Our Post-Cruise Everglades Excursion Experience: Was it Worth It for my Family?
Considering purchasing an Everglades excursion that includes transport after disembarking from your cruise, but not sure if it’s worth it? My kids and I took advantage of this opportunity after our Royal Caribbean cruise, so I can tell you all about our experience.
There are a number service providers that offer a plethora of travel excursions. Independent travel agents, third-party companies, and cruise lines are just a few of the many options available for booking such adventures.
But, is it worth booking through your cruise provider when it comes to post-cruise excursions? When my kids and I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, I had a decision to make regarding our airport transportation: I could either organize transportation from the Miami cruise port to the Fort Lauderdale airport myself or I could sign us up for a pre-flight Everglades excursion and transportation through the cruise company.
You’re reading this article, so it’s (hopefully) obvious which option I chose, but…was it worth it? Would I book a post-cruise excursion through Royal Caribbean again?
Read on, my friend. Read on!
Table of Contents
Are Cruise Excursions Worth It?
While I totally understand, and appreciate, choosing to sail on a certain cruise ship for the on-ship amenities, as a homeschooling mom & educational travel enthusiast, I’m more likely to book a cruise based on the scheduled port stops and educational opportunities. Yes, we’ll totally enjoy the water slides and entertainment while on board, but we’re going to soak up every bit of culture and learning experiences we can while in the different ports.
If you have wiggle room available in your travel budget, I definitely encourage scheduling an excursion or two on your next cruise. You’ll have a few options to choose from when it comes to booking your excursion including:
- Your Travel Agent
- Booking your excursions (educational or otherwise) through a travel agent typically is no more expensive than booking directly through your cruise line/hotel/etc. You’ll get to benefit from their travel expertise and support a small business at the same time however…travel agents typically have areas of expertise which may or may not be favorable when planning your specific adventure.
- A Third Party
- There are a number of companies that organize travel excursions and adventures for all ages. Viator, for example, offers tours, activities, and experiences for travelers near & far across the world.
- Directly at the Port
- Take a look around any cruising social media group and you’re likely to see suggestions for port-specific excursion providers to either avoid or seek. Many have had success booking budget-friendly excursions this way. My anxiety, however, just cannot handle the thought of possibly landing my family in a dangerous situation or having the cruise ship leave without us because of an excursion running over the allotted time.
- Your Cruise Line
- Likely the most expensive option of all, booking excursions through your cruise line can add up fast. They are typically thought of as a “safe” option because the ship will NOT leave you and your family stranded if one of their “official” excursions return late to the port.
The choice is ultimately yours. When it came to booking our Everglades excursion, I chose to book directly through Royal Caribbean excursions for the following reasons:
- It was easy. Plain and simple, I was the sole adult traveling with my two boys (super thankful my husband supports such adventures!) and booking this Everglades adventure through the cruise company required the least amount of brain power.
- Pricing. I’ll go more in depth about this later on but, basically, I felt the pricing was justified for the experiences & services provided.
Before our Everglades Adventure
Since I had booked our post-cruise excursion in advance of the cruise, our tickets were in our stateroom when we boarded. Doing this saved me a few bucks and offered some piece of mind since I didn’t have to worry about setting aside time to visit the excursions office. More time for homeschool cruising fun is always a plus in my book!
Included with the tickets were instructions for disembarkation. Since we were to join others on the Everglades excursion, we were given specific details regarding our disembarkation time, meeting location, and what we were to do with our luggage. I made a mental note of all this and continued on with our cruising activities.
The few days before disembarkation, though, an entirely different set of instructions were delivered to our stateroom. The new instructions included a different meeting time & location and even had different details on getting our luggage off the ship. What?!
I took both sets of instructions down to the excursions office in hopes of getting everything situated. Thank goodness I had the boys bring a deck of cards down with us because they ended up playing “War” for the 45-ish minutes I was waiting in line to get answers. #facepalm
Everything eventually got situated, but I mention this experience to encourage you to read your excursion details thoroughly. Everyone makes mistakes and the little details can be overlooked, but everything is “fixable.”
Our Everglades Excursion Experience!
In this particular post-cruise adventure, our excursion experience consisted of three separate segments:
- Transportation from the Port of Miami to Everglades Holiday Park
- Activities at Holiday Park
- Transportation from Holiday Park to the Fort Lauderdale Airport
After disembarking the Freedom of the Seas with our luggage in tow (quite the sight!), the boys and I followed our excursion group through customs using our passports and out to the pick up/drop off area to our tour bus. We handed off our luggage to one of the tour guides and were able to easily find three bus seats so we could sit together.
Having the ability to store our luggage during our adventure was one of the specific reasons I chose to book our Everglades excursion through Royal Caribbean and not on my own. If I had scheduled this experience on my own, by piecing together Uber rides and attraction tickets, I likely wouldn’t have had anywhere to store our luggage!
Everglades Holiday Park
We arrived at Everglades Holiday Park after riding in the tour bus for about an hour. After receiving a brief schedule of the activities we were to soon enjoy, the boys and I made a quick stop by the bathrooms. A few picnic tables were set up by airboat entrance, so we sat there and enjoyed the scenery while awaiting our tour.
When it was time to line up to board the airboat, we got to experience something pretty amazing: we got to hold a baby alligator! As you can see from the photo, my oldest was not interested in touching the alligator. My youngest and I, though? We’re big animal/creature people and will take advantage of any opportunity to (safely) interact with nature.
Since the mouth (snout?) of the baby alligator was shut, we didn’t have to worry about any possible bites. And, since it’s likely used to being handled by humans, it seemed pretty docile. When we were in position, a staff member laid the alligator into our open hands before a photographer took our photo.
The alligator’s belly was super smooth and not rough or ridged as my youngest and I had expected. It was such a cool experience! I don’t know that I’ll ever be up for holding an adult alligator, but I’ll now welcome any opportunity to hold a baby alligator!
Surprise bonus? Printed photos of our baby alligator experience were included in the price of admission. It always annoys me when attractions nickel and dime visitors by “making” them pay exorbitant fees for something as simple as a photo, so I was especially pleased to find that I could leave my wallet in my purse for this souvenir.
After this memorable hands-on (literally) experience, the boys and I boarded a metal airboat for a tour of the Everglades! While we considered ourselves lucky to get seats pretty close to the front, I really feel like we would’ve had great views from anywhere on the boat. Don’t worry if you’re not seated in the front!
For a half hour, we got to explore the plants and residents of a portion of the Everglades. We saw plenty of birds, a few turtles and even…alligators! We learned about the history of the Everglades, efforts in place to help keep the Everglades safe, and more.
While seeing wild alligators egg each other on in the waters was pretty amazing, it was equally as exciting experiencing speeding across the water on the airboat. Before the boat tour started, we were advised of the high noise level of the airboat fan, but…holy moly…nothing could’ve really prepared me for the volume. When we reached top speeds, the fan was LOUD! I definitely suggest bringing along ear plugs and/or noise-canceling headphones anyone in your family that may experience volume sensitivity.
Despite the Holiday Park advertising 60-minute long airboat tours, our Everglades excursion “only” included a 30-minute airboat tour. I really wish I had known this before booking, but, honestly, I probably still would’ve booked the excursion through the cruise company because it was a memorable educational activity for all of us.
After the tour, we were given a few minutes to use the restrooms again before we had to line up for the next part of our tour: the Live Gator Show! The show lasted about 20 minutes and was equal parts exciting and horrifying…exactly what a gator show should be! The “gator-handler” first taught us about the history of the alligators within the enclosure (they’re all rescues!) and then we all watched in awe as he interacted with the gators.
I’m telling you, watching this man hold an alligator’s mouth open with his own jaw was quite the experience. Even though he had plenty of experience, I swear I sat there ready to cover up my kids eyes in case of an emergency. Thank goodness there was no need for that, but this mama bear was ready to go! There were quite a few intense moments during that show, so be warned that this portion of the tour might not be the best for your sensitive kids (or grown ups!)
After the Gator Show, we were lead though a winding walkway to view a number of other animals living in Holiday Park. Since the walkway wasn’t super wide, the boys and I had to keep up with the flow of traffic. We didn’t really get to spend much time seeing the rescued animals, but did get to see a number of other alligators (including 2 albino alligators!) and turtles.
We always try to get a few souvenirs to remember our family travels. During this excursion, though, we unfortunately didn’t have time to peruse the Holiday Park gift shop. Thank goodness we have our own personal photos and the baby alligator photo as souvenirs, though!
Following our Everglades excursion, our tour bus driver provided us with transportation to the airport. It was just a short drive from Holiday Park, but the kids still managed to fall asleep in the comfy seats of the bus.
Upon arrival to the airport, we were dropped off in the “arrivals” section of the airport for some reason. Thank goodness we had quite a bit of time before our flight to allow us about 45 minutes of walking around trying to find our way to the appropriate “departure” section. Another #facepalm moment.
I’m not going to lie, having to lug our baggage around an unfamiliar airport was super annoying and stressful. I wish we had been dropped off in the correct area. However, I’ll take this experience as yet another reason to allow for a few hours “buffer” time between disembarkation and flight times!
Was it Worth It?
Was booking our Everglades excursion through Royal Caribbean worth it?
There’s always room for improvement but, ultimately, I’m going to say that making the decision to book our Holiday Park excursion directly through the cruise company was 100% worth it.
This excursion ended up costing me about $60 per person in addition to any tips I provided the bus and attraction staff. Excursion pricing does vary depending on the season and ship, but, overall, I am pleased with the value of the content for the price paid.
Would I book this tour through the cruise company again? I’m not sure. Being that this was our first Everglades & airport transport experience, I appreciated having everything organized for me. Now that I’m more aware of the location and such, I would certainly feel comfortable arranging such an adventure on my own.
All in all, the boys and I really did have a blast learning about and visiting the Florida Everglades and look forward to visiting this amazing habitat on future educational travel escapades!
If fact, this entire cruising experience was full of learning fun. Before the cruise, we got to visit the amazing Butterfly World and the Museum of Science & Discovery in Fort Lauderdale. During the cruise, we got to learn about the Junkanoo Celebration while visiting Nassau, Bahamas!
What about you? Have you ever been the the Everglades? Would you hold a baby alligator? Send over an email and let me know!
Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family,
Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.
Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.
When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!
Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!