• Elle

How to Select the Perfect Excursion for You- Insider Tips on Cruise Ports

Hey, y’all! One of my favorite things about cruising is all of the wonderful excursions that cruise lines and outside parties offer! There is an abundance of things to do and sometimes it can be hard to narrow it down to just one activity each port. Each port lends itself to different activities. For instance, Belize, Costa Maya, San Juan and Cozumel are excellent for experiencing ancient cultures however, they are also great for outdoor adventure activities. Ports like St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Antigua are excellent for shopping and hitting the beach. Of course, there are some ports, like Grand Turk, Costa Maya and Mahogany Bay where you really don’t even have to book an excursion because it’s been developed by Carnival.

So how do you know what to do where? Really, it all depends on your idea of fun. I like to pick something adventurous and something cultural each cruise.

Here’s a look at my last six cruises. As you can see, half of them are to the Western Caribbean; one of my favorite corners of the world. Over the last 11 years, I have cruised to Central America 5 different times. The tours in blue are cultural tours, the ones in purple are adventure tours, the ones in green are outdoor activities such as hiking, or beaches and the ports in black are ports where I didn’t book anything.

I’ve always been quite a bit of a history nerd so I really enjoy historic island tours and visits to Mayan ruins. In the past six cruises, I have visited 3 different sets of ruins and been on many island tours. I like doing island tours because you get to see a lot of the island/port, learn a bit of history and you still get time to shop and/or hit the beach. Not all island tours are created equally though. I booked an island tour on Grand Turk and was really disappointed. The island doesn’t really have much to offer. I would have been much better off just staying at the port and enjoying the beach and pool area. However, islands like Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten and St. Thomas all offer incredible island tours that are full of rich history.

Recommended Island Tours: Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Bahamas and San Juan

Recommended Mayan Ruins: Xunantunich, Chichen Itza, Tulum, Cahal Pech, Chacchoben

Ports where I don’t recommend island/city tours: Belize, Grand Turk, Mahogany Bay, Cozumel

Each cruise, I like to do something that scares me…. just a little. It’s a great opportunity to open myself up to new experiences, to conquer fears and to try new things. I must admit, I have done some really, really cool things while traveling. I’ve zip lined, snorkeled with sharks and rays, explored caves, gone off-roading and been on high-speed boat rides.

Recommended Activities: Zip lining (anywhere!), Cave Tubing in Belize, 4x4 safari in Aruba (it was so amazing!), catamaran rides (anywhere!), Rio Secreto (Cozumel), snorkeling (Bonaire, St. Thomas, Grand Turk) and Sting Ray City (Grand Cayman), Swimming with Sharks and Rays (Belize).

You may have noticed that I don’t always book tours. There are some ports that have been really well developed by Carnival. Rather than just having the usual Carnival stores, they have added special features such as wide sandy beaches (with amenities), pools, bars, and restaurants. In places like Grand Turk, Mahogany Bay, and Amber Cove it isn’t necessary to spend your money on an excursion. Whereas I strongly recommend booking something for Belize as Belize City itself has absolutely nothing to offer.

There are other ports where I don’t book tours but I either hit the local beaches or shop the local shops. Ports where this is totally doable include Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Grand Turk.

I hope this helps you get an idea of how I choose my shore excursions. I mix a little history, with a bit of adventure and outdoor activities to create the trip of a lifetime! Be sure to check out my travel section for more information on many of the places I have been to. Each week, I share more and more travel tips, tricks and info on Travel Tuesday. Give me a like on Facebook or follow me on Instagram and Twitter so you don’t miss out!

Updated: 3/2/19

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