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dem372

Lamanai/River Tour- do I have time to do this through an independent tour guide?

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Posted (edited)

We will be in Belize City from 8-5.  We would really like to do the Lamanai/river boat tour, but the Norwegian excursion is really expensive.  We would save $600 doing it through a tour company I found through Trip Advisor (Lamanai Belize Tours, great reviews and very responsive).  The tour time is listed as 6 hours.  I don't know much about cruising though.  Does that 8-5 time mean we have to be back on the boat by 5 at the latest?  Or do we need to be on before 5 because of security, like on embarking?   Can anyone else who has done the Lamanai tour chime in?  Did you feel at ease time-wise?   I would normally just pay the extra cash for the security, but $600 is a ridiculous amount of money to save.  Any opinions are really appreciated.  Thank you.

Edited by dem372

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You didn’t say how many are in your group that calculates to the $600 difference.  We did this exact excursion with NCL several years ago and it was something like $125 pp.   I can’t imagine a private service doing it for under $75.  What I can tell you is this is the one excursion I would absolutely not book privately.  And we never, ever book excursions through the cruise line.  It’s just too far and there are too many moving parts and chances for delay.  The other thing I will tell you is that Lamanai is absolute bucket list stuff.  My wife and I did it and a couple of months later we were there again with our kids and sent them.  Probably if we had all four been on that first trip we wouldn’t have spent that much money but after having been I would pay whatever it cost for all of us.  It’s really good stuff.   I hope you find a workable solution for your group.  

 

And welcome to Cruise Critic!

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, lifes-a-beach said:

You didn’t say how many are in your group that calculates to the $600 difference.  We did this exact excursion with NCL several years ago and it was something like $125 pp.   I can’t imagine a private service doing it for under $75.  What I can tell you is this is the one excursion I would absolutely not book privately.  And we never, ever book excursions through the cruise line.  It’s just too far and there are too many moving parts and chances for delay.  The other thing I will tell you is that Lamanai is absolute bucket list stuff.  My wife and I did it and a couple of months later we were there again with our kids and sent them.  Probably if we had all four been on that first trip we wouldn’t have spent that much money but after having been I would pay whatever it cost for all of us.  It’s really good stuff.   I hope you find a workable solution for your group.  

 

And welcome to Cruise Critic!

Thanks for the reply and the welcome.  

 

We have 6 people.  The price through NCL is $159 per person.  The Lamanai Belize tour quote is $70 per person with the kids being slightly cheaper.  So, we go from about 1k to $400 using the independent company.  And you do a great job expressing my exact concern with using the independent company.  So many little things that could cause a delay, on a trip that doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room.  They say they have never had someone be late, and I have no reason to not believe them.  But, that won't keep me from spending the whole trip staring at my watch and watching the time tick away.  

 

I don't know if I can justify $1000 getting it through NCL.  They do have a similar trip, up the Wallace River and to Altun Ha for $129 per person.  Still much more expensive than the independent Lamanai trip, but it at least takes a bit of the sting out of it.  I don't know if Altun Ha is worth it though.  Lamanai seems to be held in much higher regard.

 

Another thing I thought of though is the next port after Belize City is Harvest Caye.  So in theory, if worst case scenario we miss the ship, it wouldn't be that tough to hire a boat to get us down to the next port.  Although the idea of being stranded in Belize City for the night with my kids is not appealing at all.

 

This is a tough call for us.  I appreciate the input though.  Thank you.

Edited by dem372

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I believe typically they like to have you back on the ship 1/2 hour before the stated departure time.  Realistically you probably have about an hour of wiggle room, maybe 90 minutes.  I have done the tour privately and did get back on time.  Your probability of making it is high; the issue, as you already know, is the consequences of that small chance of something going wrong.

 

Lamanai is a memorable place.

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We did Lamanai with https://belizecruiseexcursions.com/ . LOVED this tour. The boat ride on the new river is incredible and the ruins were amazing. Not sure if you still can climb the main temple or not but we did when we went and there were howler monkeys in the trees overhead. Definitely recommend this!

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We did it with an independent tour company.  There would have been plenty of time, but they left almost 2 hr late due to waiting for a couple to show up who had reservations (they never showed, so we had the tour all to ourselves).  It was a fantastic trip down the river to the ruins.  The guide was fantastic and brought our lunch to eat at the ruins.  We had a mad dash in his car after getting off the river on the way back to the tender dock, but he raced down alleys and side streets at breakneck speed getting us to the dock just as the last tender was getting ready to pull out!  We were very nervous about missing the boat but this was the closest we have ever come with an independent tour company.  They guarantee you get back in time.  It was the fault of the people that didn't show, and if we had left on time it would have been no problem.  I would book independently again however, the money saving is substantial and having a smaller group is a major plus.   

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On 3/17/2019 at 8:40 PM, dem372 said:

Thanks for the reply and the welcome.  

 

We have 6 people.  The price through NCL is $159 per person.  The Lamanai Belize tour quote is $70 per person with the kids being slightly cheaper.  So, we go from about 1k to $400 using the independent company.  And you do a great job expressing my exact concern with using the independent company.  So many little things that could cause a delay, on a trip that doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room.  They say they have never had someone be late, and I have no reason to not believe them.  But, that won't keep me from spending the whole trip staring at my watch and watching the time tick away.  

 

I don't know if I can justify $1000 getting it through NCL.  They do have a similar trip, up the Wallace River and to Altun Ha for $129 per person.  Still much more expensive than the independent Lamanai trip, but it at least takes a bit of the sting out of it.  I don't know if Altun Ha is worth it though.  Lamanai seems to be held in much higher regard.

 

Another thing I thought of though is the next port after Belize City is Harvest Caye.  So in theory, if worst case scenario we miss the ship, it wouldn't be that tough to hire a boat to get us down to the next port.  Although the idea of being stranded in Belize City for the night with my kids is not appealing at all.

 

This is a tough call for us.  I appreciate the input though.  Thank you.

How did your excursion go?  Any problems?  I'm considering booking this company this July.  Thanks!

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We did this tour with the same company you are asking about.  After we got out of town the tour was great.  Getting out of town we had an issue--we were the first picked up, outside, ready on time.  Some others were picked up at hotels, then we headed out of town.  At the edge of town the driver turned around saying that there were other passengers from the ship who were missed and that they would be meeting us partway back to the ship.  Now, we had asked near the pier if they were expecting any other passengers from our ship and was told they were not.  So, when we were part way back I asked if we were going all the way back to the ship and, if we were, they could drop us off at the ship when they picked the others up.  At that point, they decided to turn around again and head out of town.

 

I think that the passengers they had missed were actually last minute additions, not expected passengers.  We were ticked off that we were losing precious time on our tour and were ready to give up on it.  After the drama, we had a wonderful tour and were back at the pier in plenty of time, as promised.  It is a little worrisome since the destination is so far from port and involves van and boat transportation.  With your next stop being Harvest Caye, I would not hesitate to do the tour independently since you would make your way to the next port, if needed.  Our next port was Cozumel so it was fairly low risk for us, as well.  If you do the tour, I would be very straight with them about whether or not all expected tour participants are on board before heading out.  I would also be prepared to ditch the tour and do something else if the departure is delayed too much.

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1 hour ago, mcmarya said:

We did this tour with the same company you are asking about.  After we got out of town the tour was great.  Getting out of town we had an issue--we were the first picked up, outside, ready on time.  Some others were picked up at hotels, then we headed out of town.  At the edge of town the driver turned around saying that there were other passengers from the ship who were missed and that they would be meeting us partway back to the ship.  Now, we had asked near the pier if they were expecting any other passengers from our ship and was told they were not.  So, when we were part way back I asked if we were going all the way back to the ship and, if we were, they could drop us off at the ship when they picked the others up.  At that point, they decided to turn around again and head out of town.

 

I think that the passengers they had missed were actually last minute additions, not expected passengers.  We were ticked off that we were losing precious time on our tour and were ready to give up on it.  After the drama, we had a wonderful tour and were back at the pier in plenty of time, as promised.  It is a little worrisome since the destination is so far from port and involves van and boat transportation.  With your next stop being Harvest Caye, I would not hesitate to do the tour independently since you would make your way to the next port, if needed.  Our next port was Cozumel so it was fairly low risk for us, as well.  If you do the tour, I would be very straight with them about whether or not all expected tour participants are on board before heading out.  I would also be prepared to ditch the tour and do something else if the departure is delayed too much.

Thanks for sharing your experience and I appreciate the advice.  Our next port stop is also Cozumel and purchased a trip insurance that covers the cost to catch up to the cruise ship.  But, as you suggested, I would rather abort the excursion than risk missing the ship.

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Seems to me that the key issue with independents is waiting on people coming from different ships (or also picking up from hotels).  9 hours in port with at least 45 minutes taken up by tendering RT plus the 1/2 hour presail for the last ender and the wait for the inbound tender, if you don't catch the very first one ( probably a major reason others are often late), and the 2.5 hour+ travel time to the ruins, really eats into the time spend at the ruins.  At one time several years ago, you had to hike in.  I think there's a "road" that can take a 4Wheel Drive vehicle now. 

 

If you're looking for that "Indiana Jones"/Stephens-Catherwood discovery type tour, Lamanai is a good choice.  But The site is NOT how what Mayans experienced when living there.

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