Cruising without Excursions?

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Forum' started by scrappinginontario, Jun 1, 2013.

  1. scrappinginontario

    scrappinginontario DIS Veteran

    Nov 7, 2010
    We are in the early planning stages of our first ever cruise and I have so many questions!

    Have you ever cruised and not partaken in any of the excursions? The extent of my travel history is 25+ visits to WDW and visiting friends at their homes. I have never been to an island so it's hard to grasp what this will be like.

    Is it possible to enjoy a port without going on a formal excursion? My DD will be 4 (short of 5 by days) when we visit St. Thomas and St. Maarten next February. Have you ever visited either of these islands during your cruise but without going on a formal excursion? Is it possible/safe to wander around and see things and possibly shop?

    On the contrary, have you done any excursions on either of these 2 islands with a child that is under 5yo? If so, did you enjoy them and would you recommend it to me?

    We have 3 days at sea and since we haven't been to any islands I'm guessing we'll want to get off the ship and see them but just not sure how to go about this.

    Any help, suggestions, information, experiences you can share would be greatly appreciated!
  2. silence

    silence <font color=red>Missin' Mickey<br><font color=roya

    Aug 1, 2002
    I book Disney excursions as I don't want the stress of the unknown on my vacation. Plus, I don't want to be late back to the ship.

    Just got back from the Eastern last month. I did not get off the ship in St. Maarten. None of the excursions interested us. Hubby went and walked and did a little shopping though, we stayed on board and enjoyed the empty pools, spa and aqua duck.

    In St. Thomas some of us did Coral World which you might enjoy. The rest of our group did zip lining.
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  4. quentina

    quentina <font color=deeppink>The bridge has been built and

    Aug 15, 2004
    We are excursion free....have never done one. Personally, I have no interest in spending hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins (and similar). We will get off boat, look around, maybe take a cab ride and back to boat. I don't even consider eating in town....way too much already paid for food on the boat.

    I am guessing because this is our norm, it does not bother us.
  5. MikeAndNick

    MikeAndNick If you can dream it, you can do it.

    Jan 4, 2010
    We do excursions, roam the ports on our own and stay on the ship. Every port is different and we look and see what looks best for us. Some of the time we book excursions and end up canceling them on the ship because our mood changed. Do not look at ports as one way or the other but all of the above and everything can change based on a mood. That is why I love cruising. :)
  6. slowly

    slowly Crazy for DCL

    Apr 23, 2009
    Actually, port days are the best time to take advantage of the ship since most passenger are off the ship. We love it. We do take a walk around town or even taken the bus in Mexico. Not a big deal. We have done excursions as well so we have enjoyed cruises equally with or without an excursion. The pools and public areas on the ship are empty and very nice during port visits!
  7. kapoof

    kapoof DIS Veteran

    Sep 18, 2006
    we are booked for our first cruise going to nassau. i have no interest getting off the boat except at cast away cay!:)
  8. ALCooper3

    ALCooper3 Mouseketeer

    Jun 10, 2011
    We don't book excursions. We have only been to bahamas so far so i don't have any idea what is available at the ports you are visiting. For our last cruise I went online and searched for info about what there is to see and do at Nassau from various travel sites. I recommend doing this if you don't go with a disney excursion but still want to get off the ship. You might find some free or inexpensive things you would enjoy doing. Or things not available from disney.
  9. allison0523

    allison0523 Mouseketeer

    May 7, 2013
    We have been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten on RCL. We travelled with a 2 year old a couple years ago. Both islands are beautiful and you can walk around the port area at St. Thomas easily. We took a short water taxi ride to the public beach in St. Thomas and had a great time. There are shops there also and beach chairs for rent or free if you buy food/drink from the restaurants that own them. Our son loved playing in the sand and water. Then we caught the water taxi back to the boat.
    I wasn't as impressed with the port area at St. Maarten. We took a taxi to Magen's beach and had a great time. But it was a bit of a drive through the hilly terrain. Might be better to enjoy the ship there. Or maybe there is something closer to port to do.
    Either way, there are plenty of options to suit everyone. Just do some research to see what might interest your family. Have a great trip!
  10. pillow

    pillow DIS Veteran

    Mar 21, 2007
    We like doing the ports on our own. In St. Thomas, we took a cab to Magens Bay. It was beautiful - perfect beach for your little one. Then in St. Maarten, we went to Orient beach. The cab rides were not expensive. We paid for beach chairs and lunch. A cheap and inexpensive way to enjoy the islands.

  11. IBelieveInTheMagic

    IBelieveInTheMagic DIS Veteran

    Apr 24, 2009
    I definitely think it depends on the length of the cruise and the itinerary. For our 4 night Dream sailings, we only got off in Nassau enough to walk around by the ship, take a few pictures, then right back on. We wanted to spend our time enjoying the ship. On my 7 night Fantasy sailing with my Mom, we did the same - just ventured out to the ports by the ship, took a few pictures, took the tender in Grand Cayman, then right back on the ship. My Mom didn't even want to do that, but she was glad she at least did a little :) I should say - we have cruised five times prior to DCL and also prior to by DS being born and had been to several of the Caribbean ports before. We have actually never done any excursions on our DCL cruises - yet!

    In Alaska, like many others say, it's all about the ports and the excursions and the experiences. On our upcoming Alaskan cruise, we have excursions planned with DCL in every port and we are very excited about them.

    I definitely say do what you feel like doing and have a great time!

  12. cmesq61

    cmesq61 DIS Veteran

    Oct 23, 2004
    When my kids were younger, we did excursions and the kids enjoyed them. This Sept it is just us adults. Since the excursions I'd be inclined to try are not handicapped accessible and I am handicapped, we are not booking any excursions. At some ports we don't plan to get off, at others, we'll take a cab into town so we can look around and do some shopping.
  13. msd1776

    msd1776 Mouseketeer

    Dec 16, 2012
    We did a 7 day Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy. I agree.. I would go with Disney excursions just out of fear of missing the boat. anyhow, I don't think I would have missed a thing by not booking the excursions--except for now we have discovered flavored Bacardi! Big deal since we are not generally drinkers.
  14. fairfax

    fairfax DIS Veteran

    Apr 13, 2004
    In fifteen Disney cruises, we've done a total of two excursions. We like to either explore a little on our own, or in the cases of some ports (Nassau, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman) don't even get off the ship anymore.
  15. huffjoann

    huffjoann DIS Veteran

    Jun 10, 2010
    it is completely fine not to do them. We have done both. If u don't plan one, depending on the port, the shopping will be walking distance and you can stretch your legs on land a bit and take in the culture.
  16. Ellester

    Ellester DIS Veteran

    Nov 5, 2003
    Good friends just sailed on the Fantasy with the St. T/St. M itinerary. Their son is 4 (they also had their 17yo daughter and 22yo son along). They loved the Coral World excursion, they said it was perfect for all ages and really enjoyed it. They also did the "Two Flags" tour in St. Maarten and were not impressed at all. They said it was basically a bus tour of the island with a 45 minute "shopping break" in an area that had all the same stores at at the dock. They said that they should have just taken a taxi to the beach or stayed on the ship.

    We cruised on Carnival a few years ago and did not do any excursions. Our ports were Key West and Cozumel. We were with a big family group and had fun just wandering the ports.
  17. owensamo

    owensamo DIS Veteran

    Mar 19, 2002
    We've done 3 Eastern cruises and we've only done 1 formal DCL excursion (semi-sub at Coral World on St. Thomas - DD was 6, I think).

    We have booked the Butterfly Farm on St. Thomas through DCL, but they were "on your own" tickets - the main reason was the price seemed lower than purchasing them at the door, and you had guaranteed tickets for the day (they do sell out!). The butterfly farm is within easy walking distance from where the ship docks, so would be very easy to do with a small child.

    St. Thomas also has a large shopping complex at the dock area, along with some restaurants so you can easily get off and wander around and shop a bit. If you want, you can even walk into Charlotte-Amalie - it took us about 30-40 minutes with a 5 year old and no stroller the first time we did it.

    If you're interested in beaches, taxis abound at both St. Thomas and St. Martin and they will take you to whatever beach you desire. We've never done a taxi on St. Thomas, but on all 3 trips to St. Martin we've picked up a taxi outside the port (destination prices are set, so they all cost the same) to Orient Beach, hung out there for a few hours (had lunch once), then had the taxi pick us up and headed either back to the ship. There is shopping in the port area, and you can pick up a water taxi from the port to Phillipsburg as well, which has more shopping, a restaurant, and a beach.

    We've never felt unsafe in any of the areas we've visited on these islands. Both islands get a lot of revenue from cruise tourists, so it's in their best interest to keep them safe. That doesn't mean there isn't any crime, though - just pay attention to your stuff, don't carry/wear valuables, and be alert (like in any large city) and you'll be fine.

    Have a great cruise!
  18. lillykat

    lillykat DIS Veteran

    Jul 24, 2001
    I have not done a disney one yet...researching a possible future disney cruise now. I have done 15 cruises on celebrity, princess and ncl a long time ago. I have done 2 cruises on celebrity with young kids. No you do not have to take any excursions to have fun. As many have suggested you can enjoy the quiet ship, get off and wander the shops at the ports, many I know take taxis, we always return for meals I never eat off the ship. When we do decide to do more than walk around around I do book through the ship bc I know the ship won't leave without me. Less stressful. I would say if you are in st thomas that I think every cruiseline has a trip over to st John's and trunk bay. I plan to take my girls there when we make it to st thomas next. It is a ferry ride and then an open air taxi ride to the beach. If you can find a float with a viewing hole you could pull your DC along as there are plaques bc it is an underwater preserve.
  19. Thnlk

    Thnlk DIS Veteran

    Oct 25, 2010
    We probably do excursions in about half the ports. We love history and trying new things.the more cruises we do the less excursions we do.
  20. ludari

    ludari DIS Veteran

    Dec 4, 2010
    I have cruised without scheduling any excursions during a 5-night reposition cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles. I live in Los Angeles and have been to the ports many times (Vancouver, Victoria and Ensenada) so I was not interested in any of the excursions offered. I had a great time on board the ship and there was plenty of stuff to keep me busy and entertained.
  21. wl1117

    wl1117 Mouseketeer

    Jan 4, 2009
    We've done both.

    Our first cruise our eldest daughter was 17 months. We did a 4 night to the Bahama's. We did not book any excursions. We also did not really enjoy Nassau. We just wandered the shops pushing the stroller. None of the shopping really interested us, it's pretty touristy.

    Our Eastern Caribbean trip on the Fantasy, our daughters were 4 (barely) and 5 months old. On St. Maarten, we attempted to wander on our own. Our 4 year old complained and whined so much that we ended up returning to the ship shortly thereafter. While stopped in St. Thomas, we booked an excursion to St. John and it was one of our best days...because we discovered that we could book our daughter into the Clubs while we left the ship. She was thrilled to get to stay in the Clubs and our 5 month old happily went on the tour with us.

    Our Western Caribbean on the Magic, we booked a few excursions. One was a short Snuba trip, which we ended up having to cancel because I had an acute sinus infection and couldn't go underwater :-)sad2:). I was bummed about that because it was just going to be DH and I, letting the oldest stay in her beloved Club and the (then) 10 month old stay in the nursery for 2 hours.

    Our next cruise is a 3 night Bahama's trip. We won't even get off the ship in Nassau. Instead we plan on enjoying the Dream while everyone else gets off. Nice chance to ride the AquaDuck. ;)

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