Video: Royal Caribbean passengers explore Alaska by train


Excursion Focus: Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass


With Royal Caribbean now making regular stops on its Western Caribbean itineraries in Falmouth, Jamaica, many cruisers are looking for good excursion ideas for this port.  On our recent cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, we tried out the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass. (Link contains affiliate link, which means I get paid a finders fee, but no additional cost to you)


The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass is an excursion that is available from Resortforaday.  The day pass offers passengers access to the  Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, about 30 minutes from the Falmouth port.  There, guests have full access to the facilities including the pool, beach, food, beverages, chairs and more.

The resort is located directly on the beach and offers fantastic views and access to the ocean.  The sandy beach has lots of room with beach chairs right on the water.  There is also two pool facilities available for use.  The first pool is your generic swimming pool located near the beach and offers a fantastic view.  The Hilton recently opened a new pool facility, called the Sugar Mill Falls Water Park, which offers a pool, swim up bar, lazy river and a few water slides.

In addition, your day pass includes towels, non-motorized water sports including snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, volleyball, aerobics, and tennis.  There is also an optional transportation package that includes transfer to and from the port.


The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is a beautiful resort that is great for those looking for a beach/pool getaway while in Falmouth.  After a quick ride (25 minutes or so), you arrive at the resort where you pay the remainder of your balance (the company we booked with required only a deposit to book the package) and then you're given quick access.  We were happy to see the staff working quickly to get us onto the resort to enjoy the day.

The beach is quite nice and among all of our beach days on our Western Caribbean cruise, this beach was by far the nicest.  It was the least rocky with clear blue water and serene atmosphere.  If your idea of a beach day is enjoying a calm, picturesque view, then this is the beach for you.  There aren't any docks or water toys in the ocean, but that's okay because the nearby water park makes up for it.

The Sugar Mill Falls Water Park is really a glorified pool facility.  To call it a water park is a bit of a stretch, but it's more than just another pool.  It's one of the nicest pools we've been to and frankly, we spent most of our time here.  The pool opens up to a swim up bar, which you can get drinks for free.  There's a lazy river as well, although we found it quite difficult to navigate the lazy river while staying in your group.  There's also one large water slide and two smaller slides.  The Sugar Mill Falls Water Park really compliments the resort well and combined with the ocean access, make the perfect aquatic excursion for families.  If you want serene and calm, you have the ocean.  If you want to burn off energy and have fun, Sugar Mill Falls Water Park is for you.

Included in the price of admission is unlimited alcoholic drinks and food.  The drinks aren't top shelf liquor, but they were quite good and we found the bartenders to be rather liberal with their pouring. The staff was also quite nice and really made our stay here feel welcome.  The food wasn't anything special, however.  We found the food to be rather generic resort food and nothing great.  If you were staying here for a week, I'd be concerned but since you really only eat lunch, it's not a deal breaker but it is something to be aware of.

With the cost of the package (we paid $75 per adult), it's a little on the pricey side but acceptable.  All-inclusive beaches in Mexico are somewhat cheaper, but for Jamaica it's in line with other all-inclusive beaches we've been to at other ports.  Like any all-inclusive, the cost makes more sense if you're looking to have a lot to drink.  But even with people in our group that didn't drink, we really enjoyed our time at the resort and if you consider you'll spend about five hours or so at the resort, the price per hour is cheaper than most excursions you can find.

Location: P.O. Box 999 Montego Bay, Jamaica

Website: Resortforaday

Cost: $75 per adult or $55 per child (Age 4-17).  Optional transfer included increases price to $90 & $70 respectively.

Three Royal Caribbean excursions named in top 50 excursion list


The Telegraph listed the top 50 cruise excursions that "you would struggle to do alone or which could be difficult or expensive to organize".  Three from the list are offered by Royal Caribbean.

19. Horseback ride and swim, Jamaica
The fun starts after a rather tame ride, when you change into a swimming costume and remount the horse, now bareback, for the swim. The horses really do swim; you have to hang on to stop floating away. £68 for three and a half hours.

20. Amazing secret river, Cozumel
Join a guide for an exploration of a subterranean world filled with stalactites and stalagmites. You'll walk, wade or swim around the 600-metre route. £62 for eight hours. Minimum age six. 

46. Elephant safari ride, Bali
You'll be taken to the Elephant Safari Park at Taro for a ride through the forest on one of these gentle giants. The tour ends with a splash at the park's bathing lake. £84 for about seven and a half hours. 

Brilliance of the Seas to offer on-shore excursions to Dubailand


If you're going on a cruise aboard the Brilliance of the Seas, which visits Dubai, there's a new excursion option to check out.  Royal Caribbean has reached an agreement with Dubailand to allow guests to visit  The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence and key attractions at Dubailand.

The deal marks the second cruise season that Royal Caribbean and Dubai Properties Group (DPG) have woked together to make this an option for cruisers.

The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence is a lifestyle, shopping and leisure destination known for its stunning beach-side setting. The diversity of food, beverage, entertainment and cultural offerings has made The Walk at JBR a must-see for tourists.

Other key destinations in DUBAILAND® will also be promoted in Royal Caribbean's pre and post cruise tour land packages, as well as on-shore excursion programs. These attractions include Dubai Autodrome in MotorCity, Dubai Outlet Mall in Outlet City, The Global Village, and Dubai Sports City which features the Els Club, the Butch Harmon School of Golf and the Cricket Stadium. These projects currently receive millions of visitors annually, and add further variety to Dubai's tourism offering by providing visitors with exciting entertainment options and value for money.

From January 24 through April 9, Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas will offer seven night cruises that vist destinations in the Arabian Gulf area.  In addition, Royal Caribbean has added new 12 night itineraries that include stops in India as well. 

"We are delighted to resume the extremely successful marketing alliance between these two strong brands which has allowed thousands of visitors to experience our popular DPG designations last season," said Khalid Al Malik, CEO, Dubai Properties Group.

Rama Rebbapragada, Regional Vice President of Royal Caribbean International, said: "We hope to replicate the success of our full capacity 2010 sailings, and are thrilled that our new 12-night itinerary has received a huge amount of interest from key global source markets including the UK, North America and Germany."

Excursion Focus: Playa Palancar


Beautiful beaches in Cozumel Mexico are seemingly a dime a dozen, but every beach offers something a little different and Playa Palancar on the leeward side of the Cozumel island offers beach goers a secluded white sand beach for those who are looking for a simple beach retreat.


Playa Palancar is located on the leeward (bay side) side of the island of Cozumel.  It features a white sand beach, adorned by beach chairs and palapas.  The beach features a full service bar and restaurant that will deliver food and beverages to beachgoers. There is also services offered on the beach such as massages.

The ocean offerings are clear blue water with a simple and small floating dock to sunbathe on and/or dive into the water from.  Unlike other beaches, Playa Palancar doesn't offer a lot of water toys.  Rather, they focus on customers looking for a relaxing day at the beach.

There are other options available for an additional fee, such as snorkeling and parasailing.


Playa Palancar is perfect for those looking for a quiet beach and don't care or want the water toys that other area beaches offer.  That isn't to say that Playa Palancar is perfect for those looking for an adults only beach, but it given its lack of water toys, there's sure to be less kids than other beaches with those sort of offerings.

While the beach is white sand, we did find the area of the water closest to the shore to be rather rocky.  It isn't rocky enough to need water shoes, but it is rocky nonetheless and isn't ideal.  Interestingly enough, you will not find many lounge chairs, but the ones you do find, are all in direct sunlight.  There aren't any beach chairs that have umbrellas or palapas to shade yourself from the sun.  The palapas and umbrellas are located to the rear of the beach and cover the tables and plastic chairs that are good for eating under, but those looking to sit out by the water with some shade will be out of luck.

Access to the beach is free, but the restaurant and bar servers will hound you for orders.  They aren't pushy, in fact, they speak good English and are courteous, but they will stop by often to see if you need anything. Speaking of the food, the prices here are a little expensive for Mexico but good for America.  So you'll find most entrees in the $10 range and drinks costing around $5.  We hear the fish tacos are very good, but haven't tried them ourselves.


Location: 15 miles south of San Miguel Parque National Palancar Cozumel 77600 Mexico


Cost: $0 + additional cost for activities and food

Excursion Focus: Maya Chan Beach


If you're looking for an all-inclusive beach resort in Costa Maya where you can feel like a king (or queen), Maya Chan Beach Resort is the place to go check out.


Maya Chan Beach Resort is a private all-inclusive beach resort located in minutes south of Puerto Costa Maya in Mexico.  This resort limits the amount of guests on any given day to about 40, to ensure a private and secluded feel to the beach.  Guests are picked up at the port and driven by bus to the resort.  Once there, guests are escorted individually to their spot on the beach, which can feature amenities such as palapas, couches and lounge chairs.

In addition to the beach, included in the price for the day are access to water toys such as bikes, snorkels, kayaks and water floaties.  Moreover, guests are provided with a freshly cooked buffet lunch and unlimited alcoholic drinks.  Internet is also available for free.


Beautiful beaches in Mexico are a dime a dozen, but what makes Maya Chan Beach so great is the personal attention to detail the resort's staff provides their guests.  The included drinks are top shelf liquor and flow freely.  All too often I've been to all inclusive resorts where the staff is stingy with the drinks, but not here.  Staff regularly walk around offering to bring you drinks as well as complimentary snacks such as local fruit.

Lunch is served buffet style and comprised of fajitas that are all cooked freshly that day.  We found the food offered here to be the best Mexican food we had in all of Mexico.

In the end, it's the amazing customer service that won us over.  It's hard to describe just how accommodating everyone here was.  The staff speak very good English (most are American ex-pats, while others are Mexicans with very good English) and there is nothing here that they seemingly wont do for you.  

Location: K.M. 6.5 Carretera Majahual-XcalacSouth just after K.M.6.5.Majahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77940


Cost: $46 + $10 transportation

Excursion Focus: Paradise Beach in Cozumel


A favorite of many who visit Cozumel is the beach resort known as Paradise Beach, located 5 miles south from the International Cruise Ship Pier in Cozumel.  This beach excursion offers lots of activities both in and out of the water.


Paradise Beach is a private beach that actually costs nothing to enter the beach.  You can arrive at the beach by taxi or your own vehicle and sit on the sand for no fee.  Most guests opt to rent a lounge chair for just $2.  You'll notice in the water a lot of stuff to do, such as giant inflatable toys to climb, jump and dive off of.  For $12 per person, you can have unlimited use of the trampoline, 14 ft. climbing iceberg, full snorkel gear, floating mats & kayaks, 10ft water slide, a Jungle Joe floating multi-tiered climbing structure and the Rockit circular water rocker, paddle boards or bounce on our spacewalker bungee.  

In addition to fun in the water, there's also a beach bar and restaurant offering lots of drinks and a menu to choose from.  There's also massages available on the beach.


Paradise Beach is a great option for families.  The cost for a chair and then the activity wristband comes out to $14 per person and considering that provides all day access, it's a good value.  For kids and those who want to have fun in the water beyond just swimming, there's no beating the giant inflatable water toys that are provided.  They are a lot of fun and provide a fun option for those who want to expel a lot of energy.  

The snorkeling at Paradise Beach is good, but you'll need to swim out past the toys to see much as people swimming and playing closer to shore wont show much.  The beach itself is well kept and offers some great options.  Paradise Beach probably isn't for someone looking for a quiet and relaxing beach getaway.  It's ideal for those who want to be at the beach but still have a lot to do while there.

Location: Carretera Costera Sur Km 14.5, 77600 Cozumel, QROO, Mexico


Cost: $0 for admission. $2 for chairs. $12 for water toys.

Cruising 101: Choosing Excursions


Once you have your cruise booked, you're going to want to figure out what you want to do when your ship stops at various ports of call.  There's a multitude of options available with different costs.

Types of Excursions

There are many type of excursions.  Some are simple, such as transportation to and from a local beach.  Others are complex and can last many hours.  It's hard to generalize the various types of excursions that all ports can encompass but here are the most common types of excursions.

  • Beach trip
  • Animal interactions
  • Guided tour
  • Snorkeling/Scuba

Length of Excursion

Each excursion requires a set amount of time.  Some are short, others allow you to be flexible and some will consume the entire time you are in port.  It's important to figure out what your priority is.  If you'd like to do multiple things in port, like go to the beach, do some shopping and visit a local point of interest, you're best not picking an excursion that takes up multiple hours.  On the other hand, if the port doesn't interest you much, you could do fine with an excursion that last much of the day.


You can flip through a list of excursions easily enough and highlight a dozen or so that sound interesting but money isn't an unlimited resource for most of us, so you have to be picky.  The cost of an excursion can range from less than $20 per person to well over $100 per person.  

While not always the case, sometimes it can be cheaper to book an excursion by yourself rather than use the cruise line.  

Booking on your own vs. cruise line

The cruise you're on will provide a lengthy list of excursions to buy at all of the ports you are stopping at.  There are some advantages to booking with the cruise line...

  • Convenience: By booking with the cruise line, you can book it quite easily without much hassle.
  • No-dock refund: If for some reason your ship doesn't dock at a port, you aren't on the hook to pay for the excursion still.
  • Safety: Generally, excursions booked through the cruise ship are done with reputable third parties.  These operators are screened ahead of time by the cruise line and should be safe to use.

Booking an excursion on your own has its own set of benefits...

  • Price: Often, you can save money by booking an excursion on your own since you are cutting out the cruise line as the middle man. 
  • Wider selection: By booking on your own, you can find many more options of things to do at port.

Ultimately, the decision may come down to individual excursions and comparing your options.  What works for one person in one port may not work for another.  

Researching excursions

At first glance, all the excursions look like great options but you're smart to do your homework on them.  It's not to say you won't have a good time on them, but there could be a pitfall you aren't seeing or perhaps there are better options out there for you.

The best places to find information on excursions is from other people.  Popular sites like CruiseCritic have forums on ports of call where you can search through reports of other people's past experiences on excursions or post your own question.  Also, a Google search for the excursion can reveal more helpful information.

How to book

On Royal Caribbean, you can start booking shore excursions online up to 4 days before your sail date. Alaska Cruisetour land excursions can be reserved online up to 10 days prior to the start date of your Alaska Cruisetour.  After those time periods, you will have to book the excursion on the ship.  

Once you know what excursion you want to take, you should book it as soon as possible to ensure it does not sell out.