Excursions

Video: 10 Things To Do on Any Cruise Shore Excursion

In:
Category: 
20Aug2019

Regardless of what you have planned to do at the various ports your cruise ship will take you, here are ten things everyone should do to ensure a great time overall.

Royal Caribbean offers a lot of different things to do in the ports of call you will visit on your cruise, and there are definitely some "best practices" when it comes to not only having a fun time, but staying safe, informed and ready for more fun.

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So check out the video and then let us know: What are your best tips for having a great shore excursion?

Royal Caribbean launches new shore excursions for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific

In:
27Mar2019

Royal Caribbean has released over 20 new shore excursions for the South Pacific, Australia & New Zealand.

These new tours are designed to accommodate all interest levels, and include tours such as deep sea diving in Vanuatu and helicopter expeditions in New Zealand, to immersive cultural experiences in local South Pacific villages.   

New Shore Excursions include:

Rewa Village Tour and Kava Ceremony
This half-day tour begins with a leisurely drive through the city of Suva by local bus, including photo opportunities of the picturesque Suva Harbour and Lathala Bay. Guests will then arrive at local village Rewa, where they will partake in a traditional Kava ceremony with the village chief and Fijian warriors.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding
The tour starts with a stunning boat ride to Aneityum, Vanuatu’s southernmost isle. Guests will explore a crystal-clear bay brimming with tropical fish on a guided 1.5 stand up paddle boarding adventure, and unwind on the beach afterwards.

Akaroa Sea Kayaking
Guests can immerse themselves in the dramatic scenery of the Akaroa Harbour on a three-hour, small group paddling adventure in a double kayak. Home to two marine reserves, guests will be on the lookout for rare seabirds, seals and the only marine animal endemic to New Zealand, Hectors Dolphins.

Excursion review: Fly A Jet Experience Jetline Simulation Bahamas

In:
Category: 
27Mar2019

If you are one of those people looking to do something different in Nassau, Bahamas, then perhaps flying a Boeing 737 may fit into that category?

You are not flying a real plane, but rather hopping into a simulator cockpit to take the controls of a 737 airliner to see if you have "the right stuff" to take off, fly, and land the jet in the same way real-world pilots do.  I had to find out for myself if I could match up.

Description

Royal Caribbean recently added the Fly A Jet Experience Jetline Simulation Bahamas shore excursion to select Nassau cruises, where guests can book time in a 737 flight simulator and pick fly a Boeing 737-800NG from one of thousands of airports around the world.

Just like all Royal Caribbean shore excursions, you pick a time at booking and then meet your excursion staff.  Each session is one hour long. 

I met my tour on the pier as soon as I debarked my Royal Caribbean ship and to my surprise, it was just me.  The shore excursion is run by Jetline Simulation Bahamas, and they have one simulator that they can rent out at at time. 

My guide walked me to the office, which was about a 10 minute walk from the ship (it is located just past Senor Frogs and the British Colonial Hilton). Royal Caribbean says the walk is 0.2 miles over flat surfaces.

Upon arrival, I was given a choice of airports to fly to or from. I opted to pick my home airport of Orlando, Florida and fly to nearby Tampa, Florida. I did this because the flight is so short I would be able to take off and land twice.

A brief introduction tells you what to expect, as you will hop into a simulator that features the same cockpit and screens around you to mimic the real thing.  The simulator runs a popular brand of flight simulation software, Prepar3D v4 by Lockheed Martin.

You are seated in the pilot's seat, with the flight instructor as your copilot.  The flight instructors have real-world flight experience, and in my case, one indicated this was a side job for him while he worked his way up to a real pilot's license and an opportunity to fly.

The flight instructor is your guide throughout the process, and will lead you from programming the flight computer, to assisting in push back from the gate, takeoff and landing. The instructor gets a good sense of your experience and can provide as much or as little guidance as you need.

While I did two full flights, there is an option just for takeoff and landing if you want to cut out the mundane aspects of flight planning and go right to the fun.

Comments

If you have ever thought it would be fun to fly a plane, or wondered about the intricacies of flight, or are simply a geek, this is the excursion for you. Moreover, it is something completely different from the usual shore excursion options in Nassau, which involve time on a beach or water.

The staff at Jetline Simulation are incredibly helpful and fun to fly with.  They lead you along the way and help you from start to finish, allowing you to focus on the fun parts of the flight.  Some guests want to do this as a fun little distraction, while others truly want the challenge of flying an airliner like real-world pilots do. 

This excursion reminds me of a fantastic moment in Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, where Indiana Jones' father was surprised to hear his son knows how to fly an airplane.

This might shock some of you, but I am a geek and have played flight simulator video games for years. 

I know, it's shocking.  Having a fair amount of flight sim experience, I thought I would really ace the flights but having every control available, instead of a keyboard and mouse, proved to be quite the challenge.

I relished in having access to the knobs, dials and throttles found in a real airliner. The simulator cockpit is the real deal, with gentle vibrations as you turn the engines on, taxi and take-off or land. There is even recorded announcements from the flight attendants at specific intervals of flight. The only thing missing was the in-flight meal.

If you are a fellow geek, you will love this kind of an excursion.  At its heart, you are playing a video game. A very intricate and challenging video game.

If you are by no means as geeky as I, never played a flight sim game ever, this is still a great group excursion because just like an escape room, learning to kayak, or exploring a mountain, the point of the flight experience is to test your ability to match what pilots do every day.

This is also a very short shore excursion coming in at only one hour.  This is great for working in an additional shore excursion or just something to do in conjunction with walking around Nassau.

Cost: $139 per adult.

Kayak Adventure at CocoCay excursion review

In:
04Feb2019

Growing up in Florida, I’ve been canoeing a few times, but I’ve never been on a kayak before. Some of my former co-workers used to go kayaking a lot, and I thought I might enjoy that. When I saw a Kayak Adventure excursion on Coco Cay, I booked it hoping to find out if kayaking around the Florida mangroves would be something I could spend my weekends doing.

I almost don’t want to mention the start of the adventure being the very tedious tender process from ship to Coco Cay. However, I will mention it in the context of Royal Caribbean addressing this low point in the experience. Royal Caribbean is almost done with building a pier large enough to accommodate two ships simultaneously as part of the Perfect Day at Coco Cay project. I enjoyed my time on Coco Cay. Getting me on the island faster will let me enjoy it even more.

The tour group met near Coconut Willie’s at a shack set up to rent floats and lockers. I signed the waiver and rented a locker to store my towel and other belongings. Because I registered for the tour by myself, I was given a one-seat kayak while most other people on the tour were given two-seat kayaks. I would be providing all the power and all the steering on my own. After we all donned floatation vests and picked out our paddles, we got some paddling and steering instructions. Our guide also gave us tips on how to get back into the kayak if it flipped. He said with no wind out today, if someone flipped in their kayak, they were trying to flip it. We were ready to drag the kayaks off of the beach and into the water.

​​​​Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour

Now in a kayak for my first time, our tour guide led us out into the shallow water around the beach. The water was surprisingly clear. As we paddled out, we saw the grass growing out of the sandy floor. Our guide encouraged us to reach in and pick up a conch if we saw one. Some people picked up a conch shell that turned out to have a hermit crab inside. I spotted a few fish swimming in a school along with sponges.

Once we paddled out farther from shore, our guide got into the water and picked up a small starfish for the group to pass around. A short distance away, we saw a slight disturbance in the otherwise smooth water. We were told it was a shark, but a harmless one — probably a nurse shark. Our guide got back in the water after he spotted a much larger starfish. He picked that one up and passed it around. The outside felt like spiky concrete. I’m surprised the animal can move with a body so hard and seemingly inflexible like that. It was also very heavy for its size, which is probably due to it having such a dense exterior.

After getting a ways from shore, all the while still in water that could not have been more than five feet deep, our guide noticed a jellyfish in the water. I looked around and saw a couple of other jellyfish in that area. That one I didn't need to pick up; it could stay in the water. While paddling out to the undeveloped part of Coco Cay, we could see the construction equipment behind some trees that let us know this part of the island would be developed as part of the Perfect Day at Coco Cay project.

With almost no wind that day, the water was very smooth and easy to see through, except for one moment when the surface of the water started boiling. We could see little fish coming up to the surface in a frenzy. I joined a couple in a two-person kayak and one of the other solo kayakers paddling like mad out to the disturbance to get a closer look. The fish, or maybe the shark feeding underneath them, must have seen us coming. Once we got within ten feet of the rippling action, it all subsided and the water returned to calm.

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour

Approaching the southern tip of the island, we made a turn back to the shore and pulled our kayaks up onto the beach. We all got into the water and relaxed for a bit before getting back in the kayaks. On my way to shore, I spotted a sea urchin next to a rock (another creature I knew better than to pick up). While sitting in the water just a few feet from the beach, a couple of fish swam up to me and investigated the area. They were the largest fish I had seen on the tour, but even they could not have been more than eight inches long. I also spotted a striped fish about an inch and a half long staying in close proximity to the shelter of a rock with a big hole in the side. He let me get pretty close before he’d duck into the hole. Then if I stopped, he swim back out again keeping one side of his body up against the rock. If I took a step, he’d dart back into his hiding place. It was adorable and felt like something out of Finding Nemo.

After our rest, we got back into the kayaks and made our way along the shoreline back to our starting point. Our guide called out some stingrays, but they weren't near me. I might have seen the tip of a stingray’s wing, but it was so quick, it may have just been the seagrass moving. I did spot a much slower-moving creature. I looked down to see a sea cucumber plodding along a grassless patch leaving a trail of compressed sand excrement behind him.

Our final wildlife encounter was with the least predictable of all the animals in the water — the fellow resort guest. Even seeing a squadron of kayaks approaching, almost no one made any attempt to get out of the way. Two ladies in their 60’s saw me heading towards the beach, then turned their back to me and walked right into my path as I made my wobbly return to shore. I called out “sorry, I don’t really know how to steer this thing.” They looked up and took two steps to the side.

I pulled my kayak up to beach, returned my paddle and life vest, and retrieved my towel from the locker. I was pretty beat after an hour or more of paddling, and at that point I just wanted a shower. I’m glad I tried kayaking. When I return to Coco Cay, I might do some other activity so I can experience more of the resort. After the fun I had on the Kayak Adventure, I would kayak again, but I’d prefer to get a second person to join in.

When a cruise ship docks at a public port, you have the option of booking excursions through the cruise line or through an independent tour operator. Because Royal Caribbean owns and operates Coco Cay, all the excursions are organized by the cruise line. This means that the Cruise Planner is a one-stop shop for all the excursions and activities at the resort.

The Kayak Adventure on its own is $43, but it can be purchased as a Kayak Adventure and Snorkel Combo for $72. If you opt for the combo, when you check in for the Kayak Adventure, you'll be given a wristband. Show that wristband at the snorkel shack after your kayak tour, and you can pick up snorkel equipment to use for the rest of the day.

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour snorkel

Royal Caribbean Coco Cay Kayak Adventure tour

Have you been kayaking on Coco Cay? Have you done any of the other excursions on the island?

Spotted: Flight simulator shore excursion option in Nassau

In:
Category: 
17Jan2019

Royal Caribbean is offering guests a new shore excursion that allows them the chance to (virtually) fly a Boeing 737 airliner!

The Fly A Jet Experience Jetline Simulation Bahamas shore excursion is available for guests with a stop in Nassau, Bahamas.  It allows guests to feel what it is like to pilot a B737-800NG aircraft.

"Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by a professional pilot whom will then brief you on the flights controls. After which, you will be escorted on to the flight deck where you will then settle into the captain's seat. Fasten your seat belt as you prepare for takeoff. Once in cruise, enjoy a moment to admire the view as simulated vibrations and sounds deliver an authentic experience as to what it's really like to fly a modern jet airliner. Depart from your hometown airport or if looking for a challenge trying

 

Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break in Roatan review

In:
Category: 
18Dec2018

Sailing to Roatan on a cruise means you are very likely in the market for a shore excursion that brings you to one of the beautiful beaches that this island in Honduras is well known for.  If a beach day, combined with optional pool time and all the food and drink you can enjoy sound like the winning combination to you, then the Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break might just be the right choice for you.

Description

The Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break is a Royal Caribbean shore excursion that will bring you to an upscale beach resort about a half an hour away by bus from where your ship docks.

Like many Royal Caribbean shore excursions, you will meet onboard the ship and be escorted off the ship to buses that are waiting to take you directly to the resort.

On the way to the beach, a tour guide narrates the trip with information about the history, culture and traditions of Roatan.  If you have taken group tours before in the Caribbean, this should feel quite familiar.

As you arrive to Mayan Princess Resort, you are greeted with a welcome drink and then taken on a quick tour of the resort to provide an overview of the layout.

Mayan Princess Resort is a hotel resort that works with the cruise lines to offer day passes to its guests.  You have the choice of spending your time between pool area or the beach. 

The 250-foot-long Mayan pool is quite large, and offers various depths with a lovely design.  There is some seating by the pool, but it is quite limited so if you want to grab a seat, you ought to get one quickly.

Most guests spend their time by the beach, which offers a lot of seating.  Beach umbrellas or palapas are not available, but the lush vegetation around the beach means there is plenty of shade if you need it.

The beach itself is quite large and getting into the ocean was smooth enough that water shoes were not a necessity.  

Photo by Billy Hirsch

There is seating towards the back of the beach, as well as seating along the beach itself. Despite the large cruise group visiting, there was ample seating for all.

Mayan Princess offers an open bar that serves up a selection of local beer, spirits, fruit punch and soft drinks. This means waiters are happy to come around and take your drink order, or you can head to one of the bars and grab it yourself.  

Upon arrival there was a snack area for those that were already hungry.

 

Lunch is served buffet style and featured a fairly typical island barbecue menu.  There was enough variety offered to satisfy picky eaters too.  The menu features coconut chicken and fried plantains, as well as signature burgers, fish fingers and hot dogs.

Comments

In our cruising experience, group excursions to beaches have been hit or miss for us, as often the experience can be crowded with other cruise guests to the point that it is hard to overlook.  Nonetheless, Mayan Princess broke that mold and offered a relaxing day for us to enjoy.

First and foremost, I relish excursions that offer a pool and beach option.  For families, having the choice is a great equalizer for the unpredictable moods our kids can be in, and/or weather conditions. The pool was chilly, but the kids did not seem to mind and eventually we all got used to it.  As mentioned earlier, seating by the pool is limited, so if you want to sit there, grab a spot early.

The beach was lovely and provided the kind of Caribbean vibe I think most look for in a beach excursion.  There was a band playing island tunes, reasonably sized waves, cool breeze and palm trees all around.  

Photo by Billy Hirsch

It is worth noting that there were quite a few vendors that would walk up and down the beach selling goods and services.  This is not uncommon in the Caribbean, especially since the beaches are open to the public.  A simple "no thank you" and the vendors move on.

Mayan Princess includes drinks and food.  The waiter service was adequate, although not quite as regular as some other all-inclusives we have been to.  Nonetheless, the staff was friendly and the bar was never far away. The quality of drinks provided certainly met our expectations.  The lunch buffet was also pretty good, and I enjoyed the variety of food offered.  It is always a relief to see some basic fare (hot dogs or burgers) served up along side local cuisine, so no one went hungry on our visit.

Overall, Mayan Princess Resort Beach Break was a day well-spent in Roatan.  By the time it was time to leave, I think we all wish we could have had another hour or two to enjoy just a little bit more fun while there.  That is usually a sign of a good time.

Cost: $99.00 per adult or $49.00 per child. Infants are free.

El Cozumeleno Beach Resort Day Pass All Inclusive review in Cozumel, Mexico

In:
29Nov2018

One of the most popular ways to spend time in Cozumel is by going to an all-inclusive beach, and there is no shortage of choices.  So when I ran across the El Cozumeleno resort offering day passes, I had to check it out for myself.

Photo by Cruise Life Rick

El Cozumeleno is an all-inclusive resort that offers day passes for purchase, which grant access to the hotel grounds.  This includes the beach, pool, dining facilities, snorkeling, mini-golf and more.  It looks like the total package, but how would it stack up to the many other all-inclusives in Cozumel?

Description

Located on the north end of Cozumel, El Cozumeleno is not in the usual area where you find the most popular all-inclusives.  El Cozumeleno is one of many hotel resorts on the north side that cater primarily to guests who are staying in Cozumel multiple nights.

 

The resort advertises itself as offering a lot for your time and money. There is a huge selection of activities, options and ways to spend your day while on a cruise in Cozumel. Note that this is not a Royal Caribbean excursion, and can be booked via one of many third-party websites that sell day passes.

Checking in at the front desk, you are greeted with a welcome drink and explanation of what's included with your stay.  Essentially, you have access to anything a hotel guest would have, minus pool towels.

Here is exactly what is included with your day pass:

  • All food and open bar
  • Snorkel gear
  • 5 swimming pools, Jacuzzis and wading pools
  • Restaurant a la carte and buffet style right on the beach
  • Restaurant a la carte (air conditioned)
  • 5 Bars
  • Diving class in the pool
  • Mini golf & tennis court
  • Game room - pool table, table games, table tennis, table soccer
  • Fitness Center
  • Beach chairs
  • Swimming pool lounges
  • Sandy beach and great snorkel area
  • Kids club activities program in a special designed kids club
  • Wi-Fi in lobby area

As is the case with many all-inclusive resorts, you head outside and pick a few chairs to be "your spot" for the day.  There is ample seating along the beach, or in one of the pool areas. 

There are two main beach areas at El Cozumeleno, with one being primarily for enjoying the sun and surf, and the other beach used more for snorkeling (although there is plenty of seating there as well).

In addition, El Cozumeleno has a sprawling pool complex, which is also split up into two areas. The main pool is massive, with various depths and even part of the pool completely under a shaded area for those that want refuge from the sun.

There is a swim-up bar, as well as roaming waiter service.  The wait staff will consistently stop by to bring you any food or drink you would want.

If you prefer, there is a buffet restaurant between the two pools that is convenient to the beach or the pools.  

Speaking of food, there is a lot of it with a good mix of Mexican favorites and more familiar American fare.

El Cozumeleno offers programming and services beyond the usual beach and pool activities.  There is a child care facility adjacent to the pool, such as programming for all guests (Spanish language lessons, water aerobics, etc).

There is also a mini-golf course and playground near the pools.  The pools, beach and facilities mentioned are all relatively close to each other, which keeps things manageable in terms of not venturing off too far from anyone.

Comments

In my opinion, there are four components that make a great all-inclusive beach experience:

  1. Well-kept and appealing aquatic facilities
  2. Excellent waiter service
  3. Freshly made and tasty food
  4. Fair price

Having visited a number of all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel, often there is one or two of those components that a resort struggles with and it ends up dampening the experience.  I was pleasantly surprised to find El Cozumeleno bucked that trend and hit all four targets.

First and foremost, the resort is quite lovely.  It is large without feeling overwhelming, and offers plenty of space on the beach and by the pool.  Their pool facility is particularly impressive, with a large amount of space and nicely set up.  We found ample seating, both in the shade or in the sun. 

The beach offers palapas, hammocks, beach chairs and like the pool, there is lots of seating.  Between the two beaches, you should find a spot to enjoy the day.

Equally impressive was the food and service at El Cozumeleno.  We had a team of two waiters who were essentially "assigned" to our group and would regularly come around to see if we needed anything.  In my opinion, you want waiter service that is borderline annoying just so that you are not the one hunting them down to make a request. The waiter team was quite attentive and always had a smile when taking a new drink order, or bringing us our fifth order of chips and salsa.

Speaking of chips and salsa, the food came out fresh and tasted great.  Being in Mexico, I expect a certain level of authentic fare that should exceed the kind of Mexican food we can get in the United States. Their ceviche and fish tacos were excellent, along with fresh salsa.  They offer food like pizza or burgers, which were nothing special but certainly not inedible either.

After spending a day at El Cozumeleno, I believe I have found the new gold standard of all-inclusive beach days in Cozumel.  Their facility was superior to Nachi Cocum, and their service definitely equaled it.  The food offered rivaled any other all-inclusive beach in Cozumel, and I was all too willing to order multiple dishes while there.

At the time of our visit, the price was $54.99 per adult and $25.99 for children aged 3-11 years old (2 and under are free). The price mirrors most other all-inclusive beaches in Cozumel, and is an excellent value.

In short, El Cozumeleno is the best overall all-inclusive resort we have visited in Cozumel to date. Between the beach, pool, food and service, it is "the total package" and I instantly wanted to go back on a future visit to Cozumel. It offers enough for families to enjoy, while still retaining a sense of relaxation if you want to find a quiet corner of the resort.

Top 10 Family Friendly Royal Caribbean shore excursions

In:
Category: 
28Aug2018

A cruise vacation is about enjoying a family experience together, and Royal Caribbean shared its top picks for family friendly excurions in the Caribbean.

Here is the list of Royal Caribbean's favorite family friendly shore excursion options.

All Inclusive St. John Beach & Snorkel (St. Thomas)

Cruise from St. Thomas to nearby St. John and visit the stunning beach of Trunk Bay, featuring an underwater reef trail. Enjoy a narrated boat ride complete with photo stops en route to Trunk Bay — famous for its long stretches of white sand and sparkling water. Discover tropical fish and colorful coral on the snorkel trail or simply swim, sunbathe, and relax.

Caribbean Sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves (St. Thomas)

Climb aboard a schooner whose friendly crew delivers a fun day of sailing, snorkeling, swimming and beach time. Discover sea turtles, tropical fish and coral while anchored offshore in the waters of Christmas Cove. Sail on to Water Island, where you can relax on the sands of Honeymoon Beach, swim and do more snorkeling before sitting down to a freshly-prepared Caribbean BBQ served overlooking the sparkling blue sea.

5 Star Island Tour (St. Thomas)

Drink in lovely St. Thomas vistas, enjoy spectacular shopping and explore the stunning Magen's Bay Beach on a driving tour of key island landmarks. Stop at the famous Mountain Top, a local institution atop St. Peter Mountain where you can shop or enjoy the views. Then head to heart-shaped Magen's Bay Beach for two hours of sun and fun. Conclude with two more hours shopping in Main Street, downtown Charlotte Amalie.

4x4 St. Maarten and Beach Escape (St. Maarten)

Escape the crowds to discover the island’s scenery and leading sights on an adventurous 4x4 drive, with time in the French capital and on a gorgeous beach. Travel via convoy across the island, through the charming seafront town of Grand Case on route to Marigot, while stopping at scenic lookouts along the way. Enjoy free time to stroll around the quaint and atmospheric city. End your St. Maarten exploration with a refreshing swim and relaxation.

A Golden Eagle Sailaway (St. Maarten)

Walk the red carpet before boarding a catamaran for a pampered sailing excursion to an unspoiled St. Maarten beach. Keep an eye out for flying fish and dolphins as you stretch out in the nets or in the shade of the sail as the boat reaches speeds of up to 20 knots. At the beach, swim, sun, and snorkel. Recharge on the return to Philipsburg with sandwiches and cold drinks served by the friendly crew.

Maho Airplane Experience (St. Maarten)

Experience the thrill of watching, hearing and feeling a commercial airplane as it lands merely feet above you while lounging along the white sands and turquoise waters of Maho Beach. Join a friendly and informative local guide for a 35-minute narrated motor coach ride across the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Upon arrival at Maho Beach, you’ll enjoy over three hours of free time at this popular seaside locale. But beyond all those exciting activities, the most unique aspect of this beach is its proximity to Princess Juliana International Airport, as one of its runways is situated right next to the beach.

Old and New San Juan (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Fall in love with the beauty of Puerto Rico's capital as you go through a guided tour on the historical landmarks in Old and New San Juan. In New San Juan, you'll explore Condado, Isla Verde, and the picturesque residential areas. Step down the fabulous Window of the Seas where the famous Puerto Rican superstars have printed their signatures on the sidewalk resembling Hollywood Boulevard. In Old San Juan, you'll discover the Capitol Building, the 5th Centenary Plaza, and have the opportunity to choose between visiting San Cristobal Fort or the colonial shopping district.

Pirate Treasure Hunt Family Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Get ready for some swash-buckling fun as your family helps a local pirate find his way home while walking along a sweet treat-laden trail around Old San Juan that leads to El Morro fortress. Set out on foot in true buccaneer style on a guided hunt that leads you through blue cobblestone pathways amidst San Juan’s historic colonial district. Discover notable treasures along the way: stone buildings dating back to the 16th century; the marble statues of Plaza de Armas; and the Ballaja Barracks, which once housed a thousand soldiers. Along the way you’ll learn about Puerto Rico’s illustrious history and taste a variety of sugary delights in local shops — frozen yogurt, popcorn or, chocolates and churros. Outside stately El Morro, a 16th-century citadel with a storied wartime legacy, kids can fly a kite into the Puerto Rican air to celebrate the finding of the trail’s final treasure. Take in the view of San Juan Bay before making the trek back through town to your ship.

Campo Rico ATV Adventure (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Hop on an ATV for a “Ride of a lifetime”. “ Experience the thrill of driving an all-terrain vehicle through the Puerto Rican countryside just minutes from San Juan on a 2,200- acre private ranch that leads you to a plantation home, horse stables and ends at the Mojito bar. Meet our experienced guides, receive a safety briefing and get operational instruction of how to drive your ATV. Then hit the gas and follow your guide as you maneuver your 4x4 machine around mountains, mangroves, lagoons, limestone formations and tropical fields. Watch for wildlife along the trails before driving up to Mi Casa, a traditional Spanish sugarcane plantation estate home. During a short break take photos and learn the history of this working ranch. Continue your ride through the ranch stopping at the horse stables and learn the history of the “ Paso Fino “ horse. End your ride at the Mojito Bar, relax and rejuvenate in this hilltop watering hole, where you can purchase beer, mojitos and other tropical drinks.

San Juan Food and Culture Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Satisfy your tastebuds as you experience the best of Old San Juan on a small group walking tour. You’ll venture off the beaten path to discover its delicious foods, fascinating architecture, intriguing cultural traditions and bustling shopping streets of the historical neighborhood of Old San Juan. Your culinary walking tour lets you taste specialties from a variety of favorite local food establishments. You will have the opportunity to get involved in the food preparation by having an active role in some of the food served. You will also receive a coupon savings booklet which allows for additional savings in restaurants and shops throughout Old San Juan.

Excursion Focus: Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Garden

In:
Category: 
20Aug2018

If you take a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, there is a good chance your cruise will make a stop at Victoria, Canada, and the two most popular cultural tourist attractions are available to see in one tour via the cruise line.

If you do even a minimal amount of research into what to do in Victoria, you will find that Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Garden are at the top of many lists.  As a result, we thought it would make sense to take a tour to bring us to both.

Description

The Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Garden shore excursion is a bus tour that will take you from the cruise ship area and visit the two most popular spots in Victoria.

The tour bus waits just outside the area where your ship docks, although be forewarned it is a rather long walk from the ship to the buses and delays getting off the ship is not unusual.

Once on the bus, we took a guided tour to our first stop.  Throughout the bus ride, our guide provides a narration of the history of Victoria, as well as pointing out significant spots along the way.  

Our first stop was Craigdarroch Castle, which is a 19th century home built by industrialist Robert Dunsmuir in 1890, with antique furnishings and gorgeous glass fixtures. 

As you arrive, your group is greeted by one of the castle's employees who talks about the history of the home, as well as sharing some rules.  One of the more unusual rules is you cannot wear backpacks into the castle.  If you have a backpack, you must wear it on your front as a means of avoiding accidentally running into things in the house.

As you enter Craigdarroch Castle, you will walk through much of the house in a path that will take you floor by floor, upstairs and then across the home and down stairs until you exit.  Keep in mind that backtracking is difficult, so do not leave a floor until you are satisfied with what you have seen.

The home is kept in a state that is representative of what it looked like back in the late 1800s.  

Beyond the inherit beauty and grandeur of the home, Craigdarroch Castle provides a glimpse into what life was like during this era. The house features a collection of residential stained and leaded glass, period furnishings, wood paneling and carvings.

After everyone visits the castle, it is time to hop back on the bus and onto the next stop at Butchart Garden.

Upon arrival to Butchart Garden, you essentially have an hour and a half to walk the grounds and explore on your own.  

Butchart Gardens is massive, encompassing a 55-acre site that originated as a turn-of-the-century quarry site that turned into a beautification project.


There are many trails and paths to see, with the Sunken Garden being a well-known highlight.

This tour does not provide nearly enough time to see the entire breadth of the Gardens, so be prepared to prioritize what you want to see.

Once time at the Gardens is up, you re-board the bus to take you back to the port area.  On our tour, they offered to drop guests off in downtown Victoria as well.

Comments

The Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Garden bus tour covers exactly what it promised, and gives just enough time to get a sense of what each attraction offers.

The time spent at Craigdarroch Castle is sufficient to see all the rooms and get a good feel for the history and opulence of the home.  There are other tours and groups visiting at the same time you will be, so do not expect a private viewing.

As noted earlier, Butchart Garden is so massive an area that there is simply not enough time to "see it all" in the window of time you have on this tour.  The goal of this excursion is really for guests to get a sense of what Butchart Garden is all about, without committing most of the day to seeing it.  A friend was on a multi-hour tour of just Butchart Garden and remarked that he still did not have enough time to see it all.

The bus driver provides narration throughout your visit, and it is a good way of learning about the history and lifestyle of Victoria.  The narration can also serve as a means of making mental notes for places to visit on your own later in the day.

Ultimately, we booked this tour because we wanted to see both attractions without spending a bundle of time at either one.  This was our first visit to Victoria, so we wanted a "taste" of what the area has to offer.  If you are looking for an opportunity to see both Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Garden but not necessarily in-depth, this is a great tour for you.  There were a few hours left over for touring Victoria on our own, including grabbing lunch downtown.

Cost: $129 per adult, $89 per child.

Spotted: Furious Flyer ZipLine excursion in Labadee

In:
01Aug2018

Royal Caribbean is now offering a new type of zipline experience at its private destination of Labadee.

The Furious Flyer Zipline has popped up as an excursion to reserve prior to a Royal Caribbean sailing that offers guests a tandem zip line course to experience. Royal Caribbean Blog reader melski94 spotted the new option.

The excursion is described as, "Take a thrilling leap into sky-high adventure as you race head-first on a tandem zip line course that shoots you along 2,800 feet of cables dangling above the forested mountains and tropical seascapes of Labadee. Atop a launch tower in the middle of the forest you’ll meet expert trainers who will deliver a safety briefing before gearing you up with a helmet and cable harness. Then feel the adrenaline rush of flying head-first, like a soaring superhero, through a tunnel of tall trees along a zip line that opens up over craggy cliffs plunging to the bright-blue ocean below. This unforgettable flight whizzes you over Labadee’s powdery sands, crystalline seas, and coral reefs — all before touching down safely on an elevated landing deck."

There is a minimum weight of 75 pounds, and a maximum weight of 275 pounds.  Guests must also be at least 48 inches tall.

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