Port and Shore Excursions
Bannister Island - BIG MISTAKE
We booked through the ship for this one.....the private island (Bannister Island) beach break. The line for the tender took 20 minutes, once on pier, we met our group and boarded another boat for another 25 minute boat ride. The island is small, there was some trash on the beach, very rough sand, lots of crushed shells. I expect that there are alot of foot injuries. Sun searchers were available to use and there was a small roped off area for you to enjoy swimming. The burgers were cooked on the beach and cost 7 each, beer and drink prices were the same as on the boat. Very few dining options. No music, no activities out side of kayaks, no snorkel gear unless you brought your own. Those that did snorkel did not see many fish. Wait staff seemed bored and not very helpful. Total tour time, including boat trip was 4 hours. Was glad to leave. On the other hand, talked to some folks who booked a tour as they went off the tender and ended up at a private island that was gorgeous, white sand, etc...for 50/person. Explore the options. I would not do this particular tour again. The island almost reminded me of an abandoned resort without the hotel....broken buildings, poor beach, etc... Would love to go back and try Belize again.
Paradise Beach Resort
We love Mexico, so the review is biased. Port was loaded with shopping, the usual Mexican "junk". We headed straight to the taxi stands (10 minute wait). Prices were published so no haggling over cost. Paradise beach is a resort without the hotel and a 10 minute cab ride ($13). I highly recommend this for older couples, young singles, newly weds and any age kids with families. The charge was $2 per person to use the facilities. This included the beach chair and pool. For an additional 10 you got to use the "equipment". This included inflatables slides and trampolines anchored off shore, snorkel equipment, rafts, bungee toys, kayaks, life vests and other things I am sure I missed. In retrospect, my husband and I didn't need to spend the extra 10 on each of ourselves, but lesson learned. There is a huge fresh water pool, heated in winter, pool and beach side food and beverage service, life guard in the water. Beautiful, clean, well maintained beach, 4-5 star resort quality pool with marble pool deck. Food was as good as on the ship, prices about the same for drinks (actually a little cheaper). They have a web site that doesn't do this place justice. We arrived at about 1015 and were able to get a chair very easily. Others who arrived after 1pm had more difficulty. My daughter and I did para sailing which was set right off a pier on the beach. $100 for the two of us for 15-20 minutes...about what I have paid in other areas, maybe a little cheaper. We headed back to boat for a 430 departure. At 330 the line was very long to get back on board, took about 25 minutes....probably just poor timing on our part.
Final note about this resort, we saw the cruise director, all of his staff, the skating team and many of the dancers enjoying a few hours off at this beach. So if the ships crew is going there, that should be recommendation enough...oh, and free wi-fi for those skype calls!
I booked a driver for the day with Victor Bodden (check him out on trip adviser). We disembarked at 9am (this took about 20 minutes), followed signs for independent operators found his booth. At that point we were introduced to our driver for the day and had a mini van to ourselves. Cost was 25 per person...much cheaper than anything the ship was offering. We wanted a brief island tour, monkey farm, beach and scuba. He took us around the island for about an hour, highlighted some history and interesting facts. Took us to a gift shop (which we should have opted out of) and then to the monkey farm. I was the only one who wanted to see this, and Mom won. Everyone ended up loving it. Cost was 5/person and well worth it. It is actually run by the owner of the tour operator. From there we went to the West End. Our driver dropped us at about 11 and said he would return at about 230 to make it back to the ship for the 430 departure. It appears that each restaurant has its own little beach club. All appeared similar and I can not even recall which we were at. But it was lovey. Cost was about 7/person, I think. We got beach chairs and wait service on the beach. Water and sand was gorgeous. There was a little shack of a dive shop about 300 feet down the beach. My husband and 11 year old opted for the intro to scuba (100/person)and got a 30 minute basic lesson in 6 foot of water and then a dive which was suppose to be 20 minutes and ended up being 45. The 11 year old (a swim team member) went to a depth of about 25 and my husband to 35. He said the guides were great, professional and the experience was a bargain. It was the highlight of the trip for both of them. The 7 year old and I spend 2.5 hours on our own swimming, playing, eating fresh lobster and enjoying local beverages. Costs were reasonable but not basement pricing. (4 beers, 2 mai tais, lobster, calamari, burgers, shrimp - $100.) We didn't really do any shopping, but loved the quiet laid back island. Would do this tour over the beach break that the ship offers....so much more benefit and a lot less cost. (the driver informed us that when carnival came into port, they offered the owner of the company a contract....carnival would charge 99/person for the tour we did and give the owner $11!!!!! Support the locals!)