You’ve booked your cruise and are ready to set sail but there’s one thing left to decide – shore excursions. When you stop in port you have a few options about what to do. You aren’t required to get off of the ship, but chances are you’ll want to. You can opt not to book anything and simply explore the area on your own or book an independent experience. Or, you can plan ahead of time and book a ship sponsored shore excursion. H aving a great day at port is important and so is getting the most for your money.
5 Tips for Selecting Cruise Shore Excursions:
Ship Sponsored vs. Independently Booked Excursions
This is often the biggest question people ask. If you book an independent excursion you’re taking a risk. If you don’t make it back to the ship in time, the ship will leave without you. If you’re on a ship sponsored excursion that runs behind; they will wait for you to get back. However, you also will pay more for the ship sponsored shore excursion. Additionally, the companies working with the cruise line strive to keep up a level of service to continue that relationship.
That being said, reputable companies make their living catering to cruisers. It’s not good for business if you miss the ship or leave a bad review. If you want to book an independent excursion, research the company and read reviews from other travelers. We have found many independent excursions to be just as popular as ship sponsored that go to the same area, for less money. On our upcoming Alaskan cruise, we have booked 2 independent excursions and 1 through the ship. The one through NCL was about $150 more even with $100 excursion credits, but we couldn’t book independently for our required timeframe.
Just be sure to leave enough time to get back to the ship if something goes wrong!
Age and Activity Level
Not all shore excursions are well suited for everyone. If you’re traveling with little children you may find your options are even more limited. Excursions with a lot of physical activity or walking may not be a good choice for those who have a stroller to push or who have mobility issues. Take this into consideration when you’re choosing what to do. You’ll find the difficulty level and any requirements listed with the excursion details.
We wanted to plan a snorkeling adventure during one of our cruises. We had a difficult time finding companies that would allow children, even though my kids are experienced swimmers and snorkelers. We finally found a reputable company and my kids ended up spending more time in the water than 50% of the other adults on the excursion!
For many people what to do boils down to how much it’s going to cost. You may not want to pay hundreds of dollars per person to do a shore excursion one day after you’ve paid for the cruise. You may also discover that there’s one activity during one port day that’s a higher cost but something you really want to do. This means the other port days you go for a less expensive option or just explore the port on your own.
Length of Time
Do you want to spend all day on a shore excursion or would a few hours be enough? Consider how long you’ll be in port and what else you might want to do. Explore the local beaches? Go shopping? Whatever it is, know ahead of time what you want to do and choose a shore excursion that fits with your ideal visit.
Pay in Advance
One nice thing about cruises is that you can pay for it over a period of time. Not only can you pay off the cruise itself in installments (depending on how far our your book), you can pay for your shore excursions ahead of time. Imagine if you didn’t have to pull out your credit card once while you were on vacation? You’ll be sure to enjoy your time even more if it’s all taken care of ahead of time!
My family likes to choose 1 or 2 excursions per cruise and spend the rest of the time exploring the port independently or simply enjoying the ship. We do a lot of research before traveling to determine what activities each port offers that will suite my families needs. Balancing budget, time and kids can make choosing cruise shore excursions stressful. Plan ahead and you’ll be skipping off the ship ready to experience all the port has to offer.
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What are your tips for selecting cruise shore excursions?