You’ve booked your cruise and completed your online registration with the cruise line. The next step is trying to decide on what shore excursions to take. The cruise line offers a complete menu for every port, add in the possibility of booking some excursions from other sources – like our supplier Shore Excursion Group, or maybe Viator, or ToursByLocals, or by just taking a tour when you get off the ship with a taxi company. How do you decide?
My recent experience has been that they cruise lines have been raising prices on their excursions AND providing less value. Not always but in many instances, as a result we need to pay more attention to this part of our vacation plans to ensure we are getting the experience we are looking for.
Well sometimes we learn best from our mistakes so let me share with you some of the questions you probably didn’t think of:
How big will the group be? An average size bus holds 44 people. How many buses are being sent to an excursion?Are we having 1 guide for the entire group? How will I hear our guide? Look for the term “small group size” if you want a more intimate experience. If you can get a few people together you might be able to organize a small private group for not much more than the cruise line offering.
What are the physical demands and are they clearly communicated? If you want more than just a bus trip where you take pictures from the comfort of your seat you might want to avoid any tours that have “Panoramic” or “Highlights” in their title. These are code words for a tour mostly by bus and drive by sight seeing.
How much “Local shopping” experiences will there be? These are often extended periods of time where you are left to graze in a tourist stop to buy overpriced local products.
What are the cancellation policies? We want to be in a position that we can change our mind if we see something more interesting come along.
How can I be assured I can get back to the ship in time. Normally only the cruise line and our partner Shore Excursion Group can provide return to port assurances.
How important is this excursion to me? If it’s something that you really want to do you should really book it in advance. Excursions do sell out.
What happens if the weather is bad?
You can’t always have a great on-shore experience but with a bit of planning and research you can increase your odds of having a wonderful unforgettable day on shore.