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PeterPan

Cruise excursions--need advice!

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So I got a little wild and bought a spot on a cruise ship. Never done this and I'm shaking with some combo of excitement and nervousness! The stops are listed below. Honestly, I just sorta bought and have NO CLUE what you do at these places. I'm looking through the ship excursions and trying to decide if I should do their excursions or do things I hire privately (through TripAdvisor?). I will have ds and possibly my mother and stepfather (65 and 71 but relatively active, able to walk). Ds wants to snorkel and fish, but I think paying for fishing on a stop like that doesn't make sense. They like history. I am indeterminate on interests. I'd probably shop and do caverns if it were me. 

I'd rather not spend an insane amount, and I think if there's something ds really wants to do that they don't, we could split up. I mean, we're grownups and it's ok to split up. 

So what were your favorite things to do at these stops and how did you do them? :smile:

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands--7:30-3:00

Mahogany Bay, Roatan--10:00-6:00

Belize--8:00-5:00

Cozumel, Mexico--8:00-5:00

 

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We usually just do the ship excursions. Last cruise we toured Mayan ruins. It was fun but a long bus ride and took all the time we had onshore. I would not have wanted to do that on my own since the time was cutting it very close. If we were late then the ship would have waited since it was through the cruise but if we were on our own excursion they won't wait.

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We've done some of those ports, not all, but we're more beach, snorkel, dive, maybe shop people vs. history, ruins, etc. people. We also don't usually do things with more than maybe at most an hour transit time because the day is already so short (and depending which port, if you dock vs. tender, etc. it can be complicated) we don't want to use 2+ of our limited hours on a car ride. We've never booked through the cruise ship for things, at all, though we've only cruised twice (but have traveled to Cozumel a few times on our own as well). We *have* always booked our excursions ahead of time (except the last cruise to Cozumel, we just grabbed a taxi for where we wanted to go, having already been there). 

Cruise Critic is your go-to forum/board for asking & researching; you can go into their destination specific boards and get all the info you ever wanted, and then some, on what to do, where. It splits about 50/50 (maybe 60/40) on "always through the cruise ship, it's safer!" vs "never through the ship, it's too expensive!" so a lot is which of those issues matters more to you? If you're a comfortable, confident traveler...you're probably fine going out on your own. If you prefer the added security of being with the cruise ship, and don't mind being in a large group w/no flexibility, do that.  

If you decide to venture out on your own/book on your own, really the tips on Cruise Critic will be your best bet for planning, better than Trip Advisor.  I'd make suggestions, but sounds like you like different things than us. Have fun! We've been to all of those stops but Grand Caymans, and they're lovely!

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Cruise critic is a great resource for shore excursions, especially ones you plan yourself. We used Captain Marvin on Grand Cayman to swim with the stingrays and snorkel. Twice in fact, since we liked them enough to use them again when we went back. It was a fun excursion and they have way fewer people on their boats than the ship excursions, so you get a lot of time interacting with the stingrays. Snorkeling was decent but not the best I’ve done (spoiled from Bonaire).

 

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RE: Cozumel

There is a State Park, to the West of the town where the ships are as I recall. We went there and Snorkled.  There was a guy there who was an NFL player.

Enjoy your Cruise!

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22 minutes ago, TheReader said:

don't mind being in a large group w/no flexibility, do that.  

Actually, that's a huge issue for us. Ds, with his ASD, can dig in his heels and have a hard day. The cruise company is offering a slight discount (10%) for booking NOW, but that flexibility thing is huge. If we get there and he's done, he's DONE. And you're right that after being cooped on a ship being cooped in a car for hours each way wouldn't be cool. If it goes well, this is something we'd do again. This is a learner trip for us, like him learning how to cruise, us learning what he needs. We just need it to go well.

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19 minutes ago, livetoread said:

Cruise critic is a great resource for shore excursions, especially ones you plan yourself. We used Captain Marvin on Grand Cayman to swim with the stingrays and snorkel. Twice in fact, since we liked them enough to use them again when we went back. It was a fun excursion and they have way fewer people on their boats than the ship excursions, so you get a lot of time interacting with the stingrays. Snorkeling was decent but not the best I’ve done (spoiled from Bonaire).

 

Ok, so I'm definitely heading over to Cruise Critic! And yeah, less people would be better with ds, definitely. I was wondering about that, whether some places are better to snorkel than others. I wouldn't want to pay money and then not actually SEE anything when you stick your face in the water, lol.

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And can I ask a really luddite question? Should I take an extra camera or use the camera on my phone for these shore excursions? How do you keep your stuff safe on them? You take a bag or travel lite? I did read something about carrying $1 bills to pay for stuff. Does that seem about right or also carry a credit card?

Adding: Normally I'd be like super researched and all read up. This was totally last minute. I bought yesterday and the boat is full today. It's CRAZY. But it could be really good! We need a break so we're doing it. I'm mainly just worried about the ship itself (Carnival). I had wanted Holland America: quiet, sedate, good food. Nope, instead we're going for the water slides and ropes course and who knows what all. With a kid who wears out with noise. My next step is to call their accommodations line and see what I can do. 

Edited by PeterPan

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2 hours ago, PeterPan said:

So I got a little wild and bought a spot on a cruise ship. Never done this and I'm shaking with some combo of excitement and nervousness! The stops are listed below. Honestly, I just sorta bought and have NO CLUE what you do at these places. I'm looking through the ship excursions and trying to decide if I should do their excursions or do things I hire privately (through TripAdvisor?). I will have ds and possibly my mother and stepfather (65 and 71 but relatively active, able to walk). Ds wants to snorkel and fish, but I think paying for fishing on a stop like that doesn't make sense. They like history. I am indeterminate on interests. I'd probably shop and do caverns if it were me. 

I'd rather not spend an insane amount, and I think if there's something ds really wants to do that they don't, we could split up. I mean, we're grownups and it's ok to split up. 

So what were your favorite things to do at these stops and how did you do them? :smile:

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands--7:30-3:00

Mahogany Bay, Roatan--10:00-6:00

Belize--8:00-5:00

Cozumel, Mexico--8:00-5:00

 

 

I haven't yet been to Roatan or Belize, but agree that you should check Cruise Critic for recommendations. I just returned from Grand Cayman and highly recommend Stingray City, if that interests you. It was an incredible experience to feed and swim with sting rays in crystal clear blue water on a shallow sand bar in the middle of the ocean. If you just want to lounge on the beach, then I would head to the Royal Palms Beach Club on Seven Mile Beach. For Cozumel, it is really a diver's paradise. You can take diving and/or snorkeling trips along the reef, which is what my husband did that day, as he is scuba certified. Again, highly recommend. The boys and I spent the day at Paradise Beach, which has an inflatable water park and good tacos. A lot of people head to all-inclusives, but since I had a gastric bypass, I just prefer to go a la carte. Have a great time!  

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Also, I just use my camera phone, bring cash and credit cards. Nothing special. I have more cash on hand than I normally would for taxis because I would normally uber with a credit card in the States. If you are just heading to the beach, I wouldn't go with a large group, but for something like a tour (like the stingrays), I would go through the cruise to ensure that you are not late. But, we try to go alone as much as possible, for maximum flexibility.  

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There is a turtle farm on Grand Cayman. When we were there, we took a tour of the island, which included the turtle farm.

One of the things to consider is whether the ship excursions are refundable if you change your mind.

At many of the ports, you can just get off of the ship and walk around the town, but I don't know about the areas you listed. There was one port where we thought we would do that, and it turned out that the dock was in an industrial area instead of in town, which was a bummer (it was the first time that ship had stopped there, so we didn't have a way to know this ahead of time).

But just walking around on your own is something to consider.

Also, if you don't see something you want to do at a certain port, it can be fun to stay on the ship. You can do what you want at the pool or other activities without a crowd. Sometimes ships can be so crowded on the pool deck that you can't even find a chair to sit on, so it can be a nice change to have the area more to yourself.

On a related note, if your son will like to swim, have him wear his trunks when you embark on the first day, and he will be able to go in the pool while most other people cannot, because their suits are still in their luggage (it may take a few hours before you have access to your room).

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We did the America's Cup sailing challenge in Cozumel as a shore excursion.  It was nice because you do not have to travel any distance from the ship to do that.  You can be as involved in the crewing of the sailboat as you would like.  

The turtle farm at Grand Cayman was also a highlight with my kids.

It can be enjoyable to remain on board the ship and enjoy the pool and other shipboard activities while everyone else is on shore.

Have a great time!

 

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3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

There is a turtle farm on Grand Cayman. When we were there, we took a tour of the island, which included the turtle farm.

Fun!

3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

There was one port where we thought we would do that, and it turned out that the dock was in an industrial area instead of in town,

I read about that, sigh. I don't remember if that stop is on our cruise. I know it was on one I looked at. I literally just stabbed, lol. Bummer that that happened to you!

3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

if your son will like to swim, have him wear his trunks when you embark on the first day

Great tip!!

6 hours ago, SeaConquest said:

Also, I just use my camera phone, bring cash and credit cards. Nothing special. I have more cash on hand than I normally would for taxis because I would normally uber with a credit card in the States.

Thanks! I never carry cash (I'm bad, like literally $1, sometimes $0) so that's why I asked. Does $100 in $1s sound right to you for 4 days of excursions? Do the taco places and things want cash? Maybe $200?

6 hours ago, SeaConquest said:

 

I haven't yet been to Roatan or Belize, but agree that you should check Cruise Critic for recommendations. I just returned from Grand Cayman and highly recommend Stingray City, if that interests you. It was an incredible experience to feed and swim with sting rays in crystal clear blue water on a shallow sand bar in the middle of the ocean. If you just want to lounge on the beach, then I would head to the Royal Palms Beach Club on Seven Mile Beach. For Cozumel, it is really a diver's paradise. You can take diving and/or snorkeling trips along the reef, which is what my husband did that day, as he is scuba certified. Again, highly recommend. The boys and I spent the day at Paradise Beach, which has an inflatable water park and good tacos. A lot of people head to all-inclusives, but since I had a gastric bypass, I just prefer to go a la carte. Have a great time!  

those are all really fun ideas, thank you! 

Now to dig in. They gave us a 10% discount if we order our excursions by noon tomorrow, so I need to scurry.

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No need for a huge stack of ones. Just bring 20s. People have change. I never have cash, so I ended up having to get some from the ATM on board the cruise ship (which charged high ATM fees). Also, if you want to change large bills into smaller ones, the lobby of the cruise ship will do it for you. 

Most resorts will take credit cards, which is what I used wherever possible to conserve cash. If you have a Capital One, they do not charge foreign transaction fees. I use that or my Platinum Amex, which gives us no foreign transaction fees and free access to airport lounges all over the world -- free food, free booze, and children's rooms for the kids -- (plus a ton of other benefits). 

When we go to the beach for the day, I always have my kids dress in their swim shorts and rash guards. Things dry quick in the Caribbean. No need to carry around changes of clothes. I usually wear my swimsuit under a sundress But, you do want to bring your towels from the cruise ship (they should provide you with a tote bag) and plenty of sunscreen/hats/sunglasses. 

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Also, check your cell phone service provider. We use a TMobile family plan that includes international calls and international data, so I can use my phone to play around on the internet when we are at shore in a foreign country. I never feel the need to buy internet on board because of that. I can survive a few sea days unplugged.

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We've never had tote bags provided in our room on a cruise. On our first cruise, it hadn't occurred to me to take a day bag for excursions, so I had to buy one in the gift shop, and it was, of course, extremely expensive. I recommend taking a backpack or beach bag, or whatever you think you would like for a day at the beach or on a tour.

Also, there are various rules about whether or not you can take food and drinks with you on or off the ship. Make sure you know what they are. But if you are allowed to, take some prepackaged snacks with you from home. We like individual bags of trail mix, because it's hearty enough to hold us if we have an extended time between meals. Buying bottled water from the ship to take ashore with you will also be expensive, so take a refillable water bottle with you and fill it from the tap before you disembark. Or take a few bottles of water with you onto the ship for use during excursions (some ships allow this, and some do not).

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Follow-on about Cozumel and the Playa del Carmen area. Tulum, etc.

You are scheduled to be in Cozumel for 9 hours. There is NO WAY that I would consider going to the mainland to try to see the ruins at Tulum or anything else on the mainland. Not enough time for that!

Also, sadly, in recent years, that area has become rather "hot".  Back in the days when I frequented Cancun (I had planned to move there) it was usually very safe in that part of Mexico, but, now, it is not.  Usually, the safest place one can be is on an island.

We live in Colombia and we consider Mexico to be far more dangerous than Colombia is now. Costa Rica also...

I don't remember if we spent all day at that State Park west of the city, but we had a good time there, Snorkelling and on the beach.  And, I can't remember how the woman I was with discovered that there was an NFL player there that day.

Spend your day on Cozumel and enjoy.

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54 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

We've never had tote bags provided in our room on a cruise. On our first cruise, it hadn't occurred to me to take a day bag for excursions, so I had to buy one in the gift shop, and it was, of course, extremely expensive. I recommend taking a backpack or beach bag, or whatever you think you would like for a day at the beach or on a tour.

 

Interesting. We travel with Celebrity, and those bags come standard in your room gratis. I also get the drink package that includes bottled water, so I just get some at breakfast to take with with me ashore. 

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1 hour ago, SeaConquest said:

No need for a huge stack of ones. Just bring 20s. People have change. I never have cash, so I ended up having to get some from the ATM on board the cruise ship (which charged high ATM fees). Also, if you want to change large bills into smaller ones, the lobby of the cruise ship will do it for you. 

Most resorts will take credit cards, which is what I used wherever possible to conserve cash. If you have a Capital One, they do not charge foreign transaction fees. I use that or my Platinum Amex, which gives us no foreign transaction fees and free access to airport lounges all over the world -- free food, free booze, and children's rooms for the kids -- (plus a ton of other benefits). 

When we go to the beach for the day, I always have my kids dress in their swim shorts and rash guards. Things dry quick in the Caribbean. No need to carry around changes of clothes. I usually wear my swimsuit under a sundress But, you do want to bring your towels from the cruise ship (they should provide you with a tote bag) and plenty of sunscreen/hats/sunglasses. 

Ok, this is all super jump starting me! :biggrin: I didn't realize about transaction fees, so I'll check. Yeah, I was thinking about rash guards for ds and maybe for me. Maybe not for me, haha. Ds had an incident at the beach last year with something (we think nematodes, not sure) where he broke out in a rash. With his autism it was off the charts, really hard for him to handle. Will the ship have a pharmacy to fill basic things? I was trying to decide if I should ask the ped to write us a scrip. I don't even know if he would. What they gave ds before was a really strong thing, an anti-anxiety medication that also works as anti-histamine. When you have a kid who has extreme reactions, that's what you get, sigh. I don't know if the ped would do that. If I were in the states, I wouldn't worry cuz I could just hit a clinic.

I'll have to check if Carnival gives you totes. They may be too cheap, lol. I'm not very impressed or hopeful on being impressed. 

1 hour ago, SeaConquest said:

Also, check your cell phone service provider. We use a TMobile family plan that includes international calls and international data, so I can use my phone to play around on the internet when we are at shore in a foreign country. I never feel the need to buy internet on board because of that. I can survive a few sea days unplugged.

Ooo, I didn't know this! I may pay for the wifi anyway because I need to be able to text our behaviorist if we have problems. But you're right, if I can use the cell each day on the island then that's plenty.

1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

We've never had tote bags provided in our room on a cruise. On our first cruise, it hadn't occurred to me to take a day bag for excursions, so I had to buy one in the gift shop, and it was, of course, extremely expensive. I recommend taking a backpack or beach bag, or whatever you think you would like for a day at the beach or on a tour.

Ooo, shopping, my favorite part! I have a beachbag, but I think it's too small for a day and too awkward to carry on tours and things. I'll look for something. 

1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

take some prepackaged snacks with you from home. We like individual bags of trail mix, because it's hearty enough to hold us if we have an extended time between meals.

Good point! Sometimes I totally miss with ds, so we need to work on that and see what he'll eat. I'll buy things and then he'll refuse them when I get there. I think it's a sensory thing with the autism, like something can just feel really wrong and not be edible that day, sigh. I can mention to him trail mix.

1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

Buying bottled water from the ship to take ashore with you will also be expensive, so take a refillable water bottle with you and fill it from the tap before you disembark.

I have one Britta 32 oz, but sounds like I should buy a 2nd so that each of us have one. I was trying to figure out if the water is good or disgusting on the ship. Maybe it varies with the port? I don't like to drink chlorinated water ever if I can avoid it. Is the tap in the cabin potable? Can I run it through the Britta? I think I saw mention of people filling water bottles somewhere. I also though about just pre-ordering a couple cases of water to take medications, etc. And yeah, if I could take water I'd be a happy woman. I'm a huge lover of the Zephyrillis water in Florida. I need the stuff year-round, lol.

20 minutes ago, SeaConquest said:

 

Interesting. We travel with Celebrity, and those bags come standard in your room gratis. I also get the drink package that includes bottled water, so I just get some at breakfast to take with with me ashore. 

Yup, I'm slumming comparatively, lol. No perks. I'm just hoping the bed doesn't kill my back. I wanted to be on Holland America, nice and quiet. Nope, who knows what will happen.

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Well I think we got our excursions figured out.

Grand Cayman--spend the day on the beach via taxi, maybe eat at Casa43 or some other restaurant

Mahogany Bay, Roatan--iguana farm and mangrove tour

Belize--river boat tour and ruins

Cozumel--snorkel

The Grand Cayman plan is the most indefinite. I read you can take a taxi to Sea Grape Beach, and really ds just wants to hang on the beach, which I'm cool with. He's not going to touch slimy turtles or stingrays. He was interested in the star fish, but I think it could go either way. I can go look again. Maybe we go out there in a taxi and just do the starfish? 

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They will have a doctor aboard, but if think you may need a specific med, I would bring it with you. 

Better to be slumming and traveling, than not to be traveling at all! Enjoy your trip! 🙂

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All of the water on the ship is potable and is run through the ship's filtration system, so you can drink it out of the tap. Filling a tall water bottle can be tricky if you are doing it from the bathroom sink. You may be able to get water from a drink machine, but it's common for ships to ask you not to fill your own bottle directly, to prevent transfer of germs. You can fill one of their glasses and pour it into your bottle.

Some ships will have a water bottle package you can buy, and some will allow you to bring a crate of water on with you. Some don't allow that. Some officially don't allow it but will look the other way. Some will confiscate it. Some require it to be in whatever bag you carry on with you. You'll have to look at your ship's guidelines.

The ship will have some limited things to drink for free, and the rest will cost $$$$$. You'll have to decide whether a drink package will be worth it for you and can find what is included and what is not on the ship's website.

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6 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

Filling a tall water bottle can be tricky if you are doing it from the bathroom sink.

Oh dear, well that is now on my list to research.

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OP:  Heads up!    You MUST buy Travel Insurance.   Last night on my Android phone, in the Google feed with news stories, there was an article about the RCCL (Royal Caribbean) ship that eliminated the last 2 port calls and returned to port one day early. I wish I had a link that I could include in this post, but I don't have a clue as to where that article was. Basically about 500 people got sick.  Last year, they said 11 cruises had major outbreaks like that and 5 of them were the narovirus or something close to that.   Not sure of the spelling...

URGENT NOTE:  RCCL had ZERO legal obligation to compensate the passengers as they did in this case. That's where the Travel Insurance would cover ones rear, if one needs to pay an airline a huge penalty for changing their reservation, stay in a hotel, get medical care, etc.

We always purchase Travel Insurance when we fly to the USA.  On 2 occasions, about 20 years ago, I had minor issues (one Dental and the other was I got really sick (virus/fever) in Miami. Those were trivial examples of what might happen to someone on a trip. Accidents, etc.

BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE AND ENJOY YOUR CRUISE!

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Just a note on Carnival, they really aren't terrible. Yes, they're the "budget friendly" cruise line, but our 1st cruise was with them, our 2nd with Royal Carribean, and the difference wasn't drastic. Now, I don't know the timing of your cruise.....if it's when school is in or out of session....but that will likely make the bigger difference re: noise/crowds. But honestly, it isn't as noticeable a difference as say, a Super 8 Motel to a Holiday Inn to a Hilton or something (at least, not in our experience). There will be quiet places on the ship, there will be things to do that aren't crowded, there will be yummy food.....it's good. 

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Also, I thought I had posted this, but don't see it now...I think the park Lanny means in Cozumel is Chankanaab, and it is *wonderful*. Highly recommend; we went there on our 1st cruise, and went back on our 2nd many years later because we loved it so. It's got a little beach cove area with sand, very calm, very quiet (especially if you taxi there and get set up at that little cove as your "home base" for your DS), restaurants on-site (with beach service, or pick up and go eat at a table area), snorkeling (you enter via stairs right into the water and you can see stuff right there at the stairs, or go out however far you'd like in a designated area; plenty of stuff to see for a nice, long snorkeling session), and has more adventurous stuff if your DS would want (various dolphin encounters, etc.) and just beautiful grounds. (the beach cove area is next to a little restaurant, across from where the dolphin encounters are) Highly recommend; it's great for one adult hanging out with the kiddo, others snorkeling, then swap off. Makes for a relaxing day, and plenty of time before/after (I'd do after) to shop in town near the ship on your way back to the boat. 

Re: cash/cards: if you taxi places, you'll need cash for that; American is fine usually, and Cruise Critic usually knows roughly how much to expect.  Most "big" places will take credit cards, little street vendors will want cash. So, for ex, if you did Chankanaab -- cash for the taxi, card for the park/restaurant is fine. 

Be sure you look into the tips for the cruise; it's not included in the price, but is added automatically on your bill at the end. You can make adjustments if you want/need to (they add x amount per person, per day; many people adjust, especially for kids; people on Cruise Critic will be rather opinionated about this, but it is easy to adjust up or down if you want/need to; you can do it on board) I just mention it because not everyone is aware that it gets added. 

I do think you can take drinks on with Carnival; check their website FAQs for specifics. Some allow water, some allow sodas....most only enforce against alcohol but do check and see. You could fill water bottles from your room tap if you use a cup or something (it's just that the sink is shallow so your bottle likely won't fit under the tap). The water's potable and fine to drink, especially if you use your Brita. 

Have fun! 

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On January 13, 2019 at 8:00 AM, TheReader said:

the park Lanny means in Cozumel is Chankanaab, and it is *wonderful*.

Well I'm down to the nub and need to decide on Cozumel! My mom booked some general tour with history junk for herself and her dh, so that leaves me and ds either to do something like Chankanaab, like you're saying, or this really adorable in-home cooking session I found. Would that be so terrible? I keep debating over whether that makes me a horrible mother to say I'd rather cook than snorkel. LOL 

I'm going to go pull up the pics for Chankanaab and look at it and see. I felt like the cooking was a really safe option and something we'd be happy about for a long time. You go to the lady's house, pick out the menu, go to the market and buy everything, make everything for scratch, though I assume not plucking chickens. But the tortillas, etc. from scratch. We really like mexican food, so I thought it sounded fun. I thought it was nice to connect with the place on a deeper level, rather than just going to all these 3rd world countries and enjoying their beaches. I mean maybe that's not what is happening, but I kinda felt like we were missing something. And I just like to eat, lol. 

But I don't want to regret my choice either! And there are other cruises, so it was more like which would I regret more, missing the in-home cooking (if the lady died before I returned) or missing the snorkeling (which will be there next time unless the planet collapses, in which case we're all gone anyway). I also think in the scheme of things maybe February/winter snorkeling maybe isn't as nice as later? I don't know. Maybe I just don't want to snorkel, lol. Ds says he wants to, but then he says he wants to collect shells. He wasn't interested in the inflatables. He's not going to want to touch anything. Like the videos where they touch stingrays, hang it up, nope, he's not doing it. He likes water and being in water, but I'm not sure that snorkeling in order to see fish or critters matters to him. 

So yeah, that's what I have left, cooking vs. snorkeling. :blush:

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Snorkeling is absolutely wonderful.  February is great for snorkeling as is Sept and Dec and May ( all times we snorkeled in the Caribbean when we were cruising).  We first snorkeled while on a cruise with our then 5 year old and 8 month old.  One of us would snorkle and the other one did not.  I think my son did snorkle too but it was 25 years ago so I am not sure.  Anyway, we snorkled in Cayman and also drove around too (no tour), and in Cozumel, we rented a car (that was an adventure since car couldn't reverse), and drove to Chankanaab.  It wasn't just a great place to snorkle, it is also a lovely park with iguanas running around, etc.  Then we drove to a small ruin where we saw that and also a local with a pet ringtail.  We drove around the town and stopped and got some nice art work and cool toys for kids, and then we drove back to car rental place which was right by the docking area.  

More about snorkeling- it opens up a whole different world to you and the only thing you need to do at places like that park (very calm water) is learn how to breathe through tube and not get water in it,  You will float on top of the water and just look at all the fish and other wildlife,  In calm areas, it is a super peaceful, relaxing time yet just so wonderful to see all the corals and fish and more.  They are so colorful in the tropics.

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6 hours ago, TravelingChris said:

February is great for snorkeling

I didn't know this! My mom went on a cruise last year in January and said the water was rough. But you're right, what's really going on is SHE wants to snorkel again and her dh doesn't, haha. So this is her chance to snorkel more with ds, lol. Ironically, ds is an incredibly good snorkeler. We gave him time with a scuba instructor, and he can go very deep, everything. Totally freaks me out because then I can't keep him safe. But yeah HE will be great. LOL Just the old fogeys will ahve problems.

He's up. I found more pics of the cooking place last night and the house is small. I think I may pass on it. I can show him. He's just stirring.

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7 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Well I'm down to the nub and need to decide on Cozumel! My mom booked some general tour with history junk for herself and her dh, so that leaves me and ds either to do something like Chankanaab, like you're saying, or this really adorable in-home cooking session I found. Would that be so terrible? I keep debating over whether that makes me a horrible mother to say I'd rather cook than snorkel. LOL 

I'm going to go pull up the pics for Chankanaab and look at it and see. I felt like the cooking was a really safe option and something we'd be happy about for a long time. You go to the lady's house, pick out the menu, go to the market and buy everything, make everything for scratch, though I assume not plucking chickens. But the tortillas, etc. from scratch. We really like mexican food, so I thought it sounded fun. I thought it was nice to connect with the place on a deeper level, rather than just going to all these 3rd world countries and enjoying their beaches. I mean maybe that's not what is happening, but I kinda felt like we were missing something. And I just like to eat, lol. 

But I don't want to regret my choice either! And there are other cruises, so it was more like which would I regret more, missing the in-home cooking (if the lady died before I returned) or missing the snorkeling (which will be there next time unless the planet collapses, in which case we're all gone anyway). I also think in the scheme of things maybe February/winter snorkeling maybe isn't as nice as later? I don't know. Maybe I just don't want to snorkel, lol. Ds says he wants to, but then he says he wants to collect shells. He wasn't interested in the inflatables. He's not going to want to touch anything. Like the videos where they touch stingrays, hang it up, nope, he's not doing it. He likes water and being in water, but I'm not sure that snorkeling in order to see fish or critters matters to him. 

So yeah, that's what I have left, cooking vs. snorkeling. :blush:

Oh, that cooking thing sounds neat!! I think whichever one you do you'll enjoy, and if you're going to snorkel in one of the other places (are you?) you could skip it at Cozumel (although, honestly, Cozumel is our favorite place to snorkel out of the places we've been, except for one place in Brazil). 

I will say that there are not really a lot of shells for collecting in Cozumel at all, not at Chankanaab anyway. So he might not enjoy Chankanaab that much if that's his plan. There's a small cove, and then a large stretch of beach full of chairs & umbrellas and steps down into the water where you snorkel (and it's calm and lovely), so if you/he would be happy snorkeling for a long time & sitting in chairs the rest of the time.....yay! If you'd snorkel a bit and be done....weigh that against the cost of the entrance to the park. But then also you'd have lots of time to go into town and explore the shops, restaurants, etc. There's a lot of stuff in the area around where you dock and you could explore quite a bit. 

BUT, if the cooking lesson sounds like something you'd both enjoy, that's a really fun option!! And you are right, it's nice to get out and see the reality of the place not just the tourist bits. 

Whatever you decide, enjoy! 

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First of all, about the rough waters== On the cruise we went in February of some year, there was rough water on the more open water when the ship was sailing, but not all the time and that was actually when we were sailing in the Atlantic- we sailed out of FT. Lauderdale, and more northern areas-  we were doing Southern Caribbean and in that one we did not stop in Cozumel.  I  believe we only snorkled a few times but I know we did in Curacao, Dominican Republic and Bahamas.  Curacao was open water and we snorkled from a boat  - not rough, but also not so great for beginners.  DR - was on a small island and on the side facing mainland of Hispaniola.  Super snorkeling for beginners and everyone.  Bahamas that time was in a cove location that was super calm too.  On another cruise in Sept to the Bahamas, it was on another cruise line and their island had a cove but also was facing Atlantic---- not rough near the beach but going out  much more really I would recommend only for strong swimmers because people were swimming out a long way and closer to the end of land, the water was much rougher.  On our last cruise which was in Dec 2014 to Eastern Caribbean- no roughness on St. John's, VI which was a more protected area and no roughness in the private Bahama island of yet one more cruise line which had a more protected area.  It very, very much depends on both weather and the layout of the beach and it's relation to other islands, mainlands, other part of same island, etc.  THe one in Cozumel is a great one.

Other tips- they do not allow sunscreen (though I believe now there is a form that is okay for wildlife and they may allow). 

About cooking demonstrations- I have gone to several including one in Belgium when I lived there done by a women in her home, I believe.  It was a very nice demonstration and the food was good.   That was in 2004-  and I remember the town and the house and that we had chocolate mousse for dessert-   but I have no idea what else we had and while it was a nice experience- at least for me, no where as powerful experience as snorkeling was.  All the other demonstrations I have attended- last one being on that last cruise- I have zero idea what we ate and certainly no idea how to cook it.  Depending where you live, but nowadays in most of the country, you could probably find a Mexican immigrant who could do the same cooking demonstration locally.

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I'm wondering if your son will really be willing and interested in participating with the whole cooking expedition. What would be your plan B, if he ends up having a problem participating or has a meltdown in the lady's home? I just think it would be hard to manage, because you would be stuck there.

Because you know he enjoys snorkeling, I think I would choose that.

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The more tourists there are snorkeling, the more dead the coral is I’ve found. I snorkeled at Chankanaab a few years ago, and there were tons of pretty fish, but the coral was nothing much. It’s not a knock, just a heads up that you won’t see the gorgeous coral colors that are in the magazines, though there was some pretty fan coral as I recall. It’s really all about the fish.

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5 hours ago, Storygirl said:

I'm wondering if your son will really be willing and interested in participating with the whole cooking expedition. What would be your plan B, if he ends up having a problem participating or has a meltdown in the lady's home? I just think it would be hard to manage, because you would be stuck there.

Because you know he enjoys snorkeling, I think I would choose that.

Yup, I found pictures of the house this morning, and it's small and doesn't have a plan B for him.

6 hours ago, TravelingChris said:

I remember the town and the house and that we had chocolate mousse for dessert-   but I have no idea what else we had and while it was a nice experience- at least for me, no where as powerful experience as snorkeling was. 

I think you're right

6 hours ago, TravelingChris said:

On the cruise we went in February of some year, there was rough water on the more open water when the ship was sailing, but not all the time and that was actually when we were sailing in the Atlantic-

I hadn't thought of this! You're right, my mother went to the Bahamas last winter, not these wester caribbean places. The water could be totally different. 

Well now I gotta get my game face on. Thanks ladies!

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