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Home > Member Reviews > WeirDave's Port Reviews of Roatan, Belize City, Costa Maya, Cozumel

WeirDave's Port Reviews of Roatan, Belize City, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Norwegian Dawn cruise in March 2014
Member Name: WeirDave
Cruise Date: March 2014
Embarkation: Tampa
Destination: Western Caribbean
Member Review: WeirDave's Norwegian Dawn Review
Snorkeling Rating: Not Rated

Let me preface by saying that I never take cruise ship excursions because I don't want to be part of a massive amount of people herding along. I also prefer to utilize the local talent as much as possible in order to feed the local economy.
When we arrived at Roatan, it was a little confusing attempting to locate where we needed to be to start this tour. You will need to exit the port gates and your guide will be waiting for you with a sign right outside those gates. We were greeted by the owner of this company himself Herbert. A younger gentleman who was born and raised locally, Herbert has a wonderful smile and a personality that puts you at ease immediately. We were delighted to discover that my wife and I were literally the only couple that had signed up for most of the tour we had booked! In light of this Herbert decided to use his personal car as our "tour vehicle". Along the ride to the countryside we were provided many options and asked several questions in which he gauged what would be the most appropriate and exciting things for us to see and do on our tour. This part of the excursion felt a lot like a best friend picking you up and showing you the city that he lives in for the first time.

Online I had booked the tour as a snorkel and sightseeing tour. In the end this simple explanation really did no justice to the excursion that we experienced. Herbert's entire family seem to be in the tourism business in some way. Our first stop was to "see the iguanas". We arrived at Arch's Iguana and Marine Park where there were several tour buses/vans. We would later learn and meet Herbert's cousin who owns and runs this place. We were treated like family while there and really had an incredible experience interacting with the large amount of iguanas found on this property. We were even able to feed the iguanas! On the back half of this property which sits on the water is a pier with a fenced off "Marine Park" in which they have large fish like tarpon and snook as well as a barracuda. There are also seabirds like pelicans. Living in Florida, we found these to be all too common and made short work of this part of the tour. On her way back from the pier we stopped off at the monkey cages and took a couple of pictures of them. We were introduced to some of Herbert's relatives and shared a Coke with them discussing how the iguana city got started. It's a pretty cool story and worthy of you asking.

Next was a drive again through the countryside with a small pit stop at his aunt's house where he checked on another relatives tour group to see if they wanted to possibly snorkel with us. We met them at the family-run "Marina". They have several different kinds of boats including some fishing vessels. There is a restroom here and a place to change into your suit if necessary. Be certain to either wear a shirt or completely cover yourself with sunscreen! Even though the lifejackets are full vest style jackets, you can still get sunburned through the cracks, trust me I unfortunately know. The boat that we were taken out on was quite nice and compared to other boats we saw with other tour groups it was incredibly nice. The canopy covers the entire length of the boat shielding you from the blasting sun but still allowing you to enjoy the seabreeze as you skate along to the snorkel location. We chose to do both the reef and the Lobster City.

We were accompanied on our trip with three women from three generations of a Japanese family from Houston. The mother did not swim very well and Herbert made her feel very comfortable by accompanying her for the beginning of the snorkel adventure. The water is a little rougher out here, but fortunately I always bring our sea snorkels and masks as I prefer to wear something I'm comfortable in. Herbert supplied the ladies with snorkels and masks and purposely chose snorkels that were "dry" as a result of the wind that we had and he supplied us with fins. Although he stated that the lifejackets were optional, he did suggest that it would be better to wear them. Personally, I always wear my lifejacket when snorkeling because I find it takes a lot less effort to maneuver around and in shallower water gives me the ability to glide over coral that I would have to avoid otherwise.

I found the reef snorkel adventure to be very cool for a couple of reasons. First, the coral here is very healthy and extremely colorful in some locations. Second, the water has a beautiful blue palette of colors especially near the drop off. We were able to see down to the wildlife with no problems. The coral is located at about 12 to 18 feet below the surface. We started approximately 50 to 100 yards away from the drop off. I was able to swim off to the drop off and take some really neat pictures. I highly recommend bringing an underwater camera even if it's a disposable one so that you can take pictures of the things that you see. At the reef, we saw many fish and even a very large moray eel (6 to 7 feet in length). Unfortunately in my excitement I didn't get a very good picture of it but it was still very cool to see. As a diver I always find that snorkeling at any reef with the coral at this depth, to be irritating, because I want to dive down and get closer to the reef. However, my craving for getting up close and personal was satisfied on our next snorkel in the Marine Park started by his family called Lobster City. The Marine Park is located in just 4 feet of water or less so great care is needed to ensure that the coral does not get destroyed by people standing up on top of it. Herbert did a good job of explaining to our group how it is important to maintain swimming until you reach the sandy areas if you need to stand. This water is crystal clear. In this area we saw many more fish, huge lobsters, sea urchins and even a barracuda! Having the variety of snorkeling sites was truly delightful. Along the way Herbert takes pictures with his go Pro camera and he will email you those pictures to download after your adventure. The pictures that we received back were really incredible! They are crystal-clear shots of us in action while snorkeling. For us, they were a great supplement to the pictures that I took with my underwater camera.

After the snorkeling adventure we changed again and we asked if we could be dropped off at some place for lunch. We were looking to eat at a local restaurant not a tourist location and Herbert suggested a family owned restaurant not far from where we were. For six dollars, my wife got an entire fish and a huge plate of beans and rice as well as a drink. I found it extremely cool to be able to not only help his family out but also to experience lunch like a local. After lunch Herbert took us to "The View" is really just a location at the top of the mountain where locals have set up stands much like a flea market. You can pick up all sorts of trinkets here if you'd like. The view is quite nice and I was able to get some good panorama shots. Afterwards, Herbert drove us back to our ship and dropped us off inside the gates right at the entrance to the building. We were able to get a security guard to take our picture with him which was very cool as well.

Overall I'd have to say that this is one of my favorite sightseeing excursions I've ever taken. With local flavor that feels more like a friendship and less like a moneymaking venture, Roatan Ocean Adventures makes the top of my list for things to do in the Roatan Bay Islands!

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Belize City
Lamanai Mayan Ruins Rating: Not Rated
Getting There Is Half the Fun!
I found this company online after searching for excursions. It would seem they handle excursions in several different ports of call and handle huge variety of excursions as well. They seem to operate as a fairly well oiled machine with a few minor hiccups here and there.
We chose Lamanai for a couple of reasons. First, as far as Mayan sites go, this is a rather large one. On the website they list that there are 800 structures at this location. I will tell you that only 10% of the entire site has been excavated so really it's more like a half a dozen that you can see but it's still incredibly cool.
Since Belize is a tendered city the port is pretty well secured with buildings surrounding a "mall" of sorts on the waterside. You must get through this area and exit in order to find your tour guide. People are generally friendly and we were able to ask for directions along the way. When we met up with our guide (Wentworth), he took us in a small van along a road for about fifteen minutes where we stopped along the side of the road to board a large school bus type vehicle and begin our actual tour. Our guide was a local born and raised in Belize and was able to field a wide variety of questions after giving his initial speech regarding the tour. He seemed very versed and gave clear and concise answers. He also provided us with information on the local language and some of the customs. The bus itself isn't too bad. The air conditioning worked okay not great but it seemed fine for this adventure. The roads in Belize are not nearly the quality of the roads in Mexico. So be prepared for a rather bumpy ride.

We traveled for about an hour and arrived at a very large complex situated on the river. Once there we were provided with an authentic Belizean lunch which consisted of "mystery meat" (chicken) that was fall off the bone good! We were also given traditional beans and rice which are made with coconut milk and a slice of plantain. To wash it all down you had your choice of bottled water or Real Coke made with local sugarcane. It was incredible! The chicken was so good that we ended up getting the recipe and buying the spice to make it at home. After lunch you can use the restroom/facilities and then we boarded the boat. There is a tourist police officer that accompanies you. The boats that this location uses are far superior to other tours we saw along the river. Our boat was a fiberglass construction with a canopy that covered the entire length of the boat. It also had much more powerful engines and we were able to actually pass other tours along the way. The boat ride itself besides the speed is also informative. We learned about locals living along the river and we were even able to stop and see some insect bats or Hermosa bats. Pulling up alongside of the tree that they were on by the bank our guide splashed water on them and they scattered like a Scooby Doo adventure! The boat ride is actually quite pleasant because of the speeds involved providing you with an ample breeze to keep cool. When we arrived at the site there were several other boats there as well. Taking a survey ours was definitely the best boat.

Although the facilities are scarce at this archaeological site, there is a restroom and three "huts" that have souvenirs for sale. There is also a small museum that you will definitely want to check out as it contains the "city stone". This stone not only contains the King that was ruling when the site was created but it also contains the name of the site. This is one of the very few Mayan sites in the world is actually named from the Mayans themselves as most of the sites had been robbed and record of the name of the site destroyed or removed. The stone is quite large and you should take note of the picture of the King. Judge for yourself whether or not he may be wearing some sort of breathing apparatus or jewelry as some of the nonbelievers state.

If you listen carefully you can hear howler monkeys and toucans in the trees. The jungle provides a good amount of shade for most of this adventure however you will still need sunscreen around the temples. The tallest temple is called the "Lag Temple" is about 125 feet to the top and it is incredibly steep. I do not recommend it for people who are "balance challenged" or frightened of heights. There is a rope to aid you with going up or down but you can manage to do without it as I did as long as your surefooted. I was able to take some pretty spectacular panoramas from the top of this Temple it's truly a breathtaking and amazing view.

After the ruins tour, you basically do the whole thing in reverse boat to the boat ramp and then hop back on the bus for a trip straight to the cruise port this time. Along the way our guide gave more information on the historical aspects of the ruins and told some funny antidotes as well. Remember to bring cash to tip with as there really isn't anywhere for you to get some along the way. Overall this is quite a nice day's adventure and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical and cultural informational tour's.

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Costa Maya
Dzibanche Ruins Rating: Not Rated
A Real Treat!
If you paid attention to the email that got sent back to you after you sign up for this excursion you will notice that includes a map of directions on how to get to the offices to start your tour. If you didn't print that or you didn't study the map then like me, locating the office will prove to be slightly challenging as you have to exit the entire "port city" and travel a few city blocks down to the Native Choice Office. When you're leaving the ship it seems like quite a distance, partially because of the unknown and partially because there's nothing out there as most of the outlying areas were destroyed by the hurricanes we were told. Thankfully the center median of the road contains trees which allow for shade as you make the trek. It's fairly easy to figure out where you need to be as you come up on it as there are several vans lined up along the road. It appeared that they do about a half a dozen excursions from this location.
Arriving at the offices, we checked it in at the counter and used the restroom. We sat on the bench and waited for other people that were in our tour to arrive each tour is marked by a specific color armband. For our tour we had lime green. While waiting they offered us cold bottled water to drink. There were six other people besides us on this tour. That's it literally eight of us! It became a private tour instantly. Apparently to one of the other ruin locations there were sixty busloads of people. In addition, when we arrived at the ruin site there was only one other individual there besides us! Not only was this great from a tour perspective, meaning it was easy to be able to hear our guide speaking even while we strolled slightly away to take pictures, but the pictures we got were Amazing! It's truly cool to be able to go to a site like this and take pictures of the architectural buildings and have no human present in the shot. One thing in particular makes this site stand out amongst other sites I've been to and that is that you can actually see preserved carvings in the original stucco. It will blow you away. Also, because we were a small group, we actually got to visit a couple of smaller sites located nearby as well. Frine and our driver Edgar were very accommodating. We stopped to and from the site at a gas station and we could use the restroom and buy a snack if we wished. Frine, being a local, was very informative outside of the general scope of the ruins providing us with a cultural insight that was interesting as well. Our tour was capped off by a deviant stop at a local "beverage Mart" that was basically a small block building with bars on the front that served ice cold beer. It was a welcomed treat. It was very nice to be dropped off right at the port gate when we returned to the cruise port. We even had a few minutes to shop for souvenirs before we had to board.

Overall because of the small parties involved this is truly an amazing tour. It's personal it's real and it's informative. Everything one would hope for on an excursion of this type. I would recommend checking it out the next time you dock at Costa Maya.

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Island Tour Rating: 5.0 out of 5+

We rented a car locally then headed out to drive the island. We checked out quite a bit on our own including eating on the "other side". We also snorkeled on the other side in a wonderful spot that had the reef 10 feet out. It was filled with marine life and was AMAZING!

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