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Hi All, I'm a newcomer to this forum and am hoping to get some suggestions for shore excursions on our fast-approaching (2/24/19) cruise out of San Juan on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas visiting St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Maarten. We have not been to any of the islands before, except St. Maarten (where we stayed at a private home years ago, swam in pool, and went to nearby beach). My husband and I (late 60s and late 50s) tend to enjoy shore excursions ranging anywhere from moderate physical activity tours (e.g., kayaking) to culture/history tours (e.g., narrated tours), to beautifully scenic drives, to simply lounging on a beach. On the last cruise we took out of Baltimore (Carnival), we did two excursions-- kayaking through mangroves and a small group sailboat tour with snorkeling and lunch. We enjoyed both, but particularly enjoyed the small group sailboat trip which had about only 15 people on it ... it was so relaxing, the snorkeling was beautiful, and the staff, very helpful. As I booked this cruise only two days ago, I unfortunately haven't had tons of time to research shore excursions. I've looked at some on the RC site (...but not been particularly wowed) and some on TripAdvisor (I love the fact that I can look at reviews and get first-hand accounts to see whether it's worth doing or not). Today, my cruise agent suggested this blog, which I am thrilled to learn about! At this point though, if I'm being perfectly candid, my head is starting to swim with information and thwarting my progress on excursion decisions. That said, I'd just love to get any suggestions from folks who have first hand experience to share. We're not averse to RC excursions, but again I wasn't wowed by anything I saw skimming the website. Also, one thing I really don't care for regarding excursions is feeling like I'm one of (way too) many people being herded along on an excursion. I much prefer smaller group stuff (but am certainly open to big groups if a specific tour is reco'd). Another note, I realize that going with non-RC tours does run the risk of delays/missing ship departures, etc., but if an excursion is well run and recommended, non-RC is fine with us. Looking at the Trip Advisor site, some of the excursions that looked interesting were: St. Kitts: Catamaran & Snorkeling Antigua: 1) Lobster Lunch to Bird & Maiden Island, 2) Reef Rider Self Drive Boat & Snorkeling St. Lucia: Tet Paul "Stairway to Heaven" Tour Barbados: 1) Turtle swim & snorkeling, 2) Catamaran & Snorkeling St. Maarten: 1) Eco Snorkeling, 2) Speed Boat and Snorkeling As you can tell, the above list is sports-skewed as I didn't find any culture/history/scenic wonder sorts of tours that looked particularly compelling. But we are interested in those topics as well, so if you do have specific reco's for tours in those areas (as well as sports, beach, etc. tours), I'd greatly appreciate hearing about them. Thank you most kindly for any suggestions/feedback you might have regarding excursions in any one or more of the above ports.
I had some questions about two of the excursion options on St. Kitts. I'm hoping some here have done one or both of these and can offer their feedback. First, my wife is really looking forward to is the Dolphin Experience on St. Kitts. We saw after looking at the list of available excursions that there are actually four different options for this: A bare-bones, ride the boat and look at the dolphins without getting in the water trip, for fairly cheap A get-in-the-water option, where you'll be at standing depth and the dolphins come to you, for about double the cost of the first one A swim option, where you're in the water but also get to grab a dolphin's dorsal fin and "ride" on it out into the water and back, for considerably more An "I wanna be the SeaWorld performer" option, where you get all of the above and have two highly trained dolphins push you through the water by your feet until you're hydrofoiling and inevitably lose your balance and face-plant into the salty brine, for those with more money than sense (or concern for the dolphins' welfare) If anyone has done one of these, please help confirm my suspicion that all four are really the same excursion that everyone gets on at once, and you just get a band indicating what level you paid for. Reason being that while we'd all like to go and see dolphins as a family, my wife and maybe one of my girls would like to do the second option, while I (mobility limited) and my other daughter would just as soon ride out on the boat and stay there, me possibly sipping a spiked fruity beverage. If everyone has to choose the same level at time of purchase, we'll either skip it entirely or I'll let my wife and one daughter do that while the other one and I find something else in the same time slot. I guess a related question around this is: Is it worth it? St. Maarten also offers a dolphin experience (although the window for that shore day is from 7 AM to 5 PM, vs. 9 to 6 in St. Kitts, and may not work as well). We've also heard that these excursions involve animals that may not have been treated very well, and we'd rather not participate in something that directly or indirectly promotes animal cruelty. The second excursion, which I am really interested in, is the "Rail and Sail", where you start off riding the historic train through the sugar fields and forests of St. Kitts, followed by a trip on a catamaran around the far side of the island. But the description notes that people doing that trip have to be able to walk into the water and climb a ladder onto the catamaran. For context, I've had about six major and minor surgeries on my right foot, which among other things have fused the ankle, heel, and shin on that, along with making my right leg nearly an inch shorter than my left. I have to wear a modified shoe to level out my walk, and going barefoot is possible, but only for about the length to cross a room or walk down a short hallway (like bed to bathroom). Climbing something like a pool ladder is basically impossible for me now from the pain that would cause due to strain on my achilles tendon in a foot that doesn't flex or bend and trying to lift myself on those narrow metal rungs. But I've seen some videos of people doing snorkeling trips on catamarans, and it seems like the "ladder" they use to get into and out of the water is really more of a stairway, with wider rungs you climb diagonally instead of straight up. If that was the case, and I can carry my sneakers with me to put on as soon as I'm on the ship, I think I could manage. If not, I can at least do the train by itself and maybe follow that up with some other activity in town before boarding the ship again. And St. Maarten has two different schooner sailings that I'm also keen on, so I don't feel like I'd be missing out if I couldn't do the catamaran part on St. Kitts. If anyone has been on this particular excursion and can let me know how easy or hard it was to get on the catamaran, that would be a huge help. It kind of goes without saying, but beaches are no longer my friend due to the unstable footing, and trying to walk onto one and cross half of it in search of a lounger or cabana to sit in isn't really high on my list of preferred things to do. I know the rest of my family wants some beach time, but I figure when they do that I'll find something else. Unless there is a nice chair and umbrella with tropical drinks just off the sidewalk. Then maybe. ;)