April 23, 2014

Swimming with sharks, stingrays and sea turtles...oh my!!!

ship excursion | Shark Encounter | Ocho Rios, Jamaica | Flying Dutchmen Travel
As a first-time cruiser I didn't know what to expect regarding shore excursions or how to plan them. My friend, Kristi, and I researched the heck out of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman Island and Cozumel, Mexico which were the ports-of-call for our Caribbean cruise. On one hand we could save a few dollars and plan our own excursions or just walk around near the port. However, we quickly found out that walking
around on your own, hiring taxis and private excursions are not necessarily safe nor less expensive than the shore excursions offered by our travel agent. Also, if something should happen and we didn't get back to the ship on time it would sail with or without us. For various reasons cruise ships MUST sail on time or face hefty fines. In addition the prices charged by our travel agent, Flying Dutchmen Travel, were very competitive.  There were a large variety of shore excursions from which to choose. Most of them ranged from $70 to $125 (kids' tickets are less) per person but you could also choose those that were more, or less, expensive than that. I appreciated that not only were the individual prices listed but also that there were detailed descriptions, rated by level of physical difficulty and whether drinks and/or meals were included in the price. BTW, the price of the shore excursion also includes the cost of the Tender (the boat that takes you from the ship to the shore).

In the end the decision was easy. My friend, Kristi, and I booked three shore excursions each through Flying Dutchmen Travel:
ship excursion | Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica | Flying Dutchmen Travel
In Jamaica we started by taking a bus to the shark and stingray encounter.  We had already been told that we'd be getting in the water with these creatures so we were already dressed in our bathing suits and water sandals. Although we weren't allowed to take photos ourselves we did buy the CD that they had made of our visit. I'm really glad we did. I cherish those memories and couldn't have taken anywhere near as many or as good of photos. After getting safety tips we got to hold, and then swim, with sharks and later with stingrays (their stingers were already removed). Amazing experience! 

Next we were taken to the Dunns River Falls. It was a little crowded but that didn't diminish the fun at all. We were REALLY glad that we had paid for a guide because he showed us not only how to climb the falls safely but also some unique little spots we wouldn't have seen otherwise.  Our guide offered to hold our camera not only to keep it dry but also to take pictures of my friends and I.  We got some terrific pictures and, of course, tipped him well. It was really worth it.* 

As we wandered the trails near the shark encounter area we met a man who raised an iguana which are, apparently, common in the Caribbean. He let my friends and I hold the large and beautiful aqua blue/green iguana and have our photo taken with him as well as his pet snake.*

ship excursion | Iguana | Ocho Rios, Jamaica | Flying Dutchmen Travel
Our next port-of-call was Grand Cayman Island. Kristi and I thoroughly enjoyed the sea turtle farm, learning about the sanctuary and getting to hold baby sea turtles. On the same property were aviaries of exotic birds, iguanas sunning themselves in the trees, a small beach and lake where you could snorkel with fish and sea turtles and a restaurant with killer exotic drinks. Later we visited the Rum Cake Factory before returning to the ship. What a fantastic day!

Our last port-of-call was Cozumel, Mexico. Visiting the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum was such an amazing experience. We agreed that the tour wouldn't have been anywhere near as interesting if we hadn't had such a knowledgeable tour guide. He was very well versed in the Mayan history, Mayan people, the details and nuances of Tulum and it's architecture.

ship excursion | Tulum, Mayan City, Mexico | Flying Dutchmen Travel
I wouldn't have appreciated it anywhere near as much if I had gone on my own. The advanced knowledge of this culture was truly amazing.

There were a number of people from our cruise who were traveling by themselves but quickly joined in on the group fun. Most people who travel on a cruise are very friendly.  It's so easy to meet others when you are sharing a similar experience.  I still keep in touch with some of my new acquaintances today.

*For more pictures of my shore excursions, sea turtle, shark and stingray encounters visit http://www.pinterest.com/fdtravel/travel-community-board. Feel free to share your own travel pins on this board.
Want to get-away to the Caribbean and swim with dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and more? The upcoming Wine, Dine and Music Cruise is for you. Book soon for best choice of cabins. Visit http://winedineandmusiccruise.com for more details. 


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