Q: Hi Playground! What is your opinion on booking my own excursions (or at least some of them) when taking a cruise. We (my wife and 6 year old son and I) are doing a Royal Caribbean cruise to Belize, Honduras and Mexico for 7 nights in February. The excursions are far more expensive than the RC cruise we did in Alaska and the Disney Cruise we did in Eastern Caribbean. Thanks ~ MZ
A: Hi MZ, Great question! My short answer is that you can totally make your own plans for most ports and it will be great. Of course, it’s going to be a little more leg work, and you’re going to need a little more sense of adventure — but really that’s not a bad thing to have when you’re traveling.
Before you leave, take a look at some cruise info web sites, not your cruise line’s site, for insights from both cruise specialists and other cruisers about your ports of call. I’m a fan of Cruise Critic, Shermans Cruise and OnBoard (I’m a contributing writer for the latter two). Look up each one of your ports and see what the highlights are, that will give you a good idea of what you can see on your own. Very often you can simply explore the port or grab a cab to get to a beach without having to plan too much in advance. I also found that CruisePortInsider has TONS of info on how to book tours on your own (their “Cozumel on Your Own” guide is especially helpful).
I took a look at RC’s itineraries and have a pretty good sense of which ports you’ll be hitting, including Roatan, Honduras; Belize City; and Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. For almost all of these ports, you can easily debark and have a good day. In fact, OnBoard says they’re all easy ports to visit on your own, saying “Roatan (Honduras), is a small and very tourist-friendly island no matter how you approach it … and Cozumel or Costa Maya you can beach hop, explore the port towns and taste delicious Mexican food.”
I’d suggest picking one or two tours you would have trouble doing on your own — for example if you want to see Chichen Itza and Tulum from Cozumel, which involves both a boat and bus ride, it may be best to leave the coordination to someone else — and perhaps booking that with your ship.
My only caveats are that the folks who booked through RC get the priority time if there are tenders, so may take you longer to get off the ship. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your departure time: ships will wait for their excursions to come back if they’re running late, but won’t hold the ship for individual travelers.
Have a great trip!
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Photo Credit: El Convento Hotel