First Timers' Guide to Western Caribbean Cruise Ports

I've traveled solo, but nothing beats sailing away with seven of your closest friends. One week ago, eight of us embarked on a 7-Day Norweigan Cruise leaving out of Miami. While the girls glammed it up in their wardrobe, the boys beat us in their dance moves. 

Norwegian Escape
Norwegian Escape Manhattan Room
Norwegian Escape
 

 The Norwegian Escape was built in 2015 and offered a plank rope course and an aqua waterpark including the free-fall slide, which I "chickened-out" trying. With 22 bars and lounges, each with their own unique vibe, we had so much to see and do. The stops were all exciting and new to us but what sold us was the unlimited beverage package! We estimated that we must have saved at least $700 per person, on drinks alone. 

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Norwegian Escape Aqua Park
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Our highlights were dressing up for our dinners at the Manhattan Room, where live music performed every evening. We tasted anything and everything, ordering our heart's desire from the menu. As the nights progressed, we usually found ourselves sipping on a Manhattan martini with our favorite bartender Henry. We had a blast dancing the night away at the "Glow" party where everyone came dressed in white with neon glow sticks and glowing paint.   

 
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Norwegian Escape
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The cruise ports included: Roatan, Bay Islands (Honduras); Harvest Caye (Belize); Costa Maya (Mexico); Cozumel (Mexico)

With the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria, cruises are currently offering ridiculously low prices. I just saw a deal for $399 for the same ship we were on. The locations we went to weren't at all affected by the hurricanes. If you are thinking of going, here are some tips we learned on our trip.


 

Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
Once off the ship, the locals greeted us with traditional dancing and music in a small tourist shopping center immediately off the pier.  Past that, you’ll see booths set up with all the locals offering tours and taxi services. It can feel a little overwhelming walking through that. We ended up paying $20pp to hire our own private driver who took us to West Bay and made arrangements to pick us up whenever we were ready. The drive took about 20 mins over some dirt roads. As we arrived at this private beach resort, the fee was $20pp to enjoy the facility which included, chairs, umbrellas, clean bathrooms, a pool and our own waiter. It was annoying though after saying "no" multiple times to the locals to purchase their goods on the beach, they continued to linger staring at us, and blocking our views. I turned down a massage from the same lady about six times during my stay there. Food was pricey and geared towards the typical American diet..chicken wings, burgers, etc. Snorkeling cost about $25 pp which included a 10 min ride to one of the most beautiful reefs my friends said they've seen. Roaton is well known for their scuba diving. Two of the girls in the group had separated to go scuba diving and had only good things to say about their experience. 

 
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Harvest Caye Belize
We all had high expectations for Belize but sadly were mostly disappointed with this stop. We called it fake Belize because it's own by the cruise line and there is zero culture. It felt like an extension of the ship's main top deck but stretched out onto an actual beach. Good thing it was Erica's birthday making this a fun day no matter what. We celebrated taking a shot-ski in one of the local bars. I highly recommend ordering a coco rum from the local stand for $10. After taking a sip of the coconut water to make room for the rum, he poured until you said stop. There was also a superman zip line, which looked fun as people flew over the beach. 

 
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Costa Maya, Mexico
We had Costa Maya underrated, but it quickly became our favorite stop. When you get off the ship, you’ll immediately notice the pier is designed to keep you shopping and lounging in that area. It felt like a maze to find the exit, but once we did, it was worth it. With a cheap $3 per person taxi ride to the local beach called Mahahual, we hit a sweet $30 all-inclusive deal including chairs, umbrellas, drinks and beach activities. Dana was so excited, and the only one to take advantage of the stand-up paddle boarding. The rest of us soaked in the crystal clear water enjoying the company and the unlimited drinks. We all felt a little sad to leave this small piece of paradise.  

 
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Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel was the only stop that we pre-booked an excursion because we all wanted to see the Tulum Mayan Ruins. The travel time alone took up 4 hours roundtrip. Is it worth seeing? Yes, but only once. As we passed Playa De Carmen beach, we were already planning our next vacation back to this beautiful spot. What makes this Mayan ruin so unique is it was one of the last cities built that was inhabited by the Mayans and its location is right on the beach which you can still go swimming today. The grounds themselves aren't big so you can go through them quickly. 

 
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Why try a cruise?

I've been on seven cruises before this one, and I always said this would be so fun with friends. With a group of eight, I knew a cruise experience would give us a more relaxed way to travel. The group didn't have to worry about what to do, where to eat, or having to split a check eight ways for three meals a day. We were able to get by without renting a car or have to worry about who would be the designated driver to get us home safely, and the best part was entertainment was fully available to us every night.


 
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My Trip Budget: 

  • 7 Day Cruise base price: $499
  • Port and Fee cost: $250
  • RT Non Stop Alaskan Flight: $387
  • Miami Hotel shared between 8 people for two rooms: $50pp
  • Extra Spending money: $300
  • Total Cost: $1486