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Shore Excursions Snorkeling, SCUBA, sightseeing - discuss ports and activities

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Old March 5th, 2011, 06:19 AM
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Hi Everyone!

My husband and I are going on our first cruise EVER!!! We set sail April 3 to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Roatan out of Tampa. I am so excited.
My question is this: We are going to book our excursions through a company that was recommended to us by AAA as they are a bit less expensive than the cruise line.

They offer different times for each activity. Can you tell me which of these ports use tenders?

How long do you think it will take us to get off the ship? I have read that the cruise lines let the people off that booked with them first.

I would hate to book a time and then miss it because I was to long getting off the ship. We are sailing with Carnival if that makes a difference. Thanks for your help.
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Old March 5th, 2011, 08:47 AM
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You will tender in Grand Cayman and Belize.

I wouldn't book anything that starts less than an hour and half after your scheduled docking time. Tendering can sometimes be a bit slow.

You also need to remember that some tender ports are bypassed if the seas are too rough. This is most common in Grand Cayman so don't pre-pay anything or, if you do, make sure there is a clause that grants you a full refund if the ship bypasses that port.

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Old March 6th, 2011, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Sooziebfl View Post
Hi Everyone!

My husband and I are going on our first cruise EVER!!! We set sail April 3 to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Roatan out of Tampa. I am so excited.
My question is this: We are going to book our excursions through a company that was recommended to us by AAA as they are a bit less expensive than the cruise line.

They offer different times for each activity. Can you tell me which of these ports use tenders?

How long do you think it will take us to get off the ship? I have read that the cruise lines let the people off that booked with them first.

I would hate to book a time and then miss it because I was to long getting off the ship. We are sailing with Carnival if that makes a difference. Thanks for your help.
Most cruise lines are very fair about tendering. They normally have the passengers on their tours meet at a central location such as the theater, and in another location they pass out tender tickets to passengers disembarking independently. Then they alternate the tenders in a pretty reasonable manner.

The thing is, if you are on a ship's tour, you are GUARANTEED to be on a tender at the right time. If you book an independent tour, it just depends on whether you get to the tender ticket distribution early enough. Those people who gripe that the ship's tours get priority are probably the ones who did not get their own tickets early.

So -- as Mike M says, allow sufficient time to disembark. If you book a tour for an hour and a half after scheduled port time, and get up to the ticket distribution as soon as it opens, you should be fine.

He is also absolutely right that you need to be VERY clear with any independent booking about the cancellation policy. Some companies will refund money in case your ship does not dock, or is extremely late. OTHERS WILL NOT! In all cases you need to be sure of the policy, but especially in tender ports.

To whet your appetite, check out our trip report and pictures at The Halls Western Caribbean Cruise

Have a GREAT cruise!
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Old March 6th, 2011, 07:20 PM
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Both Belize and Grand Cayman are tender ports, so just make sure you have plenty of time if you are going with an independent tour company. It is also true, people booked with ship excursions get the first tenders.
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Old March 7th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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It is also true, people booked with ship excursions get the first tenders.
Well, as I stated above, this is simply NOT our experience! It is often said, but in our many cruises we have never seen it happen that way.

What DOES happen is that the people on ship's tours gather in designated places, and are taken to their tender when the time for their tour arrives.

However, on every ship we have ever been on, they also offer tender tickets to independent passengers as a particular location, and those who go up to get their tender tickets early usually are boarded on some of the first tenders -- in fact, sometimes before ship's excursion passengers. After that the tenders more or less alternate. Regularly during the first hour to hour and a half after docking we hear tender ticket numbers called as tenders are available to independent passengers.

So, in our experience, it simply is NOT a matter that all the ship's tours leave first, and independent passengers have to wait til last. The system seems to me to be very fair and give independent passengers their chance to get off early.

What IS true, of course, is that if you are booked on a ship's excursion you will definitely be scheduled on a tender at the appropriate time. If you are booked on an independent excursion early, then it is YOUR responsibility to be up in line early getting your tender tickets to ensure priority tendering. If you simply walk down to the tender, you will certainly see lines of shore excursion passengers being boarded before you, which is probably where this rumor originates.

Nevertheless it is not wise to schedule an independent excursion immediately upon arrival. Most reputable shore operators know this and make due allowance for the time needed to tender in. However many of them will recommend to you that you get in line for tender tix early.

The ships really do a very good job of organizing the tenders. Do not get upset over it. It will all work out.
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