1. I've seen some pictures on the internet of a horse drawn carriage. Has anyone taken this tour and where does it go and how much?
2. Someone recommended buying vanilla...where would I find it?
3. Others have suggested doing shopping on the back streets as you get better prices. Does anyone know where some of these shops might be? I'm probably only interested in silver jewelry and tee shirts.
4. What about Pancho's Backyard? Where is it exactly? I ran across a map at one time that showed it, but can't remember where.
Thanks to everyone who share their experiences, stories and information. I greatly appreciate it. After September maybe I can add some comments as well!
You can purchase vanilla in most places. I've never bought any that wasn't fresh. You should be able to safely buy it everywhere. Prices are comparable.
I feel as comfortable in Cozumel as I do in my own neighborhood. Although, when you mentioned "back streets", I cringed. There is no need for you to venture to any back areas to find deals. Please don't. I purchase silver jewelry for myself and my daughters there and the prices I pay on the main strip are very fair. Same goes for t-shirts. Purchase them downtown on the main drag. Cozumel locals will barter on all of their goods. We even buy our macrame' hammock chairs here for great prices.
Another word of advice. Make sure all of your silver is stamped .925. It should be, since most of the silver produced is made in Taxco, Mexico.
Cozumel is one of my favorite ports. Always felt safe on the island. Agree with all that was stated by other posters on this thread; can't go wrong with Cinco Soles. Once you get to San Miguel aka "downtown Cozumel" keep going on the ocean front street. The store wil be several blocks 'left' of the old dock. Try to tip the natives who are entertaining you in the restaurant. I do not think they get paid otherwise and they obviously put such an effort into their job. The waiters although solicitous can be a bit agressive. I was there in Nov 2006, a single woman traveling alone. At one time there were at least five waiters at my table. Not uncomfortable, just a bit much. Regarding shopping, Cinco Soles will have everthing you need and service is great +air conditioned. You will find stuff cheaper, but the hassle in the other shops is not worth it. The staff at CSoles don't hassle me or follow me when I shop there. CSoles has the usual and somewhat unsual Mexican crafts, silver, vanilla and liquor. If you want high priced perfume or name brand jewelry check out the other stores along the way back from CSoles to your ship. Their prices will almost always beat St Thomas!!!
I found an insider's list of best shops in Cozumel on cozumelmexico.net. Most of them are only a few blocks back from the main square. Nudo Marineri has best quality/price for silver and it's in the Villa Mar Shopping Plaza next to Fat Tuesday.
As for Pancho's, an interesting source for restaurants is islacozumel.net/food.
An easy to read street map can be found on cozumel.net/1maps/citymap. It also explains how the streets and avenues are numbered so you will better understand how to find an address.
You can plan your shopping in advance by knowing what you would like to see. Maybe start at one end, work in the shops mentioned on cozumelmexico.net and end up at Los Cinco Soles where you will also find Pancho's.
Also, if you want to know about beaches (if you want to go on your own), look at caribbeanportreviews.com/CozumelWestBeaches where you can also find the north and east(windward) beach areas in Cozumel.
On a blue note, you and I may not get to go to Cozumel if Hurricane Dean turns out to be a bastard and devastates as much as Wilma did. So, I've started reading up on Belize; Roatan Island, Honduras; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, just in case. These are other ports in Central America that Carnival goes to. I wondered about Progreso/Merida on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula, but it may not weather so well either.
I've been reading up on Cozumel extensively for the last two months. I haven't been to Cozumel so my information is not first hand.
Where ever we go, it will still be fun. Especially if we do our research first.
As far as shopping goes, it may sound stupid but go with the places that Carnival recommends. That way, if something goes wrong, you have a guarantee. If Carnival DOESN'T recommend the shop, there's a good chance they're selling rip offs or unauthentic jewels. Trust me, this doesn't apply to all stores, but it DOES apply to most shops.
Pancho's is indeed inside Los Cinco Soles. It is hands down the best restaurant in Cozumel. The food is authentic, there aren't alot of drunk college kids running around yelling PARTEE. And the people playing the marimba are excellent.
Belize, Grand Cayman , and Roatan all have excellent snorkeling. Don't waste your time in Costa Maya. It's a mess. It's purely and simply a tourist trap, including their little invented town Majahual. Walk around, take in the local flavor, and then...get back on the ship!!
How bad do you think Hurricane Dean will damage Cozumel? Do you think it will be worse than Hurricane Wilma? I hope not. Cozumel was my favorite port of call in my cruising expieriences so far. I hope to go back to Cozume someday. Hopefully it won't look like a war zone.
If you are looking to buy jewelry, you should stick with the shopping guarantee program.
The "Destination Shopping Specialist" is an independent contractor placed on board by The PPI Group to promote recommended and guaranteed shopping programs through live presentations (also available on stateroom TVs) and personal consultations.
The PPI Group manages the shopping programs on more than 50 ships in the cruise industry. The focus is to actively promote high-end luxury items including diamonds, gemstones, fine jewelry, Swiss watches, electronics, designer fragrances, sculptures, artwork, keepsake souvenirs and alcohol available at PPI participating retailers. This could save you valuable time and money.
Personal consultations onboard can be arranged to assist guests about ports of call, shopping ashore and other general info. During these consultations you may be pre-qualified to identify you as a serious shopper. Big spenders can be escorted to the shops for major purchases.
The specialist will also be at the gangway at arrival to each port for last-minute questions, shopping maps and brochures. During port, the specialist visits every one of the contracted stores regarding special promotions, at which time they can assist you if you are in the same store at the same time.
I plan to compare this list to the list of stores I have compiled for local art that I wish to buy. But, I don't anticipate buying anything that needs a guarantee. I'm not a big jewelry fan, but I do like primative-style creations. I want the shopping map. And I heard if you go to the seminar, you should try to sit on the front row because they give away things. It may be schlock, so I'll more than likely watch the presentation on TV in my cabin.
P.S. The shopping specialist receives weekly income, but their big focus is the commissions they earn as a result of your purchases.