JUST BACK - EXPLORER - 7/11, BELIZE & W. CARIB. part I

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#1
NYC, USA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
We just returned from our 5th RCCL cruise, our 2nd aboard the EOS. We had a great time but we thought we'd share our thoughts about the cruise and the itinerary.

The Itinerary: I'm going to list this first because it is our biggest concern. We have always been pretty content with RCCL's itineraries - even when there have only been 3 ports of call, but this cruise was different because of the 1st port of call. We read a lot about Belize - that was the port the we were most undecided about as far as excursions go. We read so many conflicting stories about this port. After going to Belize though, we will be writing to RCCL with our concerns. First of all, we found the people of Belize to be very warm and friendly. Unfortunately, this port is grossly underdeveloped and offers so much less than other ports of call in the Caribbean. Passengers must be tendered into Belize City before taking water taxis for virutally all other excursions, unless you're visiting ruins or going cave tubing. We talked to several passengers about their excursions.

Cave Tubing: We were told that once you got into the river the cave tubing was fun, but getting there was the problem. One of our table mates is a travel agent. She did the cave tubing and said she'd never recommend it or Belize to her clients. She said they traveled by bus over a 6 mile stretch of dirt road - it took them one entire hour. The road was pitted with huge holes, rocks, etc. Now, this was the ship's excursion - not an independent tour group! After getting off the bus, they walked 40 minutes through hot, steamy jungle filled with snakes, bugs, etc. Once they got to the cave, they were told to watch for spiders and bats - it's a cave. They had two options of getting into the river: either by jumping 6 - 8 feet into the river below, or by lowering yourself with the rope.

We also talked to 2 young girls who opted for the speed boat/snorkel experience. They said the boat they were on was no faster than the water taxis and they were disappointed in the snorkeling - not many pretty fish or coral.

Our Belize excursion: We opted for the Goff's Cay Beach Break. This tour cost is $72! Most of the tours at Belize are very pricey - there are no beaches in Belize City or within a reasonable drive within Belize City so you have to go to one of the outlying islands if you want to go to a beach. You have to take an excursion if you want to snorkel - you can't do it off the coast at Belize City. Our $72 excursion included lunch. Once we tendered into Belize City, we had to board a water taxi - no roof or protection from sun. It took 40 minutes to get to Goff Cay. This island is so small (maybe 1 acre at the most, very flat)- it really has no business being part of RCCL excursion selections. I counted 7 palm trees, some small brush & litter, 2 port -a - potties (no toilet paper), a large palapa with many holes in the roof (found this out during a heavy downpour), plastic chairs (no chaise lounges) and only a few tables. The barbecue chicken dinner was nothing like we've experienced on other RCCL island breaks. Chicken was served out of a blue plastic garbage bucket that was obviously stained on the outside from previous meals. They ran out of some of the food.

Before arriving in Goff's Caye, we were told we could go on their short snorkeling tour (included) and that they had equipment if we needed to use it. 3 of the 4 of us went on this snorkeling trip. My husband stayed on the island while we snorkled. We were disappointed in this snorkeling trip for several reasons: we swam for 45 minutes w/o being able to stop for more than a second or two. It was hard to take pictures - even if you saw something worth taking a picture of. The guides pushed all of us to keep up so all we did was swim and at times we had to swim hard. The coral near Goff Keye is nearly dead - there aren't many fish at all.

Once we got back from our snorkeling trip, we lined up for lunch. A large, fast moving storm blew through and we ran for cover. Tables and chairs,etc. were flying everywhere. We were only back from snorkeling for 30 minutes, and the guides came around telling us to get ready to go back - the tour was ending. We had no time to swim or lay on the beach or anything. $288 for 4 people and this was all we got!? For those of you who have visited Labadee or Coco Cay - you know what you got - and it was free, and it was beautiful. This was terrible in comparison and it cost $288 for 4 of us.

In our opinion, RCCL needs to seriously reconsider this port as a stop - until they've developed it or until Belize developes it. It's not fair to the vast majority of passengers who cannot do the cave tubing or scuba, or in the summer, go into the hot interior to view ruins. If RCCL does continue to stop in Belize, RCCL should provide a decent place for it's passengers to visit - perhaps a beach experience - free of charge!

Other ports of call: Costa Maya - we really enjoyed this port. It's still in it's early stages of development. But RCCL and other cruise lines have pulled their money and built an entertainment, shopping, swimming pool, swim-up bar facility at the pier. We really enjoyed all of it. Before stopping there we took a $5 per person cab ride to Mahuhual. It's a really neat Mexican beach/fishing village. $20 for a 30 min. massage on the beach - yeh, that was really great! Don't stop at the first place with lounge chairs - go to the area of beach that is roped off from boats, etc. Water is clear - we did some relaxing snorkeling. Not loads of fish, but some.. this was a nice stop with good shopping.

Cozumel- we've been there before and gone to Chankanab - great place. This time though we took a short cab ride to Paradise Beach - what an absolutely beautiful place. Everything free of charge - chaise lounges, umbrella tables, floating mats, climbing iceburg walls, trampolines, showers, clean facilities, the clearest water I've ever seen. Great place and good shopping in town and at the pier.

Grand Cayman - by this time we were pretty beached out. We did the island tour with the visit to Hell and the Turtle Farm, $15 at the pier. Bus was air-conditioned and the guide was really good. All of us enjoyed the Turtle Farm. We did some shopping in town - nothing really exceptional there. I would have liked to do Stingray City but no one else in our group wanted to take another water taxi or snorkel with stingrays. There is no island there at Stingray City for anyone interested - it's out in the middle of the ocean from what we were told.

Continued on EOS, 7/11 part 2
#2
cincinnati ohio
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
This is very interesting. We are doing this same cruise on 9-26-04 EOS. How do I get to see part two of of report?

just spatz
#3
1,621 Posts
Joined Aug 2001
We're leaving in 2 weeks on Explorer to do the same itinerary. Did you run into anyone who went snorkeling with Coral Breeze in Belize, and if so, how was it?? Also, who's the cruse director and how was he/she?

Thanks!
Marcy
#4
NYC, USA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Originally posted by Marcys
We're leaving in 2 weeks on Explorer to do the same itinerary. Did you run into anyone who went snorkeling with Coral Breeze in Belize, and if so, how was it?? Also, who's the cruse director and how was he/she?

Thanks!
Marcy
No, we didn't run into anyone who snorkeled with Coral Breeze. The cruise director is wonderful - probably the best we've ever seen. Can't remember her name though - she's either Scottish or Irish. She easily could be a comedian.
#5
NYC, USA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Originally posted by spatz
This is very interesting. We are doing this same cruise on 9-26-04 EOS. How do I get to see part two of of report?

just spatz
The rest of the review is on page one - further down, but here it is (it was too lengthy to post on one posting so we had to add part 2):


This is part 2 of our review -

Other cruise experiences.....

Check In: For some reason it was very chaotic this time. I know there are 3600 passengers to check in, but this was the busiest we had ever seen it and the most chaotic. Hopefully, our next cruise as Platinum members will improve this situation for us at least.

Our cabin: balcony, 7656. It's funny - we had just been on this ship only 1 year earlier but we saw signs of wear this time that just weren't there a year before. Our mini-bar barely kept drinks cool - not cold at all. The safe wasn't working so we had to call for maintenance. They came pretty quickly and did fix it though. The matresses need to be replaced on both the beds and on the pull out sofa (well, I guess new sofas are the answer there.) We've never had a problem with sleeping on our cruises in the past but this cruise was different. At least in this cabin. There were several very noticable scratches on wood, major stains on the sofa - yuck. On the up side, our cabin steward did a great job of cleaning up and taking care of us.

The food: this is something that is subjective for all of us. We always find RCCL food to be good to excellent. This includes the food in the Windjammer, and the main dining room. Of course, it sometimes gets a little repetitive during breakfast especially. But there are so many selections it never bothers us. We did notice on this cruise though that desserts didn't seem quite up to par with what we're used to on RCCL. We were told by one of the crew to enjoy the free food at Johnny Rockets, because RCCL has started charging for food at JR's on some of their ships and will eventually start charging on the explorer. We were told the reason for this is due to the kids ordering tons of food and wasting it. I don't know if this is true or not - just what we were told.

Ship entertainment: overall it was great- ice skating was wonderful, lounge performers are wonderful. Only one negative comment - and that is that the Fast Forward show was performed on 2 of the nights of our cruise. We had already seen it on our previous cruise, and saw it again on the 2nd night (I think it was), but then it was scheduled again on this cruise. I don't know if another act was supposed to show but didn't, or what.....

Other Issues: On this particular cruise there was a huge group of young 15 year old girls - not sure of the spelling, Quinteceas we think is the name of the group. From what we were told there were approximately 500 of them from Miami, Bolivia, etc. This is supposed to be some kind of "coming out" party for a young girl. Every night in the main dining room, they did a grand entrance kind of thing down the 3 story staircase, and then marched around all of the tables, clapping, screaming, etc. It became so intrusive - we could not talk to people at our table over all of the screaming and no one on the ship was controlling the situation. It just was out of hand - and even though it might have been a big thing to celebrate for this group of young girls, it should not have affected what other passengers were doing. We have a young daughter and I work with children, so I'm not opposed to them having a great time - none of us are, but by mid-cruise it was ridiculous - at the pool, in the main dining room, in the promenade - screaming, etc. Come on, we're all entitle to have a good cruise experience, but what if we all did that?

Debarkation: went very smooth - no problems there.

Overall: We thought this was a very relaxing cruise after the Belize stop. We never expect perfection in anything. We travel extensively, and we've cruised 8 times - including cruises to Europe and Alaska. Even though this was not the best cruise, we'll still cruise with RCCL. They're still our favorite. If there's anything we've missed, please ask. Hope this helps.
#6
96 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
We did this cruise too. This was our first RC cruise, our only other was NCL, and we thought this cruise was absolutely wonderful. Not having much to compare we loved everything about RC except the 1000 15 year old girls celebrating their birthdays all week. Mind you I have a 15 year old son so he was in heaven for the start of the cruise, but even he said it got very old very fast. I didn't like the fact that they would put soooo many people on one ship, IMHO they should charter a ship for themselves.

The cruise director was Clo, fantastic!!! I loved her.
#7
cincinnati ohio
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Thank-you very much. This is our first time cruising and it really helps to hear others expierences.

Why did the beds need to be taken out?

Did you do Paradise beach ? I hear it is the most clean and beautiful beach there is plus it's free. Thanks so much for info. I would certainly let TA and RCCL know how you feel about your cruise.

I too have heard that Belize is a poor and undeveloped port but I figured it's only one and the rest of the ports are sounding great.

just spatz
#8
Ohio
596 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Thanks for taking the time to review your cruise. I enjoyed you sharing you trip with the rest of us.
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#9
Windsor, Vermont
2,247 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
We are taking this ship/itinerary in Sept. for our first and I really appreciate your sharing your experiences. It really helps out us newbies! We are cave tubing in Belize, so I'm interested to see what our experience is.
#10
42 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
I went to Belize on a Carnival cruise in Feb. 03. We hiked thru the Jungle to see the Howling monkeys. This country is VERY underdeveloped. I had lived in Central America for 2 years, so for me it was like coming home. But I guess for others it can be a real culture shock. People on our ship had done a horseback riding tour,,,and lunch and loved it. On our tour we had the guides stop at a local bar and we all got bottled local beer which was great. And yes it's all dirt roads. Any one who has been to the Panama canal, knows once you get out of the "zone" that U.S. controled it's all dirt roads(to some of the most beautiful forts). I do know that on our description brochures it made sure to tell us about the dirt roads, and the 45 minute hike to the caves. Was rc as forthcoming??
#11
NYC, USA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
No, you were told that the excursion required physical activity but no specifics were given. I had heard about the grueling walk through the jungle on these boards. For some it may not be bad, but if you're unfortunate enough to be there on an extremely hot day, and if you're not used to 45 min. hikes through the jungle, it may not be what you imagined it to be. Many people wouldn't necessarily think about spiders and bats in the caves, but they're there. And many people wouldn't know about jumping 6 - 8 feet into the cave's river or lowering themselves by rope down the 6 - 8 drop. For most passengers, you find these things out either by doing your homework before you leave (on these boards) or you find out when you have to do it.
#12
NYC, USA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Originally posted by spatz
Thank-you very much. This is our first time cruising and it really helps to hear others expierences.

Why did the beds need to be taken out?

Did you do Paradise beach ? I hear it is the most clean and beautiful beach there is plus it's free. Thanks so much for info. I would certainly let TA and RCCL know how you feel about your cruise.

I too have heard that Belize is a poor and undeveloped port but I figured it's only one and the rest of the ports are sounding great.

just spatz

The beds didn't have to be taken out - they should have been replaced with new ones though. The mattresses are worn and flattened - our backs were really sore in the morning after sleeping on them all night.

Yes, we did do Paradise Beach and it's beautiful - if you look at our review - part 1 I think, you'll see our review of the Cozumel stop. Paradise Beach is all that and more. Loved it.

And we did send a letter to RCCL - our first letter of complaint - it'll be interesting to see how it's handled.
#13
Massachusetts
150 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
ds521-

We were on the same cruise as you. I went on the the cave tubing trip, but we went through a private company (x-stream cave tubing). In my personal opinion, it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. I would not hesitate recommending it at all. The walk was 40 minutes, but it wasn't bad at all. You're walking through the jungle so the trees are filtering out the sun. I saw a total of 2 bats and they were in one of the dry caves we walked through. Bats don't live in the wet caves (at least that is what we were told). Bugs were not a problem. The drive was an hour, but it actually went by really fast. The last 6 miles was on unpaved road - truthfully it was kind of fun. I wouldn't let these minor details deter anyone from booking this excursion.

You have to go into Belize knowing that it's a third world country and that you have to book a shore excursion or there's nothing else to do. That's one of the reasons why we booked this trip. We wanted to go to exotic locations and experiences things that we wouldn't normally do. If you know what to expect, I think that you'll be a lot more pleased.

As far as the Bolivian Quinceaneras were concerned - there were a lot of them, but definitely not 500. There was one group of around 400 people, but they had nothing to do with these girls. The time that they paraded around the dining room it was pretty annoying, but I didn't think that they disturbed anything. It was more showing off than anything else.

Clodagh O'Connor was the cruise director and she was the best I've ever seen. This was my 6th cruise (2nd on Royal Caribbean) and I hope I end up on another ship with her in the future. She's from Ireland, by the way. That's why she kept saying at every single show that we were going to Ireland.

As far as the Fast Forward show goes, I have no idea what you're talking about. It was on one night and the other production show was entitled History Repeating. History Repeating was on day 3 (Tuesday) and Fast Forward was on day 6 (Friday). I have the cruise compasses right here next to me on my desk. I went to both shows.

This was probably my favorite vacation ever. The service, food, entertainment, and ship were all wonderful. I wouldn't change anything - no complaints here!
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#14
cincinnati ohio
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Hi imt219

just wondering if you might have done the dune buggys in Costa maya.

We are considering it but heard it is a little rough. My husband had a stroke 6 yrs ago but his overall health is fine. Just would like to know of anyone else who did it and what they thought. We are doing the same intineray as you did on EOS on 9-26-04.

Thanks for any help.

just spatz
#15
Massachusetts
150 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Hi Spatz!

We didn't do the dune buggys in Costa Maya. We ended up doing the Chacchoben Mayan ruins tour through Royal Caribbean. It was a pretty leisurely stroll through the jungle and there was time at the end to go off by yourselves and explore some more. The ruins were extraordinary and I would highly recommend it. The cool thing is that they only started excavating the site in 1999, so many things are still uncovered but easily spotted because they are giant mounds. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!
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~Lauren


Norwegian Majesty - 7/98 | Norwegian Majesty - 7/99 | Carnival Fantasy - 7/00
Norwegian Majesty - 7/02 | Explorer of the Seas - 7/03 | Explorer of the Seas - 7/04
Monarch of the Seas - 7/06 | Norwegian Pearl - 7/07 | Carnival Splendor - 3/09
Caribbean Princess - 7/09 | Freedom of the Seas - 7/10 | Norwegian Pearl - 3/11
Norwegian Spirit - 7/11 | Norwegian Star - 3/12 | Norwegian Dawn - 7/12
Norwegian Epic - 3/13 | Norwegian Pearl - 7/13 | Norwegian Sun - 3/15
Norwegian Dawn - 7/15 | Norwegian Star - 3/16 | Norwegian Dawn - 7/16

Upcoming:
3/17 -- Norwegian Getaway
#16
cincinnati ohio
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Thanks for the info. If you hear of anyone who has done the dune buggys please let me know.

It sounds like you had a great time on this cruise as opposed to the other poster. When I read his review I thought it was very interesting but it kind of scared me about the beds and other things he said. I'm not going to worry about it because with over 3000 people it's going to have some things people don't like.

How was Cozeumel in your opion? Also the other ports. grand Cayman.

Thanks for any info.

just spatz
#17
The Palmetto State
465 Posts
Joined May 2004
Spatz, definitely go to Paradise Beach in Cozumel. It's so beautiful, CLEAN and free (entry, watertoys, umbrellas, chairs). It's made Cozumel my favorite port.
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#19
Massachusetts
150 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Spatz-

You're welcome. I agree with what Michelle just posted. We went to Paradise Beach in Cozumel and it was amazing. Check out the ports of call board and there are numerous threads about it. Paradise Beach Tom runs it and he keeps it in great condition. In Grand Cayman we went to 7 Mile Beach in the morning and went shopping in the afternoon. We had a great time.

I know what you mean about some of the things the other poster from my cruise wrote about. As I was reading it I was wondering if they were on the same cruise as me. Everyone has different opinions and expectations, however. All I can say is that I had an amazing time. And I'm sure that you will, too! Feel free to ask any more questions!
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~Lauren


Norwegian Majesty - 7/98 | Norwegian Majesty - 7/99 | Carnival Fantasy - 7/00
Norwegian Majesty - 7/02 | Explorer of the Seas - 7/03 | Explorer of the Seas - 7/04
Monarch of the Seas - 7/06 | Norwegian Pearl - 7/07 | Carnival Splendor - 3/09
Caribbean Princess - 7/09 | Freedom of the Seas - 7/10 | Norwegian Pearl - 3/11
Norwegian Spirit - 7/11 | Norwegian Star - 3/12 | Norwegian Dawn - 7/12
Norwegian Epic - 3/13 | Norwegian Pearl - 7/13 | Norwegian Sun - 3/15
Norwegian Dawn - 7/15 | Norwegian Star - 3/16 | Norwegian Dawn - 7/16

Upcoming:
3/17 -- Norwegian Getaway
#20
Raymore,MO usa
1,811 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
We are considering visiting the ruins while we're in Costa Maya, were you able to climb any of the ruins and how long was the entire trip. Also what was the cost compared to booking it on your own?

Thanks
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