Shore excursions: What new cruisers have to know

The enjoyable of a cruise is equal elements what you do on board and what you do on shore. Cruise traces provide a full schedule of shore excursions that will help you profit from your time in port. Nonetheless, the method of selecting and reserving excursions may be overwhelming for brand new cruisers.

I’ve taken shore excursions around the globe, each ship-run and impartial, and spent many days in port wandering by myself. Permit me to take you thru the fundamentals of cruise shore excursions, so you possibly can study to have essentially the most enjoyable it doesn’t matter what your finances is.

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What’s a cruise shore tour?

A shore tour is a gaggle tour or exercise geared toward cruise vacationers who can solely spend a restricted time in every port they’re visiting on their itinerary.

A shore tour could possibly be a sightseeing bus tour, a guided go to to a museum or historic web site, an athletic exercise (like a hike, bike trip or snorkel outing), a day on the seashore or a cooking or dance class. Shore excursions sometimes spotlight the marquee points of interest or tradition of the vacation spot you are visiting. Generally an tour will take you to websites inside strolling distance of your cruise; on different events, they could take you on a day journey to a close-by metropolis.

Some shore excursions are focused at households or can simply accommodate kids. Some can accommodate passengers with mobility points or different disabilities. Others might require a minimal degree of health and usually are not appropriate for everybody.

Shore excursions could also be bought by your cruise line and arranged with a accomplice supplier. They may also be bought by impartial operators or third-party tour sellers.

Do it’s a must to purchase shore excursions on a cruise?


Most often, you need not ebook a shore tour to discover a port of name. You’ll be able to merely stroll off the ship and stroll into city or catch a cab to take you wherever you wish to go.

Nonetheless, in some locations, a shore tour, or independently operated guided tour, is very inspired. This could possibly be in locations the place it is troublesome to navigate as a foreigner who cannot converse the language or perceive avenue indicators or the place the tourism infrastructure is just not but absolutely developed.

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Can I ebook a shore tour by myself as a substitute of by my cruise line?

Sure. I take advantage of many elements to resolve whether or not to take a ship’s tour, ebook an impartial tour or discover by myself in port. Nonetheless, for those who’re a novice traveler, you may wish to ebook ship excursions completely as a result of they’re the only, best and most handy choices.

The advantages to a cruise line’s shore excursions are that they depart from and return to the ship; you do not want to determine the place to satisfy a information in a port you have by no means visited. Higher nonetheless, ought to an surprising downside (visitors, a medical emergency) happen throughout your outing, the ship is not going to go away port till all of its personal excursions have returned.

Unbiased excursions, then again, may be cheaper than cruise ship excursions. I as soon as saved lots of of {dollars} organizing a gaggle to go on an in a single day, independently operated tour to see Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza from Port Stated, Egypt; the ship’s excursions have been extremely marked up. Additionally, if in case you have a selected curiosity, the ship won’t provide a tour for the exercise or attraction you are enthusiastic about.

Associated: Ship-sponsored vs. impartial shore excursions on cruises: Which do you have to ebook?

Some third-party operators will customise a tour for you or your group, so you possibly can spend extra time on the locations you most wish to see. Generally these tour teams are additionally smaller than the big cruise ship excursions — which might carry 30 to 60 folks in a bus — so you’ll spend much less time ready for everybody.

Lastly, some ports are merely great to stroll round, popping into retailers and native eating places or bars, going the place you’ll. I’ve skipped excursions in locations like Key West, Florida; Tallinn, Estonia; Monaco; Nassau, Bahamas; Skagway, Alaska; Geiranger, Norway; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. A map and a guidebook bought me the place I wished to go.

How a lot are shore excursions on a cruise?

Sting ray in Grand Cayman. PRINCESS CRUISES

Cruise shore tour costs range extensively relying on the price of dwelling within the cruise vacation spot, what sort of exercise is concerned and whether or not it is a full- or half-day tour. Younger kids usually pay a decreased charge for excursions.

Princess Cruises’ shore excursions in Grand Cayman, a 2.5-hour stingray swim prices $70 per individual, a 5-hour scenic island drive prices $100, and a 4-hour, two-tank scuba dive prices $180. In Juneau, Alaska, a 3-hour tour to the Mendenhall Glacier customer middle prices $50 per individual. A 3-hour gold panning exercise and salmon bake prices $125, whereas a 2.25-hour tour to take a helicopter trip to the highest of the glacier, the place you possibly can stroll round on the ice for half an hour, prices $420.

Some cruise traces, similar to Viking and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, embrace the price of fundamental shore excursions of their cruise fares. For those who do not care to do any specialty excursions, you may have the ability to get all of your port actions without cost. Different traces, similar to Norwegian Cruise Line, provide discounted excursions or shore tour credit score as reserving promotions.

Associated: 8 suggestions for reserving the perfect cruise shore tour on your cash

What’s one of the best ways to ebook shore excursions?

For those who plan to ebook shore excursions by your cruise line, you’ve gotten a few choices of easy methods to ebook them.

You’ll be able to ebook your excursions on-line prematurely, or have your journey agent do it for you. That is the perfect route if there is a ship’s tour you completely wish to take and you do not wish to threat its promoting out. E book your excursions the minute they open for reservations. When my mother and father traveled on a luxurious Regent Seven Seas cruise, they mentioned that ready till the subsequent morning to ebook excursions meant that a few of their selections have been bought out.

The draw back to reserving excursions prematurely is that some cruise traces require that you just pay for the excursions in full, somewhat than placing them in your last cruise invoice. It means you are out the cash prematurely and it may be troublesome to make use of onboard credit score to cowl the price of excursions booked on-line.

Associated: Keep away from these errors when reserving cruise shore excursions

Alternatively, you possibly can wait till you are on the ship and ebook your tour in individual on the shore excursions desk. You’ll ask the employees questions concerning the excursions, and the costs will probably be added to your last cruise invoice. Nonetheless, you do run the chance {that a} well-liked tour could be bought out by the point you are able to ebook.

The identical is true with impartial excursions. Most individuals set up these forward of time by a tour operator or journey agent. Nonetheless, in well-liked cruise ports, there are sometimes representatives ready on the port or at a vacationer workplace who can ebook you on same-day excursions if area is obtainable.

Is it cheaper to ebook shore excursions on the ship?

No. Most cruise traces both cost the identical costs for shore excursions booked on-line and on board or provide a reduction for excursions bought prematurely. For instance, Royal Caribbean usually advertises as much as 30% off choose excursions reserved forward of the crusing.

Do I have to tip on shore excursions?

Whether or not you are on a cruise line sponsored or impartial shore tour, a finest apply is to tip your tour guides on the finish of the tour. Exceptions are if suggestions are included within the value or for those who’re visiting a rustic with a non-tipping tradition, the place providing money could be awkward.

Associated: Final information to tipping on cruise ships

Tipping is a private matter, and there aren’t any onerous and quick guidelines. I canvassed TPG’s cruise crew and we agreed that we give roughly $5 to $10 per individual for half-day excursions and $10 to $20 per individual for full-day excursions, adjusted for service and high quality. Tip non-guide drivers roughly $2 per individual in your occasion.

You may seemingly wish to tip extra for personalized, non-public excursions — contemplate 5 to twenty% of the price of the tour.

How do I get essentially the most from my cruise shore tour?

Scenic view from helicopter cockpit. ALEX RATSON/GETTY IMAGES

The important thing to getting essentially the most out of your cruise shore tour is to know what you need and ensure the tour description matches your expectations. I discover that the extra I cruise, the much less I take ship-sponsored shore excursions as a result of they do not provide precisely what I would like.

For instance, for those who’re contemplating a bus tour, be sure to perceive how a lot time will probably be spent sitting on the bus and the way a lot time will probably be on the vacation spot or attraction, whether or not you’ll be taking a look at or going inside key points of interest and whether or not there’s free time to discover. If it is an exercise, like snorkeling or a helicopter tour, learn up on how a lot time is spent in transit and prep and the way a lot time you’ll spend truly doing the exercise.

Be sure you be aware the health degree required and do not attempt to tackle greater than you are in a position to do. For those who battle with mobility, examine to see if there’s plenty of strolling on uneven floor like cobblestones.

Associated: 11 cruise ship excursions to keep away from

If the tour takes place over lunchtime, examine to see if a meal is included or if in case you have time to choose up one thing to eat.

Personally, I discover that organized excursions are finest when the tour is an exercise I am unable to do by myself (similar to kayaking, zip lining or a vineyard tour); when lengthy distances are concerned the place I do not wish to trouble with public transportation or renting a automotive on a one-day go to; or when the tradition is overseas sufficient that impartial exploration could be difficult. Generally you additionally want an knowledgeable information, similar to in Pompeii, to know what you are seeing.

Backside line

Shore excursions are an effective way to profit from your time in port, however you may get essentially the most worth out of a mixture of guided excursions and impartial exploration. Select the most suitable choice based mostly in your finances and pursuits, and bear in mind to have a look at each ship-sponsored and impartial tour and exercise choices. And for those who really feel like staying on board in the future whereas your ship is docked in a port that does not curiosity you, that is okay, too.

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