Five Tips to Cruising the Western Caribbean – Mexico, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica, the fun islands.
Most people are motivated by price and cruise line when booking a cruise, which is essential. But I got to tell you unless you are fiercely loyal to one cruise line, you should always look at the Itinerary first and foremost unless you don’t care where your cruise goes as long as you are on a cruise.
Five tips to Cruising the Western Caribbean –
- The Itinerary, where your chosen Itinerary is going or not going?
- What do you like to do ashore, take a tour, explore on your own, hit the beach, shop until you drop, or enjoy the ship when everyone has gone off into port. Depending on what you like to do during port days will affect your cruise.
- Are you a big shopper? Each port is different, avoid the tourist traps.
- The ship’s docking times are sometimes not advertised online.
- Docking locations, not always obvious when booking a cruise.
Why is the Itinerary so important? Sometimes cruise ships don’t go anywhere exciting because they market the destinations heavily, but the main attraction ports are only docked for half a day or docked miles away from the central part. Here are five tips for cruising in the Western Caribbean.
TIP 1. What are the actual ports on the cruise?
Something to look out for when you book your cruise based on the ports of call. Let’s start with embarkation day. Most ships depart for the Western Caribbean Itinerary from Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Miami, New Orleans, Galveston, or Houston. All great embarkation ports and provide fun things to do if you wanted to add a pre or post-cruise day. So far, so good. Then, look into the ports of call in the Western Caribbean. Itineraries, including Cozumel, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Roatan, Honduras, Belize, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. Some ports are more fun/interesting than others, so spend a little time looking into the actual schedule.
TIP 2. Ask yourself, what are you looking for on your cruise? Tours, shopping, Cruise ship experience, or the beaches?
Mexico – The Mayan ruins at Tulum and farther inland at Chichen Itza are impressive.
The reefs of Belize and Grand Cayman offer the best diving and snorkeling in the region.
Jamaica, One Love Bus Bar Crawl. Dunn’s River Falls and Montego Bay Zipline Canopy is excellent.
You might want to hit the Beaches.
- Look for a cruise visiting Roatan, Honduras, but beware, there are two docks in Roatan Coxen Hole, the central city on Roatan, located 2 miles west of Mahogany Bay. Mahogany Bay, the new cruise center beside Mahogany Bay beach, is used by Carnival and its brands, including Princess and Holland America. Mahogany Bay docking locations are all about the beach and the activities.
- Grand Cayman has a 7-mile beach, but if you have a short day here and your ship tenders, you won’t have much time on the beach, so you need a full day in port to enjoy this gorgeous beach. Please bear in mind that the taxis are more like minibusses and won’t take you to the beach until the minibus is full. Perhaps you can organize a group of 12 guests and jump in a minibus taxi quicker; you can also really negotiate the trip’s price.
- Then, of course, Jamaica has some stunning beaches. James Bond Beach—also known as Laughing Waters Beach and Roaring River Beach—is a beach that sits on a small peninsula at Oracabessa Bay, about 10 miles from Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast. The beach has brightly painted changing rooms, a water sports center, a bar, and a restaurant. It is surrounded by crystal clear water on three sides, and the mountains of St Mary reach straight down to the sea, a sight which serves as the beach’s backdrop. In Jamaica, you’re better off taking an organized tour to a resort, which of course includes the beach.
TIP 3 What about Shopping in the Western Caribbean. Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel are top-notch.
- Grand Cayman, nicknamed Brand Cayman, is the number one destination for high-end exclusive brands, all Tax and Duty-Free.
- Over the years, Jamaica has upped its game and provide several luxury shopping locations depending on where you dock.
- If you are docked in Ocho Rios, you can head over to Island Village, where you will find Margaritaville.
- Falmouth; then, you are off the gangway into Falmouth Pier shops.
- If you are in Montego Bay, then it’s Shoppes at Rose Hall. There is the Hop on Hop off the bus click here for the latest reviews; not such a great service, so I would recommend taking a taxi there and taxi back; there are a couple of stops along the way so that you can have a couple of hours on a beach before or after your shopping spree.
Cozumel is also a hot spot for shopping; again, it depends on where your ship docks; there are three ship piers.
- Punta Langosta Pier is in the core of downtown. The stores closest to the coast and primarily at the Punta Langosta Pier are some of the best shopping, cafes, and bars. If you dock at Punta Langosta, downtown San Miguel is straightforward to walk.
- If you dock at International Pier, downtown San Miguel is about a 30-45-minute walk. Since it can get sweltering en route, most guests will take a taxi into town. Make sure you ask your taxi driver to drop you at Forum Shops.
- If you dock at Puerto Maya pier, there are some shopping, bars, and restaurants. If you want to go into San Miguel, take a taxi and ask the taxi driver to drop you at Forum Shops #1b on this map.
TIP 4. The time your ships are docked in port.
- The time a Cruiseship is scheduled in port is the biggest surprise to cruise ship passengers.
- Imagine it-you’re super excited about the ports of call, not realizing that out of the three or four ports advertised for a seven-night cruise, the ship is only docked half a day.
- One of those days, the ship docks at 7 am; who gets up at 5:30 / 6:00 am to get off a ship on vacation?
- Only to find that you have to back on board at 1 pm. Don’t forget you also need to be back on board 30 mins before their Embarkation time; you have to cue for the tender 30 mins before that; you will need to get in the Tender cue at 12 noon
- Let’s say you are tendering in Grand Cayman, which means you have to wait for a tender to take you ashore. The process for tendering can be very long
- All the guests meet in the theatre at different times, guests on ships organized tours take priority, and they are tendered off the ship first to make their tour departure time
- So if the ship docks at 7 am, if you are exploring on your own, you might not be able to get off the ship until 8 am, then it takes around 20 – 30 mins for the crew to help all the guests get on board the tender boats
- 20 – 30 mins for the tender boat to sail to the tender pier ashore, the crew the other end to help the guests disembark, so let’s say that is 9:00 am you are finally ashore to hit the beach, go shopping or explore on your own
- Following this, if you want to go to the beach you have to take a local taxi, let’s say there are three or four other mega-ships in town. Cruisers will need to cue to get your taxi; maybe arriving on the beach by 10:00 am, then guess what you have to get back to the ship at 12:30 am
- You will need to start to make your way back in a taxi by 11:00 am so you can get back to the port, join the cue by 12 noon and be back onboard by 12:30 pm. Phew, that is stressful!
- In my experience, these half or short port days are so the guests who have booked tours through the ship can take their tours.
- Guests are back on board for an afternoon sea day.
- So really, it’s unlikely that you had a chance to explore the port of call.
- Always check the docking times and, if you can, the docking locations.
TIP 5. Another biggie, your ship is docked nowhere near the port.
Not only do you have to deal with tendering, but you have also tendered far away from the downtown area, where you want to be. The cruise line provides a shuttle bus, which is excellent and necessary, but this all takes up your precious time when you could be on a beach, shopping, or exploring.
SUMMARY – If you are booking online, check the following –
- The Itinerary, do you like the ports advertised?
- Ensure the cruise itinerary lines up with what you want to do ashore, touring, beach, shopping, or exploring.
- Are you a big shopper? Do you like the shopping that is available on this particular cruise?
- Investigate the ship’s docking times, often not advertised online.
- Research the ships docking locations, not always obvious when booking a cruise.
I would love to hear your cruise stories. Please email me Melissa Davis Hello@CruiseShopSave.com.
From Cruise Shop Save. If you miss the Western Caribbean ports as much as we are, you can check out this charity called www.Supportaport.com, select your favorite Western Caribbean port and donate. All the proceeds will help those affected negatively about receiving no tourism for the summer of 2020. Alternatively, you can go to Cruise Shop Save and shop for beautiful Caribbean inspired jewelry that reminds you of the Western Caribbean, and we will donate 5% of all the proceeds to @Supportaport.