In Belize we did the Lamanai Mayan Ruins/River Cruise and LOVED IT! We booked through the cruise ship after we read reviews about it being an all day tour and we received confirmation the cruise ship will wait for tours booked through them if they are late. Sure enough, our excursion arrived after the last tender time, but yes, there was a tender waiting for us, so no problems! This excursion felt like we had 3 excursions in one. An exceptional excursion done by Ken U Belize It Guide Services. After the 20 min tender from the cruise ship, which was a boat ride with a local water taxi with seating on top (sun) and below (shade) we got onto a bus for an hour long ride. We enjoyed seeing the city, then countryside and hearing our guide (E Ken) educate us about Belize during the ride. The hour went by fast. After the bus ride, we received bottled waters and a bathroom break then boarded our jet boats. This was so much fun! The boats would stop at different locations and the guide would point out termite nests, different colorful birds, water lilly's, bats . . . and we saw 3 crocodiles! He told us the week before they saw a jaguar drinking water on the river's edge. At the Lamanai ruins, our guide took us to three different ruin areas, where you could take pictures, climb the ruins, walk around, etc. He offered good information about the history of the Mayan's, the site, etc. Since there was a lot of walking, the guide offered to those that didn't want to continue the opportunity to return to the open-air shopping area where you could browse a museum, buy a coke, shop for some local products, etc. While we were at the ruins we enjoyed the howler monkey's playing above us, jumping from tree to tree, and making their loud monkey noises! The return river trip was wonderful again. Then, lunch of Stewed Chicken, Rice/Beans, Cole Slaw and bottled fruit drinks was provided. Local beer was for sale $3. Although everyone knew we might be running late, the excursion never felt rushed and the guide assured us they kept in touch with the cruise ship to assure we would have the last tender waiting for us. Note: Although some of the buses did have facilities, ours did not. You may want to use restrooms on the ship before getting on the tender. When we arrived in port we went straight to the bus.
We did the America Cup Yacht race in the afternoon. The water taxi shuttle across the bay to the yacht was nice, and the yacht race was okay, but very short for the cost of this excursion. Beer, water and soda were offered on board. We had good winds the day we went. They then take you back via water taxi to their shop for what they said would be a rum punch winner's ceremony. There was no ceremony, the captain's did not attend, there was just some warm punch in pitchers and a shop to buy t-shirts, hats & pictures. We asked if they could take us back to the port so we could enjoy some shopping, but they declined and we had to wait for approx 45 minutes to an hour for others to finish buying hats & tshirts. They did offer that we could walk back, which would have probably been at least a 20-30 minute brisk walk in the sun. The water taxi is only 3-4 minutes and they could greatly improve this excursion by doing two water taxi trips. Overall it was a decent excursion, but very overpriced compared to other excursion values. The actual yacht race was about one hour.
Our excursion was to Tabyana Beach, but we first walked to Mahagony Bay and snorkeled and enjoyed the beach for the first hour. Lovely. We then went to our Princess booked excursion to take us to the West Bay / Tabyana Beach. What a disappointment. We read many reviews talking about this excursion and beauty of the beach, that it was one of the best in the Caribbean, the great snorkeling, etc. When we arrived after a 50 minute taxi bus ride, the guide told us everyone was required to pay him for their first snorkel (if they wanted to snorkel) and if we did anything wrong (touch the coral, etc.) we would be immediately put on a bus and returned to the ship. What?? We always bring our own snorkel gear and have snorkeled in many, many places. We absolutely appreciate the concern for corals, but not the threat. We chose this beach day to avoid a snorkel excursion and the excursion information said nothing about extra fees, required guides, etc. He then walked us to the area where they sold products and spend time talking about why we should purchase these items. After this, we walked ourselves to the beach, where a security person introduced himself. Within seconds, beach vendors began harassing us to buy different items, ask if we wanted a massage, etc. There were continually people between us and the water, and at one point, there were probably 10 people between us and the water. And they kept asking, even after we said no. We are familiar with beach vendors in our travels, and are usually not bothered by this, but this beach offered no relaxation. We picked some lounge chairs and decided to proceed with snorkeling on our own. The snorkeling was decent (not the best we have seen), and is better if you swim out a distance, but we thought Mahagony Bay snorkeling was just as good (if you swim out). They provided a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, and glasses of water or lemonade from jugs. We skipped lunch and decided we just wanted to return to Mahagony Bay, however, there were no return buses for awhile - so we had to wait. Upon returning, we heard (then read) about a shooting of a cruise individual in Coxen Hole 2 days prior, and a family that was held up at a beach (not sure which beach) a week or so prior to that. We also read that NCL Cruise line cancelled this port on their ships. Princess did not disclose this and they should have, allowing passengers to decide if they wanted to stay in the Mahogany Bay cruise area or continue with their excursions. We understand there can be safety concerns at any port, however, Princess should have communicated these recent events so each passenger could make individual decisions based on this information. The Mahogany Bay area appeared to be a for cruise ship individuals only (except security and those working in the restaurants/stores). We had to show our cruise cards a second time to get to the beach (a nice 10 minute walk from the cruise ship on an improved path with local plants/flowers, etc.). There are shops, an open-air area to buy locally made goods, restaurants, the beach, lounge chairs, etc. You can also walk to a zip-lining area, rent kayaks, etc. You can walk to the beach or take the air tram (for a fee). Although we normally enjoy exploring new countries and areas, we wish we had skipped Tabyana Beach and stayed in Mahogany Bay or taken a different excursion.