Should You Always Book Shore Excursions Through Your Cruise Line?

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One of the really fun things about cruising is going to a bunch of different places and having opportunities to explore each and every one simply by walking off the ship. The question then becomes whether you should explore on your own, or go with an excursion under the direction of the cruise line or take your chances with “Bob” you just met on the dock who promised you the same adventures the cruise line offers but at half the price?

The Risks

Going off on your own in some ports may be a bit dangerous even if you are an experienced traveler. There are a million things that could happen! You could get lost, lose track of time (especially ship-time, which is all that matters) you could get injured or even robbed. Pick-pockets are a constant danger to tourists in ports so it’s wise to not flash your cash, jewelry or fancy phones and cameras.

What about that nice guy, Bob who promised me I’ll have a great time and it will cost me half what the cruise line price is? Well, Bob may or may not be insured, he may or may not have a really reliable (or safe) vehicle, and if he doesn’t get you back in time the ship WILL leave without you. Bob will typically require you to pay cash, so be prepared to have smaller bills so you can pay the exact price because Bob is not a bank and might not be able to make change for you.

a collage of different pictures of butterflies

The Benefits

Obviously the biggest benefit to booking your shore excursions through your cruise line is the ship will wait for you if your tour runs late since it is sponsored by the cruise line. The companies the cruise lines work with have to meet safety standards and be properly licensed to run the tours. There is also the possibility of the cruise line having to adjust ports during the cruise, in which case you get all of your money back from your shore excursions booked through the cruise line, not likely so if you booked with a 3rd party on your own.

There can be benefits of booking your own 3rd party tours through services like Expedia (starting at a shopping portal like Swagbucks for even more cash back) or even directly with the tour operator ahead of time. You might end up in a much smaller group for your tour, the costs tend to run a bit less than those booked through the cruise line, and you might find tour options that the ship doesn’t offer. For example, we booked a Segway Tour in Funchal, Madeira that turned out to be an incredibly fun day for us and nothing bad happened! On the other hand, we arranged a beach trip once in port that turned out to be everyone loaded into the back of a pickup truck for a trip up over the mountain to get to the beach complete with squealing tires the entire way. Then after our day at the beach we had the same fun in store for the return trip to the ship. It all worked out OK, but that is not something I would do again!

a man and woman on a scooter

The key thing to remember is that you booked your cruise to have a great time, so make smart choices and be mindful of your surroundings, your physical limitations, and the details associated with each excursion option you consider. With good planning and reasonableness you can enjoy a great cruise adventure and minimize the risks. – René

 

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Advertiser Disclosure: Frequent Floaters has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. FrequentFloaters and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the site. This site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. All information related to any credit cards above was collected independently by Frequent Floaters and was neither provided nor reviewed by the respective card issuers

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert
René de Lamberthttp://www.FrequentFloaters.com
René de Lambert has been a travel blogger for over 10 years covering the travel industry - including cruising.

3 COMMENTS

  1. It all depends on what the cruise line has to offer in my opinion. Wife and I recently did a Iceland/Greenland cruise with NCL and they didn’t have anything really for excursions in Greenland. So I ended up finding a private boat excursion that went all the way up the fjord to the glacier. We were the only ones there amongst massive icebergs. Absolutely amazing!!!
    Our cruises always end up being a mix of cruise based excursions and our own based on what’s offered.

  2. Years ago we did a trip to Israel. we got off the boat and found a local driver who did a great job for us for 3 days. He went to the next port each day to pick us up and see all of the sites we needed! Our next cruise has 6 free excursions with the suite, There are 54 to choose from so we are going with the cruise recs…

  3. Large 3rd party excursion providers like Venture Ashore, Viator, etc. provide the ability to cancel excursions and get money back. Many also guarantee they will get you back to the ship on time. Small operators as you mention can’t do all that but most of the mom-and-pop operators I’ve dealt with over the years will usually refund your money if the ship skips that port.

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