My wife and I have made our first cut at the excursions we'd take, should we decide to take cruise-line sponsored excursions at every port-of-call. (We'll probably only do three or four excursions, total, and may or may not do them all cruise-line sponsored, depending on how much confidence we gain in individual excursion provider's reliability, both in terms of service quality and in terms of getting us back to the ship in time no matter what...) This is surely one of the issues that experienced cruisers can really provide a lot of insight into. All ideas and recommendation would be greatly appreciated!
- Cas Cay Eco-Tour Float/Hike/Snorkel
- Kayaking Snorkel Tour
- Forts of Antigua Historical Tour
- Rainforest Hike & Cave Adventure
- Soody Nature Hike & Mineral Waterfall
We know we want to do one combo kayaking/snorkeling excursion. We took a sea kayaking course locally a couple of years ago, so recreational kayaking (in waters above 50 degrees F) should be a breeze by comparison. We've never been snorkeling. Each port has one, it seems, but the latter three ports seem to have more interesting options beyond that, so we'll probably want choose one of the first two. My wife's preference is to do this in St. Thomas, since it is our first stop, but my preference is to do this in St. Maarten, since I'd be more leery about walking St. Maarten without being part of an excursion (which would likely be the alternative) given that we don't speak Dutch, French OR Carib. <g>
The Barbados choice is almost a done-deal for us. It sounds so incredibly perfect. The St. Lucia choice also sounds very good, but we're a little taken aback by doing a 7 hour excursion when the ship is only in port for 9 hours total (including clearing customs and such, right?)
As long as you stick with the ship's excursions you will be back on board in time for sailing no matter what. They have held ships in port several times because a tour was late. I recall one time we had to pull away from the dock so another ship could come in, but a group had not returned. They ended up tendering the group from shore before sailing. I cant say that they would wait for you if on a non-ship's excursion. That being said, there are some great alternatives out there that are very good about getting you back in time. Check around these boards for posts about those companies (most are for other locations that youre not going to this trip). To be safe when using non-ship's I would book an early morning trip that doesn't last all day. Weather, transportation problems, lagging guests from other ships can delay your return easily! Have a great time!
One definate recommendation for St Maarten is the Americas Cup race. If you love sailing and would like a hands on experience aboard a 70ft racing sail boat.....this is a hoot. We did this in Feb and it was worth every penny. St Maarten is a lovely and friendly island. I did not once feel uncomfortable walking around. Enjoy but do consider the Americas Cup as a tour. If you get on the Canada II say hi to Paul the captain. Bon Voyage!
I think we're looking more for the "rugged individual" (or "rugged couple") type excursions, than the "let's do this as a team" excursions. We took a sailing course (it's practically a requirement of residency in the Boston area <grin>), and didn't enjoy it, while we greatly enjoyed the kayaking course.
Has anyone been on a Western Caribbean cruise that included Labadee lately? When we went to CoCo Cay (another private RCI island)-a few yrs.ago-they had a big barbecue on the beach for us. I don't see anything about that in the cruise brochure for Labadee. Does anyone know?
St Lucia: My husband and I took the tour which includes a catamaran ride that goes past the twin peaks and includes botanical garden tour (which I would normally avoid) and the live volcano.....ABSOLUTELY THE BEST SHORE EXCURSION I'VE EVER BEEN ON. The catamaran had alcohol available (included in the price, I believe) if you wanted to participate, but my husband and I "vegged" on the netting on the front of the catamaran as it sailed over the water. The most relaxing thing I've ever experienced. Botanical garden (which includes a waterfall view which is very pretty) was a very pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it greatly, though I'm not normally into the flora and fauna thing. And to experience the incomparable sulpher odor was actually fun, too. (I'm from the midwest - we only read about volcanoes and such, let alone mountains, etc.) The caramaran eventually went to a small private island for quick swim on the beach, also. We appreciated the variety of things that we got to experience for the cost.
I agree with socrmom about the Land & Sea tour at St. Lucia. Book the ship tour as they will make sure you are back on time. This is a great way to spend the day on this beautiful island. It will probably be the most expensive tour on your cruise but it is well worth it.
- Cas Cay Eco-Tour Float/Hike/Snorkel = if this is what you love to do, then do it in St. Thomas and book an early morning tour with the ship. When you return, grab a quick lunch on board and go shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie - taxi $3pp. each way.
- Kayaking Snorkel Tour = America's cup is the #1 rated ship tour for St. Martin but you may need to be ambitious. Alternate is to take a taxi to Dawn Beach or Orient Beach (clothing optional) to get a relaxing feel of this beautiful island. the sand and the surf. Ask the driver to return for you at a set timeand leave you off downton. Allow time to explore and shop in downtown Phillipsburg. Take the water taxi back to the ship. Don't worry about languages on this itinerary. They all speak English.
- Forts of Antigua Historical Tour = get a private taxi tour to include the forts, Nelson's Dockyard and any one of 356 beaches. Not only will you see more and have less stress, you will save lots of time and money.
- Rainforest Hike & Cave Adventure = I always recommend the Harrison's Caves but have never heard of a Rain Forest at Barbados. You can easily get a taxi outside of the port building who will give you a tour including your points of interest. We also have visited Orchid World or Floral World. You will pay admittance to the Caves, but if you go early, you will get there before the ship's tours and not have to wait in line as long. This is a great tourist attraction, too.
- Soody Nature Hike & Mineral Waterfall = Do the ship's Land & Sea tour. You will be walking within the Volcano and Mineral springs area and sailing past the Pitons and swimming in a beautiful bay.
If you book St. Lucia and St. Thomas tours on board, you will have saved a lot of money for the other "do it yourself" adventures. By taking different tours or doing different things each day, you will come home more fulfilled that you experienced more on each island.