Cruise excursion planning/safety considerations

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Sep 6, 2015
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#1
We have been on several cruises, so to escape MN winter for a week, we booked a cruise on Princess (we sailed on them to Alaska 1 1/2 years ago). I chose this trip
For the price and itinerary (stops at their private island, Jamaica, Grand Caymans and Cozumel. My question for you is this: How safe is Cozumel? I would love to see the Mayan Ruins, but don’t want to risk being robbed at gunpoint or worse. I’m not very familiar with Jamaica either, and would appreciate any info you could offer.

I checked the state department website and didn’t find any warnings that caused concern, but hearing of the family that was murdered made me feel a bit uneasy.

I spent two weeks in Mexico a long time ago, and for the most part, my fellow Girl Scouts and I had a great time. That was in the late ‘70’s, and times were different.

I know not everyone on here is a big fan of cruises, so I am asking you for info to make this an enjoyable experience. While not every vacation we take is a cruise, I like the simplicity of it, and having a day at sea both coming and going is a fantastic way to get away from cell phones, emails and so on.

Any “must see” locations along the way (Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Cozumel, along with the cruise line’s stop on their island) would be appreciated as well.

I’ve already gotten trip insurance from Allianz to protect against those things I can’t think about at the moment. Our final payment is due by the end of November, so if we are making a mistake, I can make a change without losing too much money.

My husband and I rarely get time alone together, so I am hoping we can just relax and enjoy. And extra advice I might have overlooked would be appreciated.
 
Jan 30, 2018
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#2
I really cannot specifically comment on Cozumel or Jamaica other than to say we are cruising at the end of the month and one of the ports is Jamaica. We will not be getting off the ship there. I do recommend an excursion in Grand Cayman - swimming with the stingrays. Amazing creatures.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#3
Cozumel is safe. The problems in Mexico are on the border with the US and the west coast of Mexico. Cozumel is an island and there are no reports of any problems there.

Put the issues in Mexico on perspective- it’s similar to saying there is crime in NYC so I won’t travel to Florida. Mexico is huge and the incident took place in an area that is known for drug cartels and where the Mormons and the drug cartels have been at war for years.

The State Dept. website rates Mexico as a 2- the same as every other island in the Caribbean, including Jamaica and Grand Cayman. There are specific states within Mexico the State Dept. list as a do not travel to but they are not near where you will be.

We travel to Mexico every year and have never had a problem in the tourist areas. But you need to be aware of your surroundings anywhere you go on any island so travel wise. Don’t flash money or wear a lot of jewelry whether it’s Jamaica, Grand Cayman or Mexico. If you are concerned, do a ship sponsored tour.

I agree with LD- snorkel with the stingrays, it’s really a once in a lifetime thing to do.
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#5
With respect to Cozumel, it really depends on what type of ruins you want to see.

There is a small set of ruins right on the island of Cozumel that you can see called San Gervasio. I'm not sure of the best way to get there - we did not visit those ruins on our visit.

We went to Coba which requires a ferry ride to Playa del Carmen on the mainland and then a 2 hour bus ride. Tulum is another option, but also on the mainland - those ruins are a bit closer (only about a 60-75 minute bus ride once on the mainland) and there is a small swimming area near the ruins.

With any option to see ruins on the mainland I would not even consider planning a visit on your own - because of the travel time required, taking a ship excursion is important to ensure you get back to the ship without issue. Our Coba ruins excursion was one of the very first off the ship, with a ferry standing by. When we returned to the ferry dock we were permitted to cut the VERY long line of waiting passengers to board the waiting ferry to return to Cozumel, and once we got off the ferry and boarded the ship the lines were dropped and we were off. (our tour was the very last one back, and arrived about 20 minutes after all-aboard time). We had no fears for safety while on the tour.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
The family that were killed were in a different state. This is equivalent to me saying that I would not visit MN because of violence in Detroit. I would not go exploring off the beaten path in Playa del Carmen. Cozumel itself seems safe.

I am one of those non cruise fans but I am a safety fan.

I would only book with a ship excursion and not try for some smaller random excursion.

Grand Cayman is lovely, and the rays are fun.
 
Feb 12, 2019
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#7
I've been to all those ports and been fine.

Cozumel is easy enough to walk around where all the piers are. As stated above most of the ruins are a long ride away from Cozumel so I haven't done those yet - don't want to spend half of the day on a bus.

Jamaica depends on what port. Falmouth people tend to not go outside of the gated area of the port without an excursion, though I know some that have. In Ocho Rios I walked around the port after an excursion and walked to the beach that was right there no problem.

I also have walked around Grand Cayman from the port with no problem either.

These are all very touristy spots that rely an cruise ship passengers to make a living - they have an interest to keep it pretty safe.
 
Apr 8, 2019
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#8
I would seriously ONLY book a tour through the cruise line since they will wait for your tour to return to the dock. We took the bamboo river raft tour in Falmouth, Jamaica and it was a one of a kind experience. Also the falls is a nice tour in Ocho Rios. We were specifically told not to wander outside the gated dock in Falmouth and only take a "registered" tour.
Cozumel is mostly safe to walk around the port area (it is an island and does not appear to be gang infested). We have done many tours in Cozumel including 4x4s, snorkle, snuba, beach day, and ruins. There are 2 sets of docks in Cozumel and the shopping varies among them.
Georgetown, GC is extremely safe to walk. Stingray city is fun, as is turtle far, and HELL.
Have a great time.
 

JVillegirl541

Verified Member
Nov 21, 2014
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#9
We follow cruise critic and the thousand (yep) of recommendations found there for ports and tours. We DO NOT use the cruise ship tours and carefully Vet the vendors we do book with. The price is substantially better and these folks would not have the glowing reviews if they had issues with returning groups to the ship late.
As with all things in life it’s important to book with who you feel safe. Strongly recommend going over to cruise critic to the Princess Forum and also join your sailings Roll Call and meet cruisers sailing with you. See what others are doing.
Enjoy!
 
May 30, 2019
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#10
My advice:
  • Cruise critic is the best place for answers to your questions. You can also find some good safety tips there.
  • Cozumel port tourist area is safe. Just follow the same precautions you would as a tourist in the US (don't let your wallet hang out of your pocket, don't carry more cash than you need, etc.)
  • The safest but not necessarily least expensive way to enjoy an excursion off the port is to book through the cruise line.
  • Jamaica's public areas can get pretty busy and often have aggressive people panhandling or selling stuff. If you just want to avoid that, book an excursion to a private beach / day at a resort. You'll likely be picked up in the cruise port sterile area, shuttled to the resort, spend a few hours there, then shuttled back.
  • Of the places you mentioned, I believe Grand Cayman is the most "safe" and serene. Snorkeling and scuba in Grand Cayman is fantastic! I scuba, my significant other does not. She did a biking tour of the island, while I did a 2-tank dive, both booked on our own. We felt safe and relaxed strolling around the area afterwards.
  • If you just want to relax for a day, consider staying on the boat. The spa typically has discounts, you can sit by the pool without having to fight for a lounger, etc.
Hope this helps.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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#12
Docking in Cozumel is safe but you probably could only visit Tulum as Chichen Itza is a long drive away. Good past advice on Jamaica, stick to boat excursions ans don't wander away.
Only do Tulum through the cruise line if that’s what you’d like to see. You want the ship to wait for you if the ferry from Playa Del Carmen is running late.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#13
With regard to cruiseline vs private contractor tours, there is no one answer I think. Rather, each should be viewed strategically for its applicable value.
Here's my list . . .

Cost: For selections that are less than $100, its hard to reduce costs very much. In that context, cruiseline tours offer the advantage of inclusion in the cruise fare and the guarantee if something delays the return to the ship.​
Time/Distance: The longer the tour and/or the greater the distance from port, the riskier the tour becomes, I think. In those cases, I lean toward the cruiseline tour. We had one in Belize that was 8 hours total, and the cruiseline tour was both inexpensive and informative. On the other hand, in Maui we chose to do a local luau with friends, as the distance was small and the risk, for us, was low.​
Walking: How much of the tour is within walking distance of the ship? Even for inexpensive tours, significant savings and flexibility can be seen by walking on your own. This proved highly successful for us in Ketchikan AK. We walked to a cruiseline tour and did the remainder on our own.​
Frequency: We have seen cases where the cruiseline offers maybe two tours per day, but locally they have buses running every hour. Since the chance that we would miss a connection back to the ship is minimal in those cases, we tend to use that option rather than the less flexible cruiseline tour. This was the case in Juneau AK for the Mendenhall Glacier tour.​
The bottom line for us is that we consider all factors and often will mix and match . . .
 
Sep 27, 2018
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#14
In Jan 2018 I spent 10 days in Cozumel and never had a problem except for all the hawkers along the main drag. The tourist areas are as safe as any city in the US, just don't go off the beaten path. In downtown, stay within 2 to 3 blocks of the ocean, after that it is residential neighborhoods, so nothing to see there anyway. Depending on which cruise port the ship uses, you may need a taxi to get to downtown. The newer cruise port is about a mile south of downtown. You will know because the new one holds 6 ships on 3 docks versus downtown holds only 2 ships on 1 dock. Opposite the ferry dock is the main plaza, walk around the downtown, you probably have 100 restaurants to choose from. Personally, unless you are going on a tour, there is no reason to go over to Playa. It is a crowded shopping area for the sole purpose of separating tourists from their money, no access to the beach. Cozumel is fairly safe because tourists provide much of the income on the island. Just use your head, you wouldn't buy gold or diamonds from some guy on Lake St, so ignore the guys on the street. Also, don't use a street corner ATM, use one in the cruise terminal or a bank owned one in the larger stores.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 27, 2018
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#15
I really cannot specifically comment on Cozumel or Jamaica other than to say we are cruising at the end of the month and one of the ports is Jamaica. We will not be getting off the ship there. I do recommend an excursion in Grand Cayman - swimming with the stingrays. Amazing creatures.
Ignore the area by the cruise ship dock. Stingray city is really fun, get a water proof case for your cell phone, Cayman Turtle Centre in West Bay was really interesting and Cayman Spirits tour was a blast.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 6, 2015
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#16
Only do Tulum through the cruise line if that’s what you’d like to see. You want the ship to wait for you if the ferry from Playa Del Carmen is running late.
It is what I wanted to see, but the idea of spending hours on a bus to get there for a short visit is not very appealing. DQ a., but I appreciate your help with this. I am aware of the distinctions in the Mexican geography, but wanted to verify the info. I took a four night cruise last January to the Bahamas,—and outside of Key West,the other two ports were not nice places to be, and when our excursion was cancelled and we went to one part of town that was a bit shaky and ended up back on the ship, which was disappointing. Trying to make sure we don’t repeat the experience.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,130
19,012
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#17
It is what I wanted to see, but the idea of spending hours on a bus to get there for a short visit is not very appealing. DQ a., but I appreciate your help with this. I am aware of the distinctions in the Mexican geography, but wanted to verify the info. I took a four night cruise last January to the Bahamas,—and outside of Key West,the other two ports were not nice places to be, and when our excursion was cancelled and we went to one part of town that was a bit shaky and ended up back on the ship, which was disappointing. Trying to make sure we don’t repeat the experience.
Chichen Itza is hours in a bus. Tulum is not. Depending on how long the ship is in port there might not even be an option to go to CI.

Tulum is 1/2 hr from the ferry in Playa and more do-able .
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#18
I reviewed the information about Tulum on both NCL and TripAdvisor and found the following:

After a 45-minute ferry to Playa del Carmen, your guide will lead you to an​
air-conditioned motor coach for a scenic and informative one-hour drive to Tulum​
It takes all day, just to be aware . . . 45 min ferry ride, hour bus ride, plus a lot of waiting​

Thus I would estimate six (6) hours round trip . . .
 
Likes: FrankL183
Feb 28, 2018
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#19
We have visited, over the years, all of the Mexico Pacific and Sea of Cortez ports, adnd those on the Gulf of Mexicao. all have cvhanged ovr the yea'. many have changed over the years, some better, some worse. Best advice_ stay in the popular tourist areas dring the day and walking thre is saefe. At night it all changes, and there is no reliable advice. In most areas, take the cruise line tours even if more costly for safety and ship return on time.l. I speak Spanish and sometimes take local tours that I think are safe, usually becaUSE THE GROUP IS SMALLER, THE TOUR MORE EXRTENSIVE, AND THE COST LESS. It helps greatly to Speak Spanish. Accept that the cruise ship bassed tours ae mosre costly and may not be as good as man private tours, but you are paying for security and the cruise line insurance - which is substantial. Occasionally the shi sruise does not go where we want aned we take a chance.,but you may not want to .

Stan
 
May 30, 2019
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#20
With regard to cruiseline vs private contractor tours, there is no one answer I think. Rather, each should be viewed strategically for its applicable value.
Here's my list . . .

Cost: For selections that are less than $100, its hard to reduce costs very much. In that context, cruiseline tours offer the advantage of inclusion in the cruise fare and the guarantee if something delays the return to the ship.​
Time/Distance: The longer the tour and/or the greater the distance from port, the riskier the tour becomes, I think. In those cases, I lean toward the cruiseline tour. We had one in Belize that was 8 hours total, and the cruiseline tour was both inexpensive and informative. On the other hand, in Maui we chose to do a local luau with friends, as the distance was small and the risk, for us, was low.​
Walking: How much of the tour is within walking distance of the ship? Even for inexpensive tours, significant savings and flexibility can be seen by walking on your own. This proved highly successful for us in Ketchikan AK. We walked to a cruiseline tour and did the remainder on our own.​
Frequency: We have seen cases where the cruiseline offers maybe two tours per day, but locally they have buses running every hour. Since the chance that we would miss a connection back to the ship is minimal in those cases, we tend to use that option rather than the less flexible cruiseline tour. This was the case in Juneau AK for the Mendenhall Glacier tour.​
The bottom line for us is that we consider all factors and often will mix and match . . .
The other factor here is Country. In Maui & Ketchikan, for example, you are in the US, you know the customs, you speak the language, your mobile phone works in most areas, your dollars are good, you don't have to bribe police, etc. Not the case with many Caribbean cruise line ports.