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Ports of call

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Hi all! I have a question. We sail in about 2 weeks and have not booked any shore excursions. We can't seem to decide, they all look like fun. Is it okay to wait and play it by ear as we get to each port of call? I know its a first cruise and all, but we are the "day at the beach can be just as exciting as parachuting" kinda people. go with the flow and all that. Has anybody not booked ahead of time and been disappointed? Or is it not that big a deal? Gotta say i'm startin to stress out just a smidge! LOL

Thanx for any info.

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I just went on my first cruise and I booked the Blue Lagoon Excursion ahead of time and when we got on the ship, our tickets were in the cabin. The excursions only allow a certain number of people so if it's a popular one, you'll want to book it in advance. Some people booked the tour to Atlantis. I wanted to see it too but didn't want to pay the big price tag. I found out on-line that it's free to go in and look at the aquariams and all so we just paid for a taxi to take us there. I would just research the areas you are going and see what your options are.

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Hi Sparki...

As Kathi said, if it's something you really want to do, I would book it as soon as possible, but if you aren't worried about missing out on something, you can certainly go and," play it by ear."

We have done that many times. Sometimes we book excursions on the ship, and sometimes we just decide at the last minute what we want to do. More than once, we just stepped off the ship and took tours with local tour people, mostly cabs(van size). We have never been disappointed with the tours we took at the last minute. If you do this, be sure to set your price before you start the tour!

You can also take a cab to the beach and spend the day if you just want to relax and soak up some sun. Hope you have a great cruise!!

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We seldom book excursions, just doing it ourselves. The few exceptions are when I want to take a catamaran sail and snorkel.

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If you're doing the Western Caribbean, this may help. I posted it, a while back, on another string:


One of my favorite stops, on Cozumel, is Chankanaab Park, just a short, ten-dollar (U.S.) taxi cab ride from the dock.

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The park was completely rebuilt in 1996, and has something for everyone. Admission is $10.00 (U.S.), for adults, and children are admitted free.

The beach is less than spectacular, but more than adequate. There are palapas, on the beach, if you want shade. It’s appeal lies in the fact that the reef is just a few hundred feet offshore, and you can rent snorkeling equipment ($6.00 - U.S.) and scuba gear ($20.00 - U.S.) right on the beach. The snorkeling and diving is truly spectacular, with visibility 250 feet, on a “bad day,†and “Unlimited†on a “Good†one!

Within Chankanaab Park is an Archeological Park, which used to be on another part of the island, and was moved to its present site during the 1996 renovation. A winding, jungle-like, trail winds through the Archeological Park, past replicas of Maya, Inca, Olmec, etc; structures and carvings, and leads to a recreated Mayan village.

The park, also, contains a beautiful Botanical Garden, with hundreds of species of plants, and a large population of Iguanas.

But, the centerpiece of the park is Chankanaab Lagoon, a gigantic sinkhole which connect to the sea through a number of underground tunnels. A large assortment of tropical reef fish also make their way into the lagoon, through the tunnels, and can be viewed from the path, and lookout points, which circle the lagoon.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, but really nice souvenir, or gift, check out Roberto’s Black Coral jewelry, in Sam Miguel, on 5th Street South. Go to the top of the main square, the Plaza del Sol, and turn right. Roberto’s is about three blocks south of the square, on the northeast corner.

His work is, truly, extraordinary and his prices are ridiculously low. By the way, it IS legal to bring black coral into the U.S., if it’s considered “artwork,†and Roberto’s work fits the description.

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The Mayan ruin at San Gervasio has not undergone the major restoration that the Mexican government had done at many of the other sites, such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, Uxmal, etc; and is of interest only to those who are truly interested in Mayan history. It was an important site, historically, since it held the temple of the fertility goddess, Ixchel, but a relatively small one.


The usual "tourist" things to do, such as a trip to Hell, swimming with the rays, the Atlantis Submarine, and such,cost the same through the ship's Shore Excursion programs as they do elsewhere, and you have someone to complain to if something goes wrong.

As for me, I just take the tender into town, walk to the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory, order a slice of Rum cake and a cup of coffee, and "people watch."

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When I'm done, I hop the tender back to the ship, and have it all to myself...


There are several shore excursions which are a little “offbeat,†but among my favorites.

One is the river rafting on the Martha Brae, or Rio Grande, River.

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Your “raft Captian†guides your two-person bamboo raft down the slow, winding, waterway, through lush tropical foliage. A stop along the way, fo a red Stripe or a Ting, and you’re in heaven…

Another is the trip to Nine Mile, Bob Marley’s birth, and final resting, place. If you’re a Merley fan, this is a must! Only one bus, with 24 passengers, is allowed to visit daily. The bus is a 1960’s vintage, completely restored and outfitted with a state of the art sound system. It is topped with artificial produce, for effect.

The bus makes a stop, along the way, so you can admire the gorgeous mountains. They serve complimentary rum punch, and soft drinks, during the stop. On the return trip, they stop at a different overlook, and sevre drinks, again, and then go on to a local Jamaican Pattie shop, where each passenger can have a beef, chicken of veggie pattie. The fuinal stop is an outdoor restaurant, where they serve jerk chicken and pork, peas and rice and plantains.

Of course, if this is your first trip to Jamaca, you MUST walk up Dunn’s River Falls. It’s a law! LOL


You can, easily, take a walking tour of “The Old City,†and catch all of the city’s sites, and charm.

Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing, grab your camera, and begin your tour. A walking tour is a wonderful way to get acquainted with the Old City. If you need a break, hop aboard the no-charge trolley cars that make the rounds to and from La Puntilla and Covadonga parking lots at one of the clearly marked stops.

La Casita –

La Casita, or The Little House, the yellow building located in Plaza de la Dársena that houses a Puerto Rico Tourism Company Information Center.

San Juan Bay –

La Casita overlooks San Juan Bay. It is the busiest ocean port in the Caribbean, bringing in half of the region’s trade and over one million cruise ship visitors a year. Bayside shops carry everything from gold jewelry to island arts and crafts.

La Muralla –

As the promenade continues, it follows the curve of the bay and leads you to La Muralla, or city wall. Built mostly between 1539 and 1641 using sandstone blocks up to 20 feet thick, the wall was completed in 1782. It protected the city against enemy attacks. At the western mouth of the bay you will see Isla de Cabras (Goat Island), and a small Spanish fort built in 1610.

Museo de Doña Fela – From La Fortaleza, go to Recinto Oeste Street and turn right on Caleta de San Juan Street. There you will find Museo de Doña Fela, the original residence of Felisa Rincón de Gautier, the first woman to become Mayor of San Juan.

Casa Rosada –

The lovely house in front of La Rogativa is Casa Rosada, or Pink House. It was built in 1812 for the Spanish army and is now a day care center for government employees’ children.

Plazuela de la Rogativa –

From Museo de Doña Fela, return to Recinto Oeste Street and climb the hill to reach Plazuela de la Rogativa, a small plaza with a bronze sculpture by Lindsay Daen. The work recreates the day a bishop and his companions frightened away British troops during a 1797 attack on the city by carrying torches and chanting. The enemies thought the procession was local troop reinforcements.

Casa Blanca –

Take the upper road along a plant-decked wall to a doorway above Casa Rosada. This is one of the five entrances to Casa Blanca, or the White House. For 250 years it was the residence of the descendents of Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico. The house is now a museum.

Fuerte San Felipe del Morro –

Exit Casa Blanca through Recinto Oeste Street. Straight ahead is Fuerte San Felipe del Morro or El Morro fortress, rising majestically 140 feet above the sea. El Morro (meaning “promontory†in Spanish), surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay, is the most striking of the city’s military fortifications. It was built between 1540 and 1783 to protect San Juan from attack by sea. Among its many attractions is a maze of secret tunnels and dungeons, and a small museum with information on its history.

Plaza de Hostos –

The small square in front of Plaza de la Dársena, near La Casita, is Plaza de Hostos. This square features artisans’ displays, snack stands, and the traditional piragüeros, vendors who sell shaved ice topped with tropical fruit syrups.

Paseo La Princesa –

Near Plaza de la Marina and a statue honoring the Puerto Rican immigrant, you will find Paseo La Princesa. It is a promenade lined with trees, pocket parks, sculptures, and benches, and leads to a magnificent fountain with a bronze sculpture by Luis Sanguino depicting the island’s cultural roots.

La Princesa –

Midway through the promenade is La Princesa itself, a former jail and now headquarters of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. The restored building features a gallery of Puerto Rican art with permanent and visiting exhibitions

Puerta de San Juan –

The promenade leads to the red-painted Puerta de San Juan or San Juan Gate, where you re-enter the city. This is one of six original massive wooden doors that centuries ago were closed at sundown to protect the residents.

La Fortaleza –

Go through the doorway and make a right on Recinto Oeste Street to La Fortaleza. It is a palatial structure built in 1540 and the oldest governor’s mansion in the Western Hemisphere still in use.

Also, if you're stopping in Nassau, you can check out a photo/walking tour by clicking below...


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