As a family of six, we recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas ship to Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and Falmouth, Jamaica. We had a blast on the ship and enjoyed our onshore excursions too. Here I’ll share our experience on our three excursions and add some tips too.
Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Since our kids have a wide age range (2-14), we wanted to go somewhere everyone would enjoy. We chose Playa Mia. Playa Mia has a waterpark for toddlers, waterslides for older kids/adults, a large pool, beach access, water “toys”, and water sports (some included, some cost extra).
We booked the excursion through the Royal Caribbean website. I always wait until the excursions are on sale to book, usually months before boarding the ship. Check around major holidays for the best sales. I booked Playa Mia for 20% off this way. Our 2-year-old was free, but we still added his name to our reservation.
Royal Caribbean will leave your tickets in your stateroom with the time and meeting place. This particular excursion had a meeting place in a large hut at the end of the pier. Don’t be nervous about finding your meeting place. There are many friendly and helpful people there to show you where to go.
Once our group was called, we boarded an air-conditioned bus and drove to Playa Mia. There we were free to do whatever we wanted for the duration of the excursion. They gave us a meeting time to meet the bus where they dropped us off. It was very easy to figure out, even though we were first-timers there.
We walked past some shops (be careful, some things in the shops in Cozumel are obscene. Use discretion as you shop) before we arrived at the water park area. They have restrooms and food available (either as part of your excursion or if you get the cheaper excursion like we did that does not include food, you can pay extra). The lounge chairs were on the beach so we had to walk past the waterpark to get to where we could lay our belongings.
I bought a waterproof fanny pack (very stylish! 🙂 ) and kept my passports, room keys (doubles as boarding passes), and money with me at all times. They have life jackets available, but we brought our own for the little ones.
We had a blast building sand castles, paddle boating, enjoying the waterpark for kids, the waterslides for the older kids, and the giant pool. We stayed there for about 5 hours.
We did not get the meal plan, but I did bring some prepackaged snacks for the kids. So, we were a little hungry by the time we were done. They have outdoor showers by the pool which is nice to clean off all the sand before your trip back to the ship. But it was a wonderful, clean, safe place to visit for the day, and I will definitely go back in the future.
We had borrowed towels from the ship and were able to return them when we reboarded which was nice to not have to worry about sandy towels in our room. I also brought a waterproof bag to hold my cell phone, so we were able to take pictures while we were there. We had an amazing day together as a family!
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Our next stop was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. This was the excursion we had all been waiting for. The day we were finally able to swim with the gentle and beautiful stingrays at Stingray City! The tickets were also given to us in advance. We waited in the theater with hundreds of other people on various excursions.
Grand Cayman is a tender island, which means you have to take a small boat from the ship to shore. Each boat only holds a certain amount of people, so we had to wait for one to be available. The cruise director actually called our group an hour late, but that did not make our excursion an hour shorter. They just pushed everything back, so we didn’t miss out on anything.
When our group was called, we all boarded the boat. At the end of the
We then took a bus to a pier to board the boat that would take us about 20-30 minutes out to Stingray City. The boat ride was beautiful and relaxing. They played island music which was nice.
I do have some people in my family that get seasick, so I gave everyone
When we arrived at Stingray City, we stepped off the ladder into the crystal-clear water. Seriously, I dropped my phone and it was so clear I could see to the bottom and pick it up. It also wasn’t very deep for adults. Maybe 5’ at its deepest. There were a ton of stingrays there. Well over 50. I was surprised there were so many.
The stingrays were very gentle. Despite what you may read online, they are wild stingrays and they DO have their barbs still attached. They do not sting unless they feel threatened. But shuffle your feet and you don’t have anything to worry about. They come to you for food, which will be provided by the boat captain. Even my 2-year-old loved petting these beautiful creatures. This was definitely the highlight of our trip!
I, again, brought the waterproof fanny pack and waterproof phone case, so I was able to get some amazing pictures and videos. I couldn’t see the screen very well in the sun, so I just kept clicking away! They offered to sell you pictures that the boat crew took (around $150 for all), but they were not very good pictures, and I only wanted 1 which they refused to sell me alone. I’m glad I brought my own camera!
It was the best excursion I have ever been on, and I would definitely do this excursion again! After an hour or so time with the stingrays, we took the boat back to the bus. Then, we were driven to Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman’s most famous beach. You can swim, eat, and relax there for 1.5 hours or so. They also had a playground there for younger kids.
By this time, we were exhausted. We decided not to wait the last hour (the sun was going down), and we took a taxi bus for $20 (for the 6 of us total), back to the ship on our own. We grabbed some pizza on the way back to our room and ate in the room, taking turns showering. We had an amazing day!
However, even in December and applying sunblock, we still burned. Two days in the sun was rough for this pale girl! I made sure to bring plenty of Burt’s Bees after sun care, which always helps soothe my skin.
The third and last excursion I booked was a beach day in Falmouth, Jamaica. However, after 2 full days at the beach, I was fried.
We decided to cancel this excursion, which you can do for a refund at the Shore Excursion desk onboard 2 days before your excursion to get a full refund. This meant I canceled this after the first day in the sun (which I think burned me the most. I wore a shirt the next day with the stingrays).
There was no problem getting a refund. I just had to make sure to bring my excursion tickets with me to return when I received the refund. Since our excursion was now canceled and we had never been to Jamaica before, we decided to walk around and look at the shops.
Here are a couple of tips when visiting Jamaica, or another country:
- Be careful what stores you bring your kids into. Many stores here had adult-themed trinkets, magnets, postcards, etc.
- The straw markets/craft markets have the same things in the shops but for a much cheaper price (and far less adult content!)
- They will, for the most part, claim to make these items right there. They go so far as to whittle stuff right in front of you. Don’t fall for it. The same stuff is in every shop and at every vendor.
- They have BEAUTIFUL wood items in Jamaica. So much, so that I wish I brought more cash with me. (My daughter and I actually went back on board, got more money, and shopped some more). Just gorgeous items.
- You can, and should, bargain with the prices. What I do, to be passive-aggressive, is to ask the price, pause a minute, and they will offer you a lower price on their own. I do haggle some if I feel the item is worth a lower price to me. For example, in one shop I bartered some items and then the total was $83. I offered $80, they said yes. Another time they wanted $10 for a wooden stingray. I paused, and they offered $7. I accepted.
- They will call to you to get you to come into their shop or their stand. You can just politely smile and say, “No, thank you.” They will not harass you. They are just trying to make a living.
We had a nice time on this island. I was so red from sunburn that I am glad we canceled our excursion, but I would like to go back and see more of this island. Perhaps see Dunn’s River Falls or Blue Hole when the little ones are older.
Onshore Excursion Tips:
- I like to book excursions through the ship. Some people prefer to wander
on their ownor choose excursions from local vendors. When I have my little kids with me, I want to make sure the ship will wait for us, which is guaranteed when you book through the ship.
- A lot of countries visited by cruise ships are third-world countries. Some are safe, some have higher crime. I don’t recommend wandering outside the cruise area alone unless you are certain that the destination is safe. I have wandered alone around Grand Cayman and felt completely safe. I would not wander around Mexico or Jamaica without a guide. I have not seen any crime with my own eyes but go based on research. Do your own research and determine if you want to explore on your own.
- I do recommend if you take a legitimate taxi, that you get the price up-front before getting in, and make sure that price is for your entire group, and not per person.
- Enjoy your destination, take a lot of pictures, and make sure you bring cash in lots of small bills (US currency works for all Caribbean destinations).
- Think positive! You are on vacation! Go with the flow and you will make wonderful memories!