The reservations are made, the cruise is booked and now it’s time to book the cruise excursions which take any ocean voyage up to that next level of making memories but did you know that you can book your shore excursions through TripAdvisor?
We recently set sail with Carnival Cruise Line on the Carnival Glory for a week of giving back but thanks to TripAdvisor we were also treated to a little rest and relaxation. But with so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences to chose from, just where do you start and how do you narrow down those daunting choices?
Here are a few tips on how we picked our shore fun.
Picking Your Perfect Excursion
What are you passionate about? What do you love to do? Are you an adrenaline junkie, or do you just want to sit on the back of a catamaran and soak up the sun all day with all the worries taken care of for you?
Maybe you are a history buff and want to know the history of San Juan or perhaps it’s all about a private cabana on a secluded beach. With TripAdvisor there’s truly something for everyone, no matter what you’re looking for.
We knew we wanted snorkeling so we used the easy search bar on the TripAdvisor site, simply put in our destination and up popped hundreds of options.
READ THE REVIEWS
Once you have it narrowed down to the type of activity you are looking for, and one that will fit with the length of time that you are in port, the next step is to check out the reviews. And by reading reviews, that means read the good and the not so good that talk about the companies you are interested in booking with.
The best part of TripAdvisor is you can find out a wealth of information in just a few minutes time, and you can bookmark your possible choices as you pick the one that is perfect for you. Needless to say if you’re heading to the Caribbean, snorkeling will be plentiful and with a plethora of choices, the reviews can certainly help you make the right choice for you and your family and save you the aftermath at the end of the day either basking in the glory of a picture perfect day, or sadly lamenting that maybe you should have heeded the warning of others.
Still not sure-ask people that have taken the excursion you are thinking about. There is a wealth of information just a mouse click away that can help you make your choice. Every review we read about Castaway Girl in St. Thomas both on the TripAdvisor website as well as in various Facebook cruise groups raved about them and they did not disappoint.
Read The Small Print-Know Before You Go
When you book through the TripAdvisor website you can rest assured that they are there for you. You will receive an immediate confirmation email explaining all of the details of the trip, and your vouchers for the trip are loaded right into your TripAdvisor app on your phone. It will give you all the information you need as to where to meet, the length of the tour, what you do or do not need to bring, and most importantly, access to their customer service should the need arise.
On a recent trip to the Daytona Speedway to take a ride of my life with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, I happened to hit a lot of traffic on the drive there and when I was worried that I might be late, I was able to call and let them know that I was not only on my way but made sure I had alternative times just in case. I also took a screenshot of my voucher so even if there was no internet connection, I still had access to it. Make sure to read the small print-just because you’re sailing out on a beautiful 4-hour trip leaving at 11:00 am doesn’t necessarily mean that lunch will be served. It’s the little things like these that can make your excursion memorable for all of the right reasons.
Make sure if your instructions let you know to check in with them 24 hours in advance or the morning of your trip, that you do just that. Unforeseen circumstances, especially in day trips where weather comes in to play happen and adjustments and/or alternative arrangements can be made.
Sailing Away With Castaway Girl
After reading hundreds and hundreds of glowing reviews, and knowing that we would be snorkeling with turtles, Castaway Girl in St. Thomas was an easy choice. With the crystal blue water, a perfect weather day and a catamaran awaiting us, Castaway Girl lived up to everything everyone said about them and so much more. From the moment you meet them, you know that you are in for a special kind of day.
This half day sail and snorkel tour to “Shipwreck Cove”, Buck Island was aboard a 65-foot spacious, sailing catamaran.They took the time to talk to us, wanted to know of any prior existing medical conditions, something of paramount importance for someone like me who does have mobility issues that can slow me down (but not stop me) and we were off the short walk to where our adventure would begin.
Safety is first and foremost with this company, from letting us know what we could expect, to the proper fitting of our equipment and one of the many staff that was on hand was there to answer our every question and help us along the way. After a relaxing sail, the captain dropped anchor at magnificent Buck Island.
Here we were treated to the brilliant corals, colorful fish, and yes a turtle or two. Once there, they once again went over all of safety precautions from staying with the guides to the fact that they would be checking in on all of us to make sure that we were comfortable and for those not venturing out into the waters, there were crew members up on the boat making sure that they were having as much fun as the swimmers were.
The thing that really captured my heart with this company was their genuine concern to make sure everyone was having a day to remember. There was one gentleman with us who had severe mobility issues and they stayed with him every step of the way making sure that his day was just as special as the rest of ours. The care and concern they took with him, and the smile on his face at the end of the swim was the cherry on top of the sundae for me. The experienced crew was there to guide us through the water and give expert instructions for first-timers.
The sail out to the snorkel spot was perfection and there is just something about sailing away on a catamaran in the middle of the Caribbean that just makes everything right with the universe.
Our guides took us right to where the turtles were, and when the turtles decided they had enough “people time” and dove deep, the guides offered to take our cameras to capture those coveted pictures for us for those who couldn’t dive down that far. Again, just all part of the Castaway Girl difference and just one of the many little things that set them head and shoulders above others.
After the swim, and there were soft drinks, snacks and yes, rum punch for the sail back. From start to finish, the staff and crew of Castaway Girl were not only the consummate professionals but made you feel like family from start to finish. If it’s a day of fun, rest, and relaxation you seek with the best in snorkeling, then sail away Castaway Girl.
The Turquoise Waters Of Grand Turk
I have snorkeled in many different parts of Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean but never before had I experienced such pristine waters as what awaited us in Grand Turk. The best part of a day in Grand Turk means that everything is right there.
When you step off your Carnival Cruise ship you are greeted by beaches filled with umbrellas, lounge chairs, food and everything your heart desires including small charter companies waiting to whisk you away for a day of snorkeling. For this stop, we chose to try out Exclusive Escapes which offered a multiple stop day of snorkeling, one of which including a stingray interaction.
We found Captain Eric, the owner of the company among the umbrellas on the beach. I was impressed with his stories and background and many years of service in law enforcement before finally following his heart and starting his own company in the place he called home.
This is a great excursion to take for those that want a more advanced snorkel adventure. If you are an advanced swimmer with little or no mobility issues, this is the tour for you.
With four stops, a lot of ocean is covered in a very short amount of time so you are treated to a wide variety of swimming spots from the drop-off, to a spot you can swim to the bottom of the ocean floor to retrieve your own conch shell.
Whether you opt to just enjoy the sun and stay on the boat or take the plunge, there’s no better place to do it than in the middle of Salt Cay and Gibbs Cay. Never before have I experienced such incredibly pristine, turquoise waters and at times it’s hard to believe that they are this way all year long. After the conch shells are gathered at the third stop, it’s off to the fourth and final stop for a lunch of conch salad made right before your eyes and a stingray encounter.
I am forever grateful to my fellow passengers who took the time to stay with me to make sure that I could navigate my way down the ladder to make it onto the shore of the island. Being on a private island in the middle of the Caribbean is worth the trip all on its own and yet the Carnival Glory was right in plain sight even though we felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere.
It was here that stingrays were plentiful and the captain did make sure that all of us got to not only pet the stingray, but give it a kiss, and got a very special stingray hug.
The captain was very attentive to the time, making sure we returned to the beach with plenty of time to reboard our ship and even though I never really did make it into the water on this trip, it was still a day filled with memories of the beauty of Grand Turk and the surrounding area.
Booking with TripAdvisor took all the guess work out of booking my choices because not only did I find suggestions for other travelers of things I didn’t even know existed when you embark on a cruise, but I was able to have all the information I needed, check the availability, book and have the voucher right on my phone and the best part, I had the option of booking weeks or months in advance, as most people do, or in my case I picked from the list the night before and was on my way the very next day. If I had needed to change my plans or had questions after I booked, TripAdvisor has someone there to answer it all for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It just doesn’t get much easier than that. Thank you, TripAdvisor for helping me to check yet another amazing experience off of my bucket list! Now, what are you waiting for? With thousands of adventures waiting just for you, isn’t it time that you started checking things off of your bucket list?
Check out my other Bucket List Adventures with TripAdvisor:
Now the only question is, where should I go on my next Bucket List Adventure with TripAdvisor? Where would you go and what would you do?