Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fun of Port & Shipboard Adventures

The Fun of Port & Shipboard Adventures




Ok I’ll be honest. With the two cruises I did on Disney (the only cruises I’ve ever been on.) I only did 2 Port Adventure (AKA Shore Excursions). Both PAs were on our 2005 cruise and we did not do any when we went this year to Mexico. I did feel it was important to make sure that if you are planning a cruise and thinking about a Port Adventure you know what to expect.



PA’s can run from a simple walk around a museum or town area to an active adventure climbing hills or scuba diving. Some PA’s are restricted by age and/or physical ability. Read closely the information about the PA you wish to take to make sure it suits you and your party. The choice is yours and there are many options at the different Ports of Call.



      First of all you should know that you don’t have to book a PA to go ashore and see the sites. If you choose you can book your Port Adventures through Disney. You can book on line at DisneyCruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line on the phone or wait and book when you get on the ship. WARNING! If you wait to book until you get on the ship you may find the PA you wish full and be unable to go. You don’t have to book through Disney but I feel it is wise to do so. You have the choice of just getting off the ship and finding a local that offers to take you to a location you wish to see. I’ll talk more about non Disney PA’s later. Again you can just get off the ship and walk around or rent a bike or car yourself.




A PA can cost as little as $40 per person and run up to $300 per person or more. You can find information about the PAs at DisneyCruise.com. You can start booking your PA 75 days before your cruise date as long as you have paid in full for the trip. As you move up in the Castaway Cay Club you will be able to book further out. You have up to 4 days before your sail date to cancel your PA with no loss of money. If you cancel after that you will be charged for the PA even if you don’t go on it.

      If you book through Disney you are guaranteed the PA is legitimate and it has been checked for quality and safety. Disney does not manage or control the PA in any way. If you book on line you are guaranteed you will get to go on that PA. When booking through Disney you are also guaranteed you will get back in time to catch the ship before it pulls out of port. If there is a problem with an authorized PA they can contact the ship to have it wait a few minutes for you. If for some reason your PA has to be canceled because of a problem with the ship getting to port or some other scheduling problem you will get your money back. We were on the ship when the earthquake hit Japan in March. We had to skip a day in port due to tsunami warnings. All passengers who booked a PA through Disney (on-line or on board) got their money fully refunded that day.

With a non Disney arraigned PA you take the risk of a substandard PA. You have no guarantee of getting back to port in time to leave with the ship. You risk having to pay to travel to the next port to meet up the ship or just travel home. You are also taking a risk with your safety. Just picking somebody at the port you never know who you are going you with and if they are as concerned about your safety as you are. They can’t contact the ship if there is an emergency that keeps you from getting back on time or if you are hurt. If you prebook a PA outside of Disney before leaving and for some reason the ship does not get into port on time for your PA or does not get in at all you lose your money. I hate to sound like I am afraid of my own shadow but with the way the world is today it pays to be aware of safety issues.

Disney’s privet island, Castaway Cay has it own set of PA’s. All PA’s on Castaway Cay are run by Disney and most have some level of handicapped accessibility. Of course the most physically demanding PA’s can’t accommodate physically disabled guests. There is a massage in a open cabana on the adult only beach, Quiet Cove. You can feed the trained Sting Rays by hand then swim with them. You can rent a bike or snorkeling equipment for the day. There is a wide range of amazing things to do on Castaway Cay for every age group and physical ability! I will be honest this is my favorite port of call! I wish I could have gone there on our last trip but we chose a different set of ports of call.

So the choice is yours. You can stay on the ship at all times and always have something to do there or you can get off when the ship is in port and see new sites and have new experiences. Be aware that the Spa and Salon offer discounts while in port! The ships stores are not open while the ship is in port. Just be aware of safety concerns at the ports you are going to.

When we went to the Caribbean in 2005 we got off at all three ports. At 2 of them we did a PA. I would chose a different PA at St Marttain if I ever go there again. At St. Thomas we just walked around the area near the port. Castaway Cay was by far the best with snorkeling all day!

On our last cruise in March we chose not to leave the ports. While in on the Wonder to Mexico we felt it was not safe to leave the port areas due to violence in the area. Disney had already canceled one port due to violence there. We did walk around the ports and enjoyed the little shops there. We enjoyed our in port days as very quiet days on the ship. I will be honest and say that Cabo San Lucas felt safe enough to walk around but we still chose not to go far from the ship.

I’ll add this here as it will not take a full blog to share this. You can also book Shipboard Adventures before you depart. Spa/Salon treatments and adult restaurants like Palo’s can and should be booked on line with the same time table as the PA. Palo and other adult restaurants usually book fast so it is suggested if you wish to eat at an adult restaurant book it as soon as you can. We did Palo’s on our first cruise and truly enjoyed the adult pampering we received there. Remember that Spa/ Salon time and adult restaurants do cost extra.

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