jdavis88 is a firefighter and paramedic who lives in Florida. He loves to travel and maintains a blog called Southern Travel Tips.
Cozumel, Mexico makes an excellent cruise for first-timers. First of all, there are so many things to do in this beautiful place. There are white, sandy beaches, wonderful beach bars, great shopping, historic sites, and tasty seafood to be experienced. Secondly, Cozumel excursions offer a great time for everyone, no matter what your interest. Lastly, this is an easy and relatively short trip from the U.S.
As with any port of call, there are little tips known by experienced cruisers that can make a trip that much better. For cruises to Cozumel, I have a few tips that can make that first trip a foundation for many more cruises to come, instead of the first and last. Here are five great Cozumel cruise tips to help make your experience better.
1. Know When to Buy Your Cozumel Excursions
From the time you book your cruise to Cozumel until you reach the port, you will be offered opportunities to buy various excursions. Although you may get some decent prices, especially through some third-party booking websites, you will probably be able to get a better deal when you get off the boat and can see what things to do in Cozumel. Don't be afraid to go out on your own (with a group or another traveler, of course) and get one of the cabs that are lined up outside the port area.
Choosing to wait until you disembark is optimal, because when you book through the cruise company you will be paying top price for the excursions, plus a cut for the cruise company or travel agency. Also, many of the excursions are to visit beaches that you can simply take a cab to yourself.
The only exception to this tip is if you are on a cruise to Cozumel during peak season and want an experience that is more than simply visiting a beach or area of the city, such as tours of Mayan ruins or dune buggy trips. A select few things to do in Cozumel can fill up quickly, especially during busy seasons. If you are wanting one of these more detailed excursions, pay up and book early, or you may not get the chance.
2. Check the Prices on Gifts When You Get to Port Before Buying in Town
When you get off your Cozumel cruise at port, you will walk through a port shopping area. In many cases, the prices here will be much less than in town. Check them on your way through, make a note of the prices, and if they are cheaper, buy on your way back to the boat.
You may be able to buy cheaper in town, but only with some serious haggling. For the most part, the shirts and other gifts will be around three times the price in town. If you are good at haggling you may be able to save a dollar or two, though I personally choose not to waste the time.
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There also may be some items in town that you may not be able to find at port, but I doubt it. You will often find many of the same gifts in the port shopping area. A few differences are tequila, cigars, and specific gifts that you might find at the ruin areas.
3. Come Back to the Ship With at Least 30 Minutes to Spare
Yes, come back a little early. The most important reason for this is that you don't want to be left behind. You may encounter traffic issues or long lines on your way back to the ship, but if you leave some extra time in your schedule you will be well prepared. As you are shopping in the port area on the way back, you will hear the ship sound its air horn. If you head to the ship when you hear the first horn you will have plenty of time. Where you need to be mindful is in planning your travel back to the port area. Traffic, vehicle trouble, and other issues are parts of life and would be horrible reasons to miss the boat.
The more comical reason to return early is to catch one of the best shows on the Cozumel cruise. If you check back on the boat and head straight for an upper-level balcony, you will receive a complimentary show I call "Walk of the Drunks." It is hilarious. You can enjoy a drink and relax in a lounge chair while you see people stagger back to the boat, often vomiting and getting into trouble with the port authorities.
4. Two Words: Poncho's Tequila
If you or someone in your group drinks, you need to plan a stop here. As you exit the port shopping area at the main port, look across the street and you will see a row of old shops. In the middle of these shops, you will see one that says "Poncho's Tequila."
Inside this little hole-in-the-wall shop, you will find everything from shot glasses to t-shirts. You may find some good buys here, but remember, the sign doesn't say Poncho's t-shirts. Wade to the back of the store and you will see a little bar and a little señorita with tons of tequila. They have flavored tequila, aged tequila, and more.
The best part is that you can sample any kind of tequila for free, and the server is more than willing to give you all the samples you want. I especially enjoyed the piña colada-flavored tequila which I cannot find stateside. Taste them all and bring back a bottle!
5. Do Your Homework Before Your Cruise to Cozumel
Taking some time to research different beaches and sites will help you optimize your trip and save yourself a good bit of money. On our first trip to Cozumel, a friend of ours thought that certain beaches were "private" and that we could only visit them if we paid for a package excursion deal. In researching prior to our trip, we found that there are no "private" beaches in Cozumel. Most of the beaches have to be accessed through certain restaurants, such as Senior Frog's, but that is as "private" as they get.
Also, take small bills. If you try to haggle with someone and pull out a 20, you have lost. Travel in a group—while the island of Cozumel is relatively safe, it is better to be safe than sorry as a tourist. Finally, take too many pictures. Cozumel is both beautiful and fun, so experience as much as you can!