When it comes to shore excursions and exploring each port, there are so many more options than most passengers realize. You will be able to book a shore excursion with the cruise line or you could also explore the area on your own. Your decision will largely depend on your budget, your personal interests and just how comfortable you feel when in unfamiliar surroundings.
Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Shore excursion packages can be booked online along with your cruise tickets. The cruise line's website will have all the relevant details. Alternatively, you can also book an excursion while you are on board. All you need to do is visit the shore excursion desk or call the cruise line and ask to be connected to the shore excursion desk. The attendant on duty will be able to explain the details of each tour available. Shore excursions purchased while on board can vary from a simple half-day bus tour for under $50 per person to more exotic adventures that can exceed $300 per person.
If you have not booked an excursion for a particular port, check in with the shore excursion desk the night before you reach port. Ask them if there are any spaces available on the tours for the next day. If there are any spots available, you could very well get a discounted rate!
Despite the cost, the one main advantage of paying for shore excursions is that you won't have to worry if the tour runs late. The ship will not leave port without you if you are part of the group.
Another advantage of booking the cruise line's shore tours is that you can count on a certain level of quality. On the other hand, these tours do cost a bit more and groups are usually quite large. If you are on a particularly large ship, these tours tend to sell out rather quickly too.
Independent Tour Excursions
If you schedule your own tour or go it alone, you lose this sense of safety. You will need to allocate more than enough time to get back to the ship before departure or else they may very well leave without you.
With this in mind, remember to keep the ship's programme handy while on shore. Within the programme, you will find the name and contact number for the “port agent”. Should you encounter any problems while on shore, you can call the port agent for assistance.
Some independent shore excursion companies book similar, or possibly even better, day-trips at ports. The prices are usually about the same or sometimes less than those offered by the ship.
By researching your destinations online, you can book an independent shore excursion ahead of time. There are a number of reliable and reputable third party options that will help you save a fair amount of money. Remember that you will need to get online, research the various activities available at each port and book them directly with the tour companies. Many transactions can be completed online which is extra convenient. Alternatively, you can contact the tour operators when you reach port and this could mean even better prices than booking online. If ou share your guide and transportation with another couple or group, you can get even more discounts on your guided tour.
When booking with an independent tour company, make sure that you ask them about their policy regarding getting you back to your ship on time. If they fail to get you back and the ship departs, they need to ensure that you reach the next port stop or make whatever arrangements necessary in order to get you back to your ship.
While tours offered by the ship should offer the same standard of quality as life on the ship itself, independent contractors can also be worthwhile if they are highly recommended. Booking an independent tour will allow you to set your own agenda and you might get to see more with such tours than with the ship's planned excursions.
Going Ashore Independently
Yet another great idea is to disembark and head for one of the local taxis. The taxi drivers are really familiar with their surroundings and travel times. They are more than happy to act as impromptu tour guides and, in some ports, taxi divers are also official tour guides! A taxi can also be more comfortable than a bus and your driver can probably offer you a very different perspective on everything you see.
Of course, you could always grab a guidebook and head off on your own mission. In some cases, this proves to be the most satisfying of all options and it's an amazing opportunity for adventure. Many port cities have fantastic public transport systems to help you get around and they are usually quite easy to navigate. You may, however, not see as many sights as you would hope for if you go it alone like this.
If you simply want to enjoy a relaxing stroll on land, walk through the local neighbourhood, do some shopping and perhaps enjoy a light meal, then there is no need to book anything. Walk, catch a taxi or rent a bike to make your way around town at your own pace. Just make sure that you set aside enough time to get back to the ship.
In some cases, for safety and security reasons, it is best to opt for the ship's tour. If, despite this, you still want to go it alone and maybe hire a taxi driver as your guide, then make sure that you exercise caution and check out their credentials as well.