I am going on the Veendam with 8 other people and wonder if it is necessary to book shore excursions in advance. Could you wait till you arrived at port, looked at the weather, then walk out to the dock and find a tour company to take us somewhere? Since we have 9 people, shore excursions will be very pricey. Could maybe we negotiate a price for all 9 of us? We will be going to Cozumel, Key West, Belize and Guatemala. Are any of the shore excursions in these ports must sees? Do they fill up quickly? What is really worth while? None of us have ever cruised before, and we have never been to any of these countries. We would like to see a Mayan ruin, but they have several different ones available. Which ruin is the best, the ones in Mexico, Guatemala or Belize? Snorkeling is another thing we would like to do. I hear snorkeling in Belize is best. Is that true? Do they supply the goggles? We all need prescription goggles, do they have these available or do we need to bring our own? Sorry for all the questions, as you can tell, we are clueless..
From my experiences, I like the ship's shore excusions. They can be booked well in advance. The tickets are awaiting me in the room when I arrive on board. The bus is there waiting for me when I got into port and the ship cannot depart until all tours have returned.
As for Myan sites, I have toured Tulum and Uxmal. Uxmal and Chichen Itza are the better sites on the Mexican Yucatan, however Tulum might be your best choice while in Cozumel becouse it is much closer by. On the Island of Cozumel itself there are some nice ruins called San Gervasio. The place is reminiscent of the opening segment of "Raiders of the Lost Ark", with the lost city in the jungle feel.
I don't know anything about snorkelling in Belize but if you book a snorkelling tour on the ship, goggles, and fins are usually supplied, however, we always take our own goggles and snorkel. We also wear prescription glasses and find that to get the best fit it is best to bring your own. Our son actually has prescription goggles.
I think as first time cruisers you would be best to book your excursions through the ship, however with 9 of you could possibly find a taxi driver at the dock to take all of you.
A word of warning if you are going off on your own. WATCH THE TIME and get back to the ship at least 1 hour before sailing as otherwise, if you miss the ship, you are on your own. The time to be back on board will be posted at the gangway as you leave the ship.
Have a great time - enjoy the Veendam. She's a lovely ship - we have sailed on her many times.
The first thing to do is go online to the HAL website and book your tours online well in advance of the cruise. The tour tickets will be delivered to your stateroom on the day that you arrive onboard.
Belize does have the BEST snorkeling and scuba diving. Don't forget to bring a "throwaway/one use" underwater camera.
The trip to Chiceniza is a long long bus ride. I highly recommend the ship's tour for this one. Many years ago we went on a ship-sponsored tour and our bus broke down in the Mexican jungle. But, because it was ship sponsored, the ship was forced to wait for us to return. It did not leave without us. I learned at that time, that the best thing to do for long distances is to take the ship transportation. We have taken the ship's tours to Marakesh from Casablanca, and to Berlin from the port in Warnike (spelling). The ruins are world famous and definitely worth the visit.
I would not pay for a tour in Key West. It is a very easy city to see on your own. It is US and it is safe!!
Not familiar with the tours offered in Guatemala. We took a taxi there from Belize and wished we had stayed aboard the ship.
Just got back from the Veendam's trip to Belize. I did the cave tubing. OMG....it is an experience not to be missed. You walk about 30 mins through a rain forest to a point at the river where you hop in. The water was a little chilly but as our guide said, "very refreshing". The actual cave part lasted about 30 mins but the entire tubing experience lasted about 1 1/2 hours. It was fantastic. Then they take you to a restaurant/bar and feed you a Belizian meal. Was very good. This one not to be missed. Have a good one!
Quite frankly do some research on the ports going in and save some money and book your own tours, as was mentioned with 9 you can probably get a van to take you where you want to go for a lot less than the ship, do watch your time. We always head off on our own tours, rent a car etc and find it more enjoyable. To many times the ships tours are packed.
But the choice is yours of course and as long as you are on a cruise and having fun
We just did this cruise. I suggest you book your own private tour dockside in Guatamala. It is possible to contact the company that meets the ship prior to sailing by e-mail. Ask for Otto to be your guide. We did the Quirigua Ruins and the Rio Dulce tour with him and it was fabulous.
Our group of four people saved over $500 by booking ourselves and we were far more happy than those booking with the ship.
We did the ship's tour in Belize, doing the cave tubing. It was wonderful, to say the least.
We did our own thing in Cozumel and Costa Maya. We took a $2 taxi to Majuhaul in Costa Maya. That was more fun than staying at the shops by the pier for us.
E-mail me if you need specific info about Guatamala. It was the highlight of the trip for us. The Rio Dulce area is very beautiful and the ruins (and the setting of the ruins) are wonderful.
We just returned from this cruise on Dec. 13. In Belize, we took the ship tour to Xunantunich Mayan ruins, we enjoyed the full day trip, and because it was a two hour bus ride both ways, we didn't want to take a chance of missing the ship, so we booked the tour through the ship well in advance to save a spot for us.
In Guatamala, we hired a cab to take us inland for a rain forest walk and to some water falls, the cab ride costed $50 and lasted about 2-3 hours,( the cab driver even took us to his home, introduced us to his family, and gave us a snack!) they actually have several tours available right at the taxi stand when you get off the ship, and they cost a fraction of the ship tours. Guatamala was the highlight of our cruise. You definatley need to get away from the Santo Tomas and into the countryside to appreciate how beautiful this country is. Before I booked a taxi, I checked with the cruise excursion staff to ensure that the taxi's outside were safe, and they ensured me that they were.
good luck and have fun.
In Conzumel, snorkeling is great at Chakanaab Park. From the downtown pier, it's a $10 cab ride (up to 4 people) to the park and $10 admission per person. There is a great Mexican restaurant right on the beach (they serve beer, wine and alcohol) and great snorkeling right off the beach. You can rent snorkeling equipment there ($6 per person, I think) and there are loungers on the beach for your use. A cheap day considering the ship charges $29 per person for the same thing.
Snorkeling is Belize is great. We went to Goff's Cay which sits in the middle of the world's 2nd largest coral reef. We did this same excursion 4 years ago and it was paradise. 15 people on an 1/3 acre island with NOTHING but a few palm trees. Now it is the WalMart of the Caribbean. Boats anchored everywhere; Port-O-Johns; huts selling BarBQ, beer and sodas; plastic tables and chairs everywhere; trash; and noisy kids running around. Not to mention hundreds of people packed on the island and swarming in the water. Are there no capacity controls on this island? You might be better off with a catamaran/snorkel trip in open waters if available.
Check with your snorkel tour operator before hand. Some offer a few basic prescription masks, others don't. If you wear contacts, just keep them on under the mask. I haven't lost a pair yet. And don't forget to spit into your mask and rub the saliva around on the inside of the lenses. No fogging!
I always book excursions in advance. Most are capacity-controlled and the most popular ones sell out even before the ship sails. You will get a 100% refund if the excursion is cancelled due to bad weather or you can cancel 24 hours in advance.
If you don't take a tour (through the ship or on your own), stay on the ship in Guatemala. The port is sad and there is nothing there other than a beer tent and a couple vendors selling their wares.
You will have a GREAT time. It is a beautiful, intimate ship!
Do NOT miss the Cave Tubing in Belize!!!! We did it with X-Stream Cave Tubing and it was incredible. We had only 12 people in our group, only do 15 max, and they treated us so well. You get to do an extra cave system, they are the only company that does this!! SO incredible!