Sunday, December 15, 2013

Carnival Victory: 50 days til we sail

We have hit a nice little milestone today. 50 days until we sail on the Victory, again. With the holidays around the corner we are going to be focusing on those so before we know it, it will be January and we will be about 30 days out :)

Just a quick recap of what we have planned.

Carnival Victory February 3-8
Miami Feb 3
Day at Sea Feb 4
Grand Turk Feb 5
Day at Sea Feb 6
Little Stirrup Cay (Coco Cay) Feb 7
Miami Feb 8

We really aren't planning much this trip. We have reserved a spot for beach horseback riding on Grand Turk and then plan on lounging the rest of the day. We will hit up Margaritavilla and then the beach. As far as LSC, it shall just be a beach day. I may try my hand at snorkeling, never done that before.

As far what we are doing on board, we usually don't do much. We arent big on the productions but do enjoy a late night comedy show and ending our evenings in the casino & night club. I was thinking of checking out the spa on this trip.

Anyone checked out the spa on one of their trips? How was your experience? Was it worth the money? Let me know :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Carnival Victory: Grand Turk - Horse Back Riding

We have booked our first excursion for our trip! We decided to book with an independent company to go horse back riding on the beach during our stop in Grand Turk. We are in port from 7-5 so we booked at 10:30 am for a 1.5 hour excursion. The company so far has been great to work with and responds quickly to questions. I will post a full review once we have returned.

There is a lot of debating for most people when it comes to booking excursions. You have two choices, book through your cruise line or book through a private company. Each has its own pros and cons.

If you book through your cruise line you are guaranteed that they wont leave you behind. What does this mean? Sometimes things beyond our control happen and you could run late back to port. As long as you are booked direct, the ship will wait for you. The excursion will let the appropriate people onboard know. If you booked privately, more than likely the ship will leave without you and if you are traveling without a passport then you are SOL. Now what are the cons of booking through the cruise line? More likely than not, you are paying more money and getting a less personal experience. The cruise lines have a reputation of booking as many people as possible on their tours to maximize their revenue. A lot of people compare taking a direct excursion to being herded around like cattle.

So what are the pros and cons of booking independently? Basically the exact opposite of booking direct. You are more likely going to get left behind if you are late to the pier, although that may not always be the case. It is definitely a scary thought and you don't want to be featured as a pier runner on youtube. However you are more likely than not getting a better deal, a more personal experience and a longer excursion.

The best thing I can recommend is to do your research! Most importantly is to look at what time you are in port and compare it to the excursion time options. If you are pressed for time during an afternoon excursion that is a do not miss for your port, booking direct is probably the best option. But if, like us, you are going to take an excursion in the morning on a small island, it is fine to book a private excursion. How many people are the max amount allowed for your tour? If you want a more personal experience where you can ask questions and really get to know your port, booking a private tour is the best option.

Also look at the price, it adds up when you have a family or a group going. Even the smallest discount booking private can save you tons if you have a couple people traveling together. Something else to mention, what does your price include? Some include transportation, snacks, drinks or even lunch. Again, that adds up so it is something to consider.

Reviews. I can not stress this enough. Do not just book a company you have never heard of or even worse one that is not reputable. I have talked about Trip Advisor in the past. It is a great site that reviews hotels, excursion companies, restaurants, etc. Utilize other peoples experiences, making sure to take them with a grain of salt. Some peoples experiences may not pertain to what you are doing and lets face it, some people just like to complain. I cant speak for other lines but Carnivals site also offers reviews on their excursions.

I hope these tips help you pick a great excursion. We have booked both private and direct in the past. We were lucky enough that the ship excursions we booked were reasonably priced and had a small max of people. We have however priced out excursions that were just ridiculously expensive. Its all relative so you can take this information and apply it to your trip and see where you end up.