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Top Puerto Quetzal Cruise Excursions

Antigua Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala cathedral; credit: Wikimedia
So wonderful is the Guatemalan cruise port of Quetzal that it is featured in numerous cruise itineraries for other ports in Latin America and even the Caribbean.

As one would expect, each cruise line offers various options for shore excursions. Here, we present five popular shore excursions within the popular Guatemalan port.

1. Holland America Cruises

The famous Holland America offers its passengers choices among all of nine shore excursions in Puerto Quetzal. These range from five-hour drives on the open country road to 10-hour tours of various sites.

Holland America's tours include country side drives as well as tours of Mayan sites including Yaxha or the famous Tikal. Tours to coffee estates and a visit to an 18th-century estate and gardens are additional shore excursions available.

For those who are rather adventurous, Holland America offers an eight-hour zip-line canopy tour in the forests presenting panoramic views of the lush flora as well as dormant volcanoes.

Finally, three guided tours and one self-guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed colonial city of Antigua (the old capital and an elegant, peaceful and rather interesting city) are also offered.

2. Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises features Puerto Quetzal as a major port of call as part of its Panama Canal cruise itinerary. Like Holland America, Princes Cruises offers nine shore excursions. This includes a transportation-only tour of Antigua.

Apart from independent sightseeing, Princess Cruises also offers guided sightseeing tours of said Antigua as well as other attractions.

This may include the standard scenic drive as well as optional visits to various areas such as the La Azoteca Cultural Center, an African safari-themed tour of a nature park and zoo; a cruise on Lake Atitlan; or a rigorous hiking trip on Pacaya Volcano with a countryside drive.

3. Silversea Cruises

Silversea offers one less excursion option than that of both Holland America and Princess Cruises.

Examples include a flight to Tikal National Park, a full-day trekking expedition on the active Pacaya Volcano, a helicopter "flightseeing" tour over Lake Atitlan and Auto Safari Chapin -- a scenic drive through an open-air wildlife park.

Trekking options are also available, including a tunnel route that takes you to the underground Mayan temples of Copan Archaeological Park as well as birding at Los Tarrales -- a bird-watching trip to a nature reserve in the cloud forest. Other options include a tour of the colonial city of Antigua and a tour of the picturesque Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm.

4. Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises presents all of 17 major shore excursions. Most of their options are similar to those of the previously mentioned liners.

Celebrity Cruises highlights includes a nine-hour combination tour that takes visitors to the highlands of Guatemala and on a boat trip across Lake Atitlan to the lakeside town of Panajachel. Like Princess Cruises, there is a bird-watching excursion to Los Tarrales Natural Reserve and a tour of a 200-year-old sugar plantation in the countryside.

As one would expect, various guided tours of Antigua are available including a visit to a school and the ruins from a 1700's earthquake in Colonial Antigua Village Central Park.

5. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line also offers numerous tours, normally 15. The liner stops in Puerto Quetzal for a day only. This means that visitors will have limited time to explore the port city or anywhere else in Guatemala. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line only offers one shore excursion option, a seven-hour tour of Antigua.

With the Antigua tour, visitors get a chance to walk the city's cobbled streets as well as visit Central Plaza. If time allows, one may get the chance to visit other paces of interest such as the cathedral, Colonial Museum and Jade Museum.

Puerto Quetzal serves as a cruise passenger's getaway to the inland attractions of the wonderful Guatemala. In truth, Puerto Quetzal is itself quite industrial with not much to do there, so it's necessary to venture to other locations on the outskirts of the port.

Regardless, many travellers will agree that despite the social problems, Guatemala is one of the most vibrant countries in all of Latin America. As such, if one gets the chance, if only for a day, it's definitely worth visiting.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Excursions   Guatemala   

February 25, 2014
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