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Key West Kayaking: pressure to book through ship from tour operator?


jgs2003

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Hi everyone,

 

I just had a curious email exchange with Lazy Dog Tours, operators of a two-hour kayak trip that my husband and I are interested in taking while in Key West next week on a cruise.

 

Our cruise ship, Carnival Imagination, offers a 2-hour kayak trip for $55 pp. After searching the boards here, I found recs for the Lazy Dog trip, also 2 hours; their price is $35 pp. Naturally, I wanted to book directly through them and save us the $40.

 

When I emailed them (mentioning that I was going to be on a cruise and wanted to know how to get there from the pier), I received a response that although they have availability, they recommend that I book through the ship "so that you are guaranteed transportation and a spot."

 

Huh? Wouldn't booking directly through them guarantee me a spot? And can't we take a taxi there from the pier? For a lot less than $40?

 

What am I missing here? Are they getting some kind of bonus from the ship if I book through Carnival?

 

If they won't take my reservation directly, then I don't know if I will book through Carnival---$110 is really more than we want to spend for a two-hour trip.

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Most tour operators have a contract with the cruiselines that prevents them from accepting bookings from cruise passengers, this is normal practice in most all ports. Had you not mentioned that you were arriving on a cruise and just walked up, you would have been fine.

 

Mike:)

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Thanks for clarifying that for me. I guess it was a case of too much information on my part!

 

I've never gone just kayaking, but the two that get mentioned a lot, positively, are Lazy Dog and Blue Planet. I can't recall is Blue Planet does this, but if you just call and book, or walk into their store and book, they will provide transportation to the meeting place, just off Key West.

 

And Lazy Dog is now offering a sunset / moonlight kayak trip which sounds very nice. Check their web page.

 

Pjk

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According to the Blue Planet website, they don't offer tours to cruise passengers because of the damage cruise ships do to the oceans.

 

Copied from their website:

 

What we do not offer

 

Tours or rentals for cruise ship customers.

 

Cruise ships are a leading cause of damage and death to
marine
ecosystems
worldwide. The reef ecosystem near Key West has been largely destroyed in the last decade by deteriorating water quality. Cruise ships have greatly contributed to this problem.

If you care about our oceans think twice before you cruise!

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What we do not offer

 

Tours or rentals for cruise ship customers.

Cruise ships are a leading cause of damage and death to
marine
ecosystems
worldwide. The reef ecosystem near Key West has been largely destroyed in the last decade by deteriorating water quality. Cruise ships have greatly contributed to this problem.

If you care about our oceans think twice before you cruise!

 

Regardless of how you feel about cruise ships, this stance seems a little radical to me. I'm not sure I would enjoy my time with guides this.....well.....granola.

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I just wanted to pop by to report back on Key West kayaking and cruising...

 

I discovered that, in the end, I should have just booked through the cruise line! We tend to like to "do it ourselves," hence my desire to book directly through the kayak tour operator.

 

What I didn't understand is that Carnival docks at a Navy Pier, which is not near downtown Key West. What's more, one cannot walk off the pier to a waiting taxi---instead, you have to catch a ride on a Conch Tour Train, which takes a very leisurely drive into downtown Key West. By the time we arrived downtown, it was too late to get transportation out to the tour operator. If we had booked with Carnival, we would have been picked up directly at the pier!

 

So we missed our tour. I thought I would pass along my experience---in the end, in this particular case, it would have been best to spend the few extra $$ to book with Carnival.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It depends on which pier your ship docks at. If you are at the Navy pier, then yes, you have to take the Conch train (free, but tips are expected) into the center of town (unless you have booked excursions through the ship; those will pick you up at the gangway). You also have to pick up the train to get back in (you can pick it up at the gate to the pier, and everyone has to show gov't issued ID).

 

If you dock at the other pier, which is right near downtown, then this doesn't apply, and I imagine it would be much easier and faster to get to self-booked excursions.

 

Hope this explains it a bit better.

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Why is taking a taxi from the port impossible? The way you describe it, you're forced to take the silly tour train. Is that really the case?

 

The outer mole pier is surrounded by Navy property and civilians are not allowed on base so the train or trolley will shuttle everyone into and back from town at no charge and you will be deposited in the same general area as the other two piers so there is no real disadvantage.

 

Mike:)

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