Belize Ruins Altun Ha or Lamanai - cruise excursion

Oct 30th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
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Belize Ruins Altun Ha or Lamanai - cruise excursion

Hi there! It's been awhile since I've posted about a trip of mine! Fun to be in the planning stage again! We're going on sort of a last minute cruise over the holiday's in December and one of our ports is Belize. My husband and I have been before and loved Belize - this trip is with the kids and my parents. Husband and my son are going to do some type of Cave exploring excursion that includes some zip lines, hanging type bridges and rapellling. That's way too extreme for my parents. So - we're off to the ruins!

Our ship is in port for 9 hours and it's a tender port. The ship doesn't offer Lamanai as an excursion, but I've found a cruise excursion company that does the tour and offers a guarantee you'll be back for the ship or they pay your expenses to get you to the boat - including an additional $500/person if you miss the ship. It's a 6 hour tour (bus, boat and jungle to the ruins - guided tour, including lunch - then back the same way to the pier). I've wanted to see Lamanai and heard such good things about the ruins there. Reviews of this tour group are all positive - trip of a lifetime type reviews. The 6 hours should be enough time - but we have to account for the time to tender both on and off the ship too.

But the safe side of me says, being a tender port, and such a long excursion, maybe we should take a ship excursion. The ship offers Altun Ha and Wallace River combo. Still a bus, river and ruins. About the same length of time. But being a ship tour, if you're running late it's said the ship will wait for you.

So- for anyone who has been to BOTH Altun Ha and Lamanai - how do they compare? Should we do the safer bet and do the ship tour or go with Lamanai? Is the terrain at Lamanai suitable for my parents - mainly my dad who gets around pretty well, but has had knee and back surgery. He walks well - unassisted, but can't afford a fall either. He went to Costa Rica last summer and did trails etc with no problems.

I just don't want to go on a 6 hour trip and be let down - having been to Tikal, Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum...will Altun Ha be a disappointment? Also, my 10 year old daughter will be on this excursion - would one be more "exciting" for her? She's not to into the whole Mayan culture.

Thanks for any advice you can give!!!
ShellD is offline  
Oct 31st, 2011, 03:35 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Caracol. A visit to Belize's largest Maya ruin. and a cool-down at the Rio ... The true name of this ancient city, found in ... birds, and howler monkeys roared in the distance.

Your biggest best bet 70 miles from Belize City

Your others ok not great hard to get to not for the elderly

farther way u do not have enough time best info... careful lots of tour scammers

Always do best cheapest boots on the ground with a

driver/guide from $35/half day negotiated at the port.

NEVER wire money... Good luck!
qwovadis is offline  
Oct 31st, 2011, 06:54 AM
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Go for Lamanai. The boat trip is amazing (you get to see all kinds of wildlife) and the ruins are fascinating, with giant masks carved onto the pyramids, etc. The high pyramid is probably too stiff to climb for someone with back issues (you need to hold onto a rope to climb that last section it's so steep). But, the area is a real treat, and I wouldn't pass it up.

Caracol, btw, is not at all accessible via cruise ship. Not sure why Qwovadis posted that link. It's a good 2.5 hours from San Ignacio, let alone the Atlantic Ocean. All tours must accompany the daily military convoy, which departs from Mountain Pine Ridge around 9:00 am.

In other words, go for Lamanai!
RAC is offline  
Oct 31st, 2011, 09:56 AM
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The ruins at Lamanai are pretty amazing. The trip up the river is also very, very fun. Especially with a good guide. Lots of birds/turtles/bats/crocs to be seen.

I've never been to Altun Ha, the trips from here on Ambergris tend to combine it with a stop at some resort that has a spa. Not my style.

In the end, I think it depends on your personality. If you're going to be stressed and constantly watching the clock, this might not be the best time to make the trip.

Your dad shouldn't have any problems, the trails are wide and pretty flat, although, I think there are some steps. I don't climb the pyramids, a combination of fear of heights, plus, a sense that it's sacred ground, not meant to be climbed by tourists....
JeanH is offline  
Oct 31st, 2011, 08:30 PM
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We didn't do any trips, but I remember reading a detailed report of Altun Ha on Cruise Critic website. Somebody said, the steps were slippery rocks - not sure if true.

A word of warning regarding your dad: all cruise tours have a degree of difficulty posted on the cruise website, and limitations, if any. Check them out.

I also remember the longest ever tender ride to Belize city - so plan accordingly, it will take a while to get on shore.

By the pier, they offer to braid your hair, all girls were so proud the display the local work later on the cruise ship Don't know how much they charge.

One man even had his beard braided, this was so silly! He just loved the attention.

If your parents want something easy, you can walk in the pier area, visit the church, take a horse ride, there are people holding signs, those are safe to take, the ride was 1 hour, narrated tour.
Dayenu is offline  
Nov 1st, 2011, 08:21 AM
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We loved the Lamanai trip but I checked my notes and we spent more than 8 hours going from the Baboon Sanctuary there and back; I think I'd be pretty stressed out about the fast driving/boating/quick peak at the ruins way you'd have to do it to go from the dock and back in time.

I can't address Altun Ha - haven't been. You could consider the Community Baboon Sanctuary and the zoo. If you hired a driver you'd have plenty of time for both and a lunch somewhere. The traditional Belizean food at the Nature Resort at the CBS was excellent, though spendy. Good luck with your decision!
(Lamanai and CBS [though we didn't do a tour which I would recommend] in 2009, zoo in 2003 and 2009)
hopefulist is offline  
Nov 1st, 2011, 06:40 PM
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OK Shell...I've never been on a cruise (and not sure I would like one), but i'm curious about a tender port. Does that mean you have boats take you ashore?
Deb15July is offline  
Nov 1st, 2011, 08:04 PM
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Deb - yes, the ship doesn't dock right at the port. You get on a smaller boat to get to the port. I've never been on a tender port, this is only my second cruise, so it will be a new experience for me! As for the cruise - I thought I'd hate it myself, after years and years of convincing myself it wasn't for me, last year my husband and I went on Celebrity and I LOVED it! While I can see it's not for everyone, and it certainly wouldn't be how I'd want to spend every vacation, it was a super relaxing vacation and Celebrity was a great first cruise experience! Food was great and I planned mainly "non-ship" excursions. We had a great time and it was a great way to visit several islands to see where we may want to go back. This time my parents really need a get away and wanted to spend some time away with my kids and my husband and I. So a cruise really seemed to be a great - easy to plan winter get away. We're going on Carnival, which will be a VERY different experience from Celebrity. But it will be much more fun for the kids.

Both Belize and Grand Cayman are tender ports - I guess the ships are too big to get right up to the land!! From what I understand the tender boats fit around 100 people or so, so they aren't all that small! Basically - I think it's the life boats!
ShellD is offline  
Nov 1st, 2011, 08:11 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,008 least you will know that the life boats are functional. I guess I'll have to try it some day. Both of my kids have been on cruises, one Carnival and one Royal Caribbean. I hope you enjoy your trip and based on the info in this thread I think you should save Lamanai for another time.

I'm going thru a similar dilema at the moment trying to plan a trip to Belize. Just can't fit everything in. I'll be posting a thread soon with a couple of itinerary options.
Deb15July is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 02:59 AM
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Shell, I hope you guys have a great trip!
volcanogirl is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 09:31 AM
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I would go for Lamanai, given that choice. Altun Ha is the only ruin I havent visited yet in Belize (other than the ones on private property).

If that company will guarantee it, they probably have experience of doing this trip whenever that ship is in port. I know this is a weird generalization, but I tend to believe Belizeans! (based on years of experience)

Another idea - since you definitely have time to get to Altun Ha, maybe see if this other tour operator will do a combo Altun Ha/Maruba spa trip. If you can get into Maruba on that day - check first.

Caracol isnt an option, IMO. It is a long, slow drive, through bad roads and a Mennonite community where you cant speed. Might as well suggest Tikal - not possible.
evening is offline  
Nov 10th, 2011, 07:21 AM
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The tenders are operated out of the port by locals. They don't use the life boats. Here is a link that has a picture of a Cayman tender:
CaymanSue is offline  
Nov 10th, 2011, 09:43 AM
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"From what I understand the tender boats fit around 100 people or so, so they aren't all that small! Basically - I think it's the life boats!"

I think in the US ports they use life boats, in foreign ports local boats. In Alaska they took the life boats off for tenders. In Belize, for sure, local boats. I think they take 150-250 passengers.
Dayenu is offline  
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