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Snorkeling at Cruise Ports of Call

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My wife and I (I'm going on 74 and my wife is in her late '60's) are sailing on our first Carribean cruise in mid-March (Celebrity "Millenium"). I am a novice snorkeler who would like to try some of the island destinations; however, my wife doesn't like the water which means I'll be without any swimming buddies.

My question is whether its better to use the snorkel excursions offered by the cruise line or whether its better to go ashore and hire a local company/guide even if just to rent locker space? We are scheduled to stop at: St Croix, St Kitts, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Bonaire, and Aruba...we sail from and finish at San Juan, PR.

I am concerned about the logistics, eg, storing/securing personal items while in the water. The requirement to return to the ship after snorkeling to clean up and change eats into shore time. I would think that local establishments would have facilties to do that on shore rather than have to return to the ship and re-debark. I'm not sure how the costs of the cruise excursions compare with a local establishment, but I would suspect locals would be cheaper and possibly more convenient? I will be bringing my own new snorkel equipment so i willot need to rent.

My preference would be beach entry for snorkeling. I believe most of the islands listed above have fair to good snorkeling. Of those islands listed above which would you recommend for novice snorkeling and what beach(s) on the island?

I know there are alot of old, experienced snorkelers in the forum who might be able to provide advice. Thanks in advance for sharing any thoughts you have on this.

Richard58

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    Your primary consideration is safety. Everything else comes after that. Also, you need a vest. Don't consider doing anything without a vest. My wife and I are returning to a favorite snorkeling haunt after a nearly forty-year absence, and plan on taking it very easy for a few days and then making an appraisal of our abilities before we do anything beyond simple beach paddling and viewing.

    Snorkeling tours typically want to take you where the good stuff is, and the good stuff isn't usually in the shallows. The large cruise ship tours may not give you the kind of supervision you need. Were I in your shoes, I would do one of two things. Find a younger buddy on the cruise who would go with you on the trips or hire a local guide to accompany you even on shallow snorkeling adventures. Now If you say that you are amazingly active for a 74-year old, and swim a mile everyday, year-round, maybe things would be different.

    I am well aware that I experienced stresses, tiring, and even an accident at 35 that would be far more dangerous and panicky for me at 70.

    Play it very safe. Get a younger buddy who will stick with you, or hire a local guide. If we find that we are not able to do the things we want on our own, we will hire someone to accompany us.

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    I'm familiar with St. Kitts and would recommend a snorkel trip on Leeward Island Charters. http://www.stkittsleewardislandscharters.com/

    They have a great crew and a beautiful catamaran. The excursion will take you from Basseterre harbor (very close to where your ship docks), out to Shitten Bay for an hour or so of snorkeling from the boat. It's not at all scary, even for new snorkelers and they have life jackets if you want to feel more confident. Your wife can stay on the boat and enjoy the scenery and have a drink. You then stop for lunch on a beach before your return to the ship.

    If you don't want an excursion you can have a cab take you to South Friar's Beach. There is a reef near shore near the Shipwreck Bar. You can walk in and snorkel and your wife can sit near the restaurant or on the beach and relax. Just tell the cab driver when you want to be picked up to return to the ship. The Shipwreck Bar is very friendly and is a good place to have lunch. It would be about a 20 minute drive from the harbor.

    If the weather isn't nice when you dock in St. Kitts, forget about snorkeling (not their strong point anyway) and grab a taxi to go to Brimstone Hill Fortress. It's a wonderful restored fort with amazing views. It is unique in the Caribbean and the most important historic site in St. Kitts. You don't have to be a military buff to enjoy it.

    Take a few minutes when you're in the center of Basseterre and go up to Ballahoo, on the second floor at the Circus (the main square) and have a bite to eat or a cold drink and watch the island go by.

    I first saw St. Kitts from a cruise ship and it and Nevis became my favorite destinations in the Caribbean. Enjoy your trip!

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    If you want to snorkel, I would obviously not do it alone. So I wouldn't, for example, just take a local bus or rent a car and go off on your own for reasons of safety.

    But I don't think it matters all that much if you take a snorkeling trip from a local company or one from the ship. The cruise ships contract with the same local operators you would contract with on your own. I'd first take a look at the shore excursions offered on the ship to see if any appeal to you. You'll certainly be among a large group of people, but you won't have to worry about the logistics, and that's a good thing if you don't have someone with you.

    Most of the snorkel trips last about 3 or 4 hours and bring you back to the ship by lunch time. If they last longer, then the company will arrange for lunch, either a box lunch or a lunch in a local restaurant.

    But your wife could take a sailing trip with you on St. Croix to Buck Island and simply forego the snorkeling. There's a beautiful beach she can sit on (or if she's into hiking, she could climb up to the tip of the hill and take in the lovely views), and longer excursions include lunch, usually a picnic on the beach. Otherwise, you can just eat lunch in town (you'll dry off on the way back to Christiansted, and no one will be upset if you throw on a hat and some shorts and eat at a casual place like Rum Runners).

    If you are looking to save money, you can certainly arrange an excursion on your own. The only trick on Bonaire, which has excellent shore diving, is that you have to buy a permit to do a snorkel, and that's a bit expensive for a one-time thing.

    Or some ships arrange days at various resorts. If your ship arranges time at a resort with a nice snorkeling beach, your wife could relax with a book out of the sun (or in the sun) with your belongings while you go snorkeling.

    I think you're worrying too much about this. Any organized excursion will give you a place to keep your belongings safe (just don't take much with you ... certainly not a lot of money or an expensive camera). You'll be fine.

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    i'd suggest finding alternatives to snorkeling on dominica, st. kitts and st. lucia. snorkeling not good on st kitts or dominica and there is too much other great stuff to do on st. lucia (a boat tour to view the pitons or tour of rainforest combined with drive through volcano - only one on earth)
    from st. croix see if you can find a tour to buck island - tiny island that is short boat ride from st. croix. supposed to be very good.
    barbados has ok snorkeling - again so much to see & do on this island. has nice botanical gardens, dramatic views on east coast, gorgeous beaches on west side, things like polo matches to attend, etc.
    i know next to nothing about grenada or aruba, so hope others can offer advise.
    bonnaire is known to have some of best snorkeling in caribbean so for me that would be the island i would be excited about. you should be able to get a tour that will go off the beach on this island.

    off boat snorkeling is not really difficult. tour boats have stairways to walk into the water. if you tell boat crews you are a novice they will give you all the extra help you want. try to find the tours taking small groups (under 20 ppl).
    snorkeling is one of the safest, easiest, most low impact sports you'll find. basically if you can float you'll do fine.
    snorkeling is not quite like diving where you absolutely have to have a buddy. you can easily go off alone a/or snorkel with a group.

    here's an example of the snorkel vest kinkazote suggested:
    http://www.leisurepro.com/Catalog.aspx?op=BrandItemDisplay&BrandName=Akona&ProductID=AKNSVJ&Sort=Stock&DescSort=0
    i use one often. it blows up with a couple puffs of air & is quite useful if you need to rest or adjust any gear.

    aside from your safety the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to Never Touch Coral. don't stand on it, don't touch it, don't hit it with your fins - any human contact damages or kills it.

    re tours - i too like supporting the smaller local purveyors. more enjoyable trips, smaller groups, more personal attention. the only issue is if your group does not reboard on time the ship will not wait for you. it would then be your responsibility to get to next port (and explain to landlubber wife). if on tour organized by ship they will wait or get you to next place. not that this is a regular occurance but it can happen.

    re logistics: take as little stuff as possible but snorkelers are not known to be thieves. if you got done snorkeling and some of your stuff was mia it would be obvious that someone on your boat took it.... for beach snorkeling find what's called a dry bag (also available from leisure pro or whereever you bought the rest of your equipment - could hold wallet & keys). leave towel on beach - it will still be there with your shorts & shirt.
    i'm not sure i understand the shower issue. on shore local establishments will expect you to show up in bathing suit/shorts & t-shirt and to be salty. obviously there are bathrooms for a quick fresh water splash but not showers.

    i've just spoken with friend who cruises more often than i do and in your circumstance she advises using ship tours. also said to prebook all excursions now if allowed or within an hour or 2 of boarding or they'll be sold out.

    there is a web site called cruisecritic.com you might ask for advice on their forum or read what others who've taken your specific cruise have to say. you'll find lots of good suggestions on things besides snorkeling/excursions too.

    hope some of this helps.

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    On St. Lucia, consider taking a tour with "COSOL tours". They are by far the best tour you'll get on any island. It's about 5 hours and they explain everything on the island, drive in a/c vans, porvide island breakfast, and drinks - all included with your price of the tour. We had 50 people on our recent tour(Feb 3rd). Do not feel afraid to book this tour as they are easy to find off the ship, provide outstanding tours and as you'll see in their reviews, the best on the islands. Included in the tour is a water taxi ride to Jalousi Beach where you have an hour to snorkel in a protected reef. Wonderful views of the Pitons along the way and very good snorkeling in calm waters. We jsut got back from a Royal Caribbean cruise and loved this tour. Book now! cosoltours.com

    On Grenada, there is snorkeling at Grand Anse beach, many beach chairs to rent but many of the ships cruisers head here to sunbathe. Still plenty of room for passengers to enjoy the sun, swim, snorkel, and have refreshments broght to you from the vendors.

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    RangerRick, Thanks for your reply. Based on your recommendation am pressing on for a tour with COSOL in St Lucia.

    BTW, like your callsign, are you by chance a former Army Ranger? If so, a coincidence, since I am too.

    Thanks again for input,

    Richard58

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