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Expanded Carnival tour menu even includes some family freebies

A family-friendly sting ray snorkel tour (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)
Carnival Cruise Line said it dramatically expanded shore excursion offerings, adding exclusive experiences and customized private tours, as well as family-friendly enhancements. Among the family options are free beachside activities, value pricing and free tours in select ports for children under 5.

Carnival offers nearly 1,200 landside experiences in more than 50 ports throughout the Caribbean and Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii, Canada, New England and Central and South America.

Director of product development Erika Tache said Carnival has 'gone to great lengths' to provide more choices and offer families 'unique value-added services and pricing options.'

Among the new exclusive tours are ones that include access to private villas and enrichment activities that immerse participants in local culture and cuisine. 

For example, in Cozumel, 'La Casa en la Playa' (recently named Carnival’s Tour of the Year) is a five-hour luxury experience limited to 30 participants. It provides a beach house with five-star service, a personal chef and wait staff. Participants can learn how to cook Mexican cuisine, make Margaritas and mojitos, or simply relax on a white-sand beach.

In Ocho Rios, 'Eat, Drink & Dance' focuses on Jamaican food, music and culture. After nibbling spicy samples at a traditional jerk hut, participants dine at Miss T’s Kitchen, featured on Guy Fieri’s 'Family Vacation' on Food Network. The day continues with a visit to a beachside bar where mixologists create rum cocktails and concludes with a reggae dance lesson.

Also in Ocho Rios, 'Jamaican Home for the Day' gives participants their own home for a day where they can relax and have a home-cooked island lunch. The tour includes full use of the expansive property which features a secluded beach where participants can sip frozen daiquiris and other rum cocktails.

'Photo Safari & Beach Expedition' in Cozumel takes place over two days, beginning with a one-hour photo seminar on board led by the ship's photographers. The tour continues the following day with a visit to Mexican beaches and a national park where participants are offered a hands-on demonstration to 'Capture the Moments that Matter.'

'Eat, Drink & Walk' in St. Thomas begins with a drive through the countryside to St. Peter Mountain Great House & Botanical Gardens, where an observation level gives a view of the 15 islands that comprise the Virgin Islands chain. Participants can sample 24 island rums as they learn how to make banana daiquiris and nosh on island snacks like saltfish, plantains, jonnycakes and West Indian pumpkin soup.

Carnival's new family-friendly excursions in ports throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico have multiple price points. Children 5 and under get free beach excursions with their parents’ paid tour.

Examples include 'Family Beach Escape' in Freeport, for all ages. At a beachside resort trained youth specialists oversee sandcastle-making competitions, treasure hunts and face-painting while parents can relax under oversized umbrellas with tropical drinks. Lunch is included and water toys, paddle boats, kayaks and other watercraft are available for rent.

Cozumel's 'Island Beach Escape for Families by Power Catamaran' carries participants to Passion Island, with white-sand beaches and full resort facilities. Participants of all ages can play volleyball, use water trampolines and pedal boats, while kids get their own beachside play area. A Mexican-style buffet with guacamole, grilled mahi-mahi and a kids’ menu is included in the price.

Further choices include 'Family Treasure Hunt with Lunch at Blue Lagoon' in Nassau and 'All Inclusive Family Beach Resort Getaway' in Montego Bay, among others.

Carnival said beach excursions give families extra assistance with services such as stroller storage as well as hosted activities like games, and arts and crafts, along with play areas and water slides and toys, all available on a complimentary basis. Offered in all of Carnival’s Caribbean ports, the new activities are designed to keep kids entertained while giving parents some time together.

Cruisers seeking a more authentic shore experience can choose from exclusive private tours operated via custom motor coaches, sailboats, yachts and even helicopters, tailored to participants' preferences.

And with Carnival’s new on-board lounge tour dispatch system, tour operators come aboard to meet shore excursion participants, and tours depart from a shipboard venue versus the previous method of tour operators assembling large groups of participants on the pier.

Carnival continues to offer its 'Shore Excursion Best Price Guarantee' that provides a 110% refund in the form of a shipboard credit should travelers find a better price on a similar tour.

Plus, the line has revamped the shore excursion section of its website to include a greater variety of photos and videos, enhanced navigation and online reservations for both desktop and mobile devices, as well as passenger reviews of the tours.