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Bored of typical shore excursions? Try a day pass to a resort

19 Dec 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you're looking at your shore excursion choices and not finding anything that excites you, it might be time to try a day pass to a resort instead.

In any port your cruise ship visits, you'll find lots of different tours. Bus tours, hiking, beach breaks, and historical sights are very common.  So common, that after a couple of visits you may find yourself at a loss of what to do.

I certainly felt that way in some ports of call, especially some Caribbean islands that are well-known for their beaches. I found taking a beach break tour or a taxi to a beach nice, but lacking often in more of the services I like in my day.

Read moreTop 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid

Cruising with my kids, it's nice to have shade, food and beverage choices, and sometimes a pool too. I'll admit that while there are stunning beaches to visit, I prefer the pool more than the ocean. But my wife tends to like the ocean.

Out of a need to find a compromise, I discovered that resort day passes were a great choice for so many Caribbean islands.

Years ago, a day pass involved calling the resort directly to inquire if they offered such an option.  It was difficult to know which options existed.

Luckily, the process has gotten a lot easier.  There are a few sites out there that sell resort day passes, specifically for cruise ship passengers.

RIU Palace in Aruba

A day pass to a resort gives you access to their grounds and many facilities. Think of it like being a hotel guest without the room.

There are two day pass websites I frequently check and book through: (contains affiliate link that costs you nothing extra to use) and

No matter which site you choose, the process is pretty much the same. Browse available resorts on the island your ship will be visiting, and book a pass for each person in your party.

Some passes are quite cheap, and others much more expensive. It comes down to how popular the resort is, which amenities it includes, and if it's all-inclusive or not.

Transportation from the cruise ship to the resort and back is never included, so you'll need to arrange that on your own.  I almost always just take a taxi at the port.

One consideration before booking is if it includes food and drinks.  Many are all-inclusive, but not all.  By having all your food and drink included, you get a single price for the day, although it's going to cost more.

Beer at all inclusive resort

For the all-inclusive resorts, there could be a restaurant to go into to dine, or it could be waiter service at the pool. Keep in mind that some resort restaurants have a dress code related to bathing suits, so it might be a good idea to pack a change of clothes.

Some resorts have a stipend, where part of your admission cost will be used towards the food served there. The downside to this strategy is I've found most resorts price their food quite high, so that stipend goes quickly.

In some cases, there are resorts that offer simply a day pass and no food or drink with it. You can usually pay as you go with the food there.  This has a lower up-front cost, but depending on how much you consume, you might end up paying a lot before the day is over.

British Colonial hilton resort pool

With ResortForADay, you'll pay a deposit at the time of booking and then have to pay the remainder of the balance once you get to the resort.  

With your pass, you'll get access to chairs and umbrellas that the resort offers. Depending on the resort, the amount of chairs will vary. Some have a lot, some few.  Shade is also a consideration, as it varies considerably from one to another.

Read moreGuide to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean shore excursion

Just like any shore excursion, there are a few things to bring along:

  • Confirmation of your reservation
  • Identification for the adults
  • Money
  • Towels
  • Accessories for your day (sunglasses, sunscreen, etc)
Warwick hotel

When you arrive to the resort, you'll need to have proof of your booking with you.  I recommend having a print out to make it simpler. Plus, the agent at the resort will likely need to take it to reference, and phones return to a lock screen often.

All resorts check your identification, and some hold onto it as a sort of collateral while you're visiting.

Once checked-in, you will be free to roam the grounds and use the resort. Almost all provide a bracelet to wear during your stay.

Margaritaville at Sea

Being that this is a hotel, there will not only be other cruise ship passengers visiting, but also resort guests. In short, the chair hog situation could be present depending on the day.

I've found depending on the resort, weather, and my mood, I love having access to both the beach and pool.

Quite often we go between the two, and then having the convenience of food and drink service makes booking a day pass worth it every time for me and my family.

Food at a Bahamas resort

I love the flexibility it provides, especially with timings. Unlike a group tour, we can arrive and depart when we're ready. This means if my kids are done early, we can hop in a taxi and go back.   Or if things are going really well, we can stay a bit longer.

Not all resorts are the same, so it's important to do your research into what you're getting with a visit.  I recommend skipping the publicity photos the resort provides and doing an internet search for the resort name to get first-hand reviews, as well as photos of the facilities.

You should also be crystal clear on what is and what is not included. Look for verbiage on the individual resort listing to understand what you'll be getting, and what you need to bring or pay extra for.

Margaritaville resort

Just like any excursion you do on your own apart from the cruise line, manage your time to avoid being late. The cruise ship will not wait for you if you're late, so take note of how long it took to get from the cruise terminal to the resort and pad extra time to return.

Ultimately, I find a resort day pass is the perfect family shore excursion for a Caribbean visit, especially if I've visited the island a few times.

I value the amenities you get with a resort pass, and greatly prefer to be able to enjoy the time at the resort on my family's schedule instead of a group visit. It's probably not the cheapest shore excursion you'll find, but I find good value in what I get.

The next time you're considering tours and nothing jumps out at you, perhaps a resort pass might be the best choice.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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