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Review: Split & Trogir, Croatia Shore Excursion

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The last stop on our Norwegian Star cruise was Split, Croatia. The voyage began in Croatia and ended there, which I thought was fitting because I absolutely fell in love with what little I saw of the country. We chose another Cruising Excursions tour, called the Split & Trogir Tour.

I am so glad we picked this tour, because the little town of Trogir had my heart from the moment I stepped foot off the bus. It was about a 30-minute ride there, where our guide gave us some history of the area and pointed out things along the way. When we arrived in Trogir, we pulled in a bus station right in front of a little harbor and I knew immediately that I would love the charming town.

Our first stop was at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Lawrence, otherwise known as the Trogir Cathedral which was finished in the 17th century. It was everything you’d imagine from an Old World European church – exquisite, detailed, and gorgeous with a story hidden in the carvings and artwork. In particular, the one that stuck with me is the doorway, where the carvings tell the story of Jesus’ life.trogir croatia

After that, we strolled through the town square and saw a monastery, as well as Cipko Palace. I cannot get over how these old European towns look and feel, it’s truly like being in a different world in a lot of ways. We visited a number of them on this cruise, and each time I was still in awe that I was actually standing in such a beautiful, historic place. We wound around the small walking streets and happened upon some people selling various items basically outside their front door. It literally looked like a magazine with the bright colors, greenery, and old stone structure.

trogir croatia

At the end of our time in Trogir, we had some time to explore the town and do whatever we wanted on our own. Doug and I found a little vintage wine bar and settled in for a glass. I tried Riesling because I am used to my own wine region’s Riesling, and wanted to compare it to Croatia’s. Theirs was crisp and refreshing just like what I’m used to, but wasn’t as sweet which I actually enjoyed.

We also explored some shops and walked along the waterfront harbor, which houses some sailboats, larger tour boats, and other private vessels. Across from the water are lots of restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating, which is a perfect place to enjoy lunch on a sunny day. It was so perfect. trogir croatia

trogir croatia

Back in Split, we headed to Diocletian’s Palace, which is enormous and almost a city-within-a-city. It’s not like a normal mansion-looking palace you would expect. It was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century AD. Our guide walked us through, stopping along the way to tell us about different points of interest and give us some history that we wouldn’t have easily gotten elsewhere during the tour.

split, croatia

One thing in particular about Split that I will never forget is when we walked through the tall vestibule of the palace. There was a group of men singing a cappella, and they sounded absolutely amazing. The vestibule is basically a cylinder shape pointing up to the sky, and it’s clear that they’ve chosen that spot because of the beautiful acoustics. A crowd gathered around and we were all entranced until they hit that last note. I can’t speak for how often they are there, but I’d guess that it’s just about every day during the busy tourist season – so if you’re touring Diocletian’s Palace, keep an ear out for them.

Looking up in the vestibule

All in all, this was a fantastic excursion and Trogir is now one of my favorite places I have ever visited. If you’re going on a cruise that stops in Split and you want to experience something a little bit down the road, I can’t recommend this excursion enough. I would go back in a heartbeat.

I think in general, Croatia as a whole with both Split and our port day in Dubrovnik was my favorite country I visited on our seven-night voyage, aside from our time before and after the cruise in Venice, Italy which I would consider a tie. If you missed my Dubrovnik excursion review, you can check it out here.

We were given this excursion in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

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EUROPE

Cruise Excursion Review: Dubrovnik, Croatia

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I recently took a 7-night cruise aboard Norwegian Star around the Adriatic/Eastern Mediterranean, and it was a trip of a lifetime for me.  It was my first time in Europe and had an absolute blast.  Our first stop was Dubrovnik, Croatia, and we took one of CruisingExcursions.com’s tours, called Essential Collection – Panoramic Dubrovnik & City Tour.  

My Review

The first thing we did after hopping onto the bus was taking a short drive up, up, up the steep coast to a beautiful overlook of the city and sea below, called Park Orsula.  Since this was literally my first taste of Europe besides our embarkation port of Venice, I was especially blown away by how beautiful it all was. We had probably 10 minutes to just walk around and get some pictures, which I got a lot of (as usual).  If this is what southern Europe was like, I was in for a real treat during this voyage.

 

After that, we headed down into the Old Town of the city for a tour with our guide and group.  Being from a pretty average town in America, and having not traveled a ton out of the country before this, the Old Town was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in real life before.  The streets (for walking only!) are made of limestone and there is a lot of marble, too. The buildings are all sort of connected and almost like just a few huge buildings divided into sections, with shops, restaurants, and apartments above. A bell tower with a beautiful clock on it was our landmark that showed us where we were if we ever got lost.

Side note: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you will absolutely love Dubrovnik, Croatia. The city has seen a huge spike in tourism numbers since filming started.

We were also given a little tour of Sponza’s Palace, with a beautiful courtyard and small museum located right in the heart of the Old Town. It was a neat introduction to Dubrovnik. One neat thing to note there, is that there are public fountains (in a lot of the ports we visited, actually!) that are very ornate and beautiful, but they are for drinking. You literally lean over the side and can fill your water bottle right with the water that’s shooting out of the side.

Once the guided part of our tour was over, we were given about an hour and a half of free time before it was time to head back to the ship. We ended up wandering around, browsing in some stores, trying a delicious mojito at a local bar, and checking out the harbor and end of the fort where a lot of locals were gathered. Some guys were playing a pickup game of soccer (or football in Europe), and a lot of families were hanging out by the water just enjoying the day. Quite a few little kids were even swimming. We sat there for a while, and I was just reveling in the fact that I was in a completely new place watching the locals go about their leisurely day. It’s so neat to see a tiny glimpse of what other’s lives are like!

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CARIBBEAN

9 Things to Know About Dunn’s River Falls

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If you’re cruising to Jamaica, an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls should be at the top of your list. As a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the Caribbean, the falls promise a fun and memorable adventure. But before you go, here are 9 things to know about it.

1. Dunn’s River Falls is a natural waterfall

Dunn’s River Falls is a natural waterfall that is fed by underground spring water. While the falls’ tiered appearance may make you think it’s man-made, this is actually the result of lime deposits in the water that continuously build up rock in a staircase formation while the water continues to flow over. Dunn’s River Falls is also one of the few waterfalls in the world to actually flow directly into the sea!

2. The water is cold.

Since it’s fed by a spring, the water at the falls is cold – really cold. Don’t worry, you get used to it really quickly. Plus, the cool water is refreshing as you are working up a sweat while climbing.

3. Wear water shoes.

Sneakers won’t cut it here, as they’ll just get weighed down with water and trip you up. You absolutely must wear water shoes. If you don’t wear your own, you’ll need to rent some at the falls for $5. I bought my own pair for $5 at Walmart before my cruise, so now I have a pair that’ll come in handy on other excursions during future vacations.

4. You climb in a group.

You climb the falls in a small group with your guide, and everyone holds each other’s hands in a chain as support as you climb. When I first learned this I groaned, but once I began climbing I ended up being thankful for it. There were some places where the rock was slippery or where the water was rushing over my feet so forcefully that I felt I may slip, and it was oddly comforting to have some helping hands.

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5. They scrape the algae.

In order to ensure that the rocks aren’t too slippery, Jamaican workers at Dunn’s River Falls have to scrape the algae off the rocks. This is for your safety, and your guide will let you know before you start your climb to avoid any black rock.

6. There are lagoons.

The falls cascade down into the sea like a staircase, with shallow lagoons in between each ascent. That means the lagoons give you a short break in between each climb, which the guides like to use for photo opportunities.

7. Bring cash.

You’ll want to bring cash, and plenty of it. Your guide will definitely deserve a tip at the end, and there will also be photographer who will follow your group along the climb taking photos and videos. (Even better, bring your own waterproof camera to save from having to buy the excursion pictures.) There are lockers on-site to store your wallet and items while you make the climb.

8. There’s a staircase.

If you don’t want to or cannot climb the falls, there’s a staircase that has been built into the land next to the falls so that you can follow along while others climb. There are also a few places where the stairs will open up to a lagoon, so look out for these if you get tired during the climb and would like to finish the rest by stairs. This also makes the falls more kid-friendly, as sometimes the climb can be difficult for little ones.

9. There may be spiders.

The falls are located within the Jamaican rainforest, and with that comes all the critters as well. In addition to watching your step while climbing, you must also mind your head – as you may find yourself frighteningly close to the low-lying webs of some very colorful, very long-legged, very creepy spiders.

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CARIBBEAN

Mr. Sanchos Cozumel Excursion Review

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Mr. Sanchos is an extremely popular beach break destination for cruisers, and its prices and amenities have few local rivals. If you’re cruising to Cozumel soon, Mr. Sanchos should be at the top of your list for a day at the beach.

Booking Mr. Sancho’s

Although reservations for Mr. Sanchos are not required, they are recommended. It will help speed up your check-in process if you come with a print-out of your reservation confirmation. One thing I particularly like about their reservation system is that they only require a $5 deposit per pass at the time of booking, and then you pay the balance once you arrive. Although I’ve never canceled, their confirmation email states that you can receive a 100% refund of your deposit as long as you cancel within one day of your visit.

Getting There

Carnival Freedom in Cozumel.

Since Mr. Sanchos is a private beach club, you are on your own for transportation. But the good news is that the taxi system in Cozumel couldn’t be set up any easier. Just on the other side of the shops found right off the Puerta Maya pier, there’s a taxi hub with a constant stream of taxis to keep cruisers moving. A taxi ride to Mr Sanchos takes about 10 minutes and will cost $15 for 1-4 people, $20 for 1-5 people, or $32 for 6-8 people. Of course, if you wish, there’s always the option of renting your own vehicle for the day to get there.

All-Inclusive Prices

To be clear, this review is about the all-inclusive space at Mr. Sanchos. However, Mr. Sanchos also serves pay-as-you-go customers. I don’t recommend this, mostly because the all-inclusive day pass already offers incredible bang for your buck and because you won’t have access to some of the best parts of the beach, like the swim-up pool bar. If you’re still unconvinced, there are horror stories online from people who have racked up hefty tabs without realizing it through the pay-as-you-go option. Don’t stress yourself with this possibility. The all-inclusive pass for adults is $55, for teens (12-17) is $40, and for kids (4-11) is $35.

Amenities

With your all-inclusive day pass, Mr. Sanchos becomes an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink resort complete with free wifi. There is plenty of prime waterfront beach space filled with lounge chairs, and just behind them are tables with beach umbrellas to keep you cool in the shade. A waiter will greet you upon your arrival and personally attend to you for the rest of the day, bringing you whatever drinks and food you’d like from the menu so that you don’t even have to trouble yourself with the self-serve buffet (unless you’d like to, of course). Each drink on the menu is just as good as the next, especially the frozen ones like the “Dirty Monkey.” Be sure to try the fried coconut shrimp, which come with a delicious orange dipping sauce, and to order some quesadillas as well. If you order chips, be sure to order several plates at once, as the serving doesn’t come with very many. (Also, remember to tip your waiter at the end of the day, so include that into your costs when budgeting for Cozumel.)

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Mr. Sanchos also features a swim-up pool bar that is exclusive to the all-inclusive guests as well as a hammock area and an area of the bar with swings. If you’re feeling adventurous, kayaks are also available to use. There are always plenty lying around, so don’t worry about there not being enough. If you walk down the beach for a minute, you’ll also find a sand volleyball court. There’s plenty of shopping on-site too if you’d like to purchase your souvenirs here rather than spending any time in town doing so.

There are also cabanas that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis so long as they are not already reserved by someone through the romantic cabana package. There are also, of course, restrooms and lockers on-site as well located near the front entrance.

The few things not included in your day pass are snorkel equipment, towels (bring one from the ship!), shots of liquor, and the Starbucks products – because yes, there’s also a Starbucks on-site now!

For-Fee Extras

Although these activities aren’t included in your day pass, Mr. Sanchos features its own array of “excursions.” These include access to the aquatic park for $12, a 30-minute horseback riding experience for $35, an ATV tour for $40, a 12-minute parasailing flight tour for $65, and a 30-minute wave runner ride for $72. Mr. Sancho’s also offers a “Romantic Day at the Beach” package for couples available for purchase on their website for $230 that includes the all-inclusive pass as well as a private cabana, a 30-minute massage for each of you, and a rose “for your loved one.” In addition to these activities, there are other services throughout the facility such as massages and pedicures (with the nibbling fish!) that can be purchased on-site.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Mr. Sanchos makes for the perfect beach day in Cozumel. If you’re looking for a picturesque Caribbean beach that’s not too crowded, offers the all-you-can-eat/drink experience, and isn’t a budget buster, Mr. Sanchos is the place to go.

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