I have never been on a cruise and my in-laws are taking the seven of us for christmas. I have 5 kids ages 15-22. We are stopping in Jamaica, Grand Caymans and Cozumel. What should I "not miss" at each port? Is one place better for shopping, another for "beaching" and another for snorkeling or scuba? Budget is very tight. Please, please...someone help! Blessings.
JanaB Welcome to Cruise Chat! Don't let your first cruise stress you out. You have come to the right place for answers.
This post should really be in the Caribbean Ports section of the forum and normally I would move it but since its your first post i will leave it here until you respond so I know you know where to look for it when it "disappears".
Now on to your question- Jamaica- The only "must do" thing there is Dunns River Falls. its one fo the more popular things to do there. IF you are going on Carnival you will most likely be stopping in Montego Bay (Sp?). Unfortunately the falls are at least an hour's drive (maybe more) from that port and really not worth the trip. If you are by chance docking in Ochos Rios then its much closer and then indeed worth it. The Zip line tours are also popular but are a bit on the pricey side. Personally we don't get off the ship in Jamacia anymore. But since its your first time I won't tel you not to. Just be sure to book a ships tour and stay in your group.
Grand Caymans- By far and away the best tour here and something not to be missed is Sting Ray City. You can book a tour that only does that or does the Sting Ray's and snorkeling... The water in GC is crystal clear and the snorkeling is outstanding there so you might consider both. You can book through the ship or you can save a bit of money by booking directly with one of the private tour companies (Captain Marvin's is the most popular, you can find them on line to book) I promise you this will not disappoint anyone in your group.
Cozumel- another great snorkeling stop or maybe just a beach stop. Cozumel overs so many choices you may want to split up.. There are Mayan ruins, Jeep drives, 4 wheeler drives, horseback riding, scuba, snorkeling, just sitting on the beach... you name it.. The shopping there is good too, but you can always shop after a tour since most (except the Talum or Chicenitza (wow I can't spell these ancient Mayan names..) Ruins which are on the mainland and take all day.) The Snorkeling in Cozumel (or any water sports) is considered to be of the best in the Caribbean. The recent hurricanes have don't extensive damage to their coral reefs but the water is still crystal clear if you want to snorkel.
Hope that helps.. if you want any further help feel free to ask.
Jana...with a family group that large, you may want to rent a large passenger van in Cozumel. They are relatively inexpensive and a great way to see the whole island. Carlos and Charlies has a great beach club, and there are numerous beach spots all around the island. You can rent the vans (or jeeps,etc) without reservations at the pier. Don't be afraid to play "Monty hall" with them either..they will make you a deal. Have a great cruise!
First....take a deep breath and repeat after me...." I am going on a cruise!! " LOL
You will be fine.
Each port seems to have their "signature excursion" that they are known for.
As posted earlier....Jamaica is Dunn's River Falls. This is a great excursion to do through the ship. (Jamaica is the one port I recommend ONLY a ship tour for newbies). However, to be aware that there are a lot of vendors at the end of the climb. Just walk through and say "no thank you". They are irritating but harmless.
Grand Cayman and Cozumel can be done independently.
Grand Cayman .... definately swim with the sting rays.
Cozumel.... everything is good EXCEPT the zipline. I would not recommend that. Ziplining was designed for ports with mountains and tropical forests...Cozumel has neither.
If by the time you get to Cozumel...you just want a fun day on the beach....I have two suggestions:
Hire Gerry for the day ($195 for 3 hours $25 an hour afterward for a van your size...it is $95 for 3 hours for a station wagon for 4) and plan your own tour over to the East side. Very primitive...no electricity...no swimming because of the rip tides but some interesting bars if you are into that kinda thing. He speaks perfect English. His written English is a little rough, so Mike Thompson handles his reservations. You simply pay him at the end of the tour in cash.
email@example.com is his email address.
My second recommendation....if you just want a fun but relaxing day on the beach....
Paradise Beach. It is a FREE beach resort which means they do not charge an entrance fee. They also do NOT charge for their lounge chairs, tables, umbrellas, CLEAN restrooms and changing rooms. They have a nice outdoor shower for after a day in the sand and FREE internet at the bar.
All they ask is that you eat/drink $10 per person while you are there. It is handled on the honor system.
I would suggest water shoes as all the beach resorts on the West side have an issue with coral and rocks. Although if you enter on the North part of Paradise Beach, it is fine.
Paradise Beach also has a $10 wristband that is OPTIONAL. (our 2 boys always get it...hubby and I usually do not) This covers all the non-motorized water toys....LOTS of jumpy and climby things, snorkeling and kayaking, land bunge trampoline AND you can even climb a coconut tree. (Yes I have done it)
They have the most water toys of all the beach resorts and they have the comfortable beach chairs...not the hard plastic kind.
If you want to snorkel or kayak...there is a deposit for the equipment but it is FULLY refunded when you return the equipment.
There are also vendors available (but they do not bug you) if you want to jet ski ($55 1/2 hour), parasail ($55 per person), or banana boat ride. Also they offer massages right on the beach for $1 a minute with a 20 minute minimum. These are in tents with a fan and they use CLEAN towels...and do a wonderful job.
A taxi to any of the beach resorts can be up to $15 one way for up to 4 people. There are vans available. Just ask one of the taxi supervisors. You walk through the Puerta Maya shops to the taxi area. And there will be supervisor there to help you with your taxi needs.
Do not worry about getting a taxi back. There are more taxis in Cozumel than sand. Paradise Beach always has a ton waiting to take you back to the ship.
We have never been ripped off...but do verify the amount of the trip before you get in.
If you go to Paradise Beach, just walk in and select where you want to sit. You do not have to purchase the wristbands immediately. Just look over what they offer and decide who wants one ....again they are NOT required.
Since the waiters offer then when you first walk up...some folks think they are required. They are not.
The main thing is to make yourself at home. Paradise Beach wants you to feel relaxed and welcomed.
What we usually do is go straight there from the ship (after eating a big breakfast)....9AM....stay until about 2pm and then go back to the ship ...change clothes ...grab some lunch and shop around the port for awhile.
You can get on and off the ship at ports as many times as you want to.
Jamaica is the only port you are going to that I would NOT recommend doing anything on your own or even with an indepedent operator...since you are new to this.
Grand Cayman and Cozumel are fine!!!
Hope this helps and that you have a WONDERFUL cruise.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
One more recommendation:
ALWAYS keep your watch on SHIP TIME.
Do not even look at a port clock. The ship sails on SHIP TIME>
There will be a clock to verify the time when you leave the ship.....
Welcome JanaB to Cruise-Chat!
I can add my recommendation for Paradise Beach on Cozumel that LHP recommended. It is an extremely well kept beach and facilities, with an extraordinary staff.
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