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Old January 31st, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Default 4 days on shore for a rookie

Hello

We'll stop at Grand Cayman, Belize, Isla Roatan and Cozumel in May. It will be my 40th birthday when we visit Belize!!!

I have been reading so many good reviews about shore excursions but I still could use your advise.

I'm interested in ancient history and culture, dolphins, animals at all, rain forest, beaches and swimming.

Now my questions.

1. I have never done snorkeling in my life, I don't even know how that works, I mean doesn't spill water into the snorkel anyway and comes in my lungs? How do you see if the snorkel is still above the water? I have seen many pictures taken on a snorkel tour and they look like the guys were at the bottom of the sea. What use is a snorkel there? (they were not scuba diving)

2. I would really like to try and snorkel with the stingrays or see corals and wracks but there seems to be an offer on all our stops. Which place would be the best for a first time snorkeler? I hope that those stingrays don't have a sting, right? Don't wanna end up like some other guy

3. Swimming with the dolphins. I definitely wanna do this but same here, it is offered at almost all the stops. Which one is the most recommendable one?

4. I would like to visit old Mayan culture and places. Can you name a very good tour to visit on one of these destinations?

5. I celebrate my birthday in Belize. I wanna do something really special there. I read all about the tube ride. I am a little scared of it, I would also like to try the zip line but I hate roller coaster and I just don't know if a rafting ride on an inner tube through caves or hanging on a rope and flying through the air would do me some good. I also don't wanna die on my birthday *gg* Is there really a reason for me to be scared? What else would be nice to do in Belize?

If you could help me out with my beginner questions I would be more than grateful. This cruise is very special to me.

Last edited by Spectra; January 31st, 2010 at 01:48 PM.
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Old January 31st, 2010, 03:06 PM
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Hi there
We did our first cruise in November and I celebrated my 50th in Grand Cayman! We did the Turtles, Hell and Stingrays there. Hell is a bit overated but I found the turtle farm very interesting and the snorkelling/swimming with the stingrays was fab. I didn't go under water completely with the snorkel, just really used it when taking underwater pics. Water is only waist high anyway. Cozumel we did the mainland Mayan cavern and beach by jeep which we really enjoyed - swimming in a cool spring in a dark cave and then lunch on a beautiful beach! Belize we did Altun Ha mayan ruins and Belize city tour. If we were there again I would probably do the River Wallace and Altun Ha as it is a long bus ride there and back otherwise. We were supposed to kayak at Roatan but trip was cancelled due to weather. Whatever you decide I'm sure you will have a fab time. Wish we were going again!!
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Old January 31st, 2010, 06:44 PM
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Just back from the same ports. I suggest Reef and Rays in Grand Cayman - reef is beautiful and the rays are great. Belize the Altun Ha and River Wallace would be very good. Roatan has a great beach Tabanya with the reef right there at the beach and it is beautiful. Have heard great things about the mainland Mayan cavern and beach by jeep but have not done that myself. Have never done adolphin swim anywhere.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 10:02 AM
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You may want to check out the shore excursions through the ship. Once did a snorkel one through the cruiseline where they actually picked you up at the ship, you didn't need to tender into port. They took us to Goffs Caye, excellent snorkeling. Being a beginner, you can stay closer to shore, they do give you a guided snorkling tour, so much to see, I was amazed. Its a super small island you can actually swim all the way around.
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Old February 1st, 2010, 03:20 PM
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I agree with the advice given already. Grand Cayman is the best port for sting rays. And, no, you won't end up like the famous animal expert. Sting rays actually need to be on the bottom in order to have enough leverage to deliver a serious sting and these will be swimming around looking for snacks. They do not have teeth and are not looking to snack on you anyway. The boat that goes out to the reef will sell little packets of something that the rays like. It is an amazing feeling to have one come up to you and give you their equivalent to a cat rubbing your legs, begging for a treat. I used to be terrified of rays, but since I did that tour, I love them. And the snorkeling is very easy.
In Cozumel, Chakanaab has good dolphin activities. I only did the "encounter", because the swim is very expensive. But, again, good stuff.
In Belize, definitely take a ship's tour. Belize City had some high risk areas. The cave tubing is fun. My hubby has done it several times, but it is not for folks who are not totally at ease in water. It can get pretty rough.
I'll add more in a little while.
Marty
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Old February 1st, 2010, 03:52 PM
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Continuation of my last post. In Belize, my favorite is the Belize Zoo. True natural habitat, since it is in the jungle. And a much more up close look at indigenous wildlife. I also enjoyed the Mayan ruins and river tour.
Roatan beaches are amazing. And I love their wood carvings. Some truly artistic work from mahogany doors heavily carved to small items. Right off the ship there is a small shopping area designed by Carnival. But if you walk outside that are and turn right on the main street, the first big building on your left is a craft market with lots of good carvings and other stuff.
Hope you have a fabulous birthday cruise!
Marty
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Old February 3rd, 2010, 09:10 PM
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Thank you so much for your replies. I'll look at some of your suggestions and if they fit in I'll consider booking them. At some destinations I can even do 2 tours depending on the time window.


The cave tubing can get pretty rough huh? I was afraid it might. I think I drop this idea and go to the Zoo or something.

Donna, thanks to you too but I couldn't catch the island's name you had that snorkel trip once that you liked.

Has anybody an opinion which of the 3 islands offers the best swim with the dolphins? Cozumel has already been mentioned but has anyone experience with the other locations?

@colorcrazie, what did you mean by Belice had some high risk areas?

Thanks again!
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Old February 4th, 2010, 05:37 AM
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Hi Spectra,
It was Goffs Cave...Just read through the cruiseline's excursions and see if they offer a snorkeling one where they pick you up at the ship, a real time saver.
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Old February 4th, 2010, 02:26 PM
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Hi Spectra,
Before I reply, please understand that I love Belize.
This is a tender port, which means that the cruise ship will drop anchor in the deeper water away from the port. You will be taken back and forth on smaller boats called tenders. I actually love the ride, especially if I can get to the back of the tender. Anyway, the tenders dock at a long pier and all along the pier are shops galore. Everything from a very upscale rug store that I drool over every time I am there to cheapy knick knacks. Outside this shopping area is a small art and crafts type open air shopping strip. But, in between is a chain link fence with police all along it. Belize City is very poor, and where you find extreme poverty, you may also find crime. You need to watch your purse or wallet and never get out of sight of other tourists. Most of the city is like that. Even violent crime is a possibility, so rather than worry about that, I either stay close to the pier, and my hubby, or take a ship's tour. Once you are out in the countryside, it is a whole different story. Still poor, but so spread out that I don't worry as long as I am on a tour. The things I mentioned, like the zoo, are in the countryside, so no problem.
Whew....kind of a long winded reply. SOrry about that. Ask about anything though, this group loves to talk cruises!
Marty
P.S. In spite of crime, there are good people eveywhere. I once bought a fabric purse in the arts and crafts area...their textiles are fabulous. Bargained down to $10, gave the lady the money, only to have her come running after me frantically. She insisted I com back to her table and for some reason, I did. Was expecting a further sales pitch. Instead, she pulled out a $100 bill and said that I had accidentally given her that. I thought I had left those in the cabin safe! But given that that bill could have fed her family for a very long time, her insistance on returning it reminded me that goodness is universal. And, she insisted on doing it in her booth, so that noone would see that I had that big a bill on me. So, was protecting me at the same time.
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Old February 4th, 2010, 07:35 PM
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I agree with Marty and have my own good story about Belize.

If we don't have a shore excursion booked we stay in the port area. We were shopping in the arts and crafts area and it was HOT! When I get hot I "glow" a lot and my face turns bright red . One of the vendor's saw me and was very concerned. He sat me down in his chair and brought his electric fan out of his shop and put it right in front of me. I kept telling him that this was "normal" for me, but he insisted that I cool off . I thought this was so sweet!

I also love the tender ride into Belize. It's like a mini-excursion! They use speed boats and if you sit in the back (where Marty likes to sit), you WILL get wet!

Crime is everywhere, even at home. Just use your common sense and don't tempt the "bad guys" :evil: .
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Old February 4th, 2010, 09:46 PM
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Marty, thanks again, now I know what you mean. I am not afraid and careful at the same time. Nice story with the lady who didn't keep the 100 dollar bill. I bet there aren't many people in this world like this lady. Not even in rich countries.

Fern, your story is amazing too, I have met so many fine people in poor countries it is unbelievable how happy and nice people sometimes are, even though they don't have very much. So poor but their hospitality is awesome.

Donna, I found it. Goff's Caye, it is Belize. I did'nt understand what island of these 4 you were talking about. I looked it up and it starts from 09.00 am to 12.30 pm offered by Carnival. But then I cannot find another tour after this, most of them start in the morning too or at 1 pm. I don't think I'd be able to make it on time for 1 pm.
Did you do 2 tours that day? Or will I be exhausted and just glad to be on the ship?
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Old February 5th, 2010, 07:34 AM
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I've only done one a day, save a little time to go into the port area and have a look around. Its a nice tender ride :-)
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Old February 5th, 2010, 01:46 PM
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I have never been able to pull off more than one tour in a day. For one thing, they sometimes don't or can't adhere exactly to the published time table.
One last thought about Belize. The main point I wanted to make is that while there are some ports where it would be fine to go celebrate your birthday with a bite of lunch and plenty of alcohol, Belize is not one of them. Well, not unless you stick to the bars in the tourist strip. Not knowing you, I did not know whether that was something you were thinking of doing. Besides, you can always do it that night on the ship!
Hope your birthday is great, whatever you choose.
Marty
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Old February 8th, 2010, 09:16 PM
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Thanks Marty

Donna, I just read in another post that and I quote: "belize is a rip off if you take a ship tour for snorkeling to goff's cay...no drinks, pay for everything, and you can see the same reef in roatan."
Was that your experience too? Read it at cruiseforums.cruisecritic.com, Oct 2009
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Old February 8th, 2010, 10:04 PM
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Hi Marty,
No, I don't recall the excursion being overly expensive, to me it was well worth the $...The island is tiny, no buildings, shop or restaurant, just a little island in the middle of no where with a small pier and great snorkeling, kind of a neat place to see...You see those small islands all the time, but never actually go there....It was nice being picked up at the ship rather than tender and on the boat they had snacks and drinks.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 03:23 AM
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Hi spectra,

We are visiting the same ports but in reverse order on the Carnival Glory in April. You have gotten some great information already, so I'm not sure I can add to it. I've been doing a lot of research about the shore excursions, and thought I'd share what we are planning in hopes it might help you decide.

I am especially interested in history and culture, so we are going to Tulum from Cozumel. Booked it through Carnival, as it involves a long (and possibly rough) ferry ride followed by a long bus ride. But I am determined to see a Mayan archeological site before I die or get too old to be able to get around! From what I've read, Tulum is not exactly an extensive site, but is very picturesque, being located above a beach.

In Belize, we are taking another long bus ride to the Xunantunich site, also booked through Carnival, as it is another long excursion and far from the port. We chose this site because it is supposed to be more impressive than Altun Ha, though as others have said, the Wallace River ride to Altun Ha is supposed to be a lot of fun and great for seeing wildlife.

On Roatan, we thought we'd take it easy and book a private customized tour through either Victor Bodden or Rony. We have heard both are quite good. Thought we'd just ride around the island and take pictures, stop to see the monkeys at Victor's, check out the botanic gardens and the butterflies, and end up with a short stay at Tabyana Beach before heading back to the ship. As others have already mentioned, the beaches in Roatan are supposed to be spectacular.

Finally, we are thinking of visiting Stingray City in Grand Cayman. I keep hearing over and over that it is the best thing to do in the Cayman Islands. Many people have mentioned it as their all-time favorite excursion on any cruise. Snorkeling is pretty easy, really, and a lot of fun. If I can do it, anyone can!

Whatever you decide to do, hope you have a great time and a happy 40th birthday.

Mike
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Old February 20th, 2010, 02:57 PM
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Mike,
You have made some great choices, in my book. We have done this itinerary a couple of times and would happily do it a few more.
Have fun!
Marty
P.S.. to Spectra. I can't give you any input on the snorkeling, since I have not done it at that port. But, keep in mind that some people have expectations about tours and even the whole cruise that are true pipe dreams. And then they feel cheated that their dream didn't come true.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 06:52 PM
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Thanks for your recommendations, Mike, sounds great, I'll look into one of your tips because I wanna do some sightseeing besides the snorkeling.

I will go to Stingray City at Grand Cayman for sure. I just don't know with whom to book. I won't do it with the cruiseline, too big groups. Moby Dick Tours sounds good but doesn't have a lunch at the beach as Captain Marvin's offers. But I read a couple of negative reviews about Marvin's, people have to face a couple of hours second hand smoking and even worse, smokers use the boat and the ocean as an ashtray and the staff tolerates that. I mean I am not an intolerant non-smoker but this is far beyond ignorance.
Not only is it hard to decide what to do but also with what tour company, hehehe.
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Old March 3rd, 2010, 10:43 PM
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I have mailed Captain Marvin's from Grand Cayman and they now offer non-smoking tours only, they don't do that smoking disaster no more. So I booked stingray half day tour with them. I'd have liked to book the full day excursion but they told me that Valor's last tender goes off at 2 pm local time and so I cannot make it. Well, half day then.

I also booked a private tour with boddentours.com in Roatan. Victor Bodden and his crew got a lot of good reviews and I'm gonna have a guide just for myself and a van of course and the guide takes me everywhere I want to go, all day long. Isn't that something?

Just don't know what to do in Belize and Cozumel yet.........*sigh* Isn't life hard? :-)
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