We will be cruising in September on Explorer of the Seas and stopping at the following ports. What excursions should we consider and what should we avoid? Should we book through the cruise line or just schedule it when we get to port?
We just did the same itinerary on the Voyager. It is hard to make recommendations when we do not know what your interests are - but - this is what we did.
Belize - Coral Breeze snorkel excursion - their web site is www.coralbreezelimited.com. We had a great day with them. The snorkel stop with the stingrays was very similar to the one in Grand Cayman but without the crowds. The snorkel stop was pretty good but not as nice as in Grand Cayman. We really enjoyed our time on Caye Caulker and would love to go back there and spend more time.
Costa Maya - We walked to the little fishing village of Mahahual and relaxed on the beautiful beach for a couple of hours and then did some snorkeling at the beach by the pier. Not the best snorkeling but I did see some fish that I have never seen before. The village is great because it is very layed back (not like the area by the pier).
Cozumel - We spent most of our time shopping because my friends had some special things they were looking for but I would have loved to have spent some time at Paradise Beach. It is a new beach with no admission fee and almost everything is free except for food and drinks. No charge for chairs, floats, kayaks, snorkel gear, water trampoline, etc. It has been getting rave reviews. All you have to do is grab a taxi and go there - no excursion necessary.
Grand Cayman - We did the Stingray City snorkel trip with Dexter. There were 19 of us so we were able to charter his boat all to ourselves for $28/person. We snorkeled with the stingrays and then stopped at a reef for more snorkeling. It was a wonderful trip.
I am taking the same route, only on the Splendour in December. I have not yet been to Belize, so I can only offer my =twocents on the other 3 ports. On my upcoming cruise, Im taking my parents, my grandma and her friend all on their first cruise.
Costa Maya: The Chacchoben ruins were great (ship tour). Many complain about this port because it is not as developed as the other Caribbean ports, but it was one of my favorites. Now once I've been there a few times, it may become boring. But as time passes, it will grow, and offer more options.
Grand Cayman: Swim with the stingrays. There are several independent companies offering this experience. It sounds like they are all good. Dont take the ships tour, more expensive and much more crowded. The Atlantis Sub here was fun (booked by contacting them directly online, cheaper than the ships tour). Also did a glass bottom boat once, that was fun too. Theres lots of places to swim and soak up the sun along 7 Mile Beach too.
Cozumel: So much to do and see here. We've done the Tulum ruins (recommend only doing this via ship tour) which was great, but it was a long day. If staying on the island of Coz, consider renting a jeep and driving it yourself. Its beautiful, and this way you can do whatever you want at your own pace. Chakanaab Park is quite popular, I believe this is also where the dolphins are ($12 entrance fee to the park, dolphin swims are additional and pricey). Lots of great places to eat and swim and shop.. etc.
Do a search on the different boards here for each port to find what others have suggested in the past. Lots of info here. And by the way... =welcome aboard!
We did Xcaret park in Cozumel (booked through RCI), and it was enjoyable (beaches, snorkeling, floating down underground rivers, ruins, etc.) though after a while we were ready to head back. Problem was, we had to wait for the rest of the RCI group so we could all go back at once. Hence the downside to excursions that take you far from the ship.
Also, be warned that anything on the mainland of Mexico (Cozumel is an island) requires an additional ferry ride, which takes nearly an hour. So it's like this: Disembark from ship, board the ferry, spend 40 to 50 minutes on the ferry, schelp to the bus, take the bus to the park.... you get the idea. It's a whole lot of transportation. In fact, we had some folks who showed up late for the return bus trip (wristwatches, anyone?) and so we missed the ferry that would return us to the ship on time. The good news was that we were on an RCI-booked excursion, so the ship actually waited for us. We served as the entire ship's entertainment as everyone was out on the deck and all the balconies wondering what was keeping the ship from pulling out at 6 p.m.
So I guess what I'm saying is this: I'd strongly urge you to choose something on Cozumel island itself. It's too much hassle getting to and from the mainland.
Leaving on the Conquest 6/6/04. Interested in excursion tours for either YS or Dunns falls in Jamica. We want to maybe do some tubing but I can't see paying $80. per person. Also interested in parasailing, beaches, sting ray excursion in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Can anyone share their experiences/excursions, prices for excursions, and name of local tour agencies offering these tours.
We will be cruising in July and need to decide on our excursions. Is the dolphin swim worth the $ ? I will have to pay for 4, so it is important to consider the big picture of where we spend our fun $$.
The dolphin swim was definitely worth the money we spent to do it. It was the absolute best thing we did on the whole trip. At 45 years old, I don't get excited about much anymore, but that was pure fun. We got a video to prove to everyone that we did it. Go to dolphindiscovery.com and check out the pictures...it's really like what they advertise. I would do it again in an instant.
Dunns river falls is awesome! We did it once with just us, my husband and I, and then last year we took the kids back-great time. We booked w/ carnival and it was very well organized. You can take a taxi to the falls an do it yourself if you want and save a bunch of money. You won't get the experienced guide, and that in Jamica Mon is well worth it! Oh, bring your own aqua socks for the falls climb! Sting Ray city in Caymen was a repeat of Dunns River, loved it so much we went back last year w/ children. Have a great cruise!
We just got back from the Western Caribbean last week. While we were in Grand Cayman we went to Seven Mile Beach. They had waverunners for rent there and it is a very nice beach. We went at the Royal Palms Grill and there is a $3 admission. Here is a link to their webcams:
In Cozumel we spent the first half of the day at Paradise Beach, which claims it is a free beach, but a gal in our group kept getting harassed all day by a guy that worked there saying she had to buy food or a drink even though there were signs all over the place exclaiming that the chairs and activities were all free! Frustrating. We walked over to the beach next door (Playa San Francisco, I think was the name) and found parasailing, a marketplace, hair braiding and massages (massages were cheaper than Paradise Beach). The massage I had there was by a guy named Antonio and he did a better job than the spa on the cruise ship!
In the afternoon we went to Chankanaab park and did the Royal Swim with the dolphins. It's expensive, but worth every penny. Dolphins push you along the water by your feet, you get to ride their dorsal fins to shore, you get to kiss them and hold up a bar and they jump over you. They give you some free time with the dolphins too. It was an amazing excursion.