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Old 11-11-2012, 02:11 PM   #1
sissy_ib
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My western Caribbean tour reviews.

I thought I would share our opinions of the excursions and port experiences we had last week. We were on the Magic so if anyone has any questions about the ship you can ask. We don't have kids so I have no idea about kid's clubs or anything related!

All of our tours were booked independently. We felt 100% safe in all ports. We only saw a few police not heavily armed military others have reported at the ports in Costa Maya and Cozumel.

Grand Cayman-We did the Island Tour and Stingray Sandbar with Native Way.
http://www.nativewaywatersports.com/index.html
We liked this well enough but I don't think I would use Native Way again. We got off the ship pretty much right away and went to find them. We knew we were early but we wanted to shop around the port and make sure we knew where to go when it was time. Eldon was very nice and told us to comeback to the spot we found him in an hour. We got back early and Sharon was there at that point and just keep saying "Your tour is at 10, did you get confused about the time? We are on Eastern time. Do you know what time it is?". This was at 9:25 when we were told to be there by 9:45. 20 minutes early is not cause for concern to me, I just wanted to be pointed to a place to sit and wait. At 10 they gathered everyone and we were off. The van we were in was kind of old and uncomfortable not the "modern" bus they have listed on the website. In the end that is not a deal breaker. The tour itself was good. Sharon did give us a lot of info about the island and the history of the Cayman Islands. She is a very loud woman however. I don't mean that in a rude way, I guess boisterous is a good word to describe her.
The turtle farm was incredible, it was my DHs favorite part of the day. Eldon gave a great tour here.
7 mile beach is beautiful but you only get a few minutes there to take a few photos. The Tortuga Rum Cake factory is also a fun stop.
The Governor's home and The Homestead are just drive by stops but still we got some good info.
Hell is more or less a gift shop but it was neat to see. It is actually quite beautiful. We sent a few postcards and got our passports stamped. Eldon again gave a great tour pointing out the local trees.

The Stingray Sandbar was awesome, of course. I was only disappointed we did not get to snorkel as that was in the description of the tour. At the time I thought I must have read it wrong, but the description says you will get to snorkel.

I give the tour a 4 out of 5. Mainly because there was no snorkeling. It was a great value though at $60 person.


Costa Maya-We toured Chacchoben with Native Choice. http://www.thenativechoice.com/index.php
I'm just going to cut and paste my Trip Adviser review for this one.

This was the most wonderful tour! I read about the Native Choice online and knew it would be the perfect tour for my husband and I to take during our cruise. We love history and this small and intimate tour spoke to me more than a large cruise ship sponsored cattle call. When I booked I was given easy to read directions and a map via email. As we got close there were guides on the street pointed us to the check in. I paid and we were asked to wait a few minutes. Within 10 minutes we were off with 4 other people from our ship. We were given cold water to drink and settled in for the hour or so drive to the ruins. Ivan sat in the back with us and talked the entire drive. He told us the history of the Mayan people, the Yucatan, and Costa Maya. We got to the ruins well before the cruise ship tours. We had time to climb the steps and take many photos with no one else around. As soon as the large tours did show up Ivan was able to guide us away from them so we were always in a small group. I know we were able to see and learn so much more with this group then had we gone with a cruise ship. There was more water available the entire time and the driver even carried umbrella for us just in-case. At the end we got out before the buses and they dropped us off right at the port entrance. I really cannot say enough good things about this tour!

Basically, it was great. I would recommend going to Chacchoben even if you go with the ship. There is a little shop at the ruins and clean restrooms. All we bought were some postcards and the organic chewing gum that is made from the trees that grow in the Yucatan.

Cozumel-We had booked SNUBA through DCL for the morning but there was high wind that day and pretty much all water excursions were canceled. We were disappointed but we made the best of it. We got off the ship and explored the shopping areas. We went to a few of the recommended stores. In Viva Mexico we bought a beautiful "Welcome" sign for my in-laws as a house warming gift. We went to the Mayan Fiesta to try the rum cake and it was so good! Way better than Tortuga and I was glad I had not purchased a large box yet. We got 6 small cakes for $28 which is cheaper than Tortuga at $32-33 for 6. They also have the "Wall of Fire" which is hot sauces and my DH got 4 different things for $12. We had lunch at Palmeras near Viva Mexico. Kind of a tourist trap but very good carne asada and I had a very strong margarita! For two entrees, a margarita and a beer it was only $34.

We walked by the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel and decided to check it out. $4 a person and it was so worth it! https://www.facebook.com/MuseoCozumel
Again, I'm going to cut and paste part of my Trip Adviser report.

We ended up here while shopping on the main street in downtown. We decided to stop in and see what the place had to offer and for $4 a person we gave it a shot. This is a very small museum and not like anything you will probably find in the U.S.. The ground floor has a room dedicated to the coral reefs, a room about the other flora and fauna of the island, an outside space dedicated to Mayan culture and a photo exhibit. The dioramas were some of the best we have ever seen. Up stairs there is a room dedicated to Mayans and ship wrecks and another to island history that held many historic photos. The artifacts in the Mayan and shipwreck room were breathtaking. These things looked like they were just picked up, washed off and placed in the museum. In the States museums only put the best looking artifacts out, these things were old and weathered. They had character. There were very few glass cases and even fewer ropes to keep you away. This place is worth a visit while you are on the island and I am so glad we stumbled upon it.

If you are looking for a good way to spend 45-60 minutes go to this museum.

And if you plan on shopping the main strip in the downtown area, get a cab for $6 to take you to the end and then just walk back hitting shops on your way. We did half the strip then went back to the ship to drop stuff off and get the shopping guide. Then I decided I wanted to hit a shop about 7 blocks down and we did not want to walk there and back again.

In the afternoon we did the tour at the Kaokao chocolate factory.
http://www.chocolateskaokao.com/
We watched a brief video about chocolate history then the demonstration began. It is not really a tour, I think demonstration is the best way to describe it. It was just my husband and I for our demonstration but the owner was so enthusiastic he could have been speaking to 100 people. We had a lot of fun learning about the history of chocolate and how it is made. We were able to sample the product in different stages and finally we were able to sample all the different kinds they make. We were given what we made with instructions on how to prepare the chocolate drink and I purchased one of almost every kind of chocolate. The tour is $10 a person, cab was $7 each way but DH just gave the guy a $10 both times. It was so worth it just to meet the owner. They sell the chocolate bars in many shops in town and if you cant get to the factory pick up one or two if you see them. They are only a dollar or so more in the shops vs the factory.

All in all this cruise was the best vacation we have ever taken. Better than our WDW/DCL honeymoon in Jan/Feb. Probably because I did more research on the ports, we already knew the ship and I was not so concerned with making it the perfect trip. We loved these ports and would be happy to go back to any of them.
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Old 11-11-2012, 02:25 PM   #2
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Thank you for these great reviews.
I was so pleased to read about the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel. I have been thinking about doing our own walking tour of downtown and had this on my to-do list. Now I definitely will!
I had read it has an open-air cafe? Did you see that?

Glad you had such a wonderful holiday!
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Old 11-11-2012, 02:35 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredgirls View Post
Thank you for these great reviews.
I was so pleased to read about the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel. I have been thinking about doing our own walking tour of downtown and had this on my to-do list. Now I definitely will!
I had read it has an open-air cafe? Did you see that?

Glad you had such a wonderful holiday!
The cafe must be what we saw upstairs. There is a door that was open and some tables outside. We didn't even to think to go out there though.
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Old 11-11-2012, 08:33 PM   #4
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Thanks so much for the reviews. Our family has booked both Native Choice in Costa Maya and the Chocolate Factory in Cozumel for our Fantasy cruise in March, so I really appreciated your review on both.
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by HaliGirl View Post
Thanks so much for the reviews. Our family has booked both Native Choice in Costa Maya and the Chocolate Factory in Cozumel for our Fantasy cruise in March, so I really appreciated your review on both.
I hope you enjoy those places as much as we did. Be sure to print out the directions to the chocolate factory that they send you for the taxi. It is getting more popular but not all the taxi drivers know about it yet.
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