Excursions

Excursion Focus: St Thomas Sky Ride to Paradise Point

In:
05Aug2015

If you are going to see the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, why not see it from over 700 feet above sea level?  The Skyride to Paradise Point allows guests to go to the top of a mountain and enjoy a stunning view of the island.

Description

The premise of the Skyride is simple, take a cable car from the base of the mountain all the way up the hillside in just minutes.

Located within walking distance from the Havensight Pier, the Skyride is a 5-10 minute walk.  No taxis or transportation needed, it is easily accessed.

There are no set times for this excursion.  Guests may purchase tickets from the ship's Shore Excursion Desk or purchase tickets at the attraction.  If you bought tickets on your Royal Caribbean ship, you can exchange your tickets for wristbands at the ticket office.

Admission to the Skyride is good for the entire day, so you may return later on and experience it again.

Once you have your wristbands, guests will walk up a set of stairs to the loading area.  

Guests will be lined up in the order they arrived to board the next available cable car to the top.

The cable cars can hold about 6-8 people and there are windows on all sides to allow a view on the way up.  The ride itself takes roughly five minutes and is fairly tame.  There is little in the way of swaying or motion and the ride is quite smooth.

Once at the top of Paradise Point, guests disembark the cable car and can walk to a number of platforms to enjoy the view.

In addition to the view of the harbor, Paradise Point features shops, a nature trail, a restaurant and a bar.

Guests may return down to the bottom at any time.

Comments

There is no question that the skyride offers some fantastic views of the harbor, Charlotte Amalie and the surrounding area.  It is the perfect perspective to see your Royal Caribbean ship in the harbor.

Getting to the skyride and up the mountain is pretty simple and the only caveat worth mentioning is there are a lot of stairs involved, so if you have a stroller or wheelchair, keep in mind that there is no alternative to the stairs.

Once at the top, the view is impressive and it makes for great photos.  

The Paradise Point folks advertise a Carnival show everyday, although we were not present for it on our stop. 

The shops and bar at the top are your typical tourist-centric diversions and we opted not to go there.

If you have never done the skyride, it is an impressive attraction that can be completed fairly quickly.  You should have plenty of time to do other activities on St. Thomas even after experiencing the Skyride.

Royal Caribbean also advertises that the excursion is risk free, so if you purchase a ticket at the Shore Excursion Desk and then decide not to go for whatever reason, you may return the unused ticket to the Shore Excursions Desk onboard for a full refund.

Reservations

The St. Thomas Skyride has a tremendous capacity and the benefit of a full refund is reason enough to purchase tickets in advance either on Royal Caribbean's web site, or at the Excursion Desk on board your ship.  

Cost: $21.75 per adult, $10.75 for kids.  

Royal Caribbean offering new shore excursion to Pope's private summer residence

In:
12Jul2015

If you are taking a Mediterannean cruise, Royal Caribbean has a new shore excursion for those stopping in Rome.

Royal Caribbean rolled out a new shore excursion to the Pope's private summer residence estate, along with stops at other well-known landmarks such as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.

Since 1626, the estate has served as a second home to the pope. View majestic gardens and a working farmhouse set amid Roman ruins of the ancient Amphitheatre and Villa built by Emperor Domitian and dating back to the 1st Century A.D.

This is the first time this residence has ever been opened.

Royal Caribbean guests will also visit the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo, the estate’s majestic gardens and the on-site working farmhouse, a panoramic drive across Rome, and an in-depth tour of the world-famous Vatican Museum.

Following the tour, enjoy a panoramic drive through Rome—passing by the Colosseum—before arrival in Vatican City.

The price for the Pope's Summer Residence and Vatican City - CVR2 shore excursion is $165 per adult and $129 for children.  The tour is approximately 10 hours.

Excursion Focus: Zipline at Labadee

In:
02Jul2015

Perhaps no other shore excursion on Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee is as exciting and well-known as the Dragon's Breath Flight Line zip line. It has become synonymous with the island and offers guests the opportunity to soar through the air above Labadee at speeds of 40-50 mph.

Description

Dragon's Breath Flight Line will take you to a point 500 feet above the beaches of Labadee and then send you down a zip line that is longer than 2,600 feet.  The zip line is visible from nearly everywhere on the island and it offers some incredible views.

After checking in for the excursion, the staff will suit you up with the right harness for you and then present a short safety video to explain the basics of riding a zip line.

Because zip lines are heavily reliant on staying safe, guests are escorted to a shorter "Little Dragon" flight line, where you can work on the basics with far less risk.

While at the shorter zip line, the staff will demonstrate the basics of what to do and then allow you to try it out.  It's a good primer of what to expect and it gives guests an opportunity to work on their technique.

After that, you will board a truck and you will be on your way up the mountain to fly the real thing.  The truck ride can be fairly bumpy, due to the road conditions.

Once at the top of the mountain, the process is similar to the Little Dragon flight line and you are prepared to go and then sent on your way.

From start to finish, the excursion will take around an hour to complete and the views you will get from the top of Labadee are unparalleled.  There are views of the beaches, the coast of Haiti and your Royal Caribbean ship.

Photo by Royal Caribbean

Dragon's Breath Flight Line is open to guests at least 48 inches tall and cannot weigh more than 275 pounds.

Comments

Dragon's Breath Flight Line is a real adrenaline rush for anyone who is brave enough to try it.  There's no question the anticipation is scarier than the zip line ride down and even during very windy conditions, 

What I really enjoyed about Dragon's Breath Flight Line (and the reason I wanted to do it) was the amazing view you get while riding the zip line down.  Royal Caribbean claims it is one of the longest zip lines in the world and your trip from the summit to base is almost a minute of air time.

During my excursion, we had about 6 people decide to quit out of fear, which is something to consider if you have a fear of heights.  How scary is it exactly? That answer depends on you and your fear of heights.  The ride down is smooth and there is virtually little that you have to do during the ride other than maintain proper form.

Royal Caribbean says you cannot bring anything that is not attached to your body, but in my experience I witnessed plenty of guests holding cameras and phones while riding.  I would advise to invest in an accessory that allows you to attach your phone or camera to your body but understand you are risking losing that device if you do not.

Photo by Braden

Perhaps the only real complaint I can levy against Dragon's Breath Flight Line is the price.  As of the writing of this blog post, the cost of Dragon's Breath Flight Line is $95.75 per person (for adults and children).  That is certainly not inexpensive.

The reason why this zip line adventure is so popular and why so many guests elect to do it is because it's a very unique experience on Labadee and something that really stands out as exhilarating and memorable.   I believe the Dragon's Breath Flight Line is worth trying, especially if you watch a few other guests go down it while you are on the beach and think it looks like fun.

Reservations

The Dragon's Breath Flight Line is a popular excursion, although there are flight times throughout the day.  Reservations are recommended and can be made in advance on Royal Caribbean's web site, or at the Excursion Desk on board your ship.  

Cost: $95.75 per person.

Will I get wet?

No, even though you go over the ocean, you do not make contact with the ocean at all.

Excursion Focus: Valley Church Beach in Antigua

In:
12Jun2015

The sheer beauty of the South Caribbean is perhaps best exemplified by Antigua, which boasts 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.  When we visited Valley Church Beach in Antigua, we were blown away by the views, ocean color and serenity of the location.

Description

Valley Church Beach is about twenty minutes away from where Royal Caribbean docks in Antigua by car.  It's located in the southwest corner of the island and is fairly easily to get to, especially by taxi.

Located in Valley Church Bay, the beach features a palm tree lined beach with soft white sand and not a whole lot around it.  It's the kind of beach experience where you will find natural beauty and quietness around you.

When you arrive at Valley Church Beach, you will find a sprawling beach with locals working there to help you get a spot.  There are beach chairs available to rent for $5 each and beach umbrellas for $10.   There is also free WiFi available.

There's a restaurant that serves up food and plenty of beverages at the center of the beach, close to the parking lot.  It's close enough to walk to from almost any spot on the beach.

What will likely strike you about Valley Church Beach is the beauty of the water's color in contrast to the beach around it.  It's the kind of scene that you would dream of when thinking about a Caribbean beach. 

While the water is a beautiful shade of blue, it's rather cloudy, so snorkeling is not a great activity in this spot.

Comments

Plain and simple, Valley Church Beach is a beautiful spot to visit and the perfect beach for a day trip that many cruisers are looking for.

The combination of natural beauty, inexpensive prices for beach furniture and close proximity to where Royal Caribbean docks its ships, makes for somewhere we would love to go back to anytime.

There are only two negatives that can be pointed out about Valley Church Beach: the water is not clear enough for snorkeling and there are lots of locals trying to sell their services and wares.  Neither is a concern large enough to warrant skipping.

There are no water toys or other activities other than something a local might be offering.  Valley Church Beach is perfect for lounging, as well as families with small children who are looking for a beach with small waves.

Excursion Focus: Junkanoo Beach

In:
Category: 
29Jan2015

I'd like to officially welcome our newest blog contributor, Michael Poole.  Michael has been a number of podcast episodes so far and joins our team to offer some great insight and advice based on his many Royal Caribbean cruise experiences!

Junkaoo Beach is a beautiful public beach located in Nassau, Bahamas.  I’ve visited this beach seven times within the last two years, and will go again next time I’m in Nassau. 

Getting There

Once you exit the ship you will see Senior Frogs located to the right.  You can’t miss it; if you don’t see it just follow all the people with wild balloons on their heads.  Once you get to Senior Frogs, you will stay on the sidewalk and it turns to the left. 

This is when you will see the first of 3 signs for Junkanoo Beach (right in front of the Sheraton hotel, which is a free hotspot zone I might add).

The sidewalk will go through the town of Nassau, and takes around 5 minutes once you get to this point. 

So the only direction I can give you is just stay on the side walk until it runs into Junkaoo Beach, remember there will be two more signs saying Junkaoo ahead to ensure you are on the right path. 

About the beach

Now that you have arrived, you must be asking yourself what should I do first? Well explore, I will say it’s not very large and can get a bit crowded, but then again its FREE! 

They have a tiki bar special that includes 3 beers + 4 shots + wifi password (which was Byron98 when I was there) for $10.  For that price, it is a steal, if you ask me.  I’ve never eaten here but the food looked great. They cook it on a grill right in front of you, made to order.  

If you are more into relaxing that’s fine there is plenty of beach area, just remember to bring a beach towel. 

If snorkeling is more your style they rent the equipment right on the beach.  In fact, they also offer the stand up paddle-boards for rent, which looks quite fun and a great photo opportunity with the light house in the background. 

Whether you are a family or simply on a budget, I think Junkaoo Beach is a great way to spend the day in Nassau.  And remember it’s only a short walk back to the pier when ever you want to head back.  

Guest Review: The Essentials of St. Kitts Tour

In:
19Nov2014

Please welcome guest blogger Don & Heidi! DB and the Princess are a husband and wife duo with 10+ years of cruising history. Their blog, EatSleepCruise.com, provides valuable cruise planning tips and strategies. With reviews on cruise ships and shore excursions, along with a complete photo gallery, they help you “sea the world one port at a time.

During our visit to St. Kitts on our 8 night Independence of the Seas cruise, we wanted to make the most of our time on the island as this would be our first visit to this port. Comparing the tours offered through various companies, The Essentials of St. Kitts Tour, which we booked through Royal Caribbean pre-cruise, seemed like the perfect way to see all of the major highlights of the island.

Overall Impressions

If you have never been to St. Kitts and you are looking to take in the island’s most recognized attractions, including Romney Manor and Brimstone Hill National Park, then this tour is perfect for you. You are allotted plenty of time at both landmarks to tour the grounds, learn the history, and of course grab plenty of memorable photographs. Our bus driver and tour guide was excellent- very informative and answered everyone’s questions about the history of the island and modern life. After seeing all St. Kitts has to offer, we can’t wait to go back to experience more of this untapped Caribbean gem.

Heading Through Downtown Basseterre

Like most organized tours booked through the cruise line, we met our tour operator at the pier immediately after disembarking the ship. The small pier made it easy to find our guide; we were quickly grouped together and put on a small bus to begin the journey around the island. Not even a minute into the tour, a great narration began as the main downtown section of Basseterre is within walking distance of the port.

This city center includes the famous Independence Square, which was once home to the slave trade in St. Kitts. Other governmental buildings and historic landmarks can also be seen early in this tour, including the Berkley Memorial clock, still a hub activity for locals who congregate there to talk business and socialize during the day. 

A few more twist and turns through other noteworthy areas of the town and we were on our way to one of our first two stops, Romney Manor.

Romney Manor and Caribelle Batik 

The tour allows you thirty minutes to discover Romney Manor and learn more about the unique process of making fabrics at Caribelle Batiks. This 10 acre resort offers plenty of great picture ops, including the gigantic Saman Tree. This 350 year old beauty will make you feel very small when you are posing in front of it. 

Inside the Caribelle Batik, you can learn how artisans craft these beautiful pieces of clothing through an intricate process involving dye and wax.

The stop seemed just long enough as we felt like we had seen everything within the thirty minute time frame. Waiting a few extra minutes to get everyone back on the bus, we set off a bit further west on the island to our second stop.

Explorations of Brimstone Hill National Park

While the roads to the Fortress seem manageable, once you get to the base of the Brimstone Hill, the ascent up the windy, and very skinny, road begins. It was quite a driving feat to make it up this curvy road in one piece. Along the way, we were able to capture a few photos of the island’s famous inhabitants, the vervet monkeys.

Once at the top of the fortress, we had about 45 minutes to see the remains of this over 200 year old UNESCO World Heritage site.  This gave us enough time to view the remains of Fort Charlotte and the Prince of Wales Bastion in addition to the main attraction, Fort George Citadel. The seemingly endless staircase to the top of Fort George was well worth it. Once atop of the fort, there are many great photo opportunities to be had, including a must-have pose of me pretending to fire some cannons into the Caribbean Sea. 

This fort also contains some museum exhibits that depict what life was like during the late 17th and early 18th century during the heyday of the fort. A quick stop into these exhibits was plenty for us. After a few more scenic pictures, we started our descent back to the bus, and before we knew it, we were heading back to the port.

During the return ride to Port Zante, the bus driver took us through some other areas of the island, to see some additional sites, including the Carib Brewery. The island surroundings really were picture perfect--too bad we were on a bus. Once we were back to the port, we had plenty of time to sightsee on foot, do a little souvenir shopping, and get back on the ship to enjoy the sun and relax before sail away. 

The Essentials of St. Kitts tour was a great introduction to a beautiful island which we will be sure to visit again soon!

More Information

You can book the Essentials of St. Kitts tour though Royal Caribbean’s website: The three hour tour currently costs $49.75 per person.

Excursion Focus: Goff's Caye, Belize City

In:
Category: 
10Apr2014

Royal Caribbean offers a number of cruises to Belize City and like us, you may be looking for something fun to do here during the day.  We spent weeks searching for the right excurison for our family and we eventually decided on Goff's Caye.

Description

Goff's Caye is a small private island off the shore of Belize City.  It's only accessible by boat and you must book a private excursion to reach the island.  Did I mention Goff's Caye is small?  It's only 1.2 acres of sand but if you're looking for somewhere to swim, enjoy the sun and snorkel, then this is the place for you.

We booked our excursion online for $40 per person (kids under 4 are free).  This gets you transportation to and from the island, snorkeling equipment and complimentary rum punch.

Getting to and from the island is probably the most difficult aspect of the entire itinerary. Royal Caribbean ships have to tender in Belize City, so you have to take the Royal Caribbean tender to Belize City and then take a different boat to Goff's Caye.

We were on the first tender to Belize City to avoid the notoriously long tender lines on the cruise ship and made our way to the check-in area in Belize City for the excursion.  We had put down a deposit online a few weeks earlier and paid off the remainder of the balance in port.  We were then given wristbands and told which dock to report to.

A couple of hours later it was time to board the speedboat to Goff's Caye.  There were about a dozen or so people on the boat and the ride takes about 20-30 minutes.  The boat goes much faster than the cruise ship tenders so the ride isn't so bad to get there.

Once you arrive at Goff's Caye, you pick a spot on the beach.  You can rent chairs (no umbrellas) for a nominal fee. The beach is clean and mostly rock-free.  Walking from the beach anywhere else does require shoes due to the various rocks in the interior of the island.

You can optionally purchase lunch on the island, which is BBQ food.  Prices were reasonable and there are beverages also available for purchase.  Rum punch and water are complimentary.

If you choose, snorkeling is provided in groups.  At a designated time, the boat takes a group off shore to snorkel and the snorkeling group moves around the island.  I did not partake in the snorkeling but I spoke with a number of people who did and they all reported the experience to be fun.  They all said they saw a good amount of sea creatures and generally enjoyed the experience.

Comments

Goff's Caye is a no-frills beach break excursion.  For someone looking for a basic beach day with just you, sand and the water, then this is perfect.

The remote location of Goff's Caye makes it quite serene.  There's little cover from the sun so be sure to bring plenty of sun lotion (and be sure to actually apply it, unlike this blogger).  

What we liked about Goff's Caye was we got a chance to sit down and relax on the beach with the occasional swim.  We had gone to Goff's Caye in February and it was a cloudy day so the water temperature was a bit cool.

The value for the excusion is quite high as the overall cost isn't bad at all, especially compared to other private island beach excursions.  Ultimately the low-cost is what convinced us to book Goff's Caye and I was happy with the choice.  It wasn't the best beach excursion I've ever taken but it was exactly what I expected.

If you want an inexpensive beach day in Belize City, it's hard to go wrong with Goff's Caye.

Excursion Focus: Parrot Tree Beach Resort in Roatan

In:
Category: 
21Feb2014

Roatan, Honduras is one of the prettiest islands in the Caribbean to visit and Royal Caribbean has more and more cruises stopping at this island paradise on their western Caribbean voyages.  If you're looking for a less crowded, yet beautiful beach to visit, it's hard to go wrong with Parrot Tree Beach Resort.

Description

Roatan's west end is well known for its beaches but because of its popularity, the beaches fill up fast and feeling like a sardine on a beach isn't my idea of fun. Enter, Parrot Tree, which is a beach resort on the east end of the island, about a 20 minute car ride from Royal Caribbean's dock without traffic.

Parrot Tree is a resort that offers day passes to cruise guests.  This isn't an all-inclusive resort, just provides access to their facilities.  Like all day-pass destinations, the advantage is smaller crowds and well-manicured grounds.

Arriving at Parrot Tree is like driving into an exotic and exlusive resort you might see in a James Bond movie set.  The road is paved with bricks that resemble something Cortes would have seen on his way to Tenochtitlan (Aztec capital city).  

Parrot Tree is on the ocean but they have built a lagoon that lets sea water in without all the waves.  The lagoon is surrounded by a white sandy beach with palapas and chairs laid out perfectly every dozen or so yards, giving each group their own private space.

Each palapa location offers 3 beach lounge chairs, a table and a beach bed.  There's also waiter service to bring you food or drink.  You can also walk to the nearby bar to get your own food and drink as well as use the free internet WiFi.

The food at Parrot Tree is a blend of traditional American food and a few local creations.  Burgers, fries and chicken nuggets are available along with the fresh fish of the day.  There's also plenty of drinks to choose from, including drinks that come in a hollowed out coconut.

The lagoon offers little to no waves, which is great for those who aren't strong swimmers or just someone who wants to relax in the water without fear of a large wave surprising them.

Because it's a private beach, there aren't any beach vendors offering you things to buy although we did see a woman offering massages, whom we assumed worked for the resort.

Comments

Given the price of admission ($15 per adult), it's really hard to beat what you get for the money.  Having your own private beach spot and far less crowded than other beaches is a wonderful treat.

The hidden gem here is the beach bed, which is perfect for laying down to enjoy the breeze, read a book or even take a nap.  For our 3 year old daughter, it made for the perfect nap spot and that isn't easy since she rarely naps at the beach because there's rarely anywhere comfortable for her to lay down.

In terms of the food and drink, we found the food to be quite good and good prices.  The chicken fingers were breaded in something quite good and the fried fish was particularly delicious.  You can charge food and drinks to a credit card, which means less of a need to carry as much cash on you.

The lagoon is quite nice to splash around in or just sit down and enjoy.  It's not very deep but great for wading and enjoying the view.  While the ocean is on the other side of the lagoon, there is no beach to speak of, just a lot of rocks so swimming there is likely not an option.

The web site for the resort claims your admission also includes access to their pool, although we were not aware of that and did not use it. 

The appeal of Parrot Tree is somewhere to go for a relaxed, low-key beach day.  For those that like to have a drink and enjoy a day in the sun, this is the place for you.  The grounds are beautiful and the value for the cost is really quite high. 

Address: Parrot Tree Plantation Roatan, Bay Islands Honduras, Central America

Cost: Adults: $15; Children 6-11: $5; Children 0-5: Free

Excursion Focus: Sand Castle on the Beach, St Croix

In:
21Jan2014

Beach days when in port on a Royal Caribbean cruise are always a great way to relax and today we're looking at the Sand Castle on the Beach in St. Croix.  Located just a few minutes by taxi ride, the Sand Castle on the Beach offers cruise passengers access to the beach and some other amenities.

Description

Sand Castle on the Beach is a private hotel that offers beach access for a small fee along with some other options a la carte.  Beach access alone is just $5 per person and you can opt for the beach package, which gets you 2 lounge chairs, 1 umbrella & 2 rum punches for $25.

Aside from beach access, your admission also gets you

  • Outdoor Shower
  • Restrooms
  • Restaurant & Bar on Premises
  • Fresh Water Sea Side Pool

The beach, which is the reason to come here, is very nice.  It's not the most beautiful beach you've ever seen, but the sand is soft both in and outside of the water.  There's also not a lot of big waves, so it's great for kids or anyone who doesn't like big waves.  There are no toys in the ocean, so it's all about lounging and swimming.

We visited in September and our ship was the only one in port so it wasn't a very busy day and getting there early in the morning there was literally no one else at the beach.  Business picked up as the morning turned to afternoon.

In addition to the pool, the fresh water pool is a nice touch and offers an alternative to the ocean along with chairs and shade in the area surrounding the pool.

Comments

The Sand Castle on the Beach is a great, no-frills private beach for anyone looking to relax and get some basic amenities. The beach is nice and the staff set up our beach chair and umbrella as part of the cost.

From a value standpoint, there's no question this is a great deal.  While I think you will need to rent chairs and umbrellas, you could just go for beach and pool access but since the price is so low, it makes sense to "spring" for the combo.

Our chief complaint was the restaurant/bar.  When we arrived it was closed and the bartender didn't show up until about noon to even start getting the bar set up.  Since we had rum punch vouchers with the package, it was frustrating we had to wait so long to redeem them.  Granted, we were there off season and that contributed to why things didn't open sooner.

Since the Sand Castle on the Beach is a hotel, you may also have an influx of hotel guests.  Since we were visiting in the off-season, there just a few there.

The staff at the hotel are all Americans and speak great English. We also had no problem getting a taxi to get back to the cruise ship.  In fact, there were a few cabs waiting around to take people back.

Overall, Sand Castle on the Beach is a good choice for an inexpensive beach day.  You wont find the amenities of some all-inclusive resorts or other beaches, but it's good for enjoying a beach day.  While the lack of drink service irked us, it wouldn't stop me from recommending Sand Castle on the Beach.

Address: 127 Smithfield, Frederiksted, St Croix, VI 00840

Cost: $5 pass; Use of umbrellas and chairs for additional cost.

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