Does anyone have any tips on booking excursions not through the ship itself. We will be going to Belize, Grand Caymen, Isla Roatan, and Cozumel. I would like to do some of the excursions but I often see people talking about doing other things not offered on the ships.
I am a bit leary of doing things with regular tour groups because I am in foreign territory and don't travel all that often!
Any tips would be greatly appreciated!!
It sounds like you are sailing on the Valor. We was just on her in September. We used Shore Trips to book cave tubing / zip line in Belize. We did the stingray and snorkiling through Soto Cruises in Grand Cayman.
We are actually on the Legend. I think that ship was just transferred not too long to Florida from New York because when I did some researching I found a lot about it out of the Port in NY.
Did you run into any problems making your reservations through the other companies?
No problems at all. There are plenty of other options out there besides what Carnival has to offer. I was watching the TV in the cabin and I caught part of the daily video I was very happy with our choice. I felt we had a more personalized experience.
We've used Soto and Captain Marvins in Grand Cayman. Both are good. No problems ourselves, and have never seen a problem posted on either cruise forum board.
We do our own tour in Cozumel, rent a car, drive to ruins etc. We feel that taking the cruise ship tender to Playa, then taking the bus to their "approved jewelry store" then to the ruins and back wastes time. We take a taxi to the public ferry (you can get info by searching cozumel ferry) to Playa Del Carmen, then take our pre-rented car to the ruins. There are tours that depart from Cozumel that are only $60 that use the public ferry system. The ship tender ride is long, stuffy, and if you're prone to seasickness, very rocky. The public ferry is huge.
We've used local tour providers all over the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska and have never had a problem. If you go to one of the trip advisor sites they'll recommend various companies. Also, if you get a tour book from a local insurance company (like AAA) they'll have recommendations.
The "ship" tours aren't owned by the ships. They're free lance tour guides or companies that the ship charters, just like you would for yourself. The difference is that if you take a ship sponsored tour they get a kickback, and they guarantee they'll wait for you if you're late. We just always allow an extra hour or two to get back to the dock and spend that time shopping at the market that's always right there.
We have been on a cruise before to the Bahama's. We had one excursion booked through the ship at Nassau and we were so unimpressed! The "treasure hunt" we said to be on the reef and that we would have snorkle to find the treasure. Well, they really should have cancelled the excursion. The wind and sea were so bad! My husband and I were the only ones who even tried to go out to the reefs and we are both very strong swimmers. I thought that I would not make in!!
The "treasure hunt" was literally scattered gold coins that they threw in the sand on the beach and they told everyone to go "hunt" it was more like an easter egg hunt with the coins tossed all over.
The one bathroom for men and women STOPPED working and was backed up and overflowing! It was so gross!
I guess that is why I am leary about booking something else.
Unless we see something we really want to do we generally go ashore and look dor any tours or shopping that strike us at the time. Your first time in port you may want to have a planned activity scheduled but on return trips it's pretty easy to plan out what you want to do on your own.
For longer excursions that take you away from port the Ship Booked tours have the bonus that the ship will wait for you. I've seen this happen so sometimes it's worth the extra money. It also means the ship knows who you left with if there is any kind of trouble.
If you book a tour on shore make sure it is reputable, yeah we've paid for tours that was basically a local driving us around in their own car and telling us about the city but that can be a little scary in some of the under developed areas like Belize.
Yeah, booking through the cruise can be expensive. You could try those independent operators (like http://www.cave-tubing.com/ for Belize) and it'll be cheaper. Also, you really don't have to worry about not being able to go on excursions if you haven't booked any, because, once you get off into the port, there'll be hundreds of local tour guides begging you to join
We used Moby Dick tours on Grand Cayman for the stingray city, great group of people. Roatan, had some issues with one of the tours that hung out by the pier. Did find that a lot of places there will only let you book with the cruise ship and will not take reservations. Take a taxi to a beach, West End area and you would be good, some people we met on teh ship did that and it was quite cheap.
Belize, we used one of the snorkeling tours from the pier and it was a good trip, went to the baby nurse shark area and saw stingrays (no sharks, but heard they do come around sometimes)
Cozumel, we picked a beach, Paradise Beach, free, $12 for a cab. But there are lots of things to do and lots of tour groups on the pier
have a great time, we did the same cruise in Sept 07.