My readers who have been following me over the last week know that I just returned from my first ever Royal Caribbean cruise on Vision of the Seas. This cruise had a wonderfully interesting itinerary with extremely interesting ports of call. The price point of this cruise also made it very easy to afford some spectacular excursions in each of those ports.
My readers also know that I am a travel agent with CruiseOne. In addition booking cruises, vacations and tours though me, my clients can also book shore excursions through me and the company we represent, Shore Excursion Group. In full disclosure, all the tours I booked are the ones that I sell. Though I ‘ve gotten extremely positive feedback from my clients who have booked these excursions, one of the purposes of this cruise was for me to experience the excursions first hand so that not only can I explain the features and benefits, but also to affirm my confidence in my own product.
In our first port on this cruise eleven of us booked the tour to the South Shore Canopy through Shore Excursion group. By booking through the shore excursion group we received the return to ship guarantee:
Guaranteed Return to Ship
We have never had a customer miss their ship. Our team possesses over 80 years of combined cruise line experience and we are not aware of a single case in which a customer on an independent tour missed a ship. In the extremely unlikely event that you miss your ship due to the late arrival of one of our tours, we will arrange and pay for your accommodations, meals, and transportation to the next port of call, and we will pay you an additional $500 per customer for the inconvenience.
Shore Excursion Group also offers a money back satisfaction guarantee and a low price guarantee. Those promises pretty much make it easy for me to recommend Shore Excursion group tours to my clients.
Our 11 person group was divided into two groups, Zip Liners and Eco Walkers. One of the ladies in our Eco Walk group really wanted to try the Zipline instead of the suspension bridge canopy and rainforest tour. I told her as we disembarked that I would try to get her upgraded to the zip lines.
As we exited the ship we all had very specific direction as to where to meet the tour. The directions are so specific that they seem like it might be complicates, but following them exactly was pretty simple and we found our tour operator’s kiosk at the port with no trouble. It was a simple as turning right at Diamond International and finding he booth. We all had our tickets, but they did not require them as they already had us on the list. At the kiosk we inquired about getting the one member of our party upgraded to the zip lines and all she had to do was pay the difference in the price of the tours and we were all set. The zippers got one color of wrist band, the eco walkers got the other color and off we went on the little bus to the canopy park.
The park is actually owned by a local man who also manages the park as well. He employs several people who either assist or escort the zippers or provide the narrative for the eco walk. Upon arrival the owner checked us in, sold us locker space for just $2 (shared by about 6 ladies) and then took us to either the waiting area for the zip lines or the eco walk. While the zip lining group was getting geared up, we met our guide, Lonnie, and began our tour.
The one caveat of this tour is that though it is an easy walk for younger people, the numerous stairs, though mostly down, presented a bit of a challenge for the oldest of our group. So though this tour is designed for older people who may want to experience the rain forest canopy, they still need to be able to navigate a moderate amount of stairs. Our guide handled this issue wonderfully which speaks well of the Roatan tradition of honoring and respecting elders. The zip line experience has no age limit with the oldest customer being a 98 year old man who visited just a few months earlier.
Lonnie, our tour guide, shared all of his native Roatanian knowledge of the local flora and folk medicinal uses for many of the plants, leave, flowers, and fruits of the rain forest. As we walked though the forest he would show us a plant and engage us in a guessing game as to what the name of a plant or tree might be. He also gave us a little lesson in Roatan culture pointing out that all the public school are in Spanish, but the primary spoken language in the island is English. The village elders give private English classes to the students after public school so that they can retain that part of their culture. He also shared with us some of the local Creole/English slang by “translating” common English phrases into the colorful island slang. It reminded me of surfer language with a tone all its own.
While we were enjoying the walk though the paths and suspension bridges, we could spot the others in our group zipping above us. Most of that group were in their 70’s so there really is no age limit to enjoying the experience. You just have to be able to navigate the stairs up and down to the platforms. When they have younger children or even adults who are nervous about the experience, they send one of their guides on the zip line with them to help them feel more comfortable. They said it is better for children to go with a guide rather than their own parents, who might be a little nervous them selves.
After our walk and their zip we all met up at the bottom of the hill and I thought “Oh, now we have to hike back up.” Luckily it was only one little hill, and then the boss met us in his big extended cab four wheel drive pick-up with seating installed in the bed. They put our group of walking ladies inside the truck and the zippers in the back and drove us back up the hill.
Our bus driver was waiting for us to take us to the beautiful beach at West Bay. Upon arrival at the beach club we all received a choice of soft drink or beer and could use the beach club for several hours. More than half the group was ready to go back to the ship, so the driver said he could take some back and then pick the rest of us up when were ready. We agreed on about an hour which was plenty of time to see the beautiful beach, get a beach massage, or take a quick walk. West Bay beach was a little choppy this day, but still a stunning beach; lots of water front resorts and beautiful clear turquoise waters. In an hour our driver returned and took us back to the ship with over an hour to spare before we sailed.
I give this tour an A+ and would highly recommend it to family, friends, young and old. One of our group had been zip-lining on several cruises and he said that this was he best zip-line experience he had ever had. For those looking to learn about local customs, culture, traditional uses of the riches of the rain forest, the eco tour was very enriching and meaningful.