You're Booked on a Carnival 7 Day Western Caribbean Cruise... Now What?
---Let's talk about my favorite cruise activity... EXCURSIONS---
For some cruisers, the ship is the destination. For others, the ship is merely a vessel to get between multiple ports of call. And then you've got cruisers like me who fall smack-dab in the middle. The ship is a destination, but not the only destination! I go on cruises based on ports of call, not based off of the ship alone.
On my last cruise on Carnival Mardi Gras, there were people who never left the cruise ship. I don't really "get it" but to each their own!
I should stop right here and quickly add a little note: Excursions are not included in your cruise fare on most cruise lines. There are some lines like Celestyal that include a few select excursions and you can opt to add more for additional cost. I will be sailing on Celestyal Crystal next summer, so I will share my experience with the free excursions once I get back!
This was the itinerary for my Mardi Gras cruise this past November. I'm going to share the excursions that I chose to do at each port so you can start to maybe get some ideas for what you want to do on your cruise.
For information about the ship and sea days, check out my other post here: Cruising on Carnival Mardi Gras: >> Ship, Itinerary, Food, Drinks & More! <<
I love snorkeling, history and archaeology (I am an anthropology major if that makes a difference) so in Cozumel I opted to do the Ultimate Combo: Mayan Ruins, Snorkeling & Lunch excursion.
Check out specific details provided by Carnival here: >>Ultimate Combo<<
- Snorkeling (duh)
- Free margarita at the resort we snorkeled at
- San Gervasio Archaeological Site tour was very educational
- I found a nativity set at one of the shops outside of the ruins (I collect nativities)
- The taco lunch provided was very good
- The restaurant put on a show for us with costumes and dancing.
- I got to grind cacao at the chocolate tasting
- We learned about cacao and chocolate making, which was cool
- You get to sample a few sips of tequila
- The tequila presenter shows you how to drink it without it "burning"
- I saw colorful fish whilst snorkeling
- You can rent a locker at the snorkeling place (it is at a resort) so you don't lose your things while you are in the water
- There is someone that takes pictures during the snorkeling portion. You can purchase these afterward (and for the love of Pete, DO NOT ACCEPT THE FIRST PRICE THEY TELL YOU... HAGGLE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT)
- We still had *some* time to wander around the port and do some shopping afterward
- Snorkeling is first, so you have to be sure to bring a towel along with dry clothes (I had all of that but I felt like I did not have time to get dry before heading back to the bus)
- The area that you snorkel in is not very large and there are other groups there so it was hard to stay with the group leader. It is right off the beach so the water was not as clear as I expected
- I would have liked more time at San Gervasio
- The chocolate, tequila, and vanilla sold at the restaurant where we ate lunch and did the tastings were more expensive than the same exact products in the shops by the port.
- I saw a snake at San Gervasio
Overall Impressions: This was a good excursion and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think this tour would be best for somebody who is a beginner at snorkeling though... I enjoy being able to snorkel off of a boat a bit farther from shore. The tour is also a lot of walking and the paths at San Gervasio might be a struggle for people with mobility issues. If you do not like tequila the tequila sampling part of the tour will be boring for you. Be sure to bring a towel, dry clothes, a hair brush (if you think you might need it after snorkeling), biodegradable sunscreen, cash for tips and locker rental, and an insulated water bottle.
For a full list of excursions available on the Carnival website, go here: >> Carnival Excursions for Cozumel (Puerta Maya) <<
Many of the same excursions (and sometimes additional options) can be found here at my personal favorite site for booking tours (p.s. Carnival may price match if you find a lower price on a tour): Project Expedition Puerta Maya Cruise Friendly Excursions
Take a look at some of my favorite photos from this excursion!
Costa Maya, Mexico
On this day, I opted for the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins tour found here: >>Kohunlich Ruins<<
I'll start by saying that this was a rainy morning and I was unsure of what to expect. The tour didn't seem to have a lot of interest from the other passengers and there was only a handful of us at the meeting point that morning. I also want to add that the drive is long... Very long... It is more than 2 hours both ways. Maybe that was the main turn-off?
There was a small sack lunch provided at the end of the tour, so that was a plus. The tour guide spoke about the area, history, current events, and what to expect along with telling stories and jokes on the drive. It was long but it was only as boring as I let it be. I paid attention to the guide and asked a few questions that he was happy to answer. The drive was long enough that we drove out of the rainy area and had a very nice, sprinkle free afternoon!
The site itself was absolute heaven for me. I've been to a number of Mayan ruins (Coba, Tulum, obviously San Gervasio, etc...) and this site is possibly my favorite. My other favorite is Tulum. Check out my pros and cons for Kohunlich:
- It is a remote area. There is nothing there except a small rest area/ restroom at the entrance. No shop owners hollering "hey lady" at you to buy their souvenirs... It was peaceful.
- The guide was extremely knowledgeable and friendly
- You can actually climb on the ruins... You can get up close and personal. Some places discourage that but not Kohunlich.
- The temple of the masks was super awesome. Not kidding, check out my pics.
- The sack lunch (sandwich, banana, bottled water, and a small bag of chips)
- There is just SO MUCH to see!
- You can climb to the top of the temple of the masks and look out over the ruins
- I still had a bit of time afterward to do some shopping at the port
- The long drive
- You must pay a small fee to use professional camera equipment
- I wish there was more time to explore the ruins. This was definitely not long enough for me.
Overall Impressions: I never wanted to leave here. However, I do think that this would be a difficult tour for small children who do not enjoy long car rides. I also think this would be horrible if you are someone who has mobility issues as much of the walking is not on a path and you would not have the benefit of being able to climb the stairs at the temple or other ruins. Be sure to pack a few snacks, insulated water bottle, sunscreen, portable phone charger (I killed a lot of my phone battery over the 4+ hours on the bus), a poncho if it is a rainy day, comfortable walking shoes, and cash to tip your tour guide afterward. Oh, and if you are traveling solo, bring a selfie stick.
For a full list of Costa Maya excursions on the Carnival website, go here: >>Carnival Excursions for Costa Maya<<
Or check out the Project Expedition options here: >>Costa Maya Cruise Friendly Excursions<<
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan (Honduras)
Our final port of call was Mahogany Bay. It was here that I decided to do the most exciting water activity that I have ever done... I decided to do a beginners dive (40 feet down)! This is the one I did: >>Beginners Scuba<<
As I mentioned, I love snorkeling in beautiful clear water that is a bit farther out from shore. I like having a better opportunity to see sea turtles, rays, etc... when I go. So this time I decided to kick it up a notch. Since I am not a certified scuba diver (although I have decided to get my certification after doing this) I was still able to do this PADI course and beginners dive to a max depth of 40 feet.
The PADI lesson and dive are held at a resort called Anthony's Key Resort (which I would actually like to return to as a guest) and the dive site was called Overheat Reef.
The excursion starts when you get picked up by your bus driver who will drive you to the resort and tell you lots of facts and jokes along the way. Our driver was hilarious! When you arrive, you are shown to the classroom where the PADI instructor will teach you the basics and you will go through an instructional booklet and presentation together. It is very helpful to do this before even trying to put on the tank.
Once you are finished with the classroom portion, you are taken to your boat and you putter on over to a shallow area to practice techniques such as blowing water from the line, equalizing, hand signals, clearing water from goggles, etc.
Then we were taken out to the dive site to get started!
I LEARNED A VERY STRANGE AND EXTREMELY IMPORTANT LESSON HERE: If you have an unfilled cavity, you will experience so much pain trying to dive. I seriously would never have thought about that... One of the young ladies diving with us tried to go down and she immediately began to experience a lot of pain in her tooth... To the point where it was unbearable. She could not dive with us. Just an FYI because it's not something I had ever heard of or thought about.
- PADI lessons in a classroom
- Practice with an instructor in shallow water prior to going to the dive site
- The bus driver was hilarious
- We were split into 2 small groups which was nice. A larger group would have been fine, but the smaller size was a bonus in my opinion.
- You get a little certificate for completing the course
- The bus driver gave us a bottle of rum on the way back to port
- The dive was incredibly beautiful
- We saw barracuda
- I saw a turtle
- I've never seen that color of blue in person before
- The tanks and boat were in excellent condition
- The dive instructors were very patient and took the time to point out interesting corals and fish while on the dive
- The resort where the dive begins is just a short bus ride from port
- I had lots of time to check out the beach, shop, and ride the Magical Flying Beach Chair thing-a-ma-jig.
- They have a diver who takes pictures and video of your dive that you can purchase at the photo shop.
- As beginners, you can not take an underwater camera. I think you can take one that can be affixed to something but I am honestly not sure.
- The photos and video that they take of you are not free... Nor are they cheap. I bought both because it was such a great experience but just be prepared to spend some moolah here.
- Again, if you have an unfilled cavity this activity will hurt you and you won't be able to do it.
Overall impressions: I should have been a mermaid.
No but seriously, this is a great introduction to diving for anybody who is considering getting SCUBA certified. The PADI course is a great place to start and you can get a feel for it before you take the leap. If you are someone who doesn't like having things touch their face, this will not be fun for you. I felt a bit panicked at first with the mouthpiece and goggles but I did overcome that thankfully once I got going (distracted, haha). If you have a bad back or knees this may be more difficult at times when you have to sit or stand with the heavy tanks on your back. You know your limit so just trust your own judgement here. I came away from this dive with a strong desire to get SCUBA certified and do a longer/ deeper dive next time. Be sure to pack sunblock, an insulted water bottle, tip money for your driver, and you should probably visit the dentist before you come on this one (partly kidding but also not). Other than that you really don't need much here.
For a full list of excursions for Mahogany Bay on the Carnival website, go here: >>Carnival Excursions Mahogany Bay<<
Or again, check out the Project Expedition options here: >>Mahogany Bay Cruise Friendly Excursions<<
Overall I enjoyed pretty much everything about these excursions. My favorite was the Beginner's Scuba. Second favorite was Kohunlich Mayan Ruins. I also enjoyed the Snorkel and Mayan Ruins Ultimate Combo but just not as much as the other two. I recommend all three as excursion options for your next cruise!
I am available to answer any other questions you have about these or any cruise or Mardi Gras related questions as well.
Has this post been helpful? Have a question? Drop a comment below and let me know!