Get Off My Ship!

What to do at the end of a cruise!

The end of a mass market cruise can be pretty rough! The day before you go, paperwork is arrayed on your bed explaining how you'll be processed off the ship, and the Cruise directors will make jokes about leaving your luggage outside your cabin by midnight. It's possible it may all feel a bit ungracious! The crew needs to get passengers off quickly to welcome new guests, usually by midday, so you'll feel the urgency to get you off the ship quickly. But that doesn't mean your vacation has to be over! Read our Disembarkation Tips to make a smooth transition from a cruising vacation to home.

To read more about Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise, click here

By Kathy Klofft 

Photos Jeff Klofft

Disembarkation Tips: 

Of course, it really depends on the port where your cruise ends, but here are some ideas for ending your cruise on a high note, possibly enjoying another day of vacation, or at least making the most of the hours before your flight home!

1- Check your itinerary before booking flights.

Check to make sure your flight is scheduled well after the time your ship arrives in port. Be sure you know how long that transfer will take and build in the time you need before your flight. Usually, the documents you receive from the cruise line will suggest the earliest time you can expect to fly based on needing to collect your luggage and pass through customs and immigration after leaving the ship. 

Be sure that the airport you choose to fly out of is really closest to your port. Sometimes, there is a smaller regional airport closer to your cruise port than the major airport. Or you might find you need to pre arrange transportation over some distance to get to the main airport because cabs are unwilling to take such a long trip. (This is true especially in Europe)  Most cruise lines offer transfers to the airport and that can be a good option. But be sure to research your options. Sometimes a taxi or ride hailing app can be cheaper than the ships transfer for 2 or more people!  

Where is the port in relation to the airport, can you get a cab, does the port allow ride hailing app services? What time do arrive in port?  Be sure to arrange your flight well after this time!

Where is the port in relation to the airport, can you get a cab, does the port allow ride hailing app services? What time do arrive in port?  Be sure to arrange your flight well after this time!

 

2- Take the pressure off rushing to the airport by staying overnight in the disembarkation  

You might find that the disembarkation port has plenty to do, we found that to be true in Tampa.  We were able to extend our vacation by booking a hotel room on Saturday and by booking an early flight on Sunday, we enjoyed Saturday night out on the town!  Some ports are destinations themselves and we plan to extend our vacation with a few days in ports like Old San Juan, PR or Rome, Italy.   With so many people arriving in town the same day, sometimes hotel rooms can be expensive, I like to check online to see if there are any specials offered for cruisers at local hotels. If hotels are too pricey, see our next tip...

We enjoyed a long walk along the Tampa Riverwalk the day we disembarked and stayed in town overnight for a Broadway style show and dinner. It's a short cab ride or ride hailing service ride from the port

We enjoyed a long walk along the Tampa Riverwalk the day we disembarked and stayed in town overnight for a Broadway style show and dinner. It's a short cab ride or ride hailing service ride from the port

 

3- Lots of connections to make?

When a cruise ship gets in too late make all the connections you need to get home, you don't have to stay in the expensive port city with all the people you just sailed with! You can start your flights, arrive in one of your less expensive connection cities and book an inexpensive airport hotel for the night there.  After one cruise, I needed to transfer from the port to the main city in Costa Rica, and then fly to Florida. Without a direct flight to the city I needed to get to, rather than stay overnight in a pricey Costa Rica hotel during the high season, I flew to Atlanta, stayed in an inexpensive airport hotel and made my way to my Florida city early the following morning!

When a small plane was the first of 3 flights to leave Drake Bay and end up in South Florida, it was cheaper to stay in Atlanta overnight than in Costa Rica during the high winter season. 

When a small plane was the first of 3 flights to leave Drake Bay and end up in South Florida, it was cheaper to stay in Atlanta overnight than in Costa Rica during the high winter season. 

 

4- Late flight?

Look for luggage storage services. Sometimes, the time the ship pulls into port is too late to plan the early flights, and the flights available leave you with a lot of time to kill in port.  While that can give you time to explore, it also means dragging your luggage around with you!  Here are some ideas for what to do with your luggage. These days, most airports will not allow you to "store" luggage, and the trip to and from the airport to check it can eat up a lot of your touring time before the flight, as well as be expensive with multiple transfers.

The good news is that in many ports, there are businesses that will stash your luggage in exchange for your dining or visiting there.  In Tampa, I saw advertisements that a ticket to the Florida Aquarium includes free luggage storage. With the aquarium withing walking distance of the port and the Channelside Bay Plaza, this is an excellent choice for leaving luggage if you want to explore Channelside near the port. A quick google search or reading forums on the ports you plan to visit will usually yield a few options for luggage storage, whether a restaurant or tour, that you can take advantage of during the day. 

While waiting for your flight, you can watch the next set of passengers embarking the ship from the Channelside Plaza in Tampa. 

While waiting for your flight, you can watch the next set of passengers embarking the ship from the Channelside Plaza in Tampa. 

 

5- Late Flight? Book a cruise line excursion that includes an airport transfer.

The cruise lines know that passengers have late flights and will offer excursions that allow you to store your luggage (often right under the bus) and enjoy a tour or activity in the port city and then transfer you to the airport.  The disadvantage is that these will still usually require you to be at the airport well in advance of your flight, since they need to get everyone back for a variety of flight times. 

I often recommend adding a ships excursion to the Everglades National Park and airport transfer for foreign visitors with late flights from southern FL. 

I often recommend adding a ships excursion to the Everglades National Park and airport transfer for foreign visitors with late flights from southern FL. 

Lastly, most people who enjoy cruising will tell you the best way to end a great cruise, is to book another one to look forward too! Happy sailing!

To read more about Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise, click here

What To Do in Cozumel

By Kathy Klofft

Photos by Kathy and Jeff Klofft

A crowd of ships in port in Cozumel.

It seems most cruise ships call on Cozumel, judging by the amount of them in port on the average winter day.   It can be intimidating to plan a shore excursion when there are as many as 10 ships in port, creating a crowd of 15-30 thousands visitors a day!  Here is some advice for planning a fun and even potentially relaxing day in Cozumel. 

For more about our recent Caribbean cruise to Cozumel click here to see our on going trip report Rhapsody of the Seas

Tip 1: Know where you are!

There are three major port terminals in Cozumel. They are very close to each other, but when arranging private tours or taxi rides back to port, make sure you know where your ship will be docked! Punta Langosta is downtown San Miguel, and used primarily by small ships, The International Pier and Puerta Maya, about 1.5 miles from the town of San Miguel are sued by the larger ships.

Tip 2: Know what you want to do!

The Cozumel excursions fall into to broad categories- excursions on Cozumel and excursions on the mainland of Mexico (via a high speed ferry to Playa Del Carmen)

Mainland excursions usually include:

  • Mayan Ruins
  • Cenote swims or beach breaks (these are sometimes added to a vist to Mayan Ruins)
  • Xplor, Xel Ha and Xcaret are big mainland adventure parks with a variety of beach/ ziplines/ rafting activities

(Also, before choosing to go to the Mainland, consider that the enclosed high speed ferry to the Playa Del Carmen can be rough, and some people have trouble with motion sickness.)

This Mayan ruin is on the island, much more dramatic ruins can be found on the mainland, but require a lot of travel. We were told this water front structure served two purposes; one was to create a "whistle" warning sound out of the top (like a teapot) for ancient islanders living on the interior of the islands, to alert them when high hurricane winds were beginning to blow on the coast.  The stone structure also served as a shelter for fishermen who could not make it back to their homes on higher ground during a storm. 

This Mayan ruin is on the island, much more dramatic ruins can be found on the mainland, but require a lot of travel. We were told this water front structure served two purposes; one was to create a "whistle" warning sound out of the top (like a teapot) for ancient islanders living on the interior of the islands, to alert them when high hurricane winds were beginning to blow on the coast.  The stone structure also served as a shelter for fishermen who could not make it back to their homes on higher ground during a storm. 

 

Cozumel island excursions include:

  • Beach breaks; there are several options from beach clubs that only charge a dollar or two (such as Paradise Beach) for a chair, hoping you'll buy food and alcohol at prices similar to US prices (which is well above MX prices) or all inclusive capacity controlled "quiet" beaches that charge $50 per person(such as Nachi CoCom).  Analyze how much you plan to eat or drink to decide which is a good deal for you. 
  • Mexican food or tequila tasting tours, which you can book independently ahead of time, join the ships tours, or explore the food in the town of San Miguel on your own. (it's generally advised not to drink the water in MX unless the place you are dining uses filtered water...most ships excursions and beach clubs use filtered water, but it can't hurt to ask!)
  • Snorkel and Diving and glass submarines; Part of the MesoAmerican reef, Cozumel has some amazing sights underwater.  Depending on the your training and comfort level, you can go diving, take an easy shore snorkel tour or even board a submersible with windows to enjoy the fish and coral. 
  • Jeeps/4x4s/or buggy adventures. The island offers several adventure parks and off road tours where you can take control of your own jeep or buggy and explore the island with a guide leading the way. 
  • Dolphin and Sea Lion Encounters. There are two major dolphin encounter sites on Cozumel. Dolphin Discovery and Chankanaab Park  It is one of the least expensive places to do this kind of activity if it appeals to you.  (about $100 per person vs nearly $500 per person for a US based marine park) It is worth making an advance reservation for dolphin encounters, they are popular and sell out quickly.  The parks give priority times to ships excursions, and there are so many that if you book independently, you may miss out because the only time slots left is too late. 

Tip 3: Know how much time you have (and what time it IS!!)

As a cruiser, you need to decide if you want to do a mainland excursion where the ferry takes an hour or more and often the bus to the excursion start can be another hour or more.  This means that during a 8 hour port stay, you could be traveling up to half of it just to get to your adventure.  Read the descriptions carefully to make sure you know how much actual time you'll have at the site you want to see!

Another thing to consider is if you plan a trip to the mainland, be sure you get back to the ship on time. Delays with the ferry or on the road can cause a delayed return and you could miss your ship. Taking a ship's excursion to get the mainland is a good idea because they often charter their own ferry and I have occasionally seen the ship waiting for that ferry to arrive a few minutes late before departing port. 

Another tricky time trick?  Cozumel is on Eastern Standard Time, but they don't observe Daylight Savings Time, so sometimes you'll need to reset your watches while in port during the winter.  Generally, the ship will make this clear and make lots of announcements ahead of time.  But be sure to change your watch and DON'T rely on your cell phone if you have it in airplane mode while traveling out of the country...it won't update automatically unless you have cell service!!

Make sure you get back top the ship on time!  You wouldn't want to miss a sunset like this on the ship leaving Cozumel! 

For more about our recent Caribbean cruise to Cozumel click here to see our on going trip report Rhapsody of the Seas

Oops, We Have a Little Emergency

By Kathy Klofft

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Today I made a detour a local urgent care clinic in Florida. It wasn't on my itinerary of bike riding, kayaking, and napping on the beach!  Luckily for me, a small injury or bug bite that became infected was easily and quickly treated with antibiotics, but injuries and emergencies on the road can be scary. About a year ago, I wrote a post about how to avoid medical emergencies and how to prepare for them when they occur. I hope if you have a travel medical emergency, it is small and easily solved, and I hope our tips help you solve it and get back to the fun stuff! 

See our post here; 

 http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/5/30/expecting-the-best-preparing-for-the-worst

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

Wildlife Among the "Wild Life"

By Kathy Klofft

Photos: Kathy Klofft

I spend a few weeks each winter in Southwest Florida, on the Gulf Coast. This time of year, things can get a bit "wild" according to my relatives who live here...traffic backs up for miles to cross bridges that bring them to Estero or Sanibel Islands, people circle parking lots waiting for spots, restaurants have waiting lines out the door for dinner and that's at 4:30 PM! Yes, when snowbirds and spring breakers all arrive at the same time, it can be "wild"!  

Kayaking in the mangroves along the Calusa Blueway in Ft Myers.

Kayaking in the mangroves along the Calusa Blueway in Ft Myers.

But what about the REAL snowbirds? The feathered fauna who arrive from all over the East Coast to feed and stay out of the cold northern climes. They are the real "wildlife" of Florida, and you don't have to go very far to find it. Two years ago, I shared this post about how to find real Florida, http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/1/26/real-florida and while this little corner of Florida where I visit has only gotten busier, I still can find a quiet spot to dip my paddle or peddle a bike or walk where the wildlife lives and is usually pretty patient with me watching, so long as I am quiet and not a threat! 

During my 2 hour paddle through mangroves, lagoons and out to the beach on the bay; I saw a kingfisher, herons, egrets, tree crabs, skimmers, gulls and a flapping sea turtle on the surface of the bay, who spied me with his little eye, and took a deep dive down under the sea.  What I didn't see till I got to the beach and the good fishing areas, was another human being! (I've included some photos, which I hope you will excuse for being a little "foggy", I used my iPhone inside an Overboard water proof case, but it's tricky to prevent the inside of the bag from fogging up a little) 

Hope the next time you travel somewhere known for beaches, nightlife, or all you can eat buffets, you'll also get a chance to take a few minutes to meet the real life "wild residents" too!  

 

A heron sits in the mangroves, keeping an eye on me as I glide in its direction on my kayak.  

A heron sits in the mangroves, keeping an eye on me as I glide in its direction on my kayak.  

Kayaking in the mangroves  

Kayaking in the mangroves