We took the excursion to Maya Key and booked it through Royal Caribbean when we sailed on the Navigator of the Seas out of Galveston. This was a huge highlight of the trip for our family of four, and it is definitely worth considering. The major downside is that you experience nothing of the main island of Roatan. Maya Key makes up for it, however, in convenience, a beautiful spot, great snorkeling, and a fantastic lunch.
To start, I usually prefer to book shore excursions on my own. This one, however, had to be booked through the ship. That was fine, however, as it was both the cheapest excursion on offer (today it is $69 for adults and $49 for kids inclusive of both transport and lunch) and incredibly easy to get to. We took the following from our balcony which shows just how easy it is to get to the place where the ferry takes you to the private island. As a bonus, if you miss the first ferry another will come in half an hour:
Just wait at the pier and a ferry will come every half hour to pick you up or return you to the ship. I normally dislike booking excursions through the ship since I want to control when I come and go, and this trip solved that problem. As a bonus, the ferry ride to Maya Key is also very short:
A strong swimmer could actually swim that. I don’t think they would let you do that, and it is a horrible idea from a safety perspective, but it does show how short the ride is. As soon as you get off the ferry, you have the option of going through the gift shop (which is actually pretty nice) or taking a lovely garden path that leads to many of the main activities of the island:
At the end of the path was the principle beach, which led to my only real complaint about the island: The sand was awfully course and rough, and I certainly wouldn’t want to build a sand castle with it. Fortunately, however, that wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I wanted to snorkel, see the animals, walk around a bit. have lunch, and see the faux Mayan ruins. I was able to accomplish all of this, and all of us had a blast. The kids are already asking to go back when we cruise to Roatan next year.
The main beach area got fairly crowded, but there was still always a place to find a chair. That beach area is also home to the best snorkeling I have done: Calm waters, shallow corrals, decent rental equipment at fair prices, and an amazing variety of fish. However, if what you want was a quiet stretch of beach they have that too. You can walk completely around the island without much effort, and on the side closest to the main island of Roatan we regularly saw images like this:
As you walk around the island, you will also notice a small animal preserve. The folks who run this island take animals which have been injured and attempt to rehabilitate them. The enclosures tended to be fairly large and seemed like a decent habitat for the rescued animals. It was also an interesting education for our kids about the local ecology.
By the time we had done all of this exploring, it was time for some lunch. Lunch was served by the pool, which was yet another entertainment option. The only weird part is that you only got one trip through the buffet line, and they seemed fairly strict about that. Still, it was excellent food and there was plenty of it. Beer and mixed drink were also available for sale, and it turns out that Honduran beer is delicious. Who knew?
After lunch, we decided to go tour the reconstructed Mayan ruins. To be clear, the people who own the island created these. However, it was a good reconstruction. Also, there were a number of helpful interpretive displays concerning Mayan activity in the region. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the ruins if one wishes to see Mayan authenticity, but as a very well done indoor/outdoor museum they were a nice touch.
At this point we decided to head back to the ship. We went back to the rented lockers, got our stuff, made some selections at the gift shop, and indeed the ferry was ready to take us back on the half hour. The Royal Caribbean cruise pier in Roatan is completely commercial with exactly the same set of stores you see at every other Caribbean port, but it was still a nice place to spend a bit of time and pick up a tshirt.
This was an excellent excursion, and it is definitely worth checking out Maya Key if you are considering a cruise with a stop in Roatan.