Port and Shore Excursions
We booked the Mi Dushi sail/snorkel through Princess. It is very highly rated and we were excited. It turned out awful. It was my first and only ship sponsored shore excursion - cattle call. There were two princess boats in port that day and from the two ships they had 50 people on this little sailboat - it was very crowded. We did a ton of waiting - waiting for the bus, waiting for the water taxi, waiting.... Finally we got going to our first place. Us and about 10 other boats with 50 people on them. We never once "sailed" all day - only motored. The first stop for snorkeling was the best - and that was not saying much at all!
The second stop was the Antilles Ship Wreak - again, us and 500 other people. Why they all did it in the same order I have no idea. So the captains were shouting at each other, fighting for tie up spaces. The ship wreak is of course in open ocean so the waves were awful. It was scary trying to get yourself all outfitted, while fighting the waves. Once I did, I looked at the wreak but it really is overrated. THEN.. The Discovery Glass Bottom Boat arrived. Well of course they wanted to drive right over the wreak - but there were hundreds of snorkelers. More shouting, cursing between captains. In fact I almost got run over by the Glass Bottom Boat. It was scary - he was so aggressive.
The last stop was TERRIBLE snorkeling - the water was FULL of floating moss stuff, very few fish, etc. It became clear that they chose this spot because it is right along a major road and the caterer brings the lunch to the road and they take their dingy out to fetch it. The food was fine.
Lastly, the music they played was sometime vulgar. One song played LOUD, REPEATED use of the F word. I found it very offensive. Some music was great - beach boys, etc. But there were lots of children on the boat and the F word was absolutely inappropriate.
In Bonaire we just took a water taxi over to Klein Bonaire. After you walk off the peir, and past the gates, there are lots of people selling tours, etc. One was a water taxi in a black/white speed boat. This ended up being a great way to go because it was WAY faster than the ferry style water taxis and they go back and forth every twenty minutes all day so we were in charge of our own time. It cost $15 for the round trip. Remember to bring water and toilet paper to the island as there are NO services whatsoever.
The snorkeling at Klein Bonaire was amazing - simply wonderful. The wind was very high that day so the waves were bad but we still enjoyed it. After the water taxi drops you off, walk way down the beach to the left (left if your are looking inland). Then you just have to drift back down to your starting point. We did it twice - totally awesome!
The shopping in Bonaire was really nice too. Lots of options.
We booked the Nature Isle Explorers Dominica Jewel tour. There were about 20 people so they used two vans. Donaldson went with one van and we went with Big Mama as the driver and Marvin as our guide. They were great.
Our first stop was Champagne Reef. It was great. Entering the water is kinda difficult because the beach is very rocky - especially if you are not in great physical condition. They do have a rope/mat etc. that is helpful. We didn't need that though and just got in. The bubbling vents are amazing, and the snorkeling in general was pretty good there.
Our second stop was Ti Tou Gorge - awesome! I brought my own life jacket and used that (I always wear it snorkeling) but they provided little flotation belts for everyone. We went all the way to the back and then climbed up the little waterfall at the end. It is a pretty amazing experience. At the end, the guides had us jump back down the waterfall - I hurt my knee. I think someone could really get hurt doing that - be careful. After we had come out, the guides got people to jump from the ridge, down into the gorge. I thought this was insane - children were doing it. I think they are playing with fire - someone is going to get really hurt. It is about at 20 foot drop - one girl really hurt her arm (massive scrapes, bleeding, etc) on her way down. Lucky it was only her arm.
The third stop was Trafalgar Falls - HEAVEN! We went first to the falls viewing platform and then straight down to the hot pools. They were heavenly! There are about 3 pools, each can hold about 10 people max. It felt wonderful!
This was my very favorite day on the whole cruise and it was all because we hired a private guide and had the time of our lives!!
We contacted Henry's Safari Tours in Grenada and I asked for a private guide and they hooked us up with a wonderful gentleman for $180. He was waiting for us in a little building/mall that you go through after you get off the boat. He had a sign with our name and we just hopped in his big van and off we went. We first went to Seven Sisters Falls. It is quite a hike! Down and up steep places, VERY muddy and messy. TAKE the walking stick they offer at the beginning of the hike. I usually hate those but it was indispensable on this hike. We were the only people on the trail - because we got going so early. When we got to the falls we had them all to ourselves. It was so romantic and fun! He just sat off to the side and we played and played. It was gorgeous. We had so much fun. My husband jumped off the second waterfall into the pool below. The guide wasn't real supportive of that but he didn't try and stop us either.
Then we took a little side trail (if you could call it a trail - it was obviously very rarely used) to Honeymoon Falls. There is one part where you have to hike through the stream, and climb UP a waterfall to get to Honeymoon Falls. We didn't swim there as the pool is very small and there were two dead trees laying in it. But it was beautiful. There is no way you could find this on your own.
On our way back out of the falls we ran into the ship sponsered shore excursion. Oh my word!! There were about 50 people (no joke) and they were going so slow it would have driven me crazy! And they were barely getting started on the hike when we were on our way out around 11am!! They weren't going to get to stay long at the pools and they would have to share them with the other 50 people! We were SO SO glad we did the private tour.
After the hike the guide took us to a little spice stand off somewhere. There are tons of these everywhere, but this one was special because the woman who owned it had all the spice trees/plants right there by her stall. She did a little presentation about the spices and then walked around and showed us all the different trees. It was fascinating to see cinnamon trees, and clove trees, and cocoa trees, and ginger plants, etc. I then bought some spices from them.
Then the driver took us back into town and I asked him to drop us off in the shopping area (there isn't much) and we walked back to the ship. It was a perfect day!
Tip #1: bring your passport or ID with you (not just your cruise card) when coming to Princess Cays. You'll need it if you want to visit the little local shops just behind the "Princess Cays" area.
Tip #2: the lunch was good but remember that it isn't open indefinitely. I think it closed around 1pm - so get it while the getting it good.
We tendered to the port which wasn't a big deal. We snorkeled in front of the beach which was pretty good - not the best, not the worst of our trip. It rained on and off while we were there so that dampered the "beach day" that Princess Cays is supposed to be. We had reserved two kayaks but they cancelled all the water sports because the winds were quite high. They refunded everyone's money for the water sport reservations. It wasn't very warm at all, air or water - it isn't that far South. Probably my favorite thing we did was take a walk farther along the beach. I found lots of sand dollars - alive and dead - along in the tide pools.
Overall it was fine, but due to the rain most everyone left early.
This sailboat tour is the top rated activity on Tripadvisor so we were excited about it. It cost us about $300 - so our most expensive excursion.
The tour through Morningstar Charters is supposed to be a sailboat ride from St. Thomas over to St. Johns, snorkeling at a few spots, and lunch. Unfortunately for us - there was no wind. It was a total freak thing - Captain Mike said he has only seen it like that 6 times overall in the last decade. So very rare. We weren't able to sail at all during the trip so it was just motoring along slowly for us. That meant we only got to go to one stop - honeymoon bay - at St. Johns. The other dissappointment was the boat. The boat pictured on their website was being painted so they took us on a smaller boat which was very run down. It is rented out to a guy to sleep in at night and he clearly doesn't take very good care of it. Captain Mike kept telling us how it was a very prestigious, old boat, but the bottom line was that it wasn't very nice.
Now, for the good stuff. Captain Mike was wonderful - kind, helpful. The lunch was fantastic. Honeymoon Bay was beautiful - I swam with turtles, took fantastic pictures.
I don't know if I'd do this again because it didn't turn out like it was supposed to because of the lack of wind. A suggestion for Morningstar Charters would be to have snacks. A suggestion if you go - take something for sea sickness if you need it.