person speed boat, snorkling at the reef and use of facilities at Jungle Beach which includes free drinks, including alchohol.
The guys that run the boats are great! They are very helpful and friendly. If you have not snorkled before, be careful not to touch the coral. I still have scaring on my knee when I lightly brushed against it. It looks like a burn.
Just as a sort of post script to these posts about the excursions, is that the Carnival ones do sell out and espcially the popular ones (I have never yet been able to take those little speed boats because it is sold out early). Another excursion that sells out rapidly is the Canopy suspension type tours. Beach party ones and the cruise around on a large boat usually don't sell out because the boats are big and so are the beaches. My understanding is that a few crew members can also book the excursions at each port. It is a good idea to make up ones mind before getting on the ship either online or on the phone. John NM
>>>Key West, Belize, and Costa Maya<<< Here are my recommendations. Key West is simply a walking town, you don't need any shore excursion. Hemingway's House you can walk to, you could see the entire town on foot. Belize has two attractions: Maya ruins (most a big distance from port), although not the most important ones, and some of the best snorkeling in the world. It's second only to Australia in its barrier reef. So, I suggest you choose between snorkeling and ruins. Costa Maya has a terrific beach but little else. Carnival offers many, many shore excursions here and I suggest you just pick the one that matches your personal interests and lifestyle.
Ok since I'm not doing much today except looking at cruises for 2006 anyway, I looked on the Carnival website for the excursions to refresh my memory and see exactly what is offered as it changes from time to time.
For Belize, Anne is probably right about the snorkling as it is the second longest coral reef in the world and quite spectacular snorkling. The Goff key excursion is to a little tiny cay. The Snorkling is good to great but we are talking about a very small area. Never done the Carnival excursion to key Calker and Horseshoe reef but ive been to those places and I think that is the more worthwhile one. The Turneffe island one......a friend of mine did that last month and said the scuba was great but they seemed to have hauled along the snorkle tour at the same time who sat around drinking rum punch on the boat while the scuba people finished their dive. hahahha not bad. However the snokling isnt as good as closer to the the main reef as per the Cay Caulker excursion. One thing I've noticed about Belize Snorkling is that it "spoils you" if it's your first experience. Nothing else in the Caribbean seems as good.
As far as the specific "on land excursions" Probably the Altun Ha maya and Wallace river one is the one to do. It seems to be the Belize river to me but the guide probably explained it and I don't remember. A fairly impressive Maya ruin, sight seeing the countryside on the way there, then the river trip is great. A stop for some Belican Beer, crocodiles, bats, sometimes a manatee etc on the way down the river. The "baboon" sanctuary........some farmers left a strip of rain forest to the howler monkeys could travel around ....fun but sometimes you dont even see em. The Xunanatunich ruin......probably the most spectacular one in Belize but its a LONG bus ride but you get to see a lot of the little country. Lots of ex patriots from the US and UK live around there its cool and there arent so many insects as in the lowlands.
Costa Maya.....any of the dune buggy of that kind of thing is fun with sceneray of the Yucatan scrub jungle and really nice beaches........I dont like the maintenance or the helmets on the ATVs. The Choccoben and Kahuntich mayan ruins are worth seeing, the later being more spectacular but its a long bus ride. (ive only done that one in my own truck) and that takes long enough.
So thats about what I know about these things in the normal time allowed in those ports by a cruise ship.