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Caribbean tourist traps to avoid on a cruise

23 Nov 2023
Allie Hubers

One of the biggest draws to taking a cruise is having the opportunity to visit beautiful destinations around the world. If you cruise often with Royal Caribbean, you’ll likely find yourself sailing frequently to the Caribbean (as the namesake suggests). On the flip side, one downside of cruising is that the destinations you visit could be quite touristy, especially if it’s a busy cruise port.

There is a fine line between being a tourist and getting roped into a tourist trap. By definition, a tourist trap aims to attract tourists and their money by offering overpriced experiences, services, souvenirs, food or entertainment.

Most often, tourist traps feel like a waste of your time and money. These are usually crowded with other tourists who were roped into the same overrated experience. In the end, you’ll feel disappointed and conned by tourist traps - and unfortunately, there are plenty of tourist traps to avoid in the Caribbean.

When taking a cruise, you have the option to book an excursion through the cruise line or explore independently. While there are some choices better than others, no one wants to feel like they were scammed by a tourist trap. 

Here is our list of tourist traps to avoid in the Caribbean.

Señor Frogs

If there is one bar you should avoid throughout your Caribbean cruises, it’s Señor Frogs. These bars are conveniently located right next to the cruise port where you disembark the ship. Señor Frogs has mastered the art of the tourist trap thanks to its strategic placement at each cruise port. 

Unfortunately, Señor Frogs is a huge tourist trap around the Caribbean - regardless of which port you’re docked in.

Most are roped into Señor Frogs by the party ambiance, along with fun drinks, loud music and vibrant decor. The promise of a party vibe is the biggest selling point. What you’ll find is a crowded bar with overpriced drinks and mediocre food. Unsurprisingly, Señor Frogs serves low-quality alcohol with the hopes of getting tourists drunk enough that they’ll continue purchasing overpriced drinks. 

Señor Frogs also relies of gimmicky marketing, balloon animals and crazy hats to rope in cruise ship passengers. Honestly, you’re probably better off purchasing drinks in port elsewhere or even onboard your cruise. There are plenty of other great bars to party at throughout the Caribbean with authentic cuisine and reasonably priced drinks. 

Costa Maya Port

One of the absolute worst tourist traps in the Caribbean can be found at the Costa Maya cruise port. If you walk off your cruise in Costa Maya, you’ll find yourself navigating a maze of shops with sellers hounding you to come into their shops. 

After walking through some initial shops, you’ll reach the main center of the cruise port, which is surrounded by even more shops. In fact, you cannot simply exit the Costa Maya cruise port without wandering through the maze of shops. You’ll need to turn on blinders to exit the port area without going into any shops. 

If your ship is docked with other cruise ships in port at the same time, you can expect the port area to become extremely congested. 

The cruise port of Costa Maya also features a large pool, which is free to use. However, you’ll be approached to visit nearby shops and bars during your time there. You can also find animal encounters, such as swimming with dolphins, in the Costa Maya port area. As you can imagine, this experience is also a tourist trap and will cost you hundreds of dollars.

Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas

One of the most popular Caribbean destinations in the world is the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. This massive resort is ocean-themed and located on Paradise Island and spans across 171 acres. Essentially, the resort is famous for being famous.

If your cruise ship docks in Nassau, you’ll see many excursions to Atlantis offered. As such, prices to visit Atlantis for cruise ship passengers have skyrocketed in recent years. Considering you won’t have more than a few hours at the resort when visiting on a cruise ship, it’s tough to justify the price.

For example, Royal Caribbean offers a shore excursion to Atlantis to swim with dolphins and visit the waterpark for $465 per person! This only includes 6 hours at the resort, costing you about $77 per hour for each person to visit Atlantis.

While this is not a traditional tourist trap, the cost to visit Atlantis for only 6 hours is astronomical. Your time and money is better spent at a different resort in Nassau.

Diamond’s International

Similar to Señor Frogs, the strategic placement for Diamond’s International at every Caribbean port should be a red flag. While purchasing affordable jewelry in the Caribbean is a common practice, Diamond’s International is one tourist trap you should rethink visiting. 

To start, Diamond’s International is likely receiving a financial kickback from the cruise lines. This is why you will see many advertisements throughout your cruise encouraging you to step inside to look at the jewelry. Diamond’s International also offers cruisers a free charm to get you in the door as a marketing tactic. You can collect the charms - which are cheaply made - throughout Diamond’s International locations with a punch card. 

Although some might have good experiences, many consider Diamond’s International to be a tourist trap. Be sure to do your due diligence with research if you choose to shop inside these stores during your cruise. 

Hell in Grand Cayman

Perhaps the poster child for tourist traps, you’ll find "Hell" in Grand Cayman. This interesting rock formation is made from limestone rocks eaten away by algae, giving it a volcanic appearance. Legend has it that the name "Hell” evolved long ago from an early British Commissioner touring the island, who apparently exclaimed the formation reminded him of what hell must look like. 

Regardless, Hell in Grand Cayman is a tourist trap. The small rock formation might be interesting, but the entire appeal comes from the notion that you can say, “I went to hell!”

The country built an entire attraction around the rock formation with platforms and shops to visit. Even on the Grand Cayman Department of Tourism website, it states, “In the Cayman Islands, tourists can go to Hell. This uniquely named attraction is located in the district of West Bay on Grand Cayman.”

Many tours will stop at Hell in Grand Cayman, but it’s certainly not a site that you need to go out of your way to visit.

Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica

Located in Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Falls has been a top attraction for visitors and cruisers alike. Dunn’s River Falls is a large waterfall that allows you to climb around thanks to its naturally terraced rocks. There are natural pools of water with the river ending at the beach with views of the sea. 

While it seems like a great place to visit, you’ll be surrounded by tons of tourists and other cruisers. The Dunn’s River Falls has been around for many years, but the attraction is now littered with tourists everywhere. If you’re taking an excursion through the cruise line, you can expect dozens of other tours visiting at the same time. You even need to form a human chain to navigate the falls with your guide to ensure your group stays together. 

There’s no chance you’ll get a decent picture on the falls without hundreds of other tourists in the background. As with any tourist trap, you’ll have to navigate a gift shop and market.

Key West Southernmost Point

While Key West does not have as much cruise ship traffic as other destinations, the island is the southernmost point in the continental United States. If you make your way to the southern side of the island, you’ll find the famous monument stating, “Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A."

This tourist trap might not be soliciting your money, but it is wasting your time. There is always a line to take pictures with this monument sign. Because Key West is usually hot and humid, you can expect to be drenched in sweat waiting in line. When visiting this tourist trap back in February, I was frustrated to see so many people cutting around the line to take pictures with the sign. 

If you’re nearby the sign and there is no line for a picture, it is a fun memory to have. However, it’s not really worth your time to wait in a long line to snap a picture with it.  

Honorable Mention: Maho Beach in St. Maarten

While this might be controversial, some could argue that Maho Beach in St. Maarten is a tourist trap. The St. Maarten airport is located on the edge of the island with a strip of beach right at the end of the runway. As such, you can sit on the beach and watch the planes land incredibly close to the ground. 

Maho Beach is certainly unique, as its best known as the "Airport Beach." For most cruisers, this would be a one and done kind of experience. The beach itself is nothing special and somewhat small, so it gets crowded quickly. There is one bar nearby that has food and drinks available, but that also becomes quite busy as the day goes on.

However, if you are an aviation geek (like my husband) then this is a worthwhile experience. My husband had Maho Beach on his bucket-list for many years and absolutely loved visiting. You can track when the most exciting planes are landing to ensure your time is worthwhile. However, the others in our group (who were not aviation geeks) were underwhelmed and ready to leave after an hour or two. 

Honorable Mention: Stingray City in Grand Cayman

Another popular stop in Grand Cayman is Stingray City, which is an area filled with shallow sandbars. Visitors can take a quick 25-minute boat ride to swim, pet and interact with stingrays. The area has become known as "Stingray City" and many excursions will take cruisers out to the sandbar to interact with the stingrays.

In my opinion, this is a one and done type of experience. Stingray City can become very crowded with the boats on the sandbar, which can create a hectic experience. Not to mention, stingrays can be dangerous if you accidentally touch them the wrong way or happen to step on one in the sand. 

Some find Stingray City to be underwhelming and overcrowded. This means you won’t get much time with the rays, as other boats will be competing for time with the animals too. 

Allie Hubers has been cruising since she was a tiny toddler. What started as a yearly vacation with family quickly turned into a passion for travel, cruising and adventure. Allie's been on nearly 30 cruises all over the world. She even studied abroad on Semester at Sea, sailing the world on a ship while taking courses for college and visiting 4 continents.

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