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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.

For more information on this tour, click here.

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

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Shore Excursions

Cayman Turtle Centre Review

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Grand Cayman is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. It’s surrounded by crystal clear water and has some of the best beaches in the world. If you’re lucky enough to have this port of call on your cruise itinerary, consider booking an excursion to the Cayman Turtle Centre.

We booked the “Stingray Encounter & Turtle Swim” through Carnival. But since we’ve already reviewed Stingray City, this review focuses solely on the Cayman Turtle Centre, which is a stop on a variety of excursion options offered in Grand Cayman.

Tendering Into Grand Cayman

Because Grand Cayman is a tender port, we received tickets in our stateroom at the start of our cruise that directed us to meet in the ship’s theater at 7 am. We ordered an early room service breakfast and met in the theater at 6:45. Luckily we went early, because our group left promptly at 7 to board the very first tender from the ship.

Once we got onto the island, we followed the sign for our excursion and were given wristbands. Then, we were led onto a bus which would take us to the first stop on our tour: Cayman Turtle Centre.

Cayman Turtle Centre

On the way to the Turtle Centre, the bus driver spoke of the island’s history, local inhabitants, and the Cayman Islands’ relationship with turtles. The 20-minute ride took us along the world-famous 7-Mile Beach, which was lined with condos and resorts.

Upon entering the Turtle Center, there is a large pond at the front and center that is home to the largest and oldest turtles there. We were encouraged to take pictures while a staff member greeted us and explained to our group the Centre’s purpose: sea turtle research and conservation. There’s also a kiosk selling turtle food nearby if you’d like to feed the turtles. (The sea turtles definitely like this venture!)

After the short introduction, you are free to roam the facility’s grounds on your own, as long as you make it back to your meeting spot at the front gate at the time designated by your bus driver. Regardless, in the beginning we were ushered to the right-hand side of the facility, where there were mini-pools with younger, smaller turtles. We formed a line and waited our turn to hold a turtle and take pictures with it. It was definitely the highlight of our Turtle Centre visit.

Continuing through the grounds of the Turtle Centre, we passed the lagoon where you can snorkel with turtles. We chose not to swim and snorkel that day because, as mentioned, this stop was part of a two-part excursion where we’d be going on to Stingray City later, and we didn’t want to get wet when we still had several hours left on our tour.

This was a disappointing decision for us, though, because the facility’s amenities are gorgeous. The lagoon where you swim with the turtles weaves throughout the grounds, and there is a man-made beach complete with beach chairs at one end. In another corner, there’s also a swimming pool with a water slide that looked perfect for younger children.

If you don’t want to snorkel, there is a path that dips below the lagoon’s surface and opens to a large glass window where you can view the turtles, fish, and any snorkelers swimming from below the waterline.

We continued on the path to a birdhouse. This is a large structure enclosed in nets so that the birds can fly freely inside. There are double doors so you can enter without letting the birds out. It was a nice surprise to see so many species of exotic birds up close – I hadn’t expected to see that at the Turtle Centre.

After wandering through the birdhouse, we made our way into a small building which gave us a welcome reprieve from the heat. Inside on the left is an educational video about the Centre, its research, and its conservation work. To the right is part of the hatchery for the turtles. Through a window, visitors can view little turtle hatchlings that are just days old. There are even eggs still in incubators.

There was also a bar and restaurant overlooking the turtle lagoon. Unfortunately, we arrived so early that day (before 9 am) that it wasn’t even open yet. It was beginning to open towards the end of our visit, but by that time we had already made our way into the gift shop to purchase some souvenirs.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Cayman Turtle Centre was a fun and memorable stop. While our swim with the stingrays at Stingray Bay was the true highlight of the day, that doesn’t take away from our experience at Cayman Turtle Centre.

In fact, for anyone looking for an animal encounter but not quite willing to swim in the open ocean with wild stingrays, this is the perfect low-key option. Plus, it’s an especially attractive option for families with kids given the multitude of amenities inside the facility such as the water park, turtle lagoon, and restaurant.

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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!

For more information on this excursion, click here.

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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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Hi, this may be of interest to you: Review: Split & Trogir, Croatia Shore Excursion. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/review-split-trogir-croatia-shore-excursion/