My wife and I cruised on Royal Caribbean (RCCL)'s newest ship, the Navigator of the Seas from May 31 - June 7, 2003 on the Western Caribbean itinerary (Labadee (Haiti), Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel (Mexico). I will give some info & tips about the ship first and then some info & tips about each of the ports.
My goal in writing this is to give an overview of what I would have found helpful prior to cruising on this ship. If this is your first cruise and you do not understand how the tipping works or what a shore excursion is, or how you can order multiple entrees if you like, then please read some of the other postings concerning this cruise ship as well as the travel forums.
This review will not focus on detailing every nook and cranny of the ship, as plenty of other reviews have accomplished that feat.
Embarkation: We arrived at 9:45 a.m. and knew that we would have to wait to board the ship. By 11:45 we were on the ship. Although the embarkation was fairly smooth, it could have been better organized and many people were confused at different parts of the embarkation process. Having been on 14 other cruises, I feel that RCCL has some room for improvement in the embarkation and disembarkation process.
Info / tips about the Ship:
Since this is the first year that this ship has sailed, it should be no surprise that it is in excellent condition. Unlike older ships that have worn carpet or visible rust, there are no such things on the Navigator.
Cabin The TV in the cabin has a channel which shows a camera view of the front of the ship (too bad they don't show any other views). This is a camera which is mounted high on the ship that show the front of the ship. So, if you get a cabin without a view, you can always turn on your TV and see what the weather is like. Also, the same TV channel shows the ship's position and speed.
There was enough room under the beds to place our 4 suitcases.
The rooms were equipped with 2 beds that were pushed together.
All cabins are equipped with a refrigerator in the cabin (it is a mini fridge and is stocked with soda, nuts, M&M's). We informed our cabin steward that we would not use any of the things in the fridge and instead we would keep our own Pepsi in the fridge. He said no problem and he even took the stuff out of the fridge and took it away for us. However, on the last day we noticed a $5.75 charge to our bill and when I called to have it removed, I was told that it was not the cabin attendant's fault because the fridge has an automatic eye and if anything inside is moved, it automatically charges the $5.75. This seemed like B.S. to me, since they had no way to know what could have been used, since every item in the fridge was removed. Anyway, keep a careful eye on RCCL since this might be an easy way for them to make money if people don't complain about the automatic charge.
On past cruises we have been given both an ice bucket and a pitcher of water. There was no water pitcher on the Navigator, just a small ice bucket, which is stored inside the fridge. However, this was never a problem because you can always keep some water chilled in the fridge.
The air conditioning knob in the cabin is more like a standard thermostat in a house (mounted on the wall) than the older type that we have experienced on past cruises (which usually are mounted in the ceiling).
The shower is slightly smaller than standard cruise size showers that we have experienced in the past. The comedian had a great bit of fun with the small size of the shower and if you are obese, then I suppose that you might curse RCCL for their shower design. If you are obese, you can always go up to the gym and use the showers up there (they are large). The nice part of the shower is that they have plastic doors rather than a shower curtain.
The first 2 hours were wasted because the door keys did not work properly. We had a difficult time and located the cabin steward and even his master key did not work the first 8 times. We were told that the battery was dead and we could return in 30 minutes and the door would work. However, 30 minutes later the door did not work, so we braved the line at the guest relations desk and were told that they replaced the battery and maybe the whole electronics in the door were broken, so another hour and 4 visits later the door was finally reprogrammed 3 times and our cards eventually worked. We were told that several other passengers had similar problems. Later that evening we received a voice mail from the guy at the guest relations desk making sure our door worked. Too bad RCCL didn't send us an arrangement of flowers or the standard bottle of wine for our inconvenience. I guess when the ship has 3200 passengers, they kind of lose track of the little things that cruiselines used to do.
Pools Although the daily newspaper (the Compass) has bold print about not reserving lounge chairs by the pool accompanied by a threat that the pool police have been instructed to remove articles that have been left unattended for more than 30 minutes, this is nothing but an empty threat, with absolutely no enforcement. I saw a pool police man shooting the breeze with a co-worker and never once did he remove towels from "saved" chairs. There are plenty of chairs on the ship, but if you want to lie on the same deck as the band/pools, then you will NOT find a seat unless you arrive early.
There is one pool and one hot tub that are for adults only. These are located in a section called the Solarium and they have the softest cushions. Although I never saw the pool police venture into this area, there were never any kids there because of the strict enforcement of the rules by the grumpy child-hating passengers who frequented the solarium. Although my wife and I enjoyed this quiet area of the ship on occasion, the average age in this section was definitely above 50.
Being the largest passenger ship in the world, it did not surprise me that there was hardly any movement at all on this ship - even when we passed through a storm.
I only had a few minor complaints. Take these as they are intended (information for future cruisers). One gripe that I had was that if you were by the pool and wanted anything to drink (for free) then you have to put of a shirt and shoes to get that drink. This is because the only drinks that are available are at the bar (for a charge) or inside the Windjammer (which will not let you inside without proper attire). I have been on past cruises where they had drink machines outside near the pool so that it was easy to get lemonade - not so on the Navigator. The same is true for food by the pool. If you want lunch, get your clothes on and go inside. They only exception is if you go up to Johnny Rockets and eat outside. Too bad the Navigator doesn't offer a grill (for hot dogs, burgers and chicken) outside by the pool.
Food As this was my first cruise on RCCL I had heard that I would receive food which was better than that on Carnival. I did not find this to be accurate. I think that the food choices and quality were quite similar to those on Carnival and my wife strongly believes that Carnival had better quality food than RCCL. We both think that the desserts on RCCL were sub par. Then again, we did not care for the desserts too much on Carnival. If you are going on a cruise solely for the food, I suggest another cruise line (such as Celebrity or Princess).
Unlike past cruises where we experienced cantaloupe that was semi-frozen, RCCL had excellent cantaloupe.
The Navigator has food available at several different locations in the Windjammer. Technically the Jade is not part of the Windjammer, but you can't tell the difference because Jade is right next to it. Anyway, there are always 3 lines that served exactly the same food. I suggest skipping the first line (Jade) and going to the second and third line. The first line is always the longest and I never understood why, because all of the food that was offered at the first line (Jade) is also offered in the third line.
I guess with 3200 people on the ship, it is not surprising that feeding time might cause some problems. We never had much of a wait in line for food, but getting drinks (water, lemonade, or ice tea) almost always involved a wait. Rather than a self-serve machine, RCCL has a worker manning the drink stations and they could rarely keep up with demand.
In general the seafood offered at dinner was pretty good (I always had seafood for dinner). I enjoyed the lobster (I got 3 lobster tails that evening). However, my wife does not eat seafood and she felt that there was never enough steak options. Although RCCL offers something called a "ranch steak" every night, it is hardly a quality steak. We did not eat at Chops or Portofino's (which charged extra) and we did not talk with anyone else who ate there.
There was singing after dinner on 3 evenings and RCCL really pushes the image of being an international community. Since the dining room has 3 levels, our entire level had a matre d' which they referred to as the head waiter. He came to our table, about 4 nights, telling us the same jokes over and over, and always seemed distracted. All of the people at our table gave him the standard tip, but there was a lot of discussion as to whether he deserved anything at all.
There are a few different locations where you can get frozen yogurt (either chocolate, strawberry, vanilla or a mix of vanilla and one of the other two flavors. They even have sprinkles at one of the yogurt machines (I don't understand why the Navigator doesn't offer sprinkles at all of the machines).
We had the late seating, which was great for us. Although we were told that second seating meant 8:00 p.m., I am sure that some people did not appreciate the fact that the second seating dinner did not actually begin until 8:30 (except for the first night, which didn't begin until 9:00 p.m. Clearly those with young children should keep this in mind when selecting which dinner option to select.)
One area that we were disappointed with was that there were rarely any fruit carvings. Even for the midnight buffet (grand buffet) there were only a few fruit carvings. They have some Styrofoam carvings which have a thin layer of chocolate on them during the grand buffet and most people thought that they were actually carved from solid chocolate. I think that there were only 3 ice carvings the entire cruise.
We visited Johnny Rockets 3 times and enjoyed shakes (their menu advertised malts as well as shakes, but when I asked about malts, I was informed that they have no such thing (I wonder why it's even on the menu then). Anyway, the chicken sandwich, hot dog, and chili-cheese fries were all great, and when you sit down they automatically bring you a plate of fries and rings before you even order. By the way, all of the food at Johnny Rockets is free. But all drinks other than water cost you money (the shakes cost just over $4.00 and when you sign for them the 15% tip is included, but the receipt has a line for "additional tip." I suppose that some people must feel that more than 15% is warranted.
Crew The cruise director was very active and actually told some pretty good jokes during the cruise. There were 3 comedians on the ship. The black guy (Carl Strong) was hilarious at the first show (the clean show) but his midnight show was lack-luster and recycled some of the same jokes. The second comedian was a guy named Gary Muledeer and he had a 5-minute piece of video self-promotion at the beginning of his show explaining how he used to be a popular comedian in the 1970's. I have never seen a show where the comedian had to convince the crowd that he was someone famous. Anyway, he did comedy and singing. I hate country music, and that was the type of music that he performed, so I did not care for the music, but his comedy was funny.
The last comedian we missed, but he had a Hispanic name (Pancho or something like that). There was a Juggler from Hungary who went by the title "the Gentleman Juggler." He was okay, but not as good as the jugglers that I have seen on Carnival.
This ship has Kareoke and takes it very seriously. Of course the drunks perform during the week, but they select the best person each night and on the last night of the cruise they have a Kareoke final and all of the best people compete. They take it so seriously that they even have mandatory rehearsals. I suppose that it worked because the guy who won was excellent. He was from Spain and spoke no English but sang a wonderful rendition of Unchained Melodies.
RCCL should take a tip from Carnival and do the towel creations every night. We received only 3 towel creations, and two of them were unrecognizable. I later found out that something was supposed to be a stingray. RCCL does this thing where they arrange the pillows into some weird designs, but the first two nights I didn't even notice and only realized it when our tablemates talked about it. Some of the pillow arrangements were symmetrical, but nothing like having a cute towel creation.
As is to be expected, the pool decking gets very hot. There are pool games such as group volleyball, men's sexy legs contest, and a belly flop contest.
As to be expected from a brand new ship, the Navigator has talking elevators. This is a nice feature (especially for the drunks). Right before the elevator opens its doors, it verbally announces which floor you are on. There is a female voice that says "deck three" or whatever deck you are on. RCCL also has floor mats inside the elevators that announce the day of the week (yes they change them daily).
Rockwall - I climbed the rockwall and had a blast. When I went it was the first sea day and they make you sign-up on the hour and you spend 20 minutes signing a waiver and then waiting around. Then since the line was so long, they said that we only got one shot that hour. That means if you slipped or fell, you were done and you had to sign up later on to try again. Fortunately I was able to climb all the way up and I even ended up on the ship's video.
In-line skating. I own my own rollerblades, so I wanted to give the in-line skating a try. I walked right up, signed a waiver, and checked out some in-line skates. When I skated I was all alone for a while and eventually two other people arrived. I initially thought that the in-line skating area was too small, but after a few laps I changed my mind and I now believe that it is sufficient size for a cruise ship.
Shows - we felt that the shows were so-so and were typical of cruise shows. Don't expect too much from the Broadway-style shows and you will be happy. For some reason all 4 of the main singers are 20-50 pounds overweight. Maybe that is because they eat the ship food all the time.
The ice show was outstanding and by far the best show that we have ever seen on a cruise ship. If you can only go to one show on the cruise, make sure to go see the ice show. They do the same show on the ice 3 days during the week and they offer tickets on the first or second day of the cruise at two times. I skipped the morning time (because I figured that the lines for tickets would be too long so I went down for tickets at 2 pm and I discovered that the tickets for the first day of the ice show was sold out, but there were plenty left for the second and third days of shows. Half of the performers (ice-skating) were from Russia and I wondered if they were the Olympic rejects.
Tips/ gratuities - you can automatically add the suggested tips to your card (sail pass account) but you have to request for that to be done. I missed the noon deadline on Thursday so I just went down to the purser's desk (they refer to it as Guest relations desk) and they billed my card. However, I was surprised to receive print-outs vouchers and envelopes and instructions to hand the crew the envelopes with vouchers. That is just ridiculous. If I wanted the awkwardness associated with handing an envelope, I would just put cash inside it. To me, the whole point of putting the tip on my card, is so that I can cruise without having to worry about remembering to hand over an envelope and figuring out when is the best time to do the hand-over. Hopefully RCCL will revise this method of tipping, or better explain that the sole purpose is to save you from getting the exact change the night before tips.
Casino - the Casino was very nice and several people claimed to have won a few hundred dollars.
Bingo - My wife and I never played bingo for money before, so we were surprised when we won $270. We had seen on previous cruises that they have a jackpot bingo (for which tickets usually cost $10). I decided to buy a $10 ticket, but when I got to the front of the line and asked for the lest expensive ticket for the jackpot bingo, I was told that there is a $25 ticket but for an extra $10 I would get twice as many cards. I decided to buy the $35 card, and I would have felt tricked if I had not won. I later found out that they do see $15 ticket for the jackpot bingo. The extra cash gets you some tickets to play the 3 or 4 games that they do just before the jackpot game. By the by, since nobody won the jackpot in the morning (with an estimated pay-out of $3600, it rolled over and by the afternoon the jackpot was $6000 which some lady won.
Ports and Shore Excursions We did some research before we cruised and we did some of the exact same excursions offered by RCCL, but at a reduced price, because we did them on our own.
Labadee - In port 8 a.m. -4 p.m. Okay, this is the only port where you cannot do your own excursion. We paid the $10 per person and rode the banana boat and had a blast. They just charge your card for the cost so you don't need to even bring cash ashore unless you want to buy something from the locals (crappy art and the typical wood carvings and hair braids).
My wife and I love to snorkel, but the snorkeling in Labadee pretty much sucks. If you have your own gear then you can still bring your gear ashore and see the airplane wreck. It is easy to find. Labadee has 3 beaches to your left (when you get off the tender). Just go to the second beach (Barefoot beach) and look in the water and you will see an orange buoy floating. That is where the plan wreck is. It is maybe 100 yards from the shore, and an easy swim. Don't expect to see many fish, but if you swim along the rocks (at the second beach) you will see the best that they have to offer. There were a bunch of small jelly fish in the water, but they didn't have any stingers so they did not bother anyone.
Although we had our own snorkel gear, when we attempted to get in the water, several guards told us that we had to wear a life vest. I declined, telling one that I prefer to dive down and a life vest hinders that. They were adamant and pointed to a large rock on which were several extra life vests. I grabbed one for my wife and I and we snorkeled for a while. When we were done, we threw them back on the rock and laid out in the sun. We saw hundreds of others renting snorkel gear and I discovered that they also had to rent the vest. I don't know if people with their own snorkel gear were forced to rent a vest or not, but if they were, it is a big scam.
The locals have a scam going that is as follows. When you get off the tender, you walk to whichever beach you desire. There are thousands of lounge chairs and they are all stacked up in the shade. The locals have tossed a handful of sand on the bottom of the chair and they offer to carry it over from the shade into the sun for you. When they set it down, they make a big show of brushing off the sand. Then they hover around hoping for a tip. The Ship's newspaper specifically states that the chairs are free and to report anyone who charges you money. The locals do not come out and ask you for money but it is clear that they expect some. Many people felt intimidated and "tipped" the chair man a few bucks.
Finally, I had read all about the market on Labadee and how pushy the locals are. Let's just say this. Unless you want to buy some wood carvings or local art, then there is no need to even visit the market. It is pretty much a non-air-conditioned building with about 50 booths that resembled a flea market. The funny part is that every single person is selling the same crap. As you walk past each vendor, they try to lure you into their booth. Nothing has any price marked on it. Therefore, if you have any desire to shop at the local market, I suggest doing the following. When you go towards the market, walk to the left and you will pass a building filled with locals selling stuff. You will come to a second building and there is a lot less stuff inside of it and it resembles a store. Everything inside that building has prices marked on it and you can get a feel for what things should cost. THEN go back to the other building and use your knowledge to help you negotiate.
When we had lunch on Labadee we were very hot and were quite excited when we saw all of the food and drinks being set up by RCCL employees. Everything was fresh and excellent. They had a bar-b-que and even the potato salad was good (that is a dish that I would never eat if I wasn't sure of the sanitation conditions). RCCL allows some locals to sit nearby and play some music and push the sale of their compact disks and local wood carvings (Flutes and other toys/souvenirs). Everything that they had for sale (except for their music) was available cheaper at the shop.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - In port 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Since we had never been to Jamaica before, I researched what there was to do in Ocho Rios and it seemed that most people visit the Dunn's River Falls. The more that I read, the more I saw that everyone was recommending a local tour guide named Peat Taylor. I checked out his website and saw that his tour went to the Dunn's River falls and Fern Gully and also would take us back to the ship for lunch and pick us up after lunch for some shopping. All of this ended up being more inclusive than the ship-offered excursions and it was cheaper than the ship's tours (Peat only charged $30 per person, which included entrance to the falls). The main reason that I chose Peat was because everyone said that he would get us to the falls before they got crowded, but that fell threw. One of the people who booked with him did not show up, and Peat was a nice guy and waited around a bit and then took us threw fern gully, hoping that the no-show would be at the port when Peat drove the van past it (to the falls). Anyway, we ended up getting to the falls late and there were hundreds of people already at the falls and the lockers were full and we had to leave out bags on a table, hoping that the local who ran the lockers would watch our bags. We then walked down the steps to the bottom of the falls and got in a huge line and held hands and began the climb up the falls. This was an amazing experience, but if the falls were not crowded then I think it probably would have been easy to navigate the climb alone, without the help of guides. There certainly were some dangerous areas, but as long as you are careful, you should do just fine.
Oh yea, buy some cheap water shoes at Wal-Mart for $5 before you leave home, because it is next to impossible to do the falls without them and they rent such shoes at the falls for $6, so you may as well buy them, and then you can use them on the other islands as well (and by the pool where the deck is very hot).
When Peat drops you off at the falls, he will leave you in the custody of two guides who will occasionally help you up the steep sections of the falls, and who expect a tip for their services. Peat gave excellent advice about the local scams. He said that the locals will hand you something and once it is in your hands, they will not take it back and then they will try and talk you into buying whatever is in your hand (so never take anything that they hand you). At dinner that night our table mates confirmed that this happened to them and they felt pressured into buying whatever it was. Another scam is that the locals ask you what your name is and when you tell them, they immediately carve it into some wooden piece of crap that they are selling and then tell you that you HAVE to buy it because it is now ruined and they cannot sell it to anyone else.
As we were exiting the falls (they make you walk through a market in order to exit the falls) and I observed both of the above scams in action. I also observed a third scam, where the local tells you that something is free (in order for you to take that object into your hands).
When Peat drops you back at the ship he reminds you that he supplied the tickets into the falls (which have the admission price of $10 marked on the ticket), hoping that you will give him a $10 per person tip. Everyone gave him some amount of a tip because he was an excellent guide.
Peat dropped some people off at Margaritaville (which is just a 5-minute walk from the ship) and when he took us shopping we had about an hour. My wife saw a pink sapphire ring (c2k) which started at $1800 and the guy went down to $780. We decided to not buy and only found one store later in Cozumel which sold C2K pink Sapphires and they started at $1800 and only went down $100, claiming that the ring in Jamaica had to be fake because there was no way that an authorized dealer could go so low. We never bought that piece of jewelry, but we had been warned before our cruise as to the questionable authenticity of jewelry in Jamaica, so be careful.
We ended up buying Blue Mountain coffee for $14 a pound. I saw it as high as $20 a pound (right near the ship). Peat warned us to only buy the Blue Mountain coffee with one of two brand names because all others were probably fake. I bought one of the brands that he recommended (Jablum). Others in our group bought some other name (not recommended) and only saved $1 per pound.
Oh yea, on Peat's tour he showed us some James Bond stuff, including Ian Flemming's house. FYI, when you pull into port you will see this huge rusty building on the right side of the ship. It looks like it holds grain. Well, Peat told us that it was the location where the filmed Dr. No and it was Dr. No's laboratory.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman. In port 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. My wife and I decided to go to sting ray city and when we did our research it seemed that three places kept popping up. Captain Marvin's, Captain Bryan's and Nativeway (catamaran). We chose Captain Marvin's because it had the highest number of positive reviews and it visited three locations (as opposed to two locations). Captain Marvin's visited Coral Gardens, the barrier reef and sting ray city. FYI - coral Gardens was nice, but the Barrier reef was much better. Also, the barrier reef is only 100 yards from Stingray City. RCCL's excursion with the closest times and locations cost $58 per person, which is $18 more than what it costs with Captain Marvin (also the ship's excursions pack more people on the boats).
At the barrier reef the guide told us that there might be an eel and maybe a nurse shark nearby and he would try to find them. So I stuck next to him and as soon as we hit the water some people said they saw the shark, but they scared him away. So the guide, the videographer and I located the eel and the guide lured it out with some food. After he fed it, it moved towards me and I scooted out of the way (later on I saw myself on the video).
Then we moved the boat the 100 yards and joined the hundreds of people at sting ray city. My wife and I had swam with stingrays in Belize but this was different because here we were in waist-chest deep water and could easily stand. We were able to feed the stingrays and hold them for photos.
The video was pretty good, but expect to pay $55 for a VHS tape or $65 for a dvd, both of which will be mailed to you in a week.
Captain Marvin's offers ice-cold water or fruit punch on the boat ride and it didn't run out. Oh yea, all of the Navigator-run excursions required you to wear a life vest, but Captain Marvin's did not. Although he had plenty of vests, I never need one, but I don't think that many people wore them. My wife and I know how to snorkel, so we didn't need lessons, but I was one of the first off the boat so I have no clue if they even offered lessons.
They had a tip jar on the boat but they don't even mention tips. So if you want to tip, make sure to do so while you are on the boat so they guys get the money. When they brought us back to town, we all got a free rum cake and they did some kind of drawing and one person from our tour got a free T-shirt. Pretty cool.
We didn't get back into town until about 2:15 ship time and we had only about an hour to shop. My wife wanted a gold charm of a stingray and we found plenty and the prices ranged from $45-$110. However, the place that we bought it from would not negotiate at all. Not even $5. Very different from other Caribbean ports that we have visited.
Keep in mind that Grand Cayman is an hour different from the ships time, so if you are told to meet at Captain Marvin's shop at a certain time (we were told 9:15, which was 10:15 ships time) keep that in mind, so you don't sit around waiting for things to open, like a fool. Even if you get off the first tender, there are a few shops open (not many).
Cozumel - In port 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. My wife wanted to shop and I wanted to snorkel while in Cozumel. Since the ship is in port 9 hours, there is plenty of time to do both. The ship docks at the pier which is right next to the popular bar known as Senor Frogs. At the end of the pier there are tons of shops which actually have prices that are better than many stores in town (especially on booze and embroidered shirts).
I read many posts that suggested that we do our own snorkeling at the Chankanob National Park, and I almost went there but I had read several posts telling me how the snorkeling was even better at a place near Chankanaab Park which is called Dzul Ha, and it is much less crowded than Chankanaab Park. So I took a gamble and took a taxi to Dzul Ha.
We were very happy. First off, I never received any great descriptions about the beach description at Dzul Ha, so I will describe this. You take a taxi ($7 each way) and the taxi drops you off on the side of the road. The water is 50 feet away. Between the road and the water is a small area of sand. The sand is 95 percent covered in plastic beach chairs and there are a few covered benches. The benches have a sign warning you that you cannot bring your own food and you must spend $15 per bench. We did not sit at a bench, but opted for the lounge chairs instead. Almost immediately a waiter came up to us and asked us if we wanted and food or drink. I told him later and we went into the water. There was a pretty good current moving from the left to the right (as you stand on the land looking at the water. Thus the best plan is to enter the water as far to the left as you can (and swim even further to the left. Then swim out about 100 feet and let the current take you down a ways. There is a stairway that goes right into the water and there are no sea urchins in this area. Most other areas have sea urchins. We saw a large barracuda and a spotted eagle ray and several large (3 feet long parrot fish. We also saw a ton of trigger fish and blue tangs (about a foot long).
While we were at Dzul Ha, we saw several tour boats arrive and I could tell that at least one was the excursion from our ship. Yes, they went to the exact same place that we did for snorkeling. However, we only paid $14 (taxi to and from the beach) and we spent 3 hours snorkeling. The RCCL excursion costs $34 and would be an okay deal if you don't own your own snorkel gear and are not brave enough to take a taxi and rent it at Dzul Ha.
When we got back to the shore, we were ready for a drink and we paid $2.00 each for a 20 ounce plastic bottle of Pepsi. They also sold food and other drinks, but we didn't want to get sick eating the food, so we went back to the ship for lunch and then split another cab into town (San Miguel) (cab each way is $6).
Taxis arrive every several minutes to take you back to the ship. Just head back to the ship, hop in the mineral bath (by the gym), eat lunch and head back out for shopping!
The taxi stand at the end of the pier has fixed rates and they are painted on a large board (where the taxi stand is located). It costs $6 per cab to go each way into town (regardless of how many people are in the taxi).
The Navigator suggests to get dropped off at the store called Diamond International, so it is easy to find people to split a cab to that location. I prefer to take the cab a few blocks farther to Los Cinqo Sols as that is pretty much the farthest end of the shopping, and then I just walk in the direction of the ship until I come to Carlos and Charlies (and then take a taxi back to the ship from there). Most stores open at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. local time. By far the best prices for Mexican blankets is at Cinco del Sol. We paid $11.95 for 3 blankets. (That is $3.98 each) We saw blankets range from $5 - $30 depending on where you bought them. You can get blankets on the pier (in the shops located ON the pier) for $5 each.
We were shopping for a few specific items. One was a gold sombrero charm for my wife's charm bracelet. We saw prices range from $20 - $120 depending on the store. Touch of Gold had the second cheapest price ($29.00).
Also we were shopping for large masks made from stone (obsidian, quartz, etc) which ranged from $25 - $75 depending on the store. In general, the ship recommended stores were the most expensive.
We noticed that some people were walking from the ship into town. This is really not a good idea. It is a 3 mile walk and you have to be pretty cheap to not be able to split a cab (if you split it between 2 couples it only costs $3 per couple each way).
We spoke to some people that took the ship's tour to the Tulum ruins and they said that there is now a subway nearby and that is where they ate lunch because they did not like what food was provided on the tour. Also, when they went in the water at Xel-Ha they were told that they could not wear sun screen because it hurt the fish.
I hope that this review gives you some insights into what to expect.Dave a.k.a. snorkelman