Port and Shore Excursions
This port was the highlight of our trip! We booked an excursion, again through Island Marketing, Ltd., for the Lamanai Mayan ruins. This trip was fabulous, and the group we booked through was incredibly professional. We had to take a tender to port, and the experience was fairly easy thanks to Carnival's organization. We were on the first tender. When you get off the tender, you have to go through the tender area and actually leave it to get the Island Marketing's pickup area. We were a little concerned, but the locals helped us find our way (it's directly across the street from the port--not as intimidating as it sounds), and we felt completely comfortable once we got there. The trip begins with a one hr bus ride, but the ride seemed brief with our amazing guide, Easy, telling us all about Belize City. It's a poor area, but he was excited to share his culture, and the tour was interesting. Then we got onto our boat for the river cruise portion of the trip. This boat ride is not for the feint of heart--it was very fast. I felt windblown, but it was worth it. The river is beautiful, and it cuts through the middle of the jungle. We saw monkeys (the driver actually tempted them onto the boat with watermelon--really neat to see them SO close up!), lots of flowers and interesting plants, Jesus birds that walk on water, and several men fishing in little homemade boats. When we arrived at Lamanai, we had some of the best food of the trip in a picnic area. The tour price includes a chicken, rice and beans, and fruit lunch plus two drinks. Yum! The ruins themselves were incredible. It was amazing to see something so old, and to actually get to climb to the top of one of the temples. Just awe-inspiring. I would 100% recommend this tour!
Side note: Yes, this tour is very long, and you might be concerned with making it back to the ship in time. I was stressing about that until I met Easy; he definitely was focused on getting us back on time and took all my stress away. He got us back a full hour before the last tender, and we had time to do some shopping before we got on the tender. We had no worries!
We were so worn out that we almost didn't get off the ship in Costa Maya; I am so glad we did! We opted to take a short bus ride to Mahahual which is really easy to do from the port; they run buses regularly. Mahahual is the downtown area and it offers shopping, relaxing, and beach access that cannot be found at the port. We walked down to the beach first, but it wasn't great for swimming--too much seaweed. We were feeling a little discouraged, but we decided to look for other things to do instead. We found two ladies on the beach giving massages so both my husband and I got a massage together for only $20--an amazing deal and it was so nice! They did a great job and it was relaxing to have the ocean in the background. After our massages, we stopped for lunch at 100% Agave because we had read great reviews. The reviews were right--our meal was wonderful! I had the ceviche mixto (yum yum yum!) and my husband got enchiladas. We both had great margaritas while enjoying the ocean view from the 2nd floor. I can't imagine eating anywhere else in Mahahual--go here!
In Cozumel, we booked a glass bottom snorkeling excursion with Island Marketing, Ltd. The excursion lasted about two hours and visited three reefs: two shallow and one deeper. We chose this excursion because it was significantly cheaper than the similar excursions available through Carnival, and we heard great things about the snorkeling in Cozumel. We got off to a rough start; the trip was supposed to leave at 10:30, but by 11, there was still no boat at the dock. When it did arrive, we boarded and were told we were going to pick up other people at a different dock. We ended up being the only English-speakers on the tour, but the guide did a great job making us feel comfortable and attended to despite the language barrier (he at least spoke English and translated for us). The snorkeling was ok, but not as much wildlife as I expected. We were always in an area with at least 2-3 other tours though, so I think everyone had the same experience. They also provided drinks (beer, soda, water) on the way back. I would do it again, but it wasn't as exciting as we'd hoped. After the tour, we walked around downtown and grabbed some lunch. The shop owners are very persistent in their efforts to sell you stuff, but we were able to make it through without too much irritation. We ate at Pancho's Backyard mostly because their website has a coupon for free margaritas. The food was good, but the location is definitely a tourist spot and not very 'authentic.'
We booked an excursion with Victor Bodden--the Fun n Sun tour of the island plus a two hour beach stop in West Bay. Bodden was very good to work with and very professional. They are not allowed to pick you up at the port, but the short walk to the pickup area was easy to make. We walked over the hill as instructed and found several tour vans. They directed us to Bodden and we got started. I gave this tour a 4, but I think it would have been much better if not for the people we were touring with. We had a big family group on our van, and they talked the ENTIRE time about themselves. Our tour guide could not get a word in despite her attempts...not exactly what I wanted to hear on our tour. The guide did take us to some beautiful overlooks, but there was also a lot of shopping. I could've done without those stops. The tour stops at Victor Bodden's Monkey Business which was a highlight of the trip. We got to hold monkeys, parrots, lemurs...it was amazing! Then we had our beach stop at Bananarama on West Bay beach. The ocean was beautiful! We enjoyed a lunch next to the ocean and then went for a swim. There are tons of things to do (snorkeling, longboarding, boat activities...), but we decided to take it easy for the afternoon. The Fun n Sun tour definitely delivered both as promised.