Caribbean Ports; Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Ocho Rios, La Romana, Grand Turk, Roatan and Samana
I love Caribbean crusies espically watching the sunset and with so many ships cruising the Caribbean I can alwasy get you a good deal. I am throwing out a ideas if you want to do something fun versus the standard walk around town or just going to the beach.
Grand Cayman: A very short tender port with many options, but Stingrays is the thing to do. I discovered Native Way: http://www.nativewaywatersports.com/home Dealing with this outfit is nothing short of first class. Try the Rays, Reef and Rum Point excursion: they meet you at the dock with a sign, take you to a small yacht and once on board, you are given an extensive lunch menu and asked to select what you would like for lunch; lunch is then radioed to Rum Point while you are sailing. The first stop is Sting Ray Island; I can never get enough this place – how can you not love the rays, big and small! Following some great stingray play, you are taken to an area for snorkeling: the snorkeling had a great variety of beautiful fish and coral, with the added plus of many starfish on the ocean floor. You are provided with a little bait if you like – just feeding the fish and having them swim all around you is amazing! Back on the yacht, you are taken to Rum Point, which is a nice beach area. Your lunch is piping hot and ready when you arrive, and FREE wifi and a nice beach area to swim are included. Once well-fed, you are back on the yacht for a final open ocean snorkeling area with live coral then back to the starting point… what more can say; I keep repeating this excursion because it is awesome and doesn’t get old.
Falmouth, Jamaica: what used to be a rundown port has been given a total facelift. Not much if you walk around town, but for some special fun, book yourself a tour with http://www.yardietours.com/. I have used Yardie for years, and Kevin, the owner, is very professional. Let yourself go and give “river boarding” a try. This excursion is a well kept secret and people think is very difficult, but put your fears aside: you are outfitted with safety gear and given your board; after a short walk carrying your board, you arrive at the point where you get in the water. They give you instructions, demonstrate and then you lie stomach down on a board, practice a bit, and when the guides feel everyone in the group is ready enough to be safe, down the river you go, holding onto the board – a little like boogie boarding in a river but with handles on the board, safety equipment and guides to keep you from injury with the rocks and white water. What you need to know is that this is the same river that people kayak and tube down, but on the board, you are up close and personal with the river and having so much more fun and control. The rapids are small, and you will have a blast. Following the excursion you are taken to a nice beach area where you can grab a bite to eat (your own cost), change clothes, relax… go for it – you do not need to be in great shape to do this easy and fun excursion.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica – At one time this was a port that I wanted to avoid; however, over the past few years, the community has finally realized that it needed to clean up its act if it wanted tourist dollars. This was my second stop in a year in Jamaica and I was very pleased; booked again with with Yardie Tours (a superb company http://www.yardietours.com) and organized a Blue Hole (if you need more info on this gem of a place google “Blue Hole) fun day. Wow, what fun tells all.
Roatan: this port has developed tremendously and is growing, with many activities – do yourself a favor and contact Island Excursions: http://www.islandexcursionsroatan.com/#/page/home/. Kevin, the owner, is an expat who has been in Roatan for many years and knows it all. His hotel, guides and kayaks are the best. Kevin’s team picks you up at the port, and you are taken to West Bay…there you are offered many options; for this trip I selected kayaking, snorkeling and hanging out. West Bay is a great place to snorkel or just hang out for the day; sure, it is filled with the standard tourist junk but very low key. What I like is that Kevin’s team will do what it takes for you to have a good time: he will serve you a fun meal at his Café, and on the way back to the ship will give you an island tour and take you to the best place to buy coffee. In addition, Kevin’s sister has a superb art and craft store next to his café – not the standard tourist junk but high quality nice souvenirs and paintings – save time to actually shop there because you will actually WANT what she is selling!… drop Kevin an email.
Grand Turk –; highly underrated. Get away from the Carnival owned terminal and Margaritaville, and discover this little gem of an island. Get a map from the info booth in the cruise center before going outside the gate. My wife and I rented bicycles at the terminal;, however, I would recommend you walk outside the gate and rent a scooter instead. Very little traffic on the roads, easy to find your way and many beaches to discover. We biked to the lighthouse where you can stand on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, stopped at different beaches, saw lots of wild donkeys, visited Cockburn (downtown), Governor’s Beach (had time for a quick swim) and the John Glenn Capsule, great fun and easy port – do it on your own
La Romana, DR – joined a massive group and did the Seavis Saona Special shore excursion
(http://www.seavisbayahibe.com/). It was OK, snorkeling was not that great but overall a pleasant day, included lunch; however, I would look elsewhere if I was to return.
Samana, DR- I visited this port twice. It is a tendering port, a new stop for cruise ships and does not have much to offer that was close and easily accessible to the main dock. The main city area has a very limited shopping area, a few duty free shops but not much. The Dominican Republic has a lot to offer in terms of adventurous excursions, but to get to any of the places one would need more than a cruise ship day; most places were over 3 hours each way. On both my visits, I planned beach days. On my first visit I took a cab/van to a small resort – Hotel Atlantis – in Las Terrenas, on Playa Bonita. The hotel itself had a restaurant on the beach and plenty of beach chairs to enjoy the rays. Taxi ride to and from the resort was $120 and took 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. The beach was fair, not a lot of sand, but lovely (the day we visited the water was rough) and a small 5 minute walk from the hotel there was a picturesque cove. The restaurant offered us snacks and margaritas and we even tried to arrange for a massage (our masseuse never showed up). The margaritas were tasty and a welcome treat in the heat. Overall it was a nice day, but I would not recommend my first excursion.
The second time I visited this port I responded to a Cruisecritic roll call and was one of 33 people that booked a day at Playa Rincon (which is supposed to be one of the 10 best beaches in the world). Getting to Playa Rincon is a challenge, there are two ways to get to Playa Rincon by boat or by car. You can google “Playa Rincon” and get tons of info as it is a very nice beach.
By Boat: You must first ride a car/van about 45 minutes to Las Galeras beach, where you then get a ride by boat to Playa Rincon beach. The boat trip is about 10 minutes, that is what we did. By Car; I was told it was a lot shorter but a very rough road and will take about 1hr.
The entire group 33 of us booked this with “Casa Dorado” they where very professional, I have a link to their website further below(see Samana) but the website does not tell the entire story. At Playa Rincon beach which is very lovely you can rent chair and shade for ($5.00/per chair) so be aware. On the beach there where a number of small places to eat and a place for a massage and renting Kayaks. Do not waste your money and pay for a snorkel excursion trip, you can snorkel for free right on the beach in the rocky area. Overall, I would make Playa Rincon my stop and not waste money on snorkeling or shopping. Very time limited due to the amount of people a lot of time was wasted waiting around but it was a nice day, suggest a group of no more than 10-11 and go direct to the beach at Playa Rincon.