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Old 07-09-2019, 12:28 PM
 
1,338 posts, read 3,498,090 times
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Hi,


I am taking my very first cruise in February on RC's "Mariner of the Seas" with three friends.

I have already started all the reading I can...I need to pace myself over the next 8 months haha.


I am in "charge" of suggesting one or two of the excursions we could take on the long day in Nassau.
(This is just a 4-night cruise out of Port Canaveral; stops in that private CocoCay Island and then Nassau, only one day at sea.)


None of us is interested in snorkeling or scuba or fishing or any primarily water-based activity.
I have looked at the land activities with emphasis on historic sites... but there are at least 7 or 8 of those of varying length. Some visit the same places (e.g. those "66 Steps" or the pink government buildings)
while others seem to just drive by some sites (Fort Fincastle or the Atlantis) vs. stopping at them for an extended visit.



Two of our group have been to The Atlantis and don't think it was a big whoo or worth spending more time at...again, we are not ones to get the day pass to use their water slides or whatever.



It's almost confusing how they name some of the tours -- there are "Essential Nassau", "Charm and Beauty of Nassau", "Nassau Highlights", "Nassau See & Sea", Accessible Fort Charlotte, "Educulture Junkanoo Museum," and "Explore New Providence" among others. We are all senior citizens and although we are not geezers, haha, no one wants to hike for 5 miles either.



Any suggestions from folks who recently have been on any of these RC tours is welcome! Also any "do not miss" places for lunch or dinner! We would generally prefer more "authentic" places vs. where all the tourists go, if that helps.


THANKS!
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:19 PM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,094 posts, read 19,047,678 times
Reputation: 24212
First suggestion - and the advice applies to nearly all ports no matter where you are: Don't take the ship excursion. Find a good, reliable tour group on the internet and/or cruise critic and book with them in advance. You'll have a much better experience at a much lesser price.


Second suggestion - and you won't like it: Nassau is the armpit of the Caribbean. The best thing about that port is that nearly everyone gets off the ship. That leaves you to stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities in peace and luxury.
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:48 AM
 
Location: On the Edge of the Fringe
4,891 posts, read 3,979,660 times
Reputation: 4138
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkgourmet View Post
First suggestion - and the advice applies to nearly all ports no matter where you are: Don't take the ship excursion. Find a good, reliable tour group on the internet and/or cruise critic and book with them in advance. You'll have a much better experience at a much lesser price.


Second suggestion - and you won't like it: Nassau is the armpit of the Caribbean. The best thing about that port is that nearly everyone gets off the ship. That leaves you to stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities in peace and luxury.


We hired a guide to take us on a horse and buggy ride. Then we walked a few blocks to the old church, the priest let us tour it on our own for free. Then to a shop only stopping to buy a Nassau Royale chocolate rum cake. Then back on the ship and enjoyed the absent crowds.
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:43 AM
 
Location: The Chatterdome in La La Land, CaliFUNia
38,894 posts, read 20,182,157 times
Reputation: 35922
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkgourmet View Post
First suggestion - and the advice applies to nearly all ports no matter where you are: Don't take the ship excursion. Find a good, reliable tour group on the internet and/or cruise critic and book with them in advance. You'll have a much better experience at a much lesser price.


Second suggestion - and you won't like it: Nassau is the armpit of the Caribbean. The best thing about that port is that nearly everyone gets off the ship. That leaves you to stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities in peace and luxury.
Regarding your first advice ... How do you locate those "good, reliable tour groups"? My concern is if there's a delay with getting back to the ship, the ship will only hold for those on cruise excursions versus the private ones. I actually saw this in action when some guests arrived after we were scheduled to depart Skagway in Alaska ... The ship waited for them as they were on a RCL shore excursion.
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Old 07-14-2019, 06:51 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,094 posts, read 19,047,678 times
Reputation: 24212
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chatteress View Post
Regarding your first advice ... How do you locate those "good, reliable tour groups"? My concern is if there's a delay with getting back to the ship, the ship will only hold for those on cruise excursions versus the private ones. I actually saw this in action when some guests arrived after we were scheduled to depart Skagway in Alaska ... The ship waited for them as they were on a RCL shore excursion.
Your concern about the ship leaving without you is valid. It's also why I used the words "nearly all ports."

There are definitely situations where we take the ship excursion, and wouldn't consider getting off on our own.
  • Potentially dangerous ports (like Tunisia or Cartegena in the '80's)
  • If what we want to see requires several different types of transportation, and a variety of stops. This is especially true in non-English speaking countries. Like Lake Atilan in Guatemala - required a long bus ride, then a long but beautiful boat ride. The distance and isolated area were such that the ONLY way we would go is On a ship sponsored excursion. (It was wonderful - one of my most very favorites of one-day cruise port visits.)
  • VERY short port stop times (though we wouldn't even bother with a tour).

Finding what I define as a good independent tour company requires some time and research. Cruise critic FORUMS are useful, but I always look for repeated recommendations. (And, frankly, even take those with a grain of salt; there's a lot of B.S. in those forums.). Cruise critic roll calls usually have better, more current optiins. Trip advisor is excellent IF YOU READ THE REVIEWS. The star ratings can be misleading. Sort the reviews by date, and look at the ones from the last 12-18 months.). When you come up with a company that seems reliable and is offering what you want, Google their name to find what else is out there. Finding and FB page that hasn't been updated in two years is NOT what I want to see.

By using the aforementioned Cruise Critic took calls, I've been able to organize a small group tour in my own. Renting a van and your guide for two people is cost prohibitive; finding 4-8 others to join brings the price down and is often more fun. Yes, it involves a bit of trust from ALL participants.

Ultimately, there is a very slight risk of missing the ship. BUT I'd be willing to bet big bucks that the majority of passengers left at the dock aren't from independent tours; they are people who stayed too long at the shops or in Senior Frog's. Remember: one experience where a independent tour company missed the boat is gonna produce a lot of online complaints and bad reviews, which could destroy a small business. They are very, very, very careful to avoid that!

In 30+ years of cruising, I've had some less than stellar indie tours, but none that were terrible or a waste of my money or time. I've had a few really good ship excursions, but most were disappointing.

One last word of advice: DO NOT attempt to see every single historic or tourist site in a port. Pick one or two and concentrate on those. Stop for lunch (in a non-tourist place!) and enjoy the atmosphere, the ethnic food, the fun of ordering where they barely speak English, the locals who try to converse with you. THOSE have been some of our best days in port - and certainly the most gratifying. Those memories linger far longer than the visit to some old church.
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Old 07-14-2019, 07:04 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,094 posts, read 19,047,678 times
Reputation: 24212
One additional comment: If the port stop is Nassau, I stick by my original advice. Stay on the ship.
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Old 07-14-2019, 09:24 AM
 
Location: USA
1,143 posts, read 384,556 times
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Forget booking thru the cruise line.

I did and learned the hard way, story for another time.

I did book subsequent excursions through https://www.viator.com/

They are a part of https://www.tripadvisor.com/

Enjoy your cruise.
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Old 07-14-2019, 10:25 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,094 posts, read 19,047,678 times
Reputation: 24212
Quote:
Originally Posted by FireStation46 View Post
Forget booking thru the cruise line.

I did and learned the hard way, story for another time.

I did book subsequent excursions through https://www.viator.com/

They are a part of https://www.tripadvisor.com/

Enjoy your cruise.
Viator is a tour consolidator. They do not provide tours. They just list tours and collect a commission when you book. There's nothing wrong with that, but one needs to be aware of it. And you may not know the name of the actual tour company until after you book.

It's similar to using Kayak to book a flight or hotel. It's just a list of offers and options.
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Old 07-14-2019, 12:55 PM
 
Location: The Chatterdome in La La Land, CaliFUNia
38,894 posts, read 20,182,157 times
Reputation: 35922
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkgourmet View Post
Your concern about the ship leaving without you is valid. It's also why I used the words "nearly all ports."

There are definitely situations where we take the ship excursion, and wouldn't consider getting off on our own.
  • Potentially dangerous ports (like Tunisia or Cartegena in the '80's)
  • If what we want to see requires several different types of transportation, and a variety of stops. This is especially true in non-English speaking countries. Like Lake Atilan in Guatemala - required a long bus ride, then a long but beautiful boat ride. The distance and isolated area were such that the ONLY way we would go is On a ship sponsored excursion. (It was wonderful - one of my most very favorites of one-day cruise port visits.)
  • VERY short port stop times (though we wouldn't even bother with a tour).

Finding what I define as a good independent tour company requires some time and research. Cruise critic FORUMS are useful, but I always look for repeated recommendations. (And, frankly, even take those with a grain of salt; there's a lot of B.S. in those forums.). Cruise critic roll calls usually have better, more current optiins. Trip advisor is excellent IF YOU READ THE REVIEWS. The star ratings can be misleading. Sort the reviews by date, and look at the ones from the last 12-18 months.). When you come up with a company that seems reliable and is offering what you want, Google their name to find what else is out there. Finding and FB page that hasn't been updated in two years is NOT what I want to see.

By using the aforementioned Cruise Critic took calls, I've been able to organize a small group tour in my own. Renting a van and your guide for two people is cost prohibitive; finding 4-8 others to join brings the price down and is often more fun. Yes, it involves a bit of trust from ALL participants.

Ultimately, there is a very slight risk of missing the ship. BUT I'd be willing to bet big bucks that the majority of passengers left at the dock aren't from independent tours; they are people who stayed too long at the shops or in Senior Frog's. Remember: one experience where a independent tour company missed the boat is gonna produce a lot of online complaints and bad reviews, which could destroy a small business. They are very, very, very careful to avoid that!

In 30+ years of cruising, I've had some less than stellar indie tours, but none that were terrible or a waste of my money or time. I've had a few really good ship excursions, but most were disappointing.

One last word of advice: DO NOT attempt to see every single historic or tourist site in a port. Pick one or two and concentrate on those. Stop for lunch (in a non-tourist place!) and enjoy the atmosphere, the ethnic food, the fun of ordering where they barely speak English, the locals who try to converse with you. THOSE have been some of our best days in port - and certainly the most gratifying. Those memories linger far longer than the visit to some old church.
Thank you. I cruise solo so it's more complicated trying to join a group of strangers with an independent tour operator. I've had good ship excursions but others have left me disappointed. Depending upon the port, safety factor, distance from the ship and what I really want to see/do; I sometimes find it more enjoyable to do things on my own. Again, I've learned the value to researching ports, excursions and seems more enjoyable and safe. I am going to start researching independent using your suggestions but certain ports (Caribbean, etc), I will likely stick with the cruise excursions. Except for a brief stop in Cozumel, I have never visited the Caribbean ...
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Old 07-14-2019, 12:56 PM
 
Location: The Chatterdome in La La Land, CaliFUNia
38,894 posts, read 20,182,157 times
Reputation: 35922
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkgourmet View Post
Viator is a tour consolidator. They do not provide tours. They just list tours and collect a commission when you book. There's nothing wrong with that, but one needs to be aware of it. And you may not know the name of the actual tour company until after you book.

It's similar to using Kayak to book a flight or hotel. It's just a list of offers and options.
Exactly .... I've used Viator to locate tours but I do prefer to know who the company that is actually providing the tour.
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