I am going on a cruise in September. We are going to Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Belize. Should we get are excursions on the ship or wait till we get off? Do you have any suggestions? Are the excursions you get off the ship safe? Thanks Danielle
I wouldn't recommend waiting until you get off the ship. I think a better idea is to research the various ports and make your arrangements ahead of time. Boking with the cruise line will be the most expensive and least personalized option.
In Costa Maya and Belize I highly recommend the ships excursions as they are not built up very much for the tourist trade yet. They are still somewhat new ports of call. GC and Cozumel you can get some of the same tours off ship a little cheaper. The thing to rememmber is that if you do a tour on your own, you ARE on your own and take your chances. If something goes wrong you have no recourse and it is up to you to make sure you make the ships sailing, they will not wait for people off on their own. Some tours are available only through the ship and some you can do basicaloly the same thing on your own. It is a matter of how comfortable you are and how adventurous you are. The savings can be as much as 15% or as little as nothing on your own.
Like Jim and Andee said, you may save a little money by booking off the ship, but if someting goes wrong and your tour doesn't make it back to the ship before sailing time, you would have to book a flight to catch up with the ship at the next port. At best, this would be very expensive, at worst, impossible without your passport which is probably in the safe on the ship. Any tour booked on the ship is a ship authorized tour and the ship will wait for you if your tour is delayed. It just all depends on how comfortable you are with gambling to save a few bucks. Good luck.
Definitely do not wait until you get off the ship as its total ciaos in most ports and you don't know who you'll end up with.
There are some great companies out there to book through, do some searches for shore excursions in your ports of call.
We've booked our last excursion in Grand Cayman through Grand Cayman Cruise Excursions and were quite pleased with the rates and the small group. We were able to do a private sail with our group in the morning to stingray city on the ***** sailboat for snorkeling and stingray cityand then a beach horseback ride in the afternoon and everything was coodinated for us including transportation.
In Belize we didn't do anything but I wish we would have booked an excursion as the port offered very little only a small shopping area and we weren't brave enough to explore with the kids.
There are numerous reputable vendors mentioned on many cruise line forums. Keep doing your research and decide before your ship sails. At Cozumel, there is no need for a tour unless you wish to go to Tulum. Then I would definetly do the ship's tour as they will probably let you off on the Mexican tender before the ship docks. if you love history, this is a must do tour. When you return to Cozumel, you can stroll downtown but be sure to stop for a cool refreshing drink at Poncho's Back Yard. With strolling mariachi's it is so lovely. Or you could take a taxi to Chankannab Park, Playa del Sol or Mr. Sancho's beach (no entry fee). At Grand Cayman, a Swim with the Sting Rays is not to be missed. There are several private tours guides mentioned on-line, like Capt. Marvin and Capt. Crosby. Check out their web sites. At Belize, I highly recommend Reggie Trapp and his family for Cave Tubing. Having a variety of tours will help your overall great cruise experience.
We are going on a cruise in 2 weeks and basically going to the same places you are going. We have cruised many times and we never take the ship's excursions. Way to expensive and way too much wasted time.
• In Belize, we are taking a water taxi to Caye Caulker. Less populated and less touristy than Caye Ambergris. Water taxi should cost $15 round trip for adults and $7.50 rountrip for kids.It is a 45 minute ride from Belize City. At Caye Caulker, we will walk to Costa Maya Beach Cabanas and take a snorkeling trip from Tsunami Adventures Their trips leave at 10:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. and cost $20 per person. They will also take you snorkeling with rays and sharks and much less expensive than going to Shark Ray Alley.
• In Cozumel, you can take a taxi to Playa Sol or Chankanaab for pretty cheap. We did Playa Sol last time and it was great. This time, we are taking a taxi (no more than $7 each way) to Dzul Ha beach. This beach is free as long as you buy drinks and appetizers at their restaurant. I hear the food is great. The beach is great and there are fewer cruise ship tourists. There is a pool and lockers. From what I hear, appetizers and beer should cost no more than $20.
• In Grand Cayman, we rented a Jeep for a day one time and we stopped at all the great snorkeling places, the Turtle Farm and Hell. This time, we're taking a tour to Stingray City with Sotos Cruises. Their white vans will pick us up right in front of Hard Rock Cafe, a short walking distance from the pier. The price is only $19 per person. A lot cheaper than the cruiseship. Sotos Cruises came highly recommended by some friends as always the best and cheapest. Their e-mail is email@example.com
• Costa Maya - Can't give you advise. I have never been there.
As far as safety is concerned. You just need to use your best judgement. Accidents can happen anywhere. On the very first cruise I ever took, my husband and I took a ship excursion to Dunn's River Falls. I fell on one of the rocks and scraped my behind quite nicely. Then as we were exiting the van to go for lunch, I sprained my ankle. After that, we never took the ship's excursions and I was never hurt again. Go figure. We have gone to all sorts of places and traveled with our small children everywhere. Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Europe, all over the Caribbean. We've never gotten sick or had any close encounters. You just need to use your best judgement, try to learn a little of the language (this helps a lot), treat the local people with respect, and have fun.
Pattie, I believe the main outfit that handles excursions separate from the cruise line is called Port Promotions. They operate at almost every port and are very reliable but require payment at the time of booking. I believe you mentioned Grand Cayman but you didn't say which cruiseline you were going on. Their excursions do cost less, but it's not exactly comparing apples to apples. If you are talking about Carnival(I don't know about the others) some of the ships excursions in Grand Cayman and Cozumel include unlimited complimentary rum punch where as Port Promotions excursions do not, nor does any other that I am aware of. If you're looking for a party atmosphere, the punch is not an option. If not, you would do as well with a freelance outfit, but just as you would in the states, check out the situation and if you feel safe, go for it. Many people go it on their own and never have a problem. But always be aware that there have been times when things went terribly wrong. Good luck and have a great time.
I'm dying to know how you rented the Jeep in Grand Cayman! My husband and I will be leaving on our cruise in less than 2 weeks and as soon as I read your posting, I knew that sounded like something we'd both love to do!
Did you book in advance? How much was it, if you don't mind me asking? Were you provided with a map? Any information you could share would be greatly appreciated!
You sound really experienced & prepared for your trips.
Have you stopped at the following ports in the past?
Tortola, St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Thomas.
What excursions did you do? Rates? All the info you can give me is much appreciated.
Cynthia for St. Thomas - hit the beaches - many beautiful ones to choose from. Our favorite(so far) is Trunk or Cinnamon beach over on St. John Island. Plan on doing some shopping in the afternoon St. Thomas is a duty-free port, and you can find some decent deals on things like liquor, cigs, jewelry, perfumes, electronics, cameras, & linens.
St. Maarten - beaches- Orient is the most popular, have heard some good things about Dawn beach- shopping here is good also - especially on the Dutch side. Shopping on the french side of the island is more haute and trendy. There are also some shipwrecks to snorkel around. We are going a sail and snorkel tour.