First, keep in mind that the water there is not a beach. It is a "dock" like with a slide, and a couple floaties some distance out. You jump off dock (or slide) into 7 feet of water (or so)... and you need to be a decent swimmer to get to the floatie thingies. It's fun if you're all adults and all swimmers.
There are plenty of shops around there. We personally went to Margaritaville, then walked down the street, stopping at various shops along the way, and ended up REALLY enjoying our time at Doctor's Cave beach, which IS a real beach. It's a nominal entrance fee (if they are charging it-sometimes they do, sometimes not... like $5 or something), and there are nice facilities there (showers, bathrooms, etc.), with no need to continue to buy things unless you want to. We didn't rent a chair-just had our Carnival towels that we used. I really enjoyed it.
I will tell you that in the future I WILL NOT use the Hop On, Hop Off shuttle. You could not actually "hop off"...they forced us to ride from the port to The Shoppes at Rose Hall, before they would drop us off anywhere-taking us RIGHT THROUGH the "Hip Strip" (where Margaritaville and Doctor's Cave are) on the way. Driver told us (most of us were hollering that we wanted off THERE) that if he didn't show up at the Shoppes with the same number of people he left port with, they'd fire him. That Carnival requires him to take them to the Shoppes first. Now, I'm a huge Carnival fan-but I find that wrong. In the future, I'll take a JUTA taxi to Margaritaville and go from there-less waiting and just as cheap as the shuttle, with no crap. But, stick with JUTA!
I BELIEVE: When life gives you lemons, you should find someone whose life gave them vodka...and have a party!....Ron White
Carnival Sensation-1999 (Honeymoon Cruise #1 to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, New Orleans); Carnival Legend-2008 (Honeymoon Cruise #2 with Hurricane Gustav to Key West (changed from Grand Cayman), Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan); Carnival Ecstasy-3/19/2011 (Sweet 16 Cruise for the kid to Cozumel and Progreso); Carnival Triumph-5/7/2011 (Mom's Mulligan Cruise to Belize, Roatan, Cozumel); Carnival Conquest 1/8/2012 (the whole fam damily...to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel); Carnival Glory 10/14/2012 (Mom & Dad Relax Cruise); 7/11/13 Carnival Fantasy (Family Cruise to Bahamas); AND THEN: 12/3/13 Carnival Splendor 8-day
Total Days at Sea: 44 AND COUNTING
A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME!