K. booked for 1 week in feb, going with reluctant husband (his first cruise) and our 8 year old kids (2 of them). Chose princess over carnival because princess has simulator golf to keep hubby happy...I figured kids are always happy and easier to please lol!
My question: I hear shore excursions are generally rip offs on cruises. We are going to dock at cabos, puerto vallarta and mazatlan. the ONLY shore excursion i booked so far is lands end tour (40 minutes) at cabos. Hubby figures that from what he's heard from talking to clients, (and from my one cruising experience in carribean) that we should just get off the boat at the docks there and wander around and shop or sit on the beach... What do u guys think???? is that a bad move???
from my own experience, having a reluctant husband, I would not plan everyting through the cruise line. My husband had a hard time being herded around in groups with those excersions. If there is one you really want to do, then I would book it or research outfitters in the port that offer what you would like to do and book through them. I would however not book every day. That way, if there is something your husband would really like to do, then he can. For my husband, it was the freedom factor. HOpe you have a great time.
I generally book shore excursions on my own. I book through the ship when (1) time is tight, ie the excursion you want is 7.5 hours and you're only in port for 8 hours; (2) the area I'm traveling is not safe other than in large groups; (3) the tour is only offered through the ship; or (4) If you have to travel a distance inland or out to sea. Check out what you're interested in for the ship's excursions and then do a Google search for local vendors. You can usually get the tour anywhere from 25%-40% leass than on the ship. For my upcoming cruise we only booked one trip through the ship, the other two ports we're doing on our own.
The Lands End tour is a breeze to do on your own. As soon as you step onto the pier, they will have vendors hawking it -- $12 a person and 45 mins. You can then just poke around Cabo.
It's easy to do Puerto Vallarta on your own as a walking tour of downtown, the Malecon, Rio Cuale and Los Muertos Beach.
Mazatlan I would book a tour. Randi's Happy Horses would probably be great with the kids -- www.randishappyhorses. Mazrlin does a city tour that runs $15 a person and you can just book in the terminal.
Hope this helps, and the Sapphire is a gorgeous ship!
__________________ Harry Martin
Moderator - Mexico and G/L message boards
I agree with the person that said they book excursions through the cruise line in ports where time might be tight. In cabo we booked our snorkle trip through the cruise line because of this. The nice thing with doing that is if there is a problem and you are not back in time the ship will wait if it is booked through them. Example, in cabo last week the ship waited an extra 1 1/2 HRS before we left port due to an excursion that was late in coming back because of some problems. That was a great reminder to us that it is nice to book through the cruise ship in places where time might be tight.
I typically do shore excursions and often find them to be one of the most enjoyable parts of a cruise. My friends and I tend to be adventurous. The last thing we want to do in port is shop for knick knacks. On our last cruise we went white water rafting in Costa Rica and cave tubing in Belize. Both were awesome. Rafting we booked through the ship, tubing we booked on our own to avoid the huge ship crowds that do this excursion. The trade off when you do excursions on your own is that you are at the mercy of foreign vendors whose sense of time is much less rigid than ship schedules. Most do an excellent with the excursions (often better due to fewer people), but many of them just have no sense of urgency. In belieze we almost missed our boat! On ship excursions the boat waits for latecomers.
In Puerto Vallarta we found the Sierra Madre Expedition (booked through princess) to be well worth the money (although a tad expensive). It included visiting a remote village, jungle hiking, a pristine secluded beach, and a terrific lunch. All travel was in small open air vehicles which heightened the sense of adventure.
Mazatlan didn't have much that interested us so we went to the Golden Zone and parked ourselves on the beach in front of one of the hotels. Alll the hotel asks for in exchange is that you purchase your drinks from them (prices are very reasonable). Transportation is readily available at the pier.
In Cabo we did a beginners scuba dive which was truly incredible. People who went snorkling also enjoyed their excursion. The fish and other sea life are very colorful in Cabo.
I suggest booking at least one excursion just to see if you enjoiy. I personally prefer ones that take up a half or full day. There is so much to see and discover in other countries, other than just shopping.
Enjoy your trip. Puerto Vallarta is truly beautiful!