How to Get the Most Out of a Shore Excursion


Shore excursions are a great way to make your cruise experience more fulfilling and allow you the opportunity to explore more of the amazing sights and culture of your ports of call. From the relaxing to the adventurous, there is something for every interest.

Book on Board

Although the onboard amenities of your cruise will be thoroughly enjoyable, shoreside activities are as much a part of the whole experience and will encourage you to explore new places. Your cruise line will offer organised excursions for additional fees and range from city tours through to cultural events and active pursuits. You can book the tours onboard at your ships’ excursion desk or even online before you even set sail.

The bonus of these excursions is that they take away all of the hassle from arranging your own trip and you can rest assured that the tour provider is licensed and reputable. You will never be left stranded at port and the ship will not depart until all tour buses are back safely. It is also a great way to meet like-minded people whom you can spend more time with back on the ship.

The amount of tours offered by cruise lines can be a little much to take in at first. Everything from hiking up mountains to overnight city breaks are included. They will vary greatly from port to port.

What to Consider

Firstly, you need to think about the types of things you want to see when you go ashore. Do you want an active trip or would you prefer to see some of the famous sights? Remember that sightseeing tours will be bus tours that will take you to the highlights of that particular area. Caribbean tours will feature options like snorkelling and trips to private beaches, whereas European tours will focus more on museums or cathedrals, as well as trying out the local food and drink.


Some of the tours will be full days and some will only be a few hours so book the ones that you feel you will get the most out of. Half day tours often allow you some free time to explore on your own before the excursion. The same can be said for guided vs. free time tours. If you are not keen on exploring with a load of other people, then opt for the excursions where you are dropped off and allowed to have a look around at your own leisure and see exactly what you want.

Boutique Excursions

Some cruise lines now offer “boutique” excursions which include cooking classes or behind-the-scenes tours of places for 25 or so guests. These are slightly more exclusive and can enable you to soak up more of the culture of the place you are visiting.

Cafe de Paris, Cooking Class. Sourced from Flickr.

Whether or not you decide to take a shore excursion will depend entirely on your budget and IF there is anything particular you want to experience whilst you are away. Tours vary in price and taking a stop off in every port can take a significant toll on your budget. It is best to do your research before you travel so that you book the right excursions for you. The best way to view it is if there are places you want to visit that are located far from the pier, or are hard to get to alone, then a tour is the best option. If you simply want to relax on the beach then you could probably do that on your own at less of a cost.

Bear in mind that guided tours are much more advisable in third world countries where language barriers may be experienced. Without guidance you may not know how necessary it is to respect local customs, such as covering your body up before entering certain buildings etc. It is always best to err on the side of caution if in doubt and that is one of the many bonuses of guided tours. They are also a way to stay safe in places that are not suitable to journey around alone.


Hybrid trips can be pre-booked before you set sail and can sometimes save you money as well as offering the opportunity for you to customise your excursions. Your local provider will give you details about this. Note that if you choose this route, your cruise ship may not wait for any late-returning ship-sponsored tours and you could get stranded at port.

Do Your Research

Having a wonderful shore excursion is all about planning ahead, reading up on the places you will be visiting so you know what you want to see and deciding whether to book a tour or go it alone. Look at your cruise line’s list of shore excursions and descriptions. You should also be sent a booklet containing all of the tours when your cruise documents are sent out to you. Read everything very carefully so you understand exactly how your time will be spent on your excursion and ask any questions before you book.

Be aware that some tours are very active and involve long treks that may not be suitable. Your cruise line should make this clear on any advertisements, but if you are unsure then find out. Most staff members on your cruise will be well informed so use them as a source of information so that you can make the best choices and have the holiday of a life time.

If you have any further questions about your cruise holiday, be sure to call our expert sales team on 0808 2746 777.

Images sourced via Cafe de Paris and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: 


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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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