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