A Cruise Beginner’s Guide to Shore Excursions

Part of getting on the big ship is getting back off! Shore excursions are great, if you know what you're doing. Here's a beginner's guide to shore excursions.

We’re here to give you cruise control. Your dream holiday beckons. You’re now faced with a host of tempting choices of places to see and things to do on shore.

It’s your first cruise and you’re not sure whether to go it alone or stick to organized excursions. We’re here to give you a helping hand so that you’re not only out at sea when you step on board your liner.

Cruise operators boost their profits by offering trips on shore. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s wise to consider your options.

The quality of excursions can vary. So whether you’re heading to Alaska or the Caribbean, we’ll show what to look for.

It’s Your Vacation

Before setting off, do your research. Make a list what you’d like to do, where you’d like to visit, and any sites you’d like to see.

Use online travel websites and guidebooks to help you with your choices. The official tourism offices based in the places you’ll be visiting can be a great resource. They’ll often email you maps and directions to the sites you want to see.

Excursions can be expensive so, before you push the boat out, be sure you’re going to be doing something you’ll enjoy.

Time and Distance

These are two of the most important factors to consider. Remember if you go it alone and don’t make it back to the ship on time, you will be left behind. You’ll then have to make your own arrangements to get to the next port of call.

Get all your cruise accessories before your vacation at sea.

Check how far the location of what you want to see or do is from the port. If it’s a long way away then it may be well worth considering an organized excursion for peace of mind.

It’s sometimes worth booking these type of excursions directly. This may save you money but some operators will offer price guarantees so do your homework first to see if this is the case.

Adventure Activities

Most activities carry risk, whether it’s careering down a zip line, or hiking on a glacier.

Booking directly through the cruise company in these instances may be the best idea. This is because it’s likely to have checked out the activity providers over issues such as liability. You should always have adequate insurance.

It may also make sense to book something directly yourself with a local provider. It’s a matter of weighing up how reputable you think they are and how solid their reviews appear to be.

Remember too, if the excursion you want to go on is sold out on the boat, then it may still be possible to book it directly yourself with the provider.

Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive

Private Excursions

A very good reason for wanting to head out on your own is to escape big groups. Perhaps there’s one key site you would really like to experience on your own. When you’re on your honeymoon, it could be the perfect choice.

If you can afford it and get a great guide, it could be a superb investment. It’s liberating to choose how long you want to stay at any given place. You won’t waste any time either waiting for all those stragglers to get back to the bus.

A City Tour

Many cities will have areas close to the port which are well worth visiting and within walking distance. Time is often of the essence when you’re on shore.

Sometimes it’s only possible to get a flavor of the place you’re visiting. That includes eating out where the locals do. Going it alone can be a great idea in these instances.

The last thing you want is to waste any time being dropped at a souvenir shop before you get back on board.

A travel wallet for valuables and a phone is a must when in port.

Again, it’s worth planning ahead. Check out the costs of local taxis and see if it’s possible to walk a little and then take a taxi to a site or area that particularly interests you.

Booking Excursions in Advance

You should consider carefully whether to book in advance or to hold out till you’re onboard.

There may be must-do tours that you know you’d be very disappointed to miss. But if you’re unsure, waiting may be best so that you avoid any potential cancellation charges.

You may also be thinking that you’d like to see what the weather’s going to be like before committing yourself.

Read the Small Print

It’s vital to read the description of shore excursions thoroughly so that your expectations are realistic. It’s important to know how long you’ll be spending on a bus, for example.

You may need to weigh up whether it’s worth spending a shorter time in a lot of locations rather than just settling on a long time in one place.

Some excursions may involve a lot of strenuous walking often in hot weather. Be sure these are appropriate for you and your party.

Cars, Taxis, and Buses

If you’re planning to hire a car for a day trip, it’s always wise to do this in advance to have the best chance of getting the lowest price. You’ll also avoid the possibility that your rental car agent is sold out.

Hiring a private car or taxi can be very cost effective when compared to an organized excursion. Always negotiate a flat rate in advance based on the length of time you want to keep your driver.

Plenty of beach accessories for your cruise can be found here.

Many towns and cities have “hop-on, hop-off” tour buses. Tickets offering unlimited daily use on a circular route can usually be bought when boarding the bus.

These are not only a great way to get around the city efficiently but they usually also offer useful commentary in between stops.

Also Read: What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise (More Than 50 Items!)

Share Our Passion

We want to share our love of cruising with you. We hope it won’t be long before you set sail on a big adventure and enjoy the excursions available along the way.

We hope you’ll continue visiting us so that we can keep you up to date with all the latest cruise news. Bon voyage!

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