Arriving at Montego Bay was by a beautiful low inflight over the water to land at the airport. The paperwork for transit via Jamaica to the ship took some time and the terminal was hot and sweaty - until the coaches showed up and started ... Read More
Arriving at Montego Bay was by a beautiful low inflight over the water to land at the airport. The paperwork for transit via Jamaica to the ship took some time and the terminal was hot and sweaty - until the coaches showed up and started transferring the passengers to the cruise ship. Be sure to bring a pen with you for when you are queuing! We had wondered if it would be possible to go out somewhere to a beach for a couple of hours before going to the ship for its departure at 8pm, but by the time we had arrived after the 10 hour flight we did not have the initial enthusiasm to go anywhere else than the ship! Plus we were unsure how safe it would be to go around the port area/find a beach with our hand luggage in tow...
The room was really nice with adequate space for two. It was a little dusty on the surfaces but that was soon sorted out the following day - changeover day is always busy for the hardworking cabin attendants!
Cuba was a fantastic stop for us - cruise terminal is right in old town, it takes minutes to disembark the ship and you can walk around freely and safely (but must take out your passport with you) and fill in a visa form. You can exchange money right in the terminal and there is another exchange place just outside the terminal in the big square. There are also the odd ATM that we spotted in the outskirts of old town. We thought we would walk on our own and then find some agency where we could book an American car tour, but that was not really the set up there because as we entered deeper into Havana, there was no sign of tourist agencies that you might think could be there....it seems that if you don't want to book something through Thomson you can probably negotiate for it right outside the terminal be it American car trips, cart and horse, or walking tours.
So we walked all the way to Revolution Square, had a trip up the lift to the watch tower with amazing views over Havana - then took a little 3 seater to Hotel Nationale, where we booked tickets for the show Le Parisien. The ships tour also goes there, which includes transport but we decided to do it ourselves with taxis. We got one welcome drink included in the price, but I would say not to eat there.....My personal view of the show was this is was good to hear the music and see some of the costumes but it was not very professionally done, nor did it have much of a story to it ....I would probably recommend that you skip the two costume shows (the other one Tropicana is more expensive) and get tickets for the Bueno Vista Social Club instead....We managed to get a American car tour ourselves by catching a driver that had just dropped off some other passengers - so we got to see a little of the larger Havana area which was nice and by this time we were also tired from all the walking so it was great to see the town in style and rest our feet!
Next stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Here we had decided to rent a car ourselves as there is only one road around the island. This was fine - we found a local agency that closed at 7pm (the larger car rental in the cruise terminal closed at 5pm) so we had plenty of time to drive around. We went to Punta Sur, an eco beach and nature reserve right at the tip of the island and had a great day out there...lovely water to swim in and not so many people on the beach...there is a watch tower for birds and crocs, a small Mayan ruin and a light house with amazing views of the area...you can also have al fresco massage there so be sure to bring your dollars! Lots of shops near the terminal area but they had mostly closed by the time we had showered and changed in the evening so make sure you do your shopping early if that is what you are interested in. There is a Starbucks coffee shop nearby with free internet if you purchase something.
Grand Cayman Islands: I would recommend the Stingray City tour, we paid 20 dollars for the trip just walking off the ship (cheaper than Thomson) and had a great couple of hours trying to take photos of the stingrays .....buy a water tight pouch before you go (from Amazon) for your telephone and try and take pics under the water, great fun! Snorkelling was included, and although we did not see so much marine life the water was very clear and it was definitely enjoyable to try.
Jamaica: We went on ships' tour Bob Marley's tour to Nine Miles. It was a long day with lots of driving but our guide kept everyone entertained. The roads up to the village are quite scary, with large water trucks meeting you at tight bends of the road so you may wish to sit further back in the mini bus and on the left just in case! I am not sure if the day was worth all the driving - but it gave some insight into the island and some of the themes to Bob Marley's song writing. Oh and yes, there was a kitchen with some unusual 'cooking' - should you wish to have a smoke in honour of Bob!
Aruba: Great Island to visit - beaches and island tour for 20 dollars.....just walk off the ship and an island tour bus will take you around to the sights and then leave you a couple of hours on a beach of your choice (and pick you up and return you to ship) .....we nearly booked the private atoll island tour with Thomson's and glad we didn't .....we spoke to some people who went to snorkel there and it was very rocky and not so good waters, and we also noticed that it was very close to the ship ....don't let the beautiful pictures of the atoll fool you, do it your own way!
St. Martha, Columbia: There are city walking tours available as you disembark the ship for 30 dollars or the nature reserve and beach for 70 dollars per person if you don't fancy to do the ship's tours .... however, we suggest to do it yourself....St. Martha is perfectly safe, you can walk with your map that they give you just outside the terminal and there is a fantastic museum with information translated into English in the Old town and you can also walk and see the cathedral...for a beach you will need a taxi.....Not so many people speaking English, but you can get by with maps and good humour! Much more relaxed atmosphere here than in Cartagena....very warm and humid here, 32 degrees.
Cartagena, Columbia: There is a small zoo with some animals as you disembark the ship. Outside the terminal there are plenty of people selling 3 hour city tours - we paid 20 dollars for one - and ended up in a mini bus and guide and a walk around the old city. You can also negotiate a taxi into town. It is a little bit of a distance so walking would not be recommended. I think there was four cruise ships there so the hop on hop off bus was full - you had to take a taxi into town to buy a ticket for it (which seemed to a little silly) .... great shopping here if you go on your own ... more difficult to shop if you are on a tour....very insistent street sellers - good to bring a hat with you...
Panama: I did a Panama City tour with the ship' excursion team ...and my friend the Panama Canal tour. We were both not impressed! My city tour was quite long....and not so much to see in Panama City...we walked with 50 people from the bus around the Old Town, and then there was one hour of free shopping ... but we had no maps, some people had not taken much money with them as Colon was not a very safe port of call ... although there was some renovation going on in the old city really not much to see or do...plus never go with such a large crowd for a city tour! And don't walk around on your own in Colon either .... very poor place.
The tour guides that we encountered (except for one in Jamaica) could not speak much English nor did they know much about the places we visited .....the quality of the guides could be better....!
Entertainment team talented and good selection of shows; band in Medusa Lounge really good ..... we had a really nice holiday and the selection of the cruise stops were really good. Read Less