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We are taking a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean with our two kids. We don't want to get gauged on excursions by booking through the cruise line. We plan to arrive at the ports and find independent companies we can buy the excursions from. There are too many places and it's too time-consuming to arrange all of this online beforehand. What kinds of choices might we be up against when we get to these ports? We will be traveling to Grand Cayman, Mohogany Bay, Belize and Cozumel. We know what kinds of activities we want to do. Tips? I can't find any appropriate articles on this question.

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I know cruise line excursions are pricier than those you arrange yourself but the cruise line has vetted the tour operator and will make every effort to wait for you should you run late returning from the excursion. If the port is missed you will also receive a refund. My advice would be to take the time to do the research on-line before the trip. Do you really want to just show up at a port, find some guy or gal at the head of the pier, who you know absolutely nothing about, offering to take you to X for Y dollars and trust that they will do what they say? While most folks who are doing this are honest there are still those who will take advantage.

 

If you do decide to do this (it is possible to do this successfully) then you must first have a clear idea in mind of what you want to do in each port and how much money you are willing to spend. Then when you get into port you will find many vendors at the head of the pier. You'll need to sort out which vendor is offering what services (sometimes they will have signs) and once you have selected one you will probably need to negotiate with them on the price. Make sure that the terms include round trip transportation, sometimes what they quote you will be for the journey to your destination and getting you back to the pier is extra. You can't assume anything and must make sure that you fully understand what is being offered. It is my understanding that most ports will license the vendors so they should be able to display that. Each port has it's own forum here on Cruise Critic so you might want to visit each of those to see if anyone has made any suggestions. 

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Thanks friend. I would imagine there wouldn't be so much risk though. I mean, you get off the ship and there are probably vendor buildings all around the port that have to be licensed, right? There will be lines of people at each. The info on what the excursions would include would be up-front. If they are regular vendors, they should all be playing by the rules. It's not like we are going to wander off into the town and make excursion arrangements with some guy on a street corner. I am wondering more what the price and quality differences might be between all the vendors at the port and which ones we should go towards and which to avoid. Your tip about the individual boards was most helpful. I have posted in them and hope to get responses today!

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, aghajanian2000 said:

Thanks friend. I would imagine there wouldn't be so much risk though. I mean, you get off the ship and there are probably vendor buildings all around the port that have to be licensed, right? There will be lines of people at each. The info on what the excursions would include would be up-front. If they are regular vendors, they should all be playing by the rules. It's not like we are going to wander off into the town and make excursion arrangements with some guy on a street corner. I am wondering more what the price and quality differences might be between all the vendors at the port and which ones we should go towards and which to avoid. Your tip about the individual boards was most helpful. I have posted in them and hope to get responses today!

You are welcome. I don't believe that I've ever seen buildings, mostly just people standing around with signs. I have read many horror stories about people being "ripped off" but many of them stemmed from the people not making sure what exactly was included in the price being quoted (such as round trip transportation instead of one way). If the vendor is inside the port area I think that speaks well for them since someone cleared them to be there, they don't let just anyone in these days (that's where we found our cab driver in Nassau, which is the closest we've come to an independent excursion. But I had researched what the cabs cost in Nassau and knew what to expect for what we wanted so when he quoted a price I knew whether or not it was a good deal.). People do arrange for independent excursions all of the time so it is definitely doable, I would personally want to try to make the arrangements before hand or at least know how much things were. Good luck on the other forums, but they are "side" forums and I've never seen them be very busy so it might take some time for someone to respond.

Edited by sparks1093

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On 6/11/2019 at 9:02 PM, aghajanian2000 said:

Thanks friend. I would imagine there wouldn't be so much risk though. I mean, you get off the ship and there are probably vendor buildings all around the port that have to be licensed, right? There will be lines of people at each. The info on what the excursions would include would be up-front. If they are regular vendors, they should all be playing by the rules. It's not like we are going to wander off into the town and make excursion arrangements with some guy on a street corner. I am wondering more what the price and quality differences might be between all the vendors at the port and which ones we should go towards and which to avoid. Your tip about the individual boards was most helpful. I have posted in them and hope to get responses today!

 

 

Remember, this is not the United States. Licensed and playing by the rules is a lot to ask for, especially in some of the places you're going. You could probably snag a cab in Grand Cayman and go to the Turtle Park or find someone to take you to 7 Mile Beach without too much trouble (although, IMHO, missing the sting rays in Cayman is just about criminal...) but you do not want to be trusting some guy with a bus in Jamaica, no way no how. Belize is similar in terms of safety profile and distance from the really interesting attractions.

 

And I don't know... if you know what you want to do, it should be a matter of half an hour on Google to find a few organizers and get an idea of prices, options, etc. and then book something. It's your cruise and you can do it you way, but I would think it's better to set it up ahead of time. You have a limited amount of time in each port, and it's smaller than it seems after you deal with getting off the boat, etc. Do you really want to spend that time shopping for an excursion and dickering with cab drivers?

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If you don't have a lot of time to do research you can utilize Trip Adviser (owns Cruise Critic) to review what to do in various ports and read consumer reviews of various vendors. Also Viator is a well respected provider of tours and has a Shore Excursions section.  Viator even provides a guarantee that you will be back to your ship in time for embarkation. 

You are much more optimistic than I am about just picking up a tour or vendor on shore in the Caribbean and having a good and safe experience.  While we also don't wish to pay cruise ship pricing and, we do often book independent tours, we definitely research the tours and vendors, and book  in advance. 

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Research is KEY to having a good time in port!  Take some time to read up on your  ports.  Most Caribbean ports are VERY easy too DIY, without ANY excursions at all!  Beaches, shopping, eating/drinking, etc....require no "guide".  But, you do have to know a bit about the places you'll visit!  So, hop on Google, enter "Port name & desired activity"....and you'll be surprised at all the info!  Or, pick up a guidebook from your library, or bookstore.    Especially with a family, excursions can be pricey.  If what you want to do can be done without  an excursion, you'll save big time!

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On 6/29/2019 at 12:33 PM, aghajanian2000 said:

Unrelated question, but how come people on these boards have commented about the nature of postings on Saturdays? 

Not sure what your question means, maybe a link to the comments in question would help.

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