In the last Frommer's cruise newsletter we presented a list of the top active adventure excursions in Alaska, according to our poll of the expert shore-excursion staff at the cruise lines -- the people who find, test out, contract, and then manage all the shore excursion the lines offer. This week we turn to the Caribbean, still the #1 cruise destination and home to more than 600 excursions, from ho-hum bus tours to daylong hikes up the side of a volcano.
Excursions listed are those revealed by a poll of shore-excursion managers at the Big Four cruise lines -- Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and NCL, concentrating on both active adventures (hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, etc.) and "experiential" adventures (ATV and jeep tours, volcano tours, and so on). Since cruise lines contract with landside tour operators to manage their excursions, most offer a similar list of excursions. Still, the cruise lines' answers didn't always match. Different takes on what "adventure" means? Maybe, but that just gives you more meat to chew on.
Note: All prices are averages. Actual prices may vary by a few dollars.
Tropical Forest Hike and Cave Exploration: After a 30-minute transfer from the pier, this excursion takes you on a 45-minute hike through a lush tropical gully filled with hanging vines, rare palms, and unusual rock formations. From there, you descend by rope into an underground cave and proceed on foot into the depths, sometimes walking through waist-deep water. Time: 4 hours, including 30-minute drive each direction. Cost: $79. Recommended by: Princess.
Lost world Canopy Tour: Canopy tours are big right now, letting you swing on a system of harnesses and pulleys between platforms lodged high in the branches of jungle trees. In this one, you cross five traverses ranging from 105 to 500 feet, crossing the fallen ceiling of the open-air Lost World Cave. Time: 5.5 hours, including 2 hours by bus in each direction. Cost: $99. Recommended by: Carnival, Princess.
Cave Tubing and Rainforest Exploration: After a short orientation, participants are issued lifevests, caving headlamps, and inner tubes and led on a 45-minute hike through the rainforest to the banks of the Sibun River. From there you'll spend up to 90 minutes on the river, floating through caverns on your way downstream. Time: 7 hours. Cost: $93. Recommended by: Carnival.
Costa Maya, Mexico
Xspeed Boat Xcursion: Jet around Bacalar Lagoon aboard a two-passenger speedboat, buzzing between islands and exploring the mangroves. The lagoon was once a haven for the region's Mayan peoples, and was later a sailing ground of pirates. Don't hijack anybody. Time: 6 hours. Cost: $96. Recommended by: Royal Caribbean.
Certified One Tank Night Dive: Qualified divers set out as the light is just fading, descending to about 35 feet to witness how fish behave at night. Turn off your lamp momentarily to witness the natural bioluminescence. Time: 2 hours, with bottom time dependent upon air consumption. Cost: $59. Recommended by: Carnival.
Hike to Sari-Sari Falls: After driving through the Morne Trois Pitons National Park you'll hike down a steep hill into the valley of the Sari-Sari River, then hike along, across, and in the river en route to Sari-Sari Falls. Time: 4.5 hours. Cost: $59. Recommended by: Princess.
Atlantis Deep Explorer: Descend 800 feet beneath the surface aboard a deep-diving research submarine, viewing the colors of the Cayman Wall and the diversity of life at varying depths. Only two passengers can be accommodated per dive. Time: dive time 45 minutes to one hour. Cost: $349. Recommended by: Carnival.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The Original Canopy Tour: Hike through the spectacular Cranbrook Flower Forest to a base camp where you'll receive training, then its up into the trees with you for nine transverse swings through the Laughlands River Gorge, ranging from 105 feet to 660 feet apart. Time: 4.25 hours. Cost: $89. Recommended by: Royal Caribbean, Princess.
Montego Bay Jamaica
Canyon White Water Rafting: Travel into the hills above Montego Bay, then ride downriver through the rainforest in a self-bailing inflatable whitewater raft, bouncing through rapids and around boulders. Time: 4 hours, including a half-hour drive in each direction. Cost: $99. Recommended by: Carnival.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
White Water Rafting: Raft a ten-mile stretch of the dam-controlled Reventazon River through Class III rapids Time: 8 hours, including a 90-minute drive in each direction. Cost: $98. Recommended by: Royal Caribbean.
Mt. Liamuiga Volcano Hike: Travel past cane fields and small villages to the island's west coast, where you'll hike from the base of the extinct Mt. Liamuiga volcano up 3,800 feet to its summit, a 2.5-hour hike in each direction. Along the way you'll pass through cloud forest. At the summit, two lookouts offer views of the crater below and (weather permitting) of the many islands surrounding St. Kitts. Time: 7 hours. Cost: $109. Recommended by: Princess.
America's Cup Sailing Regatta: Sail aboard the Stars & Stripes, Canada II, and True North, three boats that participated in (and in Stars & Stripes' case, won) the famed America's Cup race. Participants are split up into groups and given rudimentary training in how a racing boat works, then everyone's given a job -- -- hauling or tying off the lines, grinding the winch, etc. At a signal, you're off on an abbreviated America's Cup-style course, racing the other cruise passengers in their other boats. Time: 3 hours. Cost: $89. Recommended by: Royal Caribbean.
Mountain Bike Adventure: Ride from the French capital of Marigot along the stunning coastline, up a hill for a dramatic view, then through the villages of Colombier and Friar's Bay Village, then down a dirt track to the picturesque, secluded cove of Friars Bay, where you can swim. Time: 3.5 hours. Cost: $75. Recommended by: NCL.
Sage Mountain National Park Hike and Snorkel: Sage Mountain rises 1,760 feet above sea level amid a tropical landscape of hardwood trees and orchids. You'll have about an hour with your hiking guide before stopping for a short visit to a rum distillery, then continuing to Cane Garden Bay, with its picturesque white-sand beach. You'll have an hour and a half here to swim, snorkel, or sunbathe. Time: 3.5 hours. Cost: $39. Recommended by: NCL.
Do you have a question or comment on this column? Head to our Cruise Message Boards to join in the discussions with fellow Frommer's travelers.