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Old August 17th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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Default doing things on our own vs. signing up w/rci

this is our first rci cruise... i am a mom traveling with 5 children (5-11) and have ports in Miami, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Key West, and Port Canaveral. i am planning on going off on our own. Is this not a good idea? I am assuming that there will be plenty of shuttles ect...

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do on our own? Beaches for the kids? i am planning on universal when at port canaveral.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 09:45 AM
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Good morning. I'm sure you are going to get a whole range of answers on what you should do because it is definitely a matter of preference. Personally, I always prefer doing the excursions through the cruise line because I am confident that they have checked these tour groups out. However, a friend of mine never books through the cruise line and always hires someone off the ship. If you google "cozumel shore excursions" I bet you'll find tour groups. We found some for the islands we are going to next year.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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Its all about you own comfort level. What i would do is check out what RCI has to offer for shore excursions on the web site, if you find something that really interests you, do a google search see if you can find something similar. For cozumel - check out www.cozumelinsider.com for great information.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 03:54 PM
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You can go off on your own...but just be sure that:

1. You and your family can be back to the ship in plenty of time!

2. Whoever you decide to work with...is licensed and insured. (in case there is an accident)

3. If you use local taxi services...who's licensed and which are the private independent cars. Or if you use public transportation...be sure you know the running hours...nothing like getting stranded!

4. Most important...that you know WHERE you want to go...that it's a safe area for tourist.

I imagine that if you stick to the known tourist areas you'll be fine...I only mention the above because you have young children with you.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 04:16 PM
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Personally if it was me on my first cruise I would go with Cruise ship tours. Going off on your own to shop and all it fine tho. They will give you maps on the ship. If you want to go to a beach, then you could take a taxi on your own. Just make sure you get back in plenty of time. Only bad thing with private tours is if something happened and you didnt get back in time the ship is leaving. But if they have a whole tour group that hasnt returned that went thru ship, they arent going to leave without you. They would try to find out were you are. Good luck, and have a great time. You will love cruising
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Old August 17th, 2006, 05:12 PM
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I too would book through the cruiseline for a first cruise, and especially when you are traveling with a bunch of kids. Nice thing about that, you can pre-book anything you want before you even leave home, its nice if there is something you really want to do.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 06:08 PM
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my biggest thing is money... the cruise tours seem expensive. I just want to take the kids to a nice beach and tour the town a bit.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 07:10 PM
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hollinh,

my biggest thing is money... the cruise tours seem expensive. I just want to take the kids to a nice beach and tour the town a bit.

And how expensive is getting stranded in a port of call if you miss the ship? The cruise line's port agent will be glad to arrnge accommodations, meals, and flights to the ship's next port of call for you, but the bill will show up on your shipboard account. Yesh, I know -- it's very good incentive not to miss the ship, but it's also a very good reason to take the ship's excurson if you want to a destination that is a modest distance from the port of call. If the ship's excursion is delayed due to traffic or some other circumstance, the ship will either wait for it or make other arrangements to pick up the passengers on that tour.

The reality is that you might save a dollar or two per person per tour if you book independent tours in the ports of call, but you'll have to do a lot of homework to ensure that you are dealing with reputable tour operators, provide guides who speak English, etc. Some tour operators also may require prepament and the price might not be refundable if, for example, the ship has to skip the port of call. On the whole, I think that the savings of booking a tour on your own are not enough to offse the risks involved. OF course, YMMV....

That said, I also recommend reading what's included in the ship's excursons very carefully. On tropical or subtropical destinations, a lot of ships now offer shore excursions that spend a day at an all-incluseive beach resort. On such excursions, the price of the excursion includes lunch (generally a nice buffet), unlimited beverages, icluding "adult" beverages for those who are adults, use of towels, beach chairs or lounges, and umbrellas, and all of the activities and facilities at the resort.

There is one additional consideration. The tour guides on the ship's tours take time to explain local customs, etc., which may differ from standard American practice. I find that to be very helpful when I'm visiting a destination for the first time.

Anyway, have a great cruise, whatever you decide.

Norm.
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Old August 18th, 2006, 11:15 AM
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Also recommend a first time cruiser use the cruise lines tours... but since you stated this is your first cruise with RCI... you may have other cruise experiences under the belt. If you decide to book a cruise on your own... keep a few additional things in mind.

1. Time zone changes. Ships time and port time will differ in some of your ports of call. Make sure when you book that you take these into account.

2. Tendering in ports. Don't book excursions in ports where you will be tendering to begin right at the ships arrival time in the port. Typically, the ship disembarks the ships tours first, which can take an hour or two before others are allowed to get off the ship. While you may be able to get off on an early tender by talking with guest relations... don't assume that you will.
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Old August 18th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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hollinh:

You have some really good advice from experienced cruisers...hope you will consider it. Sometimes in an effort to save a dollar...we spend two or more!

This happen to my husband and I in Mexico...We took a private taxi for a quick tour in Manzanillo Mexico....we thought the guy spoke English...well he did...but only very little.

He took us to some places WAY OFF the beaten path, miles and miles away from town...it was very frightening because when we tried to communicate that we wanted him to stop...he didn't seem to listen....Anyway, on the way to one beach...it was so deep into the back country...with no one else around we were actually a little afraid.

We made it back to the ship...in barely enough time. It was an adventure, and we laugh about it now...but never again!
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Old August 18th, 2006, 07:28 PM
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wiscguy2,

Ships time and port time will differ in some of your ports of call.

That's theoritcially possible, but I have taken twenty cruises and have yet to be on a ship that did not adjust clocks to conform to local time in each port of call.

I did take a shore excursion that crossed a time zone boundary in one port of call, though....

Norm.
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Old August 18th, 2006, 09:40 PM
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We are new to crusing and trying to get a feel for places & the system. I have a major fear of missing the ship, sure don't need that hassle with hubs

Couple things we found that would be good for kids and cheaper. In cozumel we did a horse and buggy tour , he took us around town and explained customs and different things. Lots of shopping and not much else to do at pier.

Key West- A big do not miss for kids you can easily do on your own is the conch train tour , easy to find in Mallory square they keep tight schedules can't get lost or go wrong there. There was another tram type tour also. There was a small aquariaum type place by Mallory square. I would just look up key west online and explore that one on your own

I had researched Costa Maya (but ship broke down and missed the port) apparently there is a beach area within walking distance of the ship that has pools and rest rooms

In Grand Cayman we did do a city tour on our own and it worked out really well, I was a little leary, was the same tour the ship offered but for 20.00 less. that port & Cozumel you are hit right off the ship with people waving signs for excursions. I wouldn't do anything that would take me away for too long or too far

One thing we learned that by picking itnereries with the cruise line private island is perfect if you want a beach day. transportation, food, guarantee not to miss the ship, it is stress free and much cheaper
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Old August 20th, 2006, 09:58 AM
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Default Looking at your itinerary:

Your only port without a large local infrastructure is Costa Maya.

You can save lots of money if you book yourself. Use the web site you can find here on Cruisemates, or google the destinations.

I would recommend you either stay in the port area in Costa Maya or take a ship's tour.

The key is planning your return! Always allow lots of extra time and you should have no problems
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Old August 20th, 2006, 01:18 PM
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You dont need a tour in Costa Maya if you just want to swim and do the beach thing. They have salt water pools and all right off the pier area that is free. Cruiselines payed for it. There are lots of lounge chairs etc. Very nice, we loved Costa Maya.
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 10:02 PM
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Hi,

The overall consensus on this board is that you should only book excursions through the cruise line.

I not only agree, but I can tell you from experience that the risks are not worth the small financial benefit of independent excursions.

Nearly ever cruise I have been on, someone is called over the loud speaker to report to the pursors desk. This simply means that those people are not accounted for and the ships wants to know whether you are on board yet. After about 15 minutes, the ship JUST LEAVES.

Even a simple taxi ride to the beach or snorkle site could involve a flat tire, or an accident with the taxi just as you are about to be picked up to be brought back to the ship. You have no recourse and not enough time to grab another taxi before your ship moves on.

So I suggest that you do yourselves a favor: Either take fewer excursions and pay the ship fees for the excursions or take the plunge in the costs and take all excursions and have a good vacation.

Don't have them calling your names over the loud speaker just before the ship leaves without you.

Have a great cruise!
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 11:34 PM
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Norm....

RCI ships do not necessarily adjust ships time to match the shore time... Case in point.. Mariner of the Seas in March of this year did not change times from EST to CST while the ship was docked in Cozumel. Also happened on Radiance cruise to the Mexican Riviera... some ports we did change times... others we did not.

Moral of the story.. You won't know one way or the other... so take it into consideration when you book excursions on your own.
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