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mkbonfardine

To schedule an excursions for every port day or try it on your own

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Hi there!  My name is Missy and I am a first time cruiser. We are heading out on the Grandeur of the Seas in April 2020.  My boyfriend and I are having a heated debate about booking some kind of excursions for every port of call or to 'wing it' by jumping off the ship, getting a taxi and finding things on our own. I need advice and lots of help!  What's everyone's thoughts on this?

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It really depends on the ports and how comfortable you are finding your way around.  There are some ports such as Jamaica that you should not leave the port area unless you are on a Cruise line tour.  Then there are ports like Bermuda, Cape Canaveral or St. Martin where you are perfectly safe and easy to get around.   I suggest going to the port section of Cruise critic and see what people are saying about each of the ports you are going to.  

 

Personally we do a mix.

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Posted (edited)

Best part of my cruises is planning the excursions and researching. What I always do is read about each place. Find something there like a landmark, snorkeling spot or a beach or a hiking trail. Then plot out the best way to get there. I always find one or 2 spots to visit then research the best way to get there. Sometimes the ship excursions are the best. I've done buses, bike rentals, scooters, boats, ferries, taxis and scheduled tours. If I choose to use a local tour, I tend to read all reviews to make a good investment. Once you start cruising you'll see how much fun it is to plan. 

 

I'm too lazy to look but where are you stopping at on your cruise?

Edited by jean87510

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20 minutes ago, Mythbuster said:

 There are some ports such as Jamaica that you should not leave the port area unless you are on a Cruise line tour.  

 

 

 

Speak for yourself.   

 

I have left the port area every time I have been in Jamaica and walked around the town with zero issues.

 

Also, every excursion I have been on in Jamaica, not one was done through the cruise line.

 

Not sure where you get your info from, but it is not correct...

 

 

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It really depends on the port and what your interests are. If you just want to hit up a beach, winging it is totally fine.  If you don't research before hand you might end up at a beach club that gives a kickback to the taxi driver, but it's a beach!  If you want to do something like sail, snorkel, zipline, etc it really depends on the port. Some ports like cozumel will have many options for stuff to walk up and do when you arrive. Other ports, like Antigua, have no options when you get off besides a beach (I speak from experience and was mad we wasted the day in antigua because we hadn't made advanced plans).  Other ports like Bermuda we had a general plan of renting a scooter, and then we winged it from there.

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I agree that you can take your own approach to this. I'm an experienced land traveler. For my first cruise, I did just go through a ship excursion that I ended up enjoying. That was a whole island bus tour in Bermuda. I did research prices and it was pretty comparable to going independently. On the second day, I just went to a beach near the ship and I enjoyed that too. There were other factors involved, there was a local national holiday and our arrival and departure times were a little awkward.

 

This time, I'll be doing more independent traveling but I'll be in a larger group and there is a list of things that we want to do. I honestly don't know that we'll manage to do everything that we've talked about. We're relaxed about Key West but we actually have a list of things to do in Nassau that we might need to narrow down.

 

I think that for me, it would depend on the specific port and what I want to do there. I'd then price out what I want and I'd see if it would be cheaper to go on my own. In some cases, I might still pick the convenience of going through the cruise. I might do that if it's a place I'm really unfamiliar with or if there's something specific that I want to do that they offer.

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52 minutes ago, jean87510 said:

Best part of my cruises is planning the excursions and researching. What I always do is read about each place. Find something there like a landmark, snorkeling spot or a beach or a hiking trail. Then plot out the best way to get there. I always find one or 2 spots to visit then research the best way to get there. Sometimes the ship excursions are the best. I've done buses, bike rentals, scooters, boats, ferries, taxis and scheduled tours. If I choose to use a local tour, I tend to read all reviews to make a good investment. Once you start cruising you'll see how much fun it is to plan. 

 

I'm too lazy to look but where are you stopping at on your cruise?

We are going to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. I will definitely start researching some things. Thank you!

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2 minutes ago, mkbonfardine said:

We are going to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. I will definitely start researching some things. Thank you!

 

I hear that and I just think ... amazing. Maybe have ports where you are more active and others where you chill out more.

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We like long excursions and prefer ones that go off into the back country and usually include some type of meal or snack. Not beach people! Because of the time frame on these excursions I book through the cruise line. I know they probably cost more. But I'm on vacation and don't want to have to worry about getting back on time.

The ports you are going to are lovely. Enjoy them!

 

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I think it all depends on how adventurous or independent you are - whether you strike out on your own or stay with the cruise line's excursions.  It does pay to do some research first so that you are aware of security conditions and what the island has to offer.  From my experience, we usually end up doing a few private tours and maybe one with the cruise line.  We also just grab a taxi and head to the beach (that's after we have researched which ones are best for our needs).

 

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Please look on the port of call threads here to start your research.  If you read them frequently enough you will see the same names of guides come up over and over.  I also look at Trip Advisor for recommendations on what to see and do in each port.  Just search the boards there for feedback on what is popular.  I've been to both St. Thomas (multiple times) and St. Maarten.  Easy to do self arranged tours there and not go on the ships tours. 

Just keep an eye on your watch (not your phone which may switch to local time) and give yourself plenty of leeway for all aboard time and you will be fine going on your own.  Enjoy the researching...that is some of the best part of planning our vacations for me!

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1 hour ago, matj2000 said:

 

Speak for yourself.   

 

I have left the port area every time I have been in Jamaica and walked around the town with zero issues.

 

Also, every excursion I have been on in Jamaica, not one was done through the cruise line.

 

Not sure where you get your info from, but it is not correct...

 

 

I am not speaking for myself, this is what we were told by Celebrity Cruise Line.  So as for the correctness, you can take that up with Celebrity I am only reporting what I was told by the officials.  Perhaps it was a hard sell by the Cruise Line to sell their excursions.  I really don't know because I have never found an interest to get off the ship in Jamaica other than on an excursion.  By the way, the US State Department classifies Jamaica as a "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution" country but what do they know.

 

 

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In San Maarten, check out Bernards tours, and in St Thomas, check out Geoffrey tours. They both include sightseeing, shopping, and beach time. Each is highly recommended, and reasonably priced. Check out Maho Beach airplane landing on YouTube, that's one of the stops on the San Maarten tour. Ship tours are more expensive and crowded. Don't be a super planner, do whatever you want and enjoy each island. Try to make a beach day on one of the islands just to relax. In my opinion, Barbados has the best beaches. Just my two cents.

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4 hours ago, mkbonfardine said:

We are going to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. I will definitely start researching some things. Thank you!

St Maarten...Bernards Tours that go to Orient Beach, Marigot & Maho (this is where to watch the planes land) then have Bernards driver/guide drop you off in town and use the water taxi to return to your ship.

 

St Lucia...definitely book a tour with "Cosol"  just amazing one of the best on the island !!!!

 

St Kitts...we enjoyed our tour with Thenford Gray. that goes to Brimstone.

 

Barbados...Glory Tours that includes Harrison Caves.

 

Book all of these online yourself. We have never felt a tour was necessary in St Thomas.

We've been to all these ports many times....Enjoy this is a great itinerary !!!

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It really depends on what you want to do.  

Some places I book ahead of time online myself (not through the cruise line).  Some places I walk off the ship and grab whatever piques my interest on the pier.  The only time I would use a ship's tour was for a "far away" excursion (which I avoid like the plague in the first place... who wants to spend their port day on a bus for three hours each direction?) just because there's more chance for something to go wrong that would delay your return to the ship.  

My problem with ship's tours is that I pretty much hate people at this point in my life.... meaning stupid and/or inconsiderate people.  If a ship's tour says to meet in the theater at 8:00, chances are the group won't be all there and ready to go until 8:30 because someone wasn't ready on time.  Then you walk out to the tour buses like kindergarteners on a school field trip, and it takes people forever to just get on one of the buses and sit in one of the seats.  So it's 9:00 before the bus even starts to move. 

 

Then people are chit-chatting instead of paying attention while the tour guide is giving information, so you can't hear a big chunk of the tour you paid for.  At every stop along the way, there are always stragglers who show up late, so you sit around waiting just like you did at the start of the day.  And if you're doing something like a snorkel trip, you have to deal with people who kick you with their swim fins and don't pay attention to where they're going, and you will still have stragglers who don't come back to the boat when they blow the whistle, so you sit around waiting some more.  

By the end of a cruise ship's excursion, I just hate people even more than I already did.  Booking a tour myself, either online in advance or on the pier the day of the trip, results in a much smaller group of people which is much more easily managed, plus the tour costs less because the cruise line isn't taking their cut.  At the end of a privately-booked excursion, I'm happier and don't feel like I wasted my money.  

But that's just me -- not everyone is comfortable going off on their own, or doesn't want to do all the research for each port, or just has way more tolerance for rude, late, mean people than I do.  

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5 hours ago, matj2000 said:

 

Speak for yourself.   

 

I have left the port area every time I have been in Jamaica and walked around the town with zero issues.

 

Also, every excursion I have been on in Jamaica, not one was done through the cruise line.

 

Not sure where you get your info from, but it is not correct...

 

 

 

 

Write down this date on your calendars, kiddies.  I agree with everything in matj2000's post.  😄  

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5 hours ago, mkbonfardine said:

We are going to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. I will definitely start researching some things. Thank you!

 

I have done that itinerary a few times, both on the Grandeur and on the Anthem.  I like it very much.

 

I agree with all of Ashland's recommendations.  Depending on your interests, in Barbados there are marvelous catamaran snorkeling cruises.  There are three very good companies, and I have sailed with each of them.  They are all good, but Silver Moon is my favorite.

 

I think that Cosol is a very good choice in St Lucia, but there are a couple of other very highly recommended ones. 

 

You can use the ports of call forum here on CC https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/456-caribbean/

but www.tripadvisor.com is also an excellent place to find good tours and places to go.

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3 hours ago, Mythbuster said:

I am not speaking for myself, this is what we were told by Celebrity Cruise Line.  So as for the correctness, you can take that up with Celebrity I am only reporting what I was told by the officials.  Perhaps it was a hard sell by the Cruise Line to sell their excursions.  I really don't know because I have never found an interest to get off the ship in Jamaica other than on an excursion.  By the way, the US State Department classifies Jamaica as a "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution" country but what do they know.

 

 

 

Yes.  Yes, it is.

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As others have mentioned, go to the ports of call boards and do some research there. Have you been to any of these islands before? The first time we visit an island we like to take a general tour of the island to get a feel for the island and learn about it's culture. On subsequent visits we'll book a more specific tour i.e. a certain beach or some other landmark/tourist destination based on what we learned during our first visit. When you decide what things you want to do in each port, find a local tour company that will take you. Excursions through the cruise line are more expensive and just not fun (re: Brillohead's post). When you book through an independent, you'll get better service, it will be cheaper and you'll deal with, maybe, 6 or 8 other people as opposed to the 50 you'll have on a cruise line sponsored tour.

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It's worth reading about all the excursions offered by RC, just to get an idea of the types of attractions available at each port.

 

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11 hours ago, matj2000 said:

 

Speak for yourself.   

 

I have left the port area every time I have been in Jamaica and walked around the town with zero issues.

 

Also, every excursion I have been on in Jamaica, not one was done through the cruise line.

 

Not sure where you get your info from, but it is not correct...

 

 

I completely agree with you.

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I agree that planning the cruise is half of the fun.  . . . but, do not be afraid to do a private  excursion [or just walk around].  I will look at the cruise excursions to get an idea of what is available in an port.  Then I go to trip Advisor to see what they suggest as the most popular attractions/beaches.  

 

Then I price out a few options using the cruise line and independent tours.  Pay special attention to length of port times, days of the week and if there are any holidays involved. I almost always decide to do an independent tour.  However, if it is not that much different I go with the cruise line.  This is especially true if the excursion travels a good distance from the dock.  

 

For example, in St Thomas my favorite place to visit is St John.  [You may want to tour St Thomas since it is your first time there]  You need to take a ferry to get there.  We could take a taxi to Red Hook and get a ferry to St John. [run every hour] Or I could take the cruise excursion, "St John on your Own."  I figure we might have saved $10-$15.  The deciding factor was that I could take the cruise excursion from the same pier the ship was docked rather than traveling to the end of the island and waiting for a ferry.  The last time we did this we were the last ones on the ship before it left. 

 

I also suggest you join the roll call for your cruise.  There is often someone who is familiar with a port that organizes a group tour.  Even if they do not there will be some cruise experts on the roll call.  The Grandeur gets many repeat customers.  They either love the ship [it is a very friendly ship] or the do not fly.  

 

We did a Back to Back cruise last March and April on the Grandeur.  I did a live thread.  We visited some of your ports.  You will need to skip through the first cruise to get to these ports.  I included pictures from the ship.  Have a great cruise!

 

 

 

 

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We usually tour on our own (better options, smaller crowds, often less money) and only rarely use a ship's excursion (some tour operators only allow booking through the ship).  We usually book tours the first couple of times that we visit an island but then might arrange for our own transportation during subsequent visits.  Whatever we do, even if it's just going to a local beach, I always have a plan in advance...especially how to ensure that we make it back to the ship with time to spare.  I'm a type A planner though.  What I do would probably drive some people crazy.

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21 hours ago, Mythbuster said:

I am not speaking for myself, this is what we were told by Celebrity Cruise Line.  So as for the correctness, you can take that up with Celebrity I am only reporting what I was told by the officials.  Perhaps it was a hard sell by the Cruise Line to sell their excursions.  I really don't know because I have never found an interest to get off the ship in Jamaica other than on an excursion.  By the way, the US State Department classifies Jamaica as a "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution" country but what do they know.

 

 

For perspective, Japan, Germany, Ireland, The Bahamas and New Zealand have all issued travel warnings against the US. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, illiniwahoo said:

For perspective, Japan, Germany, Ireland, The Bahamas and New Zealand have all issued travel warnings against the US. 

That is not accurate.   Japan, New Zealand and Ireland are Level 1(Normal Precautions).  Only Germany and Bahamas on your list are Level 2 (Increased Cautions) same for Mexico.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Edited by Mythbuster

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