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awhitleycrew

When It Pays to Book an Excursion through Carnival

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My husband and I took our 3 kids (22, 18 and 14) and 2 of their girl/boy friends (22 and 20) on their first cruise January 2-6 on the Carnival Dream; just a 4 nighter to Cozumel and back for a quick getaway and to celebrate having a Senior in College and a Senior in High School.  We had connecting balcony rooms with a guys room and a girls room.  Our cruise was very memorable because our son proposed to his long time girlfriend and we just had an overall great time.

I wanted to share our Excursion story because I know everyone likes to debate pay more to book through Carnival or save money and book on your own. :) 

 

First it was hard finding something that would fit all 7 of us interest and budget wise.  I finally decided on the Powered Catarmaran to Passion Island and purchased through Carnival when they had the 10% discount for Tax Day.  I considered going to Mr Sanchos or something similar on our own but wasn't comfortable trying to navigate all of this on my own with 6 other people in tow......the youngest 2 being moody teenage girls! haha   With the sale it wasn't much more than Mr Sanchos and I was able to get the convenience and promise from Carnival to take care of us.  Boy did we wind up needing it!!!!

 

First of all, the advertised 45 minute ride seemed longer than that!  It seemed to take forever to get to the island and since it rained hard part of the way out the people on the top deck (4 in our group) got soaked and had to come stand on the lower section.  I will say our time at the island was WONDERFUL and we wished we could have stayed longer!  It was beautiful and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Here comes the truly unforgettable part........ as we were loading the boat it was obvious we were headed into a storm.  We immediately hit ROUGH waves and heavy rain, which continued for the next HOUR!!!!  Multiple people, from young kids to older folks, got sick and were having to vomit in black plastic bags.  People were screaming each time we hit a huge wave and water came INTO the front of our boat!  Our tour guide actually asked 2 of our girls to not scream as they were "scaring others" (we were on the front row nearest the driver).  Ummm, hello,  half the boat of 100+ people were screaming!!!   Our guides told us as soon as we rounded the tip of the coastal area it would calm down.  It didn't!  People were getting life vests on and our guide actually announced don't worry, those aren't necessary.  I grew up on lakes and know water.  I got mine out!!  My husband told me I don't mean to sound morbid but if we go down save the children and don't worry about me.  He was half joking........ They finally determined we weren't going to be able to safely make it back to the ship so we had to pull into a tiny harbor and wait in the rain for several large buses to come get us.  They allowed families with small children and the elderly to load first while we waited in the rain for what seemed like forever.  My kids commented this is like the Titanic.....women and children first. ha We had to climb a steep flight of stone stairs and an elderly man with a cane had to be carried up by passengers and the guides.

We were 30-45 minutes LATE to the ship.  I don't mean the latest boarding time, I mean after the ship was supposed to leave.  When they dropped us off at the Cozumel port all the shops were closed and workers were telling us don't stop, get on the ship as soon as you can.  We didn't go through any security and they had to send carts to help those that couldn't walk quickly that far.  I was so worried we would be booed on the "walk of shame" for those late but they must have been announcing the hold up because no one heckled us from the ship.  

 

We were so glad to finally make it back to the ship!  So glad to be on steady ground and that the ship didn't leave us!  Now, I know this wouldn't have happened had it not been for the horrible boat ride but I can't tell you how comforting it was to know that the ship was waiting for us.  My husband says no more boat rides for excursions and for now I'm with him.  We will stay on land and drive to the beach next time and I will search for a good deal through Carnival because my peace of mind is worth it.  hahaha   I know LOTS and LOTS of people have done just fine with taking care of their own excursions and I say more power to you!  Just wanted to share the excursion we will NEVER forget! 

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I respect your opinion and your perspective. We have found many reasons besides price to book non-ship excursions. In my experience, the non-ship excursions do not plan on getting you back as late as the ship excursion might so there is more buffer time to allow for situations like this.

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5 minutes ago, awhitleycrew said:

Just wanted to share the excursion we will NEVER forget! 

That is a great mindset to have! It's a memory you'll never forget and everyone survived.

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Another way to look at this is you were on a ship sponsored excursion and they put you all in harm's way.  You were rained on multiple times, put on a boat in bad weather which resulted in people barfing and screaming, left in the rain to wait for buses and were returned to the ship well after departure time.       

 

If this was how private tour companies operated, they would be out of business in no time. 

 

Sorry to be a buzz kill, but that sounds like a perfectly awful tour to me. 

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I appreciate your post and can see how it was very comforting to know the ship wouldn't leave without you. We have taken excursions by booking through the ship and also finding some on our own. I would never book a long excursion on my own. Peace of mind is worth it to me.

 

I know there are those people who would never book an excursion through the ship. That's fine too. Everyone has their own comfort level and there's nothing wrong with doing it either way.

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2 hours ago, lazydayz said:

Another way to look at this is you were on a ship sponsored excursion and they put you all in harm's way.  You were rained on multiple times, put on a boat in bad weather which resulted in people barfing and screaming, left in the rain to wait for buses and were returned to the ship well after departure time.       

 

If this was how private tour companies operated, they would be out of business in no time.

 

It's still operated by an outside tour company. They just so happen to be contracted by cruise lines to offer sponsored excursions. Carnival, and others, pick up new tour companies that they deem worth it and drop ones they no longer wish to associate with. If this particular company that the OP speaks of wasn't contracted to run excursions for Carnival, then they'd be the "private tour company" that you speak highly of. Carnival didn't put them in harm's way. If anyone did, it was the excursion operator.

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3 hours ago, awhitleycrew said:

I wanted to share our Excursion story because I know everyone likes to debate pay more to book through Carnival or save money and book on your own. 🙂

 

Thanks for sharing. You have a heck of a story to tell for years to come. Thankfully, everyone came out of it ok and you'll be laughing about it in the future.

 

One of the biggest reasons people buy Carnival's excursions is for that peace of mind. To them, it's worth the extra cost. Nothing wrong with that, it paid off big time for you and yours. There's also times when Carnival's excursions are actually the cheaper ones. We're going on a cruise next month and in the last several months, I had been looking at a couple different excursions we were interested in. I was sure to check out the independent tour operators, too, and Carnival's was cheaper. For one of them, there were multiple tour operators who offered the same excursion, but Carnival's price beat them all. Yes, in many cases (probably a majority of them), Carnival's will cost more, but it isn't always the case and it's worth shopping around. Or if that higher price is worth the convenience and peace of mind to someone, I say all power to them.

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I hope you got your money back. 

 

We had a Carnival operator try to take us out in a storm once on a boat. I am talking pouring down rain, lightening, strong winds, etc.  We decided not to board and went to Carnival customer service and immediately got our money back. We were not the only customers asking for a refund for that excursion.  It should have be cancelled.  Unfortunately, I think the tour operators often don't want to cancel them because then they lose much-needed money and they know if someone is injured on one, you are going after carnival and not them. 

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for us the safety blanket has never been an issue. We like the smaller groups, more personalized, and more liberal time schedule. Carnival leaves at the crack of dawn, meet here, get a ticket, meet outside, wait for a bus with a ton of people. I'm sure I'll get disagreements, but this is what we have witnessed. As to rain, it's not Carnivals call, and the harbour master generally makes the calls on boat excursions. There are so many short lived squalls, pouring buckets of rain and a half hour later it's sunny and roasting. In my son's 5 years running tours in St. Thomas a private tour never missed a ship, including all the tour companies, not just his. 

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5 hours ago, lazydayz said:

Another way to look at this is you were on a ship sponsored excursion and they put you all in harm's way.  You were rained on multiple times, put on a boat in bad weather which resulted in people barfing and screaming, left in the rain to wait for buses and were returned to the ship well after departure time.       

 

If this was how private tour companies operated, they would be out of business in no time. 

 

Sorry to be a buzz kill, but that sounds like a perfectly awful tour to me. 

Private tour companies can stop the rain and calm the water?

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I booked my excursions for my upcoming Hawaiian cruise with Carnival. I booked them on Black Friday at a 10% discount and booked them with a Carnival credit card which gave me another 10% discount. It save me $180 and made the price better than I could have gotten from local tour groups.

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5 hours ago, awhitleycrew said:

My husband and I took our 3 kids (22, 18 and 14) and 2 of their girl/boy friends (22 and 20) on their first cruise January 2-6 on the Carnival Dream; just a 4 nighter to Cozumel and back for a quick getaway and to celebrate having a Senior in College and a Senior in High School.  We had connecting balcony rooms with a guys room and a girls room.  Our cruise was very memorable because our son proposed to his long time girlfriend and we just had an overall great time.

I wanted to share our Excursion story because I know everyone likes to debate pay more to book through Carnival or save money and book on your own. 🙂

 

First it was hard finding something that would fit all 7 of us interest and budget wise.  I finally decided on the Powered Catarmaran to Passion Island and purchased through Carnival when they had the 10% discount for Tax Day.  I considered going to Mr Sanchos or something similar on our own but wasn't comfortable trying to navigate all of this on my own with 6 other people in tow......the youngest 2 being moody teenage girls! haha   With the sale it wasn't much more than Mr Sanchos and I was able to get the convenience and promise from Carnival to take care of us.  Boy did we wind up needing it!!!!

 

First of all, the advertised 45 minute ride seemed longer than that!  It seemed to take forever to get to the island and since it rained hard part of the way out the people on the top deck (4 in our group) got soaked and had to come stand on the lower section.  I will say our time at the island was WONDERFUL and we wished we could have stayed longer!  It was beautiful and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Here comes the truly unforgettable part........ as we were loading the boat it was obvious we were headed into a storm.  We immediately hit ROUGH waves and heavy rain, which continued for the next HOUR!!!!  Multiple people, from young kids to older folks, got sick and were having to vomit in black plastic bags.  People were screaming each time we hit a huge wave and water came INTO the front of our boat!  Our tour guide actually asked 2 of our girls to not scream as they were "scaring others" (we were on the front row nearest the driver).  Ummm, hello,  half the boat of 100+ people were screaming!!!   Our guides told us as soon as we rounded the tip of the coastal area it would calm down.  It didn't!  People were getting life vests on and our guide actually announced don't worry, those aren't necessary.  I grew up on lakes and know water.  I got mine out!!  My husband told me I don't mean to sound morbid but if we go down save the children and don't worry about me.  He was half joking........ They finally determined we weren't going to be able to safely make it back to the ship so we had to pull into a tiny harbor and wait in the rain for several large buses to come get us.  They allowed families with small children and the elderly to load first while we waited in the rain for what seemed like forever.  My kids commented this is like the Titanic.....women and children first. ha We had to climb a steep flight of stone stairs and an elderly man with a cane had to be carried up by passengers and the guides.

We were 30-45 minutes LATE to the ship.  I don't mean the latest boarding time, I mean after the ship was supposed to leave.  When they dropped us off at the Cozumel port all the shops were closed and workers were telling us don't stop, get on the ship as soon as you can.  We didn't go through any security and they had to send carts to help those that couldn't walk quickly that far.  I was so worried we would be booed on the "walk of shame" for those late but they must have been announcing the hold up because no one heckled us from the ship.  

 

We were so glad to finally make it back to the ship!  So glad to be on steady ground and that the ship didn't leave us!  Now, I know this wouldn't have happened had it not been for the horrible boat ride but I can't tell you how comforting it was to know that the ship was waiting for us.  My husband says no more boat rides for excursions and for now I'm with him.  We will stay on land and drive to the beach next time and I will search for a good deal through Carnival because my peace of mind is worth it.  hahaha   I know LOTS and LOTS of people have done just fine with taking care of their own excursions and I say more power to you!  Just wanted to share the excursion we will NEVER forget! 

Similar on a excursion to the Panama Canal...our buses were two hours late because of traffic and none of us were concerned.  My tablemates hired a taxi to do touring and got back an hour late because they got a flat tire.  They thought the ship was waiting for them.  If our buses weren't late, they would have been left,

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We have done excursions both on our own and through Carnival. The ones you do on your own always have less people. Have never regretted doing a Carnival tour though. 

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If we are going to a "new" port - especially one in Europe, or out of the country, I usually book a cruise ship excursion  - especially if it is one longer than 6 hours.  However, if I am at a port I have been to before, and are comfortable doing on my own, I will book an outside excursion.  Safety, timing, research etc. all come into play when planning any excursion on a cruise.  

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13 hours ago, Organized Chaos said:

 

It's still operated by an outside tour company. They just so happen to be contracted by cruise lines to offer sponsored excursions. Carnival, and others, pick up new tour companies that they deem worth it and drop ones they no longer wish to associate with. If this particular company that the OP speaks of wasn't contracted to run excursions for Carnival, then they'd be the "private tour company" that you speak highly of. Carnival didn't put them in harm's way. If anyone did, it was the excursion operator.

 

Well, private tour companies have to advertise themselves and have to create and live up to the name they make for themselves. A handful of negative reviews like this on trip advisor could really hurt their business so they might have been more likely to cut the tour short and bring them back prior to the weather hitting. Whereas, companies that have cruise line contracts know they are guaranteed business so they don't have to hold themselves to the same high standards. And they might be more likely to let a tour go on later than it should because they don't want reprecussions from the cruise line for not holding up their end of the contract. I have certainly been on an independent tour where a natural event (earthquake) caused us to head back early out of an abundance of caution while the cruise line excursion kept going until they were forced to evacuate and return.

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While the majority of my tours are non Carnival, I will take a ship tour, especially if there's an extensive distance from the port.

In Belize I have cave tube and visited some of the ruins with local vendors.  But the year before wanted to visit Xunantunich which is less than a mile from the Guatemalan border.  While there are vendors who offer the tour for cruise guest, I felt with the port time on my cruise to opt with the ship tour.

The tour was great.  While there were three buses, they left at different times to space out between each other.  I was on the last bus that wasn't 100%.

Our bus was the very last to return to port.  Since it was a ship tour, no issues and everyone was relax as we headed for port.

At the tender dock there was two Carnival reps and security awaiting us.  Once we got on board the tender, the Carnival employees along with the signage they bring onshore.

We were about one hour after last tender.

It just depends on port and tour

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14 hours ago, Elaine5715 said:

Private tour companies can stop the rain and calm the water?

 

 Of course not. But they can cancel to protect the safety of the guests and make plans for emergencies that don't leave people standing in the rain waiting for a bus.  

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Dang there are some harsh comments. @awhitleycrew, that sounds like quite a story and one that none of you will be forgetting anytime soon. And I am glad that YOU felt that booking through Carnival saved YOU from being left behind. And I agree with others, I think that you should have been refunded at least half of your excursion, if not all of it. 

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We had a similar, not as dramatic or scary, situation in Cozumel.  We wanted to go the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  This was an 8 hour excursion.  We booked through Carnival due to the length of the excursion, said it was an hour drive each way after a 45 minute ferry boat ride.  We weren't taking any chances with a tour that long.  At the time the ship was supposed to be leaving we were still sitting on the ferry waiting to leave for Cozumel.  Of course, there were at least 100 people from the ship on this excursion.  The ship waited for us and we were the last ones on the ship.  Didn't think about it at the time but we weren't being booed as pier runners either so the ship must have announced that they were waiting on an excursion to return. 

Sometimes we book thru the cruise line, sometimes an independent tour.  Just depends on many factors.

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4 hours ago, sanger727 said:

Well, private tour companies have to advertise themselves and have to create and live up to the name they make for themselves. A handful of negative reviews like this on trip advisor could really hurt their business so they might have been more likely to cut the tour short and bring them back prior to the weather hitting. Whereas, companies that have cruise line contracts know they are guaranteed business so they don't have to hold themselves to the same high standards. And they might be more likely to let a tour go on later than it should because they don't want reprecussions from the cruise line for not holding up their end of the contract. I have certainly been on an independent tour where a natural event (earthquake) caused us to head back early out of an abundance of caution while the cruise line excursion kept going until they were forced to evacuate and return.

 

You missed my point. The tour operators that are contracted by the cruise lines are private tour companies. They are not owned by the cruise lines. It's not as guaranteed as you think because Carnival (or whatever line) can let them go if they feel the operator isn't meeting their standards. A tour company that's contracted by Carnival this year that some people are complaining about could be out on their own next year, without a cruise line contract. That doesn't suddenly make them better. Or vice versa, if one of the tour operators gains a cruise line contract, they don't suddenly become complacent and negligent. Whether one of these tour companies is good or bad, it's not because of the cruise line. If they're bad, cruise lines won't even bother because they don't want it reflected poorly back on them.

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8 minutes ago, Organized Chaos said:

 

You missed my point. The tour operators that are contracted by the cruise lines are private tour companies. They are not owned by the cruise lines. It's not as guaranteed as you think because Carnival (or whatever line) can let them go if they feel the operator isn't meeting their standards. A tour company that's contracted by Carnival this year that some people are complaining about could be out on their own next year, without a cruise line contract. That doesn't suddenly make them better. Or vice versa, if one of the tour operators gains a cruise line contract, they don't suddenly become complacent and negligent. Whether one of these tour companies is good or bad, it's not because of the cruise line. If they're bad, cruise lines won't even bother because they don't want it reflected poorly back on them.

 

 No, I understood your point. I just disagree. I think that when private operators are running their own tours under their name that they have to advertise and attract customers to they have a higher standard to hold than when they are running a tour under the cruise companies logo. The same company may run both types of tours concurrently. But I've had much much high quality and better tours from companies that run them independently; even when that same company runs the cruise line version of the tour.

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In November we did a post-excursion through Carnival. It was the on your own exploriation of New Orleans and then they'd transfer us to the airport. Well we were told to be back at exactly 3:15. We were and I got the front seat on the bus. I had wanted to take a bathroom break but I discovered in New Orleans you have to buy something and be given a code in order to use a restroom. I was scared I'd be late. Well when we got on we waited and waited. The operator told us two of our fellow cruisers had taken a tour of their own and the vehicle giving them the tour had broken down. So we were late leaving and then had to drive across town to pick them up. I still had to PEE!! I was none too happy because I had followed the rules and been back on time. Those folks should have caught an uber or whatever back to where the bus was picking us up.I'm sure they were glad they had the safety net. My bladder - not so much. LOL!!!!!

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We book more non-cruise line excursions then cruise line excursions. I do my own research and depending on the port and distance of activity we may book a cruise line excursion. TripAdvisor is a great resource.

 

Ironically the one time we have been late getting back to the ship was on a Carnival excursion in mexico.  Our tour guide and driver saw one of their buddies driving a different excursion group back to the ship.  They thought it would be fun to see who could get their first. Our driver and the other driver started aggressively changing lanes in traffic. Unfortunately our driver clipped the bumper of a different car....up next the Mexican police arrive and they would not let our driver or us leave.  The police held us for at least 1 hour. Finally our guide convinced them to let him drive us to port.  They wouldn't let him go into the port area so we had to unload on the side of the road and hoof it to the ship.  We were late and it put a bad taste in my mouth for cruise line excursions.

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23 minutes ago, kristinp36 said:

Ironically the one time we have been late getting back to the ship was on a Carnival excursion in mexico.  Our tour guide and driver saw one of their buddies driving a different excursion group back to the ship.  They thought it would be fun to see who could get their first. Our driver and the other driver started aggressively changing lanes in traffic. Unfortunately our driver clipped the bumper of a different car....up next the Mexican police arrive and they would not let our driver or us leave.  The police held us for at least 1 hour. Finally our guide convinced them to let him drive us to port.  They wouldn't let him go into the port area so we had to unload on the side of the road and hoof it to the ship.  We were late and it put a bad taste in my mouth for cruise line excursions.

 

The fact that it was an excursion purchased through Carnival was irrelevant. Carnival had nothing to do with the incident. The blame falls on the stupid actions of a couple of tour company employees. I would've gone to the excursions desk or Guest Services to make a formal complaint. The more people who make Carnival aware of incidents like that, the more likely they are to do something about it. If they find that a particular tour company isn't looking out for the safety and well being of Carnival passengers, they're likely to cut ties with them.

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Sorry you had to go thru that BUT I'd of been complaining in writing about the tour operator.

As a fishing boat captain I can tell you that in the conditions you described there is no way they should have left the dock.

They put your lives in danger.

Period!!

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