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Found 11 results

  1. Hello everyone! Lots of great information on this site. Thank you to everyone for their recommendations and opinions. It's not technically our first time, but our last cruise was over 20 years ago before we had kids and boy have things changed! We weren't ready to have to choose between drink packages and specialty dining options, etc. It's really stretching our budget in ways we overlooked. We just booked on the Harmony of the Seas for July 21st. I'd like to ask thoughts on the drink packages. We would not drink enough to break even with the unlimited drinking package. I am a beer drinker with an occasional frozen drink and my wife is a wine drinker for the most part, but usually no more than 2 glasses at a meal. Also, getting all six of us the refreshment package can be a doozy too even with the discount running until tonight. Any insider tips or secrets you all would like to share in this area? I think this time around we are going to skip the Thrill Waterpark. From a budget view, the cost of this for a family of six would crush any additional excursions for the week. I believe there is still a lot to do on the island that is not so pricey. I am interested in thoughts on two of the excursions that we are looking at in St. Thomas. We have four kids... 11, 13, 15, and 19. Not worried about the 19-year-old as she goes with the flow MOST of the time. My wife is looking forward to snorkeling. We are trying to decide between the St. John's Trunk Bay Beach & Snorkel OR the Pirates of St. Thomas Sail, Snorkel, & Beach. My thought is why go to St. John's for snorkeling if you are in St. Thomas. St. Thomas was beautiful the last time I visited almost 30 years ago. Seems like a lot of time is spent in transit from one island to the other and that MAY frustrate the kids if the ride is too long. I have a horseback rider in the family and she wants to do the horseback riding on St. Maarten. Has anyone here done this one and have any feedback? If my daughter and I do the horseback riding, the rest of the family is looking to do something. Any suggestions on St. Maarten? This will be our first time on St. Maarten. Thank you in advance for any suggestions, comments, or opinions. Best, Hawkes
  2. Good Afternoon, I'm new to this board and have been reading posts the past few days. I am excited to be planning our port days and we have never been to Bonaire. We have only snorkeled a few times, so we're pretty easy to please. It's only 2 of us & we will be thisclose to 50 by the time we cruise. I'm trying to decide if we should book an excursion thru Woodwind, or if we should do one of those water taxi trips or book an excursion to No Name Beach. Any recent recommendations would be appreciated.
  3. So there are four different catamaran excursions that Royal offers while in St. Maarten, and we've narrowed it down to two based on the descriptions and the Trip Advisor ratings (both 4.5 stars with hundreds of reviews) -- The Mirabella catamaran sailing, and the Golden Eagle. But we're having a hard time figuring out what each one does exactly or if the descriptions don't reveal anything we should be aware of. It looks like the Golden Eagle trip is a bit more "upscale" and the crew pampers the guests a bit more. But if I'm reading the description and the reviews right, it only goes to one beach (which you have to swim a fair distance to reach), and all snorkeling is done at that beach. Haven't really seen if you get to see any more of the island apart from what's en route, but it looks like no. That excursion goes for four hours. The Mirabella excursion looks like it isn't as "upscale" as far as what they provide the guests, but I think it's the more interesting one in that you visit four different snorkeling spots (including one with a sunken sub and helicopter). It seems like this would be the better option, although with this one I've read that the places it visits tend to be more crowded with other cruise ships sending their own excursions to the same locations. This excursion is a little shorter at 3 1/2 hours, so I'm not sure how much actual snorkeling time you get at each spot. Has anyone here done either of these trips, where you could give some more details about the actual places you went, what the pace was like, how you were treated by the crew, etc? I'd love for the family to have something like the trip my wife and I did on our honeymoon, where it was a few spots with about 45 minutes at each to actually snorkel and look around / take underwater photos / relax and enjoy the island views. I'll be sitting on the catamaran the whole time due to my mobility issues (which pretty much make snorkeling impossible for me now), so a steady supply of mojitos / margaritas / rum punches would be welcome! I'm trying to book it this month / on the current billing cycle, so we can move on to picking another port's excursion in mid-May. Appreciate whatever feedback you can give! [EDIT] if there's another excursion of this sort that you can recommend but doesn't happen to be through Royal / has to be booked on my own, please let me know! I'm certainly open to an "external" booking if it's a better option! Especially if it avoids the crowds and gives a more private / secluded option.
  4. Was looking at the excursion offered by RC for snorkeling at Lobster City, seeing the Iguanas, and spending some time at Big French Key Beach Club. Does anyone know anything about this excursion? Is the snorkeling any good? How deep is it? I am not finding many reviews.
  5. This came up in another posting and thought I'd mention it here. It's been a long time (2006) since we did this excursion, but the company is still there. We had a great time. If you are going to Bermuda, check this. http://www.hartleybermuda.com/wp/
  6. We are taking Liberty OTS May 20-27 with stops in Roatan, Costa Maya and Cozumel. I'd like to go snorkeling in Roatan (I've heard Tabyana is great for that) and would rather avoid paying RC's inflated prices for their excursions (unless it's the only option). Has anyone gone snorkeling there without pre-planning an excursion? Or am I better off just overpaying RC or go with a 3rd-party? Suggestions? Thanks!
  7. I'm taking a page from @KLAconQueso and splitting out my review of one of our major excursions to this board, rather than making it part of my live blog. Now, I've already posted the photos from that excursion on my recent live blog; you can view them here. This entry is more to talk about the excursion and the folks who run it, how to book it and what to expect when you go. The official name for the company that runs this tour is "Soualiga Destinations", and this is also the name of their web site. But everyone who's told me about it, and the owner himself, tends to refer to just as "Capt. Bob's". They're an independent outfit and don't do bookings through Royal; everything is done directly with the owner, Capt. Bob himself. They only offer this one tour, which runs daily from 10 AM (with 9:30 checkin) to 4 PM; they expect that if you book with them, your all-aboard time is no earlier than 4:30 PM so you have enough time to walk or get a cab back to the port. In all honesty, our trip with them was back at the marina at 3:45, and I've heard other accounts that indicate 4 PM is really a buffer, and they tend to get back a bit earlier so no one misses their ship. They currently have 9 boats (having lost 3 to Hurricane Irma in 2017); the larger ones hold about 16 people, while smaller ones hold groups of 8 or 12. While all of the boats have a canopy of some sort, none of them offer full-time shade and you will definitely need to bring a lot of sunscreen for this trip and/or things to cover up with! At the time we booked in April of 2017, the price was $119 per person plus 5% tax, with a 20% deposit. Payment of the deposit is done via PayPal, and the balance is due in cash when you check in at the port. I was able to pay in full up front, as I wanted to do this for budgeting purposes, and Capt. Bob was up-front that he holds on to your money until you've arrived and taken the trip; if your ship can't make or a disaster like Irma strikes, he issues a full refund of whatever you paid. You are welcome to charter a boat for just your group, but pricing will be affected depending on how large your group is. Booking with them is done through email. The site's Contact page also lists phone numbers in the US and St. Maarten, but it's clear that email is the preferred method. I actually had a lot of questions before I booked, due to my mobility limits and concerns I had about how much I could take part, and Capt. Bob took the time to answer every one of them before I booked. He's very low-key and has no problem if you end up saying no after first contacting him. When you arrive in St. Maarten, you'll go through the port market to the main road and make a left. You'll follow the road until you see a yellow building with a cheese shop, which is where the Dock Maarten marina you embark from is located. There's a little walk-through archway on the side of the building that gives you direct access to the marina, and this is where you'll find Capt. Bob and the other boat captains who will be taking care of you. It's a fairly easy 15-minute walk, even for a moderately mobility-limited person like myself. We took a taxi to get there only because we were running a bit late and didn't want to miss check-in, and walked back to the ship afterward. Our captain that day was Bob's son Brett, and our first mate was his fiancée Laura. We were going out on the only boat that had been docked in Dock Maarten during Irma and survived (albeit banged up and in need of some minor repairs); not just the only boat of theirs, the only boat in the entire marina. Capt. Bob's other surviving boats (two that he owned himself and 7 owned by the other captains who he works with) were docked elsewhere during Irma, so they definitely did well by not pulling all of their figurative eggs in one marina-shaped basket! I'm going to take a moment here to talk about Brett and Laura, as they were just amazing hosts for this tour and we couldn't have asked for a better pair to guide us around and help make the trip memorable. I was especially grateful to them since I ended up staying on the boat almost the entire time and it was good to have someone to chat with while everyone else was in the water snorkeling or swimming. They told me (and eventually the others on our trip) their back story, and it kind of blew my mind. If you'd rather skip this part, just pass over the quote block. Now for the actual tour! Every boat that is going out leaves the marina separately, and I think each one also changes up the overall timing of the itinerary a bit to avoid overlap. Even though there are a total of nine boats, and from what I saw at least five of them were going out the day we were there, the only places we saw any other boats from Capt. Bob were at lunch and when we arrived at Maho beach towards the end of our trip. At our snorkeling and beach destinations, ours was the only boat anchored there at that time. After leaving the marina, you make your way along the coast and quickly move into another inlet. This leads to the most expensive marina on the island, where the truly wealthy dock their multi-million dollar yachts in the winter months. You get to see a lot of amazing vessels here, although when we went through there were several that were damaged (and one sunk) thanks to Irma. Your captain will tell you about the ships that are there at the time; one of them on our trip belonged to a Russian oligarch, and cost a cool $500,000,000! That is some seriously insane (and from what I've heard separately, most likely illegal / laundered) wealth on display! From the marina, you make your way through a channel and continue along the Dutch side of the island. The channel is wide enough that you speed along, seeing all the buildings built on the shoreline as well as the natural beauty of the island. Even with the devastation still visible everywhere, it was amazing. The color of the water alone will blow your mind. You'll also pass by the mansion of the French side's governor, prominently on display by itself at the top of a modest hill. At this point, you'll pass under a small drawbridge and cross to the French side of the island. You are warned that on this side the beaches are clothing-optional, but we never saw anything at any point that made us stare (or want to look away quickly). The channel opens back onto the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean not long after, and you'll continue along the coast for a bit before cross over to your first snorkeling stop, Tintemarre Island. This is a small little island with no inhabitants, and is part of a nature preserve that surrounds a lot of St. Maarten and encompasses the surrounding little islands. (islets?) The island is home to sea turtles and sting rays, both of which often keep to the sea grass under the surface of the water. For those who didn't bring their own snorkeling gear, your captain will hand out fins and also a mask with snorkel. You're instructed to hold onto these for the duration of the trip, until the last snorkeling stop is done. The mask is sprayed with some anti-fog solution so you can see clearly at all times. Those who are unfamiliar with snorkeling get about 10 minutes of instruction here, and both the captain and first mate will check that your mask is on your face correctly before you dive in to the water. Everyone is free to jump in from either the sides of the boat or from the back. You get about 45 minutes at this stop before everyone has to board again. Boarding is done through a short rail-less ladder that gets attached to the back of the ship after everyone has gone into the water. Based on my experience using this ladder at our lunch stop, it's not really something for a mobility-challenged person like myself with a lot of foot problems. The steps of the ladder tended to be a little slippery, and since it's rail-less you need to hang on to the side of the ship, or the engines, or the thick fuel hoses, or anything else that offers a grip while you're pulling yourself back up into the boat. After everyone is back on board, you go straight to your next stop – Pinel Island. This is also part of the wildlife refuge, but has a small strip of beach with umbrellas and loungers, plus a little bar / restaurant and a small gift shop selling hand-made and -painted bird feeders, wind chimes, and carved trinkets. There is a "bathroom" here, but it's really more of an outhouse; there was no running water to flush with that I could see, and there is also a warning sign outside the little cabin telling you in French and English to not put any toilet paper into the toilet! This is the only spot where you'll have access to any kind of bathroom, though, so if this just doesn't work for you then you'll need to either hold it until 4 PM, or do like the fish do. I suppose I should mention at this point that from the moment you set out from the marina, there is plenty of water and also beer to be had. Brett told us that the beer was actually cheaper to buy than the water! For our boat, we had Coors Light and a very nice French lager that I'd never had before. There were only a few bottles of that, and I only scored one of them, so the rest of the time it was Coors beer-like tap water for me! But this does make it difficult to avoid needing a restroom the entire trip! While at Pinel Island, everyone is free to swim, relax on the beach, visit the gift shop, and also enjoy lunch. While they used to do lunch in a different spot that had its own restaurant, that place was destroyed by Irma and hadn't yet been rebuilt. While I clearly smelled food cooking at the bar here, we were more or less told that we couldn't get anything to eat there; if I had to guess why, it was because on the French side they only accept Euros, not dollars, and this place didn't take credit cards. In any event, the new arrangement is for plenty of fresh-made sandwiches that are packed on the boat before you head out. These are really good and come in a nice variety – we had ham, tuna, chorizo, crab, and veggie as our options; and all were on fresh-baked mini-baguettes from one of the local bakeries on the French side. The sandwiches are served with chips and apples, and there are enough sandwiches for everyone on board to have two or even three if they want. After about an hour and a half, you head out to your second and final snorkeling stop, a large rock that juts out of the water and is named Creole Rock. This is where you will snorkel to see a wide variety of fish, octopi, and sea urchins. The latter tend to make their home on the sides of the rock, so you get a pretty strong warning to stay clear of the rock and stick to the areas marked by little buoys that let you know where the fish tend to congregate. You also have to keep to the side facing the Caribbean Sea, which is much calmer; the other side faces the Atlantic, which has much more wave action, and you'll be warned that going to that side could lead to getting smashed against the rock and the sea urchins. This stop is shorter, about 25 minutes, and then the really fast part of the trip begins. After everyone's snorkeling gear is gathered up and stowed, the captain opens up the engines and you go flying back to St. Maarten and the Dutch side of the island. It's a literal "hold onto your hat" ride, as the wind is strong enough to rip baseball caps or loose sunglasses off heads and send any loose towels or garments flying off the boat, never to be seen again. You quickly make your way to Plum Bay, where you will see the Dutch governor's home, as well as a large mansion currently owned by the 43rd President of the US. After a quick look and bit of background on that mansion, you fly off again and quickly make your way to Long Bay, site of the white villas with red tile roofs that show up in so many photos from St. Maarten. This is your final beach stop for the day, and you get another half hour or so to just relax and swim. The water is a bit deeper here and the current into the beach a lot stronger than on Pinel Island, so if you want to go to the beach you'll need to prepare for a bit of a fight back into the deeper water where the boat anchors. When this round of beach time is done, the captain opens up the engines again and you speed along the coast to Maho Beach. You don't get that close to the actual beach area, this is more about hoping to catch a plane flying close overhead. It's kind of luck of the draw here; on our outing, we had a plane pass overhead just as we arrived, with no chance to pull out a camera and get it lined up for a picture. You only spend a couple of minutes before making one last speed dash back to the marina. I'm not sure if this part is common, but there were three other boats from Capt. Bob's at Maho when we arrived, and all four of us left and once and turned that final run into a race to the finish line. It was actually really fun to see which boat would end up "winning", and everyone was hooting and hollering for their captain to the be the one to come in first. After returning to the marina, your captain will winch the boat back up part-way in its lift before you disembark. You'll be asked for a very well-deserved tip, and you'll also be advised to stop in the cheese shop that you passed on your way to the marina; here you can get a free treat by just mentioning that you were with Capt. Bob. It's normally ice cream, but in our case they had sold out and were instead giving away small caramel waffle cookies. You'll also have a chance here to buy some cheese (no Monty Python jokes, please!), made following authentic Dutch recipes and guaranteed by the owner to travel just fine for the rest of your cruise and your flight home. When we were there, they were giving samples of a really tasty Gouda that I'd have loved to buy, but I wasn't certain it would hold up to the time out of a fridge between getting off the ship and finally getting home. You'll definitely be pushing the boundaries of your all-aboard time with this trip, but it is incredibly worth it in my opinion. This was far more than any excursion we saw offered by Royal, the group size was very small and made for great snorkeling without a lot of people crowding you, and your captain and first mate are excellent tour guides. I also think they're far less expensive relative to the duration of this trip vs. anything you can book in the Cruise Planner. $119 per person for a six-hour outing is, I want to say, half the price I saw for an equivalent duration excursion on the Cruise Planner. And judging by the feedback from my wife and daughters, the snorkeling was really good and offered a lot to see. Throw in the included beverages and food, and you've got one heck of a value for this trip, even after including a good tip!
  8. Wondering if Sapphire beach or Magens bay is more recommended. The appeal of Magens being one of the top 10 in the world is appealing but we would also like access to snorkeling areas, kayaking, and beach chairs
  9. Hi! Can you rent snorkeling equipment in Coco Cay cheaper than doing the actual snorkeling excursion? Is the excursion any better than just snorkeling when you get off the ship (like do they take you to a more scenic area if you do the excursion)? I'm going with my family in a few months and we're trying to decide if we should just plan on renting equipment when we get off the ship, plan an excursion, or bring our own. Thanks!
  10. My husband & I are hoping to go snorkeling in Belize on our cruise in a few weeks but I can't decide which snorkeling option is the best & the website/reviews very vague & not any help. I've called but no one can tell me anything more either & I'm not getting a response from my e-mail they suggested I sent to the Shore Excursions department. Have any of you been on the "Barrier reef snorkel & island getaway" or the "Barrier reef snorkeling wonders" excursions? They sound pretty similar other than one has a "complementary" drink. Are they both to the same place, & if not, which would offer a better experience? Since this is literally a once in a lifetime trip, I'd like to go to the best place, but it seems like these are the only options through RCCL & from what I've read, it's best to go with their excursions from Belize because of the tendering schedule. Any recommendations are much appreciated. Thank you! :-)
  11. In April when we were on a cruise visiting Sint. Maarten we decided to go on a tour we booked before arrival on the Island. We had read good things about the tour on trip-advisor and decided to go on a snorkeling tour with the Swaliga 2 with a group of 4. When we arrived at Bobby's Marina (very close to the cruise facility) we were welcomed by the crew. Captain JP and his mate / hostess Jessica introduced themselves and after waiting for some other groups that were also going on the excursion in the same boat we left the marina around 9.30 AM. The boat was a fast motorized yellow catamaran and before we knew it we were on our way with a total of about 30 people. After about 25-30 minutes we arrived at the airport location were the boat stopped for a while so we could take pictures of the planes that were landing and arriving. After the short stop the boat headed on to the other side of the island, the French side. It was a beautiful experience floating along the beautiful beaches of the French side of the island. Around 11 AM we arrived at a location called Creole Rock where we were able to snorkel and swim in the beautiful blue waters. We stayed there for about 45 minutes before the boat left again to go to Pinel Island. We arrived at Pinel at about 12.15 and enjoyed a very good lunch at a restaurant called karabuni's which is located on Pinel Island. The options for lunch were Mahi Mahi (fish), Chicken or Ribs. Our group choose the fish and we really enjoyed it. The atmosphere on Pinel was really breathtaking. After lunch we were able to swim and snorkel in the waters around Pinel or enjoy the sun on the beach in one of the many beach chairs available. While in the water, the crew took excellent care of the passengers, there were plenty of free drinks and the boat was clean and nicely equipped. The rum-punch was the best! Also very nice was the knowledge the captain shared with the passengers by telling things about the history of the island and telling about the nature that surrounds the island. Around 2 PM the boat left again, taking the passengers to another island that was called Tintamarre. We really had the most wonderful experience there while swimming with the turtles that are living in the waters near that island. After about an hour, the boat left back to Philipsburg and dropped us of very close to the cruise facility. We really had a great day and were on time to be back on the cruise ship in time. If we ever will be on St. Maarten again, we will definitely go on the Swaliga 2 snorkeling excursion again! Because of the good experience we had on that tour, i decided to share this with other people that will be on a Royal Caribbean cruise to St. Maarten and that would love to see the Island in a special way.
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