Here's the thing with doing excursions while on a cruise, they can be a great way to experience the port you are visiting. Excursions aren't always necessary, a lot of the time you can get off at the port and wander and it's pretty safe. It'll be mostly shopping, but it does get you off the ship and interacting with the locals. Some ports are better than others for this, so do your research! If you do decide to do an excursion, it'll usually take you away from the port area and give you a more unique view of the country. Most cruise lines have the option of booking excursions before you leave on your cruise, usually online. So you can read up on the options and see which one fits your traveling group the best (some have age or disability restrictions).
Many of these same excursions can be booked outside of the cruise line, directly with whomever the tour operator is. Sometimes this saves you money, or gets you extras that normally aren't included if you booked through the cruise line. HOWEVER, this sometimes means you have to arrange your own transportation. This also means if there is any delay in your returning to the ship, the ship will leave without you. Booking through the cruise line means your transportation is included (usually), it also means the cruise line knows you are off the ship, where you are, and if there is any delay, they will hold the ship and not leave until you return.
We finally settled upon the Good Hope Estate Tour & Carriage Ride. Good Hope Estate is a former sugar plantation, that now caters to tourists. The estate is HUGE, the original land owner was given the property courtesy of the King of England back in the 1700's, the King told him that whatever land he could see was his. So he climbed the top of the hill the house still sits upon, and acquired several hundred acres.
View from the top of the hill
Among the amenities offered at Good Hope, you can zip-line, kayak down the river, swim in the pool, visit the bird aviary, and 4-wheel. There were several different excursions offered that allowed you to utilize some of these amenities, the Good Hope Estate Tour & Carriage Ride got us admission to the grounds including the bird aviary and the main house on the hill.
After a short welcome and some explanations on how the tours take place, we got signed in for the carriage ride. While we waited for our turn, we explored the bird aviary, which included several types of exotic birds, chickens, ducks, lizards, butterflies, and flowers. The bird aviary is actually the remains of the hospital that used to exist on the grounds. The plantation owner made sure to take care of his workers (slaves) and built a hospital for them.
Before long it was our turn to take the carriage ride. We had an amazing driver and guide, both very lively and it was obvious they enjoyed what they did. The grounds of the estate were just beautiful, amazing colors and lush plants.
Remains of the sugar mill
The carriage took us to the bottom of the hill to the main house, where we transferred to a bus to take us to the top (easier on the horses). At the house we were given a guided tour through the entire house and its adjacent buildings. The house was built for the owner's wife as a wedding gift. She ended up dying at 24 due to illness, and because she loved the house so much, she was buried on the grounds.
The flooring in the entryway is original to the house (dates back to the 1700's) and is made from orange wood (which is now extinct). The floor has never been refinished.
The "counting house" where business was conducted as it was considered bad luck to count your money inside your home. It's now a honeymoon suite.
Good Hope Estate was just beautiful and I wish we had more time to explore. If we visit Falmouth again, I wouldn't hesitate to visit Good Hope again.