Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
hhtravels11

Cruise Excursions or Private Booking?

Recommended Posts

Hello! I'm going on the Celebrity Reflection for a 10 day Caribbean cruise in April and it goes to the following ports:

 

  • St. John's Antigua
  • Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Castries, St. Lucia
  • Basseterre, St. Kitts
  • Philipsburg, St. Maarten

 

I've been on a cruise once before but it was when I was in high school, so I obviously wasn't doing the booking myself.

I'd like to get the best deals I can while still having a great (and safe) time, so my question is should I book my excursions through Celebrity or on my own?

 

Does anyone have any experience with booking excursions at these ports who can recommend any? I'm also wondering if I should pay the $20-30 for the cruise-sponsored beach days or just find the beach on my own. Any advice/suggestions you can give would be awesome!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no "right" answer one way or the other.   Depends a lot on your risk tolerance.  Sometimes the cruise line offers something you cannot get privately and vice versa.   

 

You can get lots of specific information on what is available to do on the Ports of Call boards.  Whether or not to pay the cruise line to take you to the beach can be a function of which beach.  That info can usually be found on those forums, too.

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/2-ports-of-call/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, welcome to Cruise Critic.

 

All of these ports offer a variety of excellent excursions offered by experienced, professional providers. I suggest that you head offer to the ports of call pages to get further ideas: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/456-caribbean/ Check out Trip Advisor too, as well as just Googling the ports.

 

Some people feel more secure using ships' excursions, but the good private providers are very reliable and missing the ship is extremely rare.

 

Some of my favourites:

 

Antigua:  Eli’s Eco Tour (Adventures Antigua)

 

Barbados: Rent a car, available right at the port, and make it a DIY day. We've done this each time we've visited and love it.

 

St. Lucia: Jalousie Beach Break (Spencer Ambrose)

 

St. Kitts: Grand Tour of St. Kitts (Grey's Island Excursions)

 

St. Maarten: SXM Island Tour II (Bernards Tours)

 

Your biggest problem won't be finding a tour, but trying to decide which one to take!

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

You should also join your Roll Call.  You may be able to join semi-private tours others on your cruise have organized.   We do this frequently or organize our own and post on the roll call for others to join.  Works very well and is a great way to meet people on your sailing.   Only once when sailing with my mother have we taken a Celebrity tour.  I am sure some are worthwhile but we do not like large group tours on a bus which is how most (not all) of Celebrity’s tours work.   As long as you book with a reputable company (check TripAdvisor reviews and Ports of Call boards on CC for ideas) I think you are safe in NOT booking with Celebrity.   These private tour companies depend almost entirely on cruises passengers especially in the Caribbean and are very cognizant of the importance of getting people back to the ship on time.   Their business depends on it since one or two reviews on TA from people who didn’t get back on time & missed the ship could put them our of business!

Edited by NCHPcruiser
Grammatical error

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

What a great itinerary!!!

 

Last year (oops, in 2018...), we worked with Sean Beezer at Scenic Tours Antigua...seanscenictours@gmail.com.  It was an island tour that had the option to include beach time at the end...I am sorry we didn't add that on as the stop was at Turner Beach and it was gorgeous.  Live & Learn!

 

Barbados...the absolute best catamaran tour is with Calabaza Tours.  BEST BEST BEST

 

St. Lucia...haven't been there is ages...sorry!

 

St. Kitts...a beautiful beach day at Carambola Beach Club.  It's $4. each way with cabs & shuttles right outside the cruiseport.  Great restaurant as part of the resort or a few other casual places along the beach.  We reserved ahead of time; if memory serves, it was about $10-$15/pp for a chair and umbrella.  You can also get a great beach massage (either through the resort or by one of the local women who set up a table close by the resort).  

 

St. Maarten...we had a stop in St. Maarten last month on the Edge.  Having been there many times, we chose to take a Celebrity excursion to St. Bart's.  Found out when we got on the ship that all of their shops would be closed for about 90% of the time that we'd be on the island.  We chose to get a refund from Celebrity for the cost of the excursion and wander into town and shop (probably would have saved a lot of $$$ if we had taken the excursion to the island of the closed shops).  

 

Hope that helps.

Edited by lola2013

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In almost all cases, I will take a private  (or semi private small group) tour over anything the ship has to offer. (exceptions may be where there is a visa requirement and the ship's group visa covers you (St. Petersburg) or where you want to is far enough away that a problem could keep you from getting back to the ship on time (Seville from Cadiz). 

 

Advantages are group size, (privater or small group) cost, and the ability to stay longer where you ant to and skip what does not interest you. 

 

For someone who hasn't booked independently before, look at your roll call and some people on your ship may be looking for additional people to fill their group. Also, look at the port selection on Cruise Critic, do some basic research and try booking one. When you have a good experience, you'll be hooked. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, molemaui said:

ship's group visa covers you (St. Petersburg)

 

 

You don’t need a visa there either of you book with a registered Russian tour company 😉. There are many recommendations over on the appropriate Ports of Call board.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Fouremco said:

First, welcome to Cruise Critic.

 

All of these ports offer a variety of excellent excursions offered by experienced, professional providers. I suggest that you head offer to the ports of call pages to get further ideas: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/456-caribbean/ Check out Trip Advisor too, as well as just Googling the ports.

 

Some people feel more secure using ships' excursions, but the good private providers are very reliable and missing the ship is extremely rare.

 

Some of my favourites:

 

Antigua:  Eli’s Eco Tour (Adventures Antigua)

 

Barbados: Rent a car, available right at the port, and make it a DIY day. We've done this each time we've visited and love it.

 

St. Lucia: Jalousie Beach Break (Spencer Ambrose)

 

St. Kitts: Grand Tour of St. Kitts (Grey's Island Excursions)

 

St. Maarten: SXM Island Tour II (Bernards Tours)

 

Your biggest problem won't be finding a tour, but trying to decide which one to take!

 

 

 

Funny, I would definitely second Antigua, done Elis 2x and was great each time.  I have used Greys on St Kitts multiple times also.  They are the best for those islands.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, villauk said:

 

 

You don’t need a visa there either of you book with a registered Russian tour company 😉. There are many recommendations over on the appropriate Ports of Call board.

 

Very true-my response was geared to the person asking who hadn't cruised since high school and had never booked outside of a cruise line. More to consider than just price /group size if you're just starting out. OK - bad example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bikerunner said:

Funny, I would definitely second Antigua, done Elis 2x and was great each time.  I have used Greys on St Kitts multiple times also.  They are the best for those islands.  

Great minds... :classic_biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just returned from a couple of those ports.  In Bridgetown, Barbados, we actually walked into town along the lovely waterfront boardwalk and walked right to Carlisle Bay and enjoyed a few hours at one of the Beach Clubs there.  We liked Pirate's Cove because it was much less busy than some of the others - and was the first one we came to.  The beach was phenomenal. Pirate's Cove may be a bit rustic but for $8US PP for loungers and shared umbrella, we thought it was a great day!  We taxied back for $10USD.  In St Maarten, we did one of the Bernard's Tours (half day).  We enjoyed it and got an overview of the island.  We lucked out and they made an unplanned stop at Maho Beach since they were going to drop someone else off there as well.  It's a neat spot for a couple hours. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you go to Harrison's Cave in Barbados, I'd recommend booking this excursion through the ship.  The tour is set up where they take you around through the cave on a tram.  The cruise will sell just the number of tickets to fill up a tram (I think they had two times you could choose from).  The cruise also provided a smaller bus that fit the exact number of people who'd be on the tram (The cave is pretty far away from the cruise port.  The added transportation made this worth the cost if you catch the excursion on sale).  If I'm not mistaken, if you show up to the Visitor's Center for Harrison's Cave and you aren't part of a cruise ship excursion, I think they'll make you wait until they have enough people to fill a tram.  This is a GREAT excursion and well worth it!  Book it ASAP if you're interested since it filled up quickly and when people asked about booking it once on the ship, there were no seats left.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Fouremco said:

St. Lucia: Jalousie Beach Break (Spencer Ambrose)

 

St. Kitts: Grand Tour of St. Kitts (Grey's Island Excursions)

I agree with these and add:

Barbados: Silver Moon Catamaran

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll also add that it depends on whether you can get an excursion on sale and whether you have OBC to utilize. On our Asia cruise we had significant non-refundable OBC and are using Celebrity for quite a few "on our own" style tours.

 

We just did a really nice Celebrity excursion today and felt it was a good value. One nice option is the ability to reserve some tentative excursions, watch to see if any go on sale, and can always cancel if a private option seem like a better value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations

Announcements

×
×
  • Create New...