I use Cruise Critic extensively for all aspects of cruise planning. In this post I’ll go into detail about how I use the Cruise Critic forums to find cheap parking and plan shore days.
We have a short cruise coming up next month on Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas–see the post A Cruise For Mom. This will be a Mother’s Day cruise for myself and Mom, who hasn’t cruised in about 10 years! We will be driving to our embarkation port–Tampa–and I’ve already booked the pre-cruise hotel. We will be staying at a Country Inn and Suites north of Tampa that was booked using the last of my Club Carlson points. Now it’s time to book the details of the cruise. We almost never book excursions, either with the cruise line or with independent providers. Simple do-it-yourself shore days is the way we like to travel. Our port days will be at Cozumel and Costa Maya, and these ports can easily be visited on your own. We also need to decide where we are going to leave our car during the cruise. I’ll run through how I got the information I needed for our upcoming cruise.
The Cruise Critic Forums
Cruise Critic is by far the largest collection of cruise information to be found on the internet. The forums section is my first (and sometimes my only) stop when I need ANY information about cruises. I go to cruisecritic.com and click on the “Boards” tab at the top of the page.
You land on a huge page that shows the many forums that are active. The ones that I used for this post are the ones that I’ve circled below. I visited the Florida Departures forum to look for cheap parking, and looked at the Caribbean forums to research what to do on our port days.
The Home Ports Forum to Find Cheaper Parking
From the main Forums page I clicked on Florida departures. I entered “tampa parking” in the Search Forum bar.
Here are the many threads just on cruise parking at Tampa. I found the information I was looking for in the Offsite parking–Tampa thread.
Here are two posts mentioning some offsite parking options–Park4Cruise and the Parking Doctor.
Internet Search to Find Parking Websites
I also did an internet search for Tampa Cruise Parking just to get a few more data points. When I clicked on the first site listed below, they had a handy list of all the offsite parking options with their websites. I ended up reserving our parking with Park4Cruise for a total cost of $44.64. This is 40% lower than the Port of Tampa parking.
My next task was to figure out what we were going to do on each port day.
Planning Shore Days with the Destination Forums
Our first stop will be Cozumel. I have been to Cozumel so many times that I already have a good handle on the port day options. Mom has already been to Paradise Beach so I think we’ll take a cab into town, do a little sightseeing, and then stop at a beach bar on the way back for a quick dip in the ocean. It’s been awhile since we’ve been to Costa Maya, so I went to the Cruise Critic Costa Maya forum to see what others are doing there.
I knew Mom wouldn’t want to ride a bus to walk around ruins in the hot sun. She loves swimming, so I think a short beach day would be perfect there. We don’t like to spend all day on the beach, and neither of us want an all-you-can-eat-and-drink inclusive. When I clicked on the thread below (highlighted in red) I found just what we are looking for.
A seat in the shade, on the beach, with a drink, for $5–perfect. If this doesn’t suit us, we’ll just walk down the beach until we find what we are looking for.
BTW, I post regularly on Cruise Critic under my blog name–plane2port. When we return I’ll post a cruise review in the Royal Caribbean forum.