Port and Shore Excursions
In Belize we didn't do a tour, and if you're planning on skipping a port for excursions, that's not the one to do it. The pier has a number of shops, but they're either very high end or dollar store-type setups with very low-end souvenirs and gifts. The best part of that day was going back to the ship early to enjoy the only opportunity we had to get in the pool. I think I'd recommend doing one of the excursions there.
We did the Dolphin Swim Encounter with Lunch in Cozumel, and it was fabulous. We got to spend a lot of time in the water with the dolphins, and had several opportunities to interact with our dolphin - and even see her baby. Naturally, they take pictures of you with the dolphin and then push you to buy them and a DVD of the encounter afterwards at extremely high prices, but you should never agree to the listed price. If you hesitate, they'll keep coming up with better offers - but it's still an added expense of well over $100 you should plan on if you are even slightly tempted to get the pictures. We were impressed with the pictures and the speed at which they were available for viewing though - they have a great system set up there. There's a big area for shopping at the pier, and we did a lot of souvenir shopping there. There seemed to be a lot of stores downtown near the Dolphinaris as well, but we didn't take time for those.
Interesting rock formation, and a store of souvenirs and cheap gifts.
Good tour, but would have liked to hear more of the history.
Really just a store - you don't see a factory at all. You can try samples of the cake and the rum.
Finally our day in Grand Cayman was pouring rain, which dampened things, but the 3-hour Best of Grand Cayman tour was very interesting and had some good stops. Amusingly, we realized much of the tour focused on the locations of the US-based hotels as their best landmarks, and we would have liked to have learned more of the rich history of the island, but the visits to Hell and the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory were nice. (The cakes are actually cheaper on the boat and cheaper again in Isla Roatan, though.) The highlight was the sea turtle farm, where you get to hold a young turtle and see Sparky, the 66-year-old turtle who spawned about 50,000 offspring and is now enjoying a well-earned retirement. There's a large downtown area for shopping which was less convenient and made it harder to find places on our 'organizer scavenger hunt', but there was a lot to offer at all price ranges if you looked around. And for those hungering for a taste of home by that time, you can find many familiar fast-food outlets there, including Burger King, Dairy Queen, Subway, and KFC.
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan was our favorite port. Again, we didn't do an excursion as such, but there was a lovely little marketplace at the pier that was just two years old, and featured a lot of local products and hand-made crafts at very reasonable prices. It was a lovely place just to explore, but we also got some great finds to take home. Then we got to spend a couple of hours on a white sand beach and swim in the ocean with a soft sand bottom, which was lovely. We did pay the $12 each for the tickets for the chair lift to the beach, which was a 5-minute ride and a nice easy, scenic, way to get there - but we didn't realize until we were up in the air that we also could have walked there for free. So do the lift if you want the ride, but don't think, like we did, it's the only way to get there, which is what the excursion descriptions seemed to imply. You can also get clamshell shelters and other beach equipment there separately or as part of a ship excursion package.