I am definitely a person who takes ship excursions whenever possible. I am well aware that you can often find cheaper, similar activities on your own, but just once in my life when off on my own activities at port I had to run to catch a cruise ship. This was in Turkey, and I decided right then and there that it was worth any extra money for the security that taking a ship excursion gives you (if your excursion gets back late, the ship will wait). Yes, watching runners trying to catch a ship can be entertaining for everyone on board the ship, but trust me, it’s not very entertaining if you are the person doing the running. So, I took three excursions on the Carnival Breeze on my recent Western Caribbean cruise (September 25 to October 2) Here are my reviews of those excursions, plus some thoughts on excursions that other people in my party took.
PASSION ISLAND: In Cozumel, Mr. Travelholic and I decided to have a romantic day alone on Passion Island, which is really just a far peninsula of Cozumel. We took a 40-minute smaller boat to our location, and then had an idyllic all-inclusive day on a perfect Caribbean beach. Turquoise water, soft sand, and all drinks and food included. And hammocks; right in the gentle warm water. We spent a good part of the day in those hammocks and it was wonderful. There were water activities and dancing activities for those who wanted to do more than we did. The food was typical and tasty Mexican fare, and the drinks were tasty (don’t ask me about quality of alcohol because I can’t tell you…I’m not a big drinker and my husband doesn’t drink at all, but I had a couple of the margaritas and enjoyed them). My only criticism of the excursion is that it wasn’t long enough; we certainly had enough time to stay for another hour and I wish we had. This was a particularly uncrowded excursion when we were there, but we were the only cruise ship in the port, and I’ve been to Cozumel when there were seven, and I asked one of the operators and they said on a particularly busy day there could be as many as 1,000 people so your results may vary. One reminder: my husband and I knew all was included for the excursion fee ($69.99 each) and we are not big shoppers, so we didn’t bring any cash or credit cards with us, just our ship cards. This turned out to be a mistake, because the absolutely best picture of us on the cruise was taken there and we didn’t have $12 to buy it. We took some money with us on the next two excursions. Finally, typical cruise music was played on the boat ride back (Wobble, Macarena, etc) and crew and cruisers who were so moved danced.
LAMANI RUINS: In Belize, we had our longest excursion, a 7-hour jaunt to the lovely and remote Lamani Mayan ruins. The ship tendered us in at Belize City, and to get to the ruins took a lengthy bus ride and a 35-minute boat ride up a jungle river. Just a note that the river is wide, so if you are imagining wildlife over your head in trees along the river, you will be disappointed. The ruins themselves, however, are surrounded by jungle and we saw very interesting flora and fauna while we were there including howler monkeys and leaf cutting ants. The ruins themselves were outstanding; very scenic due to the jungle all around them, not crowded the day we were there, knowledgeable guides (our guide had actually worked on excavation at the site) and you get to climb the High Temple for a fantastic view (most Mayan ruins I have been to do not allow you to climb them). On the way back you get a classic Belizean lunch and the opportunity to purchase beverages (I did one of those rum drinks in a coconut, because it is a law that if you come to the Caribbean you must drink rum at least once and have a drink in a coconut at least once as well). The lunch was at a relatively new tourist facility on the river that was very nice. The bus ride was interesting; you could see this area of Belize was poor, and you could also see the damage that a recent hurricane had caused to trees and some buildings.
As Belize was the only tender port, a note on the tenders: in spite of the Carnival Breeze being anchored about 5 miles from Belize City and how many people wanted to get off the boat (nearly everyone) the tender process was extremely well organized and there was no waiting at all (at least for excursions on the way there) and minimal waiting for us on the way back. So, well done Carnival Breeze!
My only complaint about this excursion is that one cruiser had missed the group tender; some of their party was already with our group and for some inexplicable reason, we waited until the latecomers took a later tender to join up with our group. I would never expect an excursion to wait for me in this situation, and I am perplexed as to why 30 people were kept waiting sitting on a bus, wasting precious port time. I understand the decision was made out of kindness to some extent, but at least tell everyone, let them roam around the port and come back a half hour later in this situation.
JOLLY ROGER CATAMARAN: For Roatan, Honduras, my husband went diving, so I went off on my own snorkeling. I was a little nervous; not because I don’t travel alone and not because I haven’t gone on excursions alone, but I had never snorkeled alone and I have seen one too many movies where the snorkeler/diver gets engrossed with the marine life, then lifts their head out of the water and everyone and the boat is gone…so I picked my excursion carefully since I wouldn’t have anyone with me who was looking out for me.
Given that, I was quite happy with Jolly Roger. They provided good snorkeling equipment, kept a fun atmosphere on the boat, and definitely had safety first in mind. They had two groups (slow swimmers/beginners and everyone else) and I was feeling pretty good that day so I picked the normal swimmers group (beginners had red big floaty safety jackets and regular swimmers had smaller yellow ones). We bused to one end of the island and had a short catamaran ride (I wish it could have been all catamaran from Mahogany Bay, but it did give me a chance to see some of the island). A fun feature of this tour is that Jolly Roger takes pictures of everyone for free and also the sea life you see, so you get free digital pictures online of the entire experience for free download!
The snorkeling was fun and in very clear, calm water; I got to snorkel in a giant school of Blue Tang, saw a sting ray and a moray eel and lots of other beautiful, colorful fish and coral. We had a guide in a small boat (helpful for keeping track of where the group was) and another guide in the water with us pointing out sea life and taking pictures. At one point I did look up to see where our catamaran was and slightly panicked—it seemed so far away; could I swim back with my RA exhausted legs? I did, but had I needed a tow or the small boat I could have gotten help. After snorkeling there was a typical Honduran lunch and rum drinks (I think it is also a law you get a typical lunch and rum drinks on all excursions in the Caribbean…all 3 lunches had chicken rice and beans; a bit boring by this last lunch but all good). We returned to the port with plenty of time to explore Mahogany Bay.
MAHOGANY BAY: For those looking for an easy beach day, the Mahogany Bay port (Roatan, Honduras) has an elaborate gondola to a very pretty beach. The rest of our group did this. All I can tell you is that there are yard-long drinks there and my friends partook of said drinks. They may have had more than one; ok, ok, they definitely had more than one—I believe some of my friends had 3? Someone may have ended up dancing on a bar with a complete stranger, someone may have had a really bad hangover, and someone had Mardi Gras type bling that another stranger gave them, but that is all I’m saying (hmm…do my friends read this blog?). My friends did love Mahogany Bay, but they want to let everyone know that the drinks are stronger than they taste and if you are no longer in your 20s perhaps livers take longer to metabolize alcohol than before. Everyone also loved the beach, and suntans–and burns–were had by all. Also all the girls in Roatan ended up having sun-and-salt stung lips; it looked like all of us had had botox to our lips!
2-TANK DIVE: Mr. Travelholic (a very experienced diver) did the 2-tank dive in Roatan, Honduras. He had also wanted to dive in Belize but there had been that very recent hurricane that did considerable damage to some of the dive operators including the dive operator who works with the cruise ships, so he decided to just dive in Roatan.
Mr. Travelholic says that the dives were fine; he said they dived a spot with a sheer drop-off into the ocean He said that he had actually seen a better variety of marine life in Cozumel which he has extensively dived; however, he wants to point out that diving varies seriously by location and even by day so this is nothing against the tour operators which were fine; his disappointment came from everyone telling him how awesome diving in Roatan was and although very good did not live up (for him) to that advance billing).
So there you have it! I had a perfectly good time on my excursions, and for me just the right mix of activities, relaxation and touring. When you plan your cruise excursions, try to keep a good mix in mind. Also, well done to the Carnival Breeze and their excursion operators for the excellent quality and variety of excursions. Finally ,when you are planning your cruise excursions online before your trip, Carnival and some other cruise companies provide reviews from cruisers right in the excursion planning area of their web sites; I used this to pick my excursions for this cruise and they were very helpful.