When you mention Belize, most people think of the northeast, home to such well-established stops on the global-traveler circuit as Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Caye Caulker and the fabled Blue Hole, arguably the world’s foremost scuba destination. But Central America’s youngest country (Belize gained independence from Britain in 1981) offers much more, particularly in the less developed south and west. These regions have everything from pristine beaches, for which Belize is best known, to spectacular Mayan ruins, cathedral-like caves and a variety of ecosystems that can change every few miles.
Shoreline is followed by savannah, which itself is followed by subtropical forest; pine forest and rain forest are side by side, separated by only a narrow ridge. What’s more, the once tricky dirt roads here are increasingly being restored and paved, making it easier for curious travelers to explore the other Belize -the indigenous cultures and ecological gems of this tiny Central American nation.
The 400 odd stops scheduled for the 2014 calendar involve some thirty different cruise ships, with exotic names like “Norwegian Dream”, “Elation”, “Inspiration”, “Paradise” and “Enchantment of the Seas”. These cruise ships range in size from smaller ships like the “Polar Star” which brings 105 passengers, to the much larger “Carnival Glory” which brings 3,500 persons. Cruise ships in Belize operate through Port Agents such as Eurocaribe Shipping Services Ltd, Marine and Services Ltd., and Caribbean Shipping Agencies Ltd. The industry is promoted by the Belize Tourism Board, which also involves itself with the training of local tour guides, licensing of ships and other sustainable approaches to development of this industry. The BTB site and its travel email at firstname.lastname@example.org. is a resource for direct queries about the annual cruise ship calendar and trends.
Almost two million Caribbean Cruise tourism visitors are projected for 2014. If only 80% of this projection realistically occurs, cruise visitors more than triple the size of the country’s population. This has resulted in a dramatic makeover in the heart of the country’s commercial and downtown center, whose flagship since the turn of the millennium has been the Belize Tourism Village, now called the Fort Street Tourism Village, or locally, just the Tourism Village. Certain cruise lines arrange to have tender boats pick up passengers directly from the anchored cruise ship in either Belize City or the Dangriga port of call and take them directly to snorkeling or diving trips at Goff’s Caye, Cave Tuning, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Turneffe Islands, Half Moon Caye at Lighthouse Reef and other locations on the Belize Barrier Reef for either full or half-day excursions.
Entry Requirements for Cruise Ship Passengers
All documentation for entry at port of calls is handled directly by the cruise ships upon booking the cruise and beginning one’s adventure. All visitors need passports to enter the country; these should be valid six months beyond the intended stay. However, once the cruise ship anchors in Belize waters, local Immigration and Customs officials board the ship upon arrival and departure to handle entry and exit procedures directly with cruise line officials, working off the Passenger Manifest. Cruise ship passengers are considered in-transit passengers, and so no VISA is required for visits or tours.
VISA or direct immigration clearance as the as case may be are required if the cruise passenger is disembarking to stay overnight or longer. In such a case, that particular passport will be handled directly and all entry requirements, such as a VISA if required, should be in order.
An example would be if the cruise ship passenger is joining the cruise in Belize, because he or she missed the connection at Galveston or some other embarkation point. In such a case, with proper documentation, a VISA will be issued upon arrival at the Philip Goldson International Airport.
Cruise Ship Tours
Passengers arriving in Belize via cruise ships face multiple choices about what tours to take. Most tours are organized to be not too far from the port of call. But there are many activities to do rather than stay locked up on the ship.
Popular activities include visits to the Maya ruins of Altun Ha, and snorkel ling or beach parties on nearby islands. The more adventurous venture inland to visit the Belize Zoo, the Maya Ruins at Xunantunich in Western Belize, or do cave tubing a unique and fun activity for adults and kids alike.
Cruise Ship visitors have the opportunity to experience the many wonders of country from the reef to the rainforest. Dive or snorkel the greatest barrier reef in the western hemisphere and stand amazed by the many species of marine life swimming amongst colorful living corals. Visit a Maya ruin and learn about a great civilization that once inhabited Belize over 3000 years ago.
Take a journey through the Maya underworld tubing through underground caves over 175,000 years old and be in awe as your headlights reveals many untouched crystal formations. Our local Zoo attracts many families with kids, where many indigenous animals are kept in their natural habitat. Take pictures of howler monkeys, toucan birds or the king of the jungle, the jaguar; among many others. Zipline the forest canopy 120 feet high above the ground. Get that adrenaline rush by soaring amongst giant trees high above in the rich jungle of Belize.
Money Saving Tip For Cruisers
We suggest that prior to your trip you research independent local cruise ship tours. Independent Belize Cruise ship operators are licensed by the local Tourism regulators, organized as the Federation of Cruise Ship Tour Association of Belize, FECTAB, and offer smaller and more personalized tours at more economical rates compared to tours that you may be pressured to purchase from the cruise ship itself.
Tours sold by cruise ships are heavily marked up and some visitors complain the tour groups are too big and sanitized as they are run by foreign tour companies who have exclusive contracts with the cruise lines. Here is a comment from a tourist from the U.S. who chose an independent cruise tour as quoted on a local Television Station:
“Carnival said that they only offer their cruise. Their tour. So to get the independent tour we chose, we had to search online because of course Carnival is charging a hundred US dollars for what the independent Belize cave tubing company is charging – just fifty dollars.
“So they kinda scare you into it a little bit by saying if you don‘t book with the cruise ship they‘re going to leave you if you‘re not back in time. So that’s how they get you to pay the extra fifty dollars but the independents get everybody back on time. You even have at least two hours left in the port to shop and do whatever you need to do. So you do not need to book with the cruise line.”