If someone told you they just returned from vacationing in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Mexico, you’d probably think they were quite the traveler. When you take a cruise, you can be quite the traveler yourself. Our family’s recent Caribbean cruise included stops at all of those locals.
Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
This is a private island owned and operated by Norwegian Cruise Line. You can choose to participate in various activities like dance contests and kids activities for free. Or you could choose to pay an additional fee and experience activities like snorkeling or jet skiing. Private cabanas are also available for rental. Our family chose to grab some beach chairs and enjoy the sand and surf for the day. A nice perk of the island is the full buffet by the main beach area. Grab a snack, go play in the ocean, grab another bite to eat, go lay in the sun; all with no added expense. We really enjoyed having food at our fingertips and not having to plan where or when to go eat. Just a note about enjoying the water, the beach was nice and sandy but once you went in the water, the bottom was rocky and a little rough on your feet. A pair of water shoes is something we’ll add to our cruise pack list.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
You have to prepare yourself a bit for landing in Jamaica. The locals trying to sell you something are very vocal and get close up to you. We had decided we wanted to visit the famous Dunn River Falls, which was near the cruise terminal. We negotiated a return-trip taxi rate for our group with a bus taxi driver. Dunn River Falls is a national park area and we had to pay an entrance fee for our party. I believe it was $20 per person (less for children). Hiking the falls was our intention, but we soon realized it wasn’t a good idea for young kids. The rocks are very slippery and the current can be strong in certain areas. You can rent water shoes there ($7), which some in our party did. If we ever planned to return when the kids are older, we’d be sure to pack our own water shoes. After exploring the falls we returned to the terminal via taxi and walked to a nearby beach. We had to pay a small admission fee to get on the beach, but we weren’t bothered or approached by anyone while on the beach.
George Town, Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman was one of our favorite beach days. Again, we left the ship and negotiated a group rate with a taxi driver. He took us to a nearby hotel where we paid an admission fee to get onto Seven Mile Beach. The beach was beautiful and we greatly enjoyed our experience there. Shopping was also on our agenda and we visited some various popular tourist shops in the main shopping district near the terminal.
We decided to go snorkeling in Cozumel. Upon leaving the ship we entered a shopping area where there were people selling items, including snorkeling tours. We had a very large party and negotiated a group rate for all of us to go on a glass-bottom boat snorkeling tour. The boat was not what we were expecting, it was quite small, but we all boarded and had no issues whatsoever. We had two guides who were very friendly and efficient. We visited two shallow areas (10-15 ft deep) where the water was very clear. One guide stayed on the boat while the other went in the water where he fed the fish, drawing the fish to our group. Even our six-year-old went snorkeling, although she did get tired towards the end. After snorkeling we decided to do some shopping. Our cruise ship did not dock near the main downtown district and we were disappointed with the small shopping area which had pricing we felt was high. The shops we visited had no interest in negotiating prices with us. They must realize that it’s a mile away from downtown and they have little competition for the tourist’s dollars. If you want to shop in Cozumel and are in one of the terminals away from downtown, I recommend you walk or take a taxi to the downtown shopping area.
All of our family members enjoyed the cruise ports. It’s nice to be able to explore various locations in the span of a one week vacation. Feel free to comment if you have any questions or thoughts. Check out my previous posts, “Our Family Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian – Part 1: Car Rental & Arrival” and “Our Family Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian – Part 2: Stateroom & Dining“. Look for Part 4: Activities aboard.
TOP TAKEAWAY TIPS:
- You can choose to arrange your own shore excursions, which will save you money. The ships charge a premium price for their excursions; however by paying more, you can gain a trusted, known operator experience. Many families might find that assurance worth the higher price.
- If you are a part of a large group, you can often negotiate much lower rates with the off the ship excursion operators. Many times we offered a flat price for our group, typically a party of 9, and our offer was accepted.
- Add water shoes to your cruise packing list.
- If you plan to spend time at beaches and snorkeling, consider buying a waterproof camera.