The Starfish Sanctuary and Palancar Reef shore excursion was wonderful. We boarded their boat within 300 yards of the Brilliance of the Sea. The boat ride out was a nice chance to relax and see the coast of southern Cozumel. We then went snorkeling at the reef. It was pretty deep -- 20-25 feet. There were fish everywhere we looked. We saw sting rays, barracuda, sea turtles, and lots and lots of fish. We then reboarded the ship to go to the starfish sanctuary. The depth was less than 10 feet, and there were starfish everywhere you looked. Not as much to look at otherwise, though.
If you like to snorkel on your own, this isn't the tour for you. The guides were safety-first oriented, and wanted to keep everyone in a manageable area. Manuel, the divemaster, was very knowledgeable and knew where to take us to see the best of the reef.
The trip back? Two words: Open Bar. And it was a blast. They served unlimited beer, rum punch, margaritas, as well as soft drinks and water. The music blasted and everyone was dancing. We even got the people at the Dolphin Encounter to dance as we drove by. Manuel, Jose, Tomas and Manuel 2.0 were just like their boat: Magnifico.
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Royal Caribbean International