I Work on a Cruise Ship: Ship Booked Excursions vs Adventuring on Your Own

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a cruise ship in the water

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Let’s face it, the ports of call visited during a cruise are about the main reason people choose this kind of vacation. And fairly so, I mean, not many other options allow you to see so many places in such a time-effective manner, and all without having to pack and unpack in each place! And while a few days at sea are always welcome in order to explore what will be your home for a few days (or weeks, if you’re that lucky) and the amenities that come with it, the destinations are the stars of the experience for most people.

Now though, except for a short while during the dark ages of the return-to-service period after the pandemic, there is no obligation for you to explore these ports through the cruise-operated tours, and you’re free to go out by yourself, spending less (or even nothing) than you would in a Cruise Shore Excursion, but before ruling them out due to budgeting reasons, there’s a few things you should keep in mind.

Information

Yes, that painting looks gorgeous, and the statues all look the same, and while you may have saved yourself a couple of bucks, you may be missing out on valuable information on what you’re looking at. I know, ignorance is bliss, but walking away from the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo without knowing the history behind them would be a shame (for others, you’d be oblivious). Tour guides are naturally familiar and eager to share their knowledge and answer questions you may have.

Safety

Every city, regardless of how fancy it may be known to be, has areas most locals would advise against transiting, even if they are particularly touristy. And, unless you’re the kind of person who likes researching every place you’ll be visiting (and if so, kudos!), you might very well find yourself in such a place as part of your self-wandering. Going on an organized tour at least ensures the areas you’ll be seeing are the right ones, with no sketchy deviations. This, of course, in no way means you should let your guard down, but as long as you’re aware of your belongings, you should be able to enjoy a memorable day out.

Transportation / All aboard time

Trust me on this, you do NOT want to be the guy people record from their balconies who’s running towards the ship hoping they didn’t miss it, in spite of the instant fame it gains you. Much less the guy whom the Port Agent is waiting at the pier to inform them the ship is gone. Certain ports require you to travel long distances to reach their main attractions, and a myriad of things could prevent you from coming back to the pier in time. Memorable? Yes. Advisable? No.

Price checking

Not any less valuable is the certainty, with the help of your guide, that the price you’re getting for a particular item is not grossly over inflated due to your condition of tourist, and based on guests’ experiences (and sadly one of my own), being tricked into buying something for a ridiculous price is something that your guide can help you avoid. That alone could make up for the difference in the price of going on your own vs. going on an organized tour.

Language

Don’t underestimate the level of stress you can reach when you just cannot make yourself understood in a foreign country. PARTICULARLY if returning to your ship depends on it. Having someone responsible for getting you there AND back really is priceless.

Bottom line is you may save a few bucks but think of the risks and stress if things don’t go as planned – do you really want that for your cruise vacations? – ThatGuy (onboard)

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have used Viator and Venture Ashore lots of times to book shore excursions and have never had a problem, and the pricing is always a better value than the ship’s excursions.

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