Cruise Shore Excursions

Feb 11th, 2008, 04:06 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 43
Cruise Shore Excursions

The last of March we will take our first cruise and I need some suggestions for the best shore excursions.I understand I need to book now. The cruise will be for 10 days to the Panama Canel and back.Ports will be Aruba, Cartegena,Columbia, Cristobel,Panama, Limon,Costa Rico,and Orco Rios,Jamaica. The ship is the Coral Princess.
Has anyone been on this cruise that would make some suggestions? We like sealife,sightseeing,and anything to do with nature.No shopping and the like.
Thank you so much.
Westminster is offline  
Feb 11th, 2008, 04:24 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
We were on Coral Princess in December doing the same itinerary; had a fantastic time. In short - Aruba: went to Palm Beach; took the L10 bus from the bus depot. Cartagena: arranged for a private walking tour (4 hrs) inside the walled city with a stop at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Panama Canal: ship's tour (only option if you want to get off the ship) - an eco-cruise on Gatun Lake with a stop at Gatun Locks to see the operation from the groun. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica: private, all day tour to include Cahuita National Park, Tortuguero Canal cruise, lunch at Playa Bonita. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: went to Ocho Rios Bay Beach (I think referred to as Mallards Beach sometimes) on our own - walking distance to the ship.

More details:

CARTAGENA: We booked a tour with Christian Martinez ( and spent several hours with one of his associates, Johnnie, on December 14. Christian called him near the beginning of the tour to touch base with us. Can't say enough about the tour. We customized the standard three-hour city itinerary to add an extra hour and cover the fortress as well. We had been looking forward to Cartagena as a highlight of our cruise itinerary, and everything we saw and experienced exceeded our expectations. We had fantastic weather, by the way -- hot but not a drop of rain. Vendors did approach us, but a polite no was sufficient to send them on their way. We were never hassled to buy anything.

Johnnie met us just outside the pax terminal at the pier (still inside the port facilities). From there, we took a taxi to the walled city and walked all around, stopping frequently to take photos, etc. Since this was a custom tour, we were able to set the pace ourselves and go to the places that were of interest to us. We skipped going into the museums due to our limited time, but made sure we had an opportunity to walk on top of the city walls. Last stop was Las Bovedas, the former dungeons that now house a crafts market. Once we were done in the city, we took a cab to the fortress. Spent about 45 minutes there - mostly on the ramparts and outside walls. Fantastic place for a bird's eye view of the surrounding city scape. Afterwards, Johnnie accompanied us back to the port by cab. Due to the way we customized the tour, the cab rides were in addition to the standard fee.

A word of warning - this is a WALKING tour. While the terrain is easy - level city streets mostly; the short climb to get inside the fortress might be considered steep - the hot temperature can take a toll. Comfortable shoes and clothes (long sleeves/pants help protect from the brutal sun), a wide-brimmed hat, plenty of sun block and plenty of water are essential. Mid-way in our tour, we stopped at a Juan Valdez Cafe for a break - need local currency if you do this.

PUERTO LIMON: We just returned from our Coral Princess cruise. We spent our day in Costa Rica with Danilo Hall and can't say enough good things about him. He picked us up pierside (bit of a confusion on our part as we did not expect to be able to meet him inside the dock facilities, so if you book with, look for him at the small stand at the end of the pier, before you get to the pax terminal). We booked with him in advance and arranged for a private tour for just the two of us.

Our custom tour started out with a drive to Cahuita National Park. On the way there, Danilo stopped frequently to show us some of the flora and fauna - he seemed to have a second sense for what we would be interested in and we didn't have to urge him to make these stops. His love of his country was apparent in the knowledge he imparted. One such stop was at the home of a man who has some wild sloths in his garden. This allowed us to get a close view of a three-toed sloth. Another stop was near a banana plantation where he took the time to explain how bananas are grown, going so far as to find a flower that had already been cut and showing us the baby bananas inside.

The scenery on the way to Cahuita is fantastic, with the ocean and beaches on one side and a lush rain forest, mangroves and swamps on the other side. The breeze off the ocean made for a very comfortable experience when outside the air conditioned van. At Cahuita, we made a small donation (there is no official entrance fee) and walked the path in search of wildlife - fascinating to watch the leaf cutter ants at work; saw a sloth hidden in the trees, some howler monkeys, and iguanas. The breeze off the ocean was most welcome and the beach scene added an additional element of pleasure to our visit.

From Cahuita, we headed to the Tortueguero Canal, where we had a small boat all to ourselves for an hour-long boat ride. In addition to Danilo, we had a guide and the boat driver accompany us - they were all eagle-eyed and found a lot to show us. I still have no idea how they saw the small basiliscus lizards that are so well-camouflaged. We saw lots and lots of birdlife, including a northern jacana, herons, and egrets; many iguanas; a couple of two-toed sloths; and a couple of basiliscus lizards - to name just a few of the animals we saw.

We then went to Playa Bonita. We had asked that Danilo take us to a seafood restaurant frequented by the locals and with an ocean view - he delivered. We enjoyed a very nice meal - the fresh red snapper especially was excellent - and watched the locals swimming and sunning on the beach.

Last stop on the way back to the ship was Danilo's secret overlook which gave us an excellent view of the city all the way to the port facilities.

Danilo dropped us off inside the port facilities. From there we went inside the cruise ship terminal to use the internet - $2 card for 100 minutes I think. (We gave the card to a crew member on the ship so the unused minutes were put the good use.) And after browsing the crafts market outside the pax terminal, we walked back to the ship.

It was a fantastic day, very much exceeding our expectations. We can't say enough good things about Danilo - and we would highly recommend him to anyone looking to do a private tour in Puerto Limon. (Website:

If you go to and search the ports of call boards, you'll find a lot of information.

Photos from our trip are available at:

eenusa is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 03:33 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 192
Just bookmarking! Thank you for the info about your tour of Puerto Limon. We will be there in January on the Zuiderdam and want a private tour. I have emailed Danila, the website didn't give any prices. Do you recall what the private guied was for the day. I assume it was really two tours put together. I hope to hear from them soon. thanks again.
heyjude2919 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2008, 04:02 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
I honestly don't remember how much we paid Danilo, but I remember I didn't think it was out of line for what we expected to pay for a private tour.

Since someone else may refer to this thread - an update re: Cartagena. I no longer feel I can recommend Christian Martinez. His associate Johnnie did well by us, however, since that time, several people who booked with Christian were left holding the bag when Christian was a no show. If anyone wants specifics, do a search on the South America/Colombia boards on
eenusa is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2008, 08:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 192
Thank you so much, eenusa, for your report. I have booked Danilo Hall for our day in Puerto Limon. Your tour sounded like just what we wanted. So I'll let you know how is was when we get back mid January. Thanks again, J
heyjude2919 is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2008, 09:15 AM
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heyjude2919 - have a terrific time.
eenusa is offline  
Nov 25th, 2008, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Aruba. You can take the city bus to the beach area for $2 round trip. It is safe and runs about every 20 minutes. Catch the bus across the street from the pier.
cschultz8 is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 06:50 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 192
To eenusa...thank you so much for your report and Danilo Hall. We just returned form the Caribbean and had contacted Danilo on you avice and just loved our tour of both the Tortuguero Canal and Cahuita National Park. It was great. I hope others will get in touch with him.
heyjude2919 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 80
I'm with eenusa on this. We just got off a 14 day royal cruise around cape horn. there were private tours waiting at EVERY port for the taking. Every single one of them at a fraction of what you'd pay through the line. Plus, you can get off the ship whenever you want. The organization of getting people with ship tours off the ship was a disaster area in the theater, everybody shoving each other. cruisecritic can help with getting groups together but you don't necessarily need that either. Depends on the group, but they can certainly help with your reaseach in deciding what you want to do in each port.
ToddPBrown is offline  
Jan 26th, 2009, 03:36 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 351
It seems that this is the difficult area of cruise planning. All cruises are different, my our experience with tours and from reading things like this, I think some principles emerge. Tours from the ship are expensive, problamatic, and usually available at the last minute. Tours that you pick up at the dock are usually pretty much the same as that offered by the cruise line, but cheaper, and you assume the responsibility to get back to the ship in time. I hear of people who arrange private tours ahead of time. I can't address their experience, but have assumed that they are expensive. However, after paying for three people to a cruise line, I can't imagine that they would cost a lot more and you might get more for your money. One nice thing, incidentally, about ship's tours is some level of accountability. I was really dissatisfied with atour this summer and complained, and received a partial refund. One thing that really bothers me about shore excursions is the blatant commercialism. They all do it. One quarter to one third of the time ends up at a preselected merchants for a "shopping Opportunity" - at a tee shirt shop or a rug shop or what have you. At a lot of ports you can skip tours entirely. These are places where the port area is the main interest.
Aristotle is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 11:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,280
heyjude, how much was your tour on Costa Rica? Thanks.
SusanP is online now  
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