If you've never been to the Caribbean, or are visiting a new set of islands, the abundance of optional cruise activities in port can be overwhelming. Do you go lazy with a beach day, get wet with a snorkel trip, pump up the adrenaline with a zipline canopy tour or get dirty on an ATV? However, there are a few Caribbean cruise activities you can cross right off your to-do list because -- while they might sound great at first glance -- they're not worth your time or money.
Here are 8 overrated activities you might encounter during Caribbean cruises that you can easily skip. Of course, before booking any tours or setting your heart on a specific activity, make sure you’re up to speed on your cruise line’s COVID-19 shore excursion policy as well as any local requirements for the countries you’re visiting. Your group’s vaccination status, mask mandates and other factors will determine how you can spend your time ashore.
Glass-bottom boat tours and "submarine" rides have lots of potential. You can see sea life up close even if you can’t snorkel or dive. But the reality is that many of glass-bottom tours cram too many people abord without shade and mediocre views through cloudy glass. Many operators have increased private boat tours due to COVID-19, these crowd-free experiences can easily cost $1,000 or more. Check reviews before you sign up for a glass-bottom boat ride -- otherwise you'll find yourself on a Caribbean tour that is totally overrated.
Looking for a souvenir from your Caribbean or Bahamas cruise? Unless you want the same souvenir available in any beachy tourist destination, you likely won't find it at the Nassau straw market -- or any straw market, for that matter. These markets might sound like a hyper-local experience supporting native islanders, but they generally sell an abundance of airport-style souvenirs that you really don't want to take home.
Senor Frogs Bahamas, Senior Frogs Cancun, Senor Frogs Aruba -- the kitschy Mexican-themed bar is ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, ripe with the smell of cheap alcohol and bad decisions. The same goes for any other chain bar-restaurant. Not only are you experiencing anything far from local, but you're also likely to either encounter or act like a rowdy frat boy or the stereotypical American tourist. There’s also the risk that you’ll puke and/or miss the ship because you're too sloshed to notice the time. In the COVID-19 area, it’s important to note that these places aren’t always the most social distancing-friendly, which can put you at risk for testing positive aboard your ship. Stick to your ship’s drink plan for a safer, shameless way to tie one on. (Although if you can't resist, here's what to expect).
On an international cruise, duty free doesn’t always give you the best price. With plenty of options online and in stores back home to find low alcohol prices, you are no longer guaranteed to score a fabulous deal on booze bought in a Caribbean port. You might not find cheap diamonds either -- especially when you factor in the taxes you might have to pay on jewelry brought back into the U.S.
If you love to shop and are looking for souvenirs or an unusual piece you wouldn't find at home, go for it. But if you're spending a beautiful Caribbean day indoors trying to bargain hunt, duty-free shopping is just not worth your time.
Related: Duty-Free Shopping on Cruises
Why pay the markup for a cruise-sponsored day at the beach, when you could probably walk or take a cab to one for much less? Large families and groups -- generally as long as everyone is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 -- might be better off making their own arrangements to spend the day sun worshipping and frolicking in the sea. You’ll also find smaller crowds at less-visited beaches in Aruba, St. Lucia, and Puerto Rico, to name a few.
Some Cruise Critic readers complain that on excursions, transportation to the beach isn't always the best -- and sometimes the beach isn't that great either. If you're interested in a beach break, compare cruise line prices and inclusions with local resort day pass options and cab fare to nearby hidden beaches.
We agree that it's pretty cool to try out a Segway, but the thrill wears off quickly if you're not riding the two-wheeled scooter anywhere particularly interesting (such as down the tourist- and vendor-packed main drag of Mahahual, Mexico). You will also spend the first part of the tour watching safety videos, putting on safety gear and practicing in a parking lot or other not-particularly-scenic locale. And if it's particularly hot, all that padding is going to get sweaty and uncomfortable pretty quickly.
On a port call to Jamaica, you could be doing amazing things like climbing Dunn's River Falls or ziplining through the jungle. Why spend your time sitting still in the hot sun while someone tortures your sensitive scalp by putting tiny braids in your hair? (Or, even worse, hanging around while someone braids your child's hair You might look cool on that cruise, but when you come back home we guarantee you'll pull those braids out quickly.
With the hefty prices of these tours, you might ask yourself, “How long does parasailing last?” You'll pay a lot for just a few minutes of air time, and the rush wears off after about 30 seconds. Plus, you'll spend most of your tour time sitting in the speedboat while other tour participants get harnessed up and take their turn parasailing. On a more serious note, strong winds and faulty parasailing equipment have led to accidents, injuries and deaths.
Updated December 21, 2021