Is an Independent Shore Excursion Right for You?


One of the great things about a cruise holiday is that when it comes to sightseeing – doing the touristy stuff, exploring new countries and cities – a lot of the legwork has already been done for you. However, maybe you’re more into taking the road less travelled and finding some gems away from the crowd. In that case, perhaps an independent shore excursion is the way to go.

There are undoubted benefits to the independent shore excursion that make them an attractive option for many, but do you think they are right for you? There can be a lot to consider when you’re deciding which to go for. Here we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of both ship-sponsored excursions and their independent counterparts, to see which approach floats your boat when you’re on holiday.

couple taking photos on holiday

Independent shore excursions

What should you consider?

  • Is the port close to where you’ll be visiting?

If the two are situated close to each other, then a quick taxi ride or a brisk walk to where you want to be seems to be preferable to a coach journey for a couple of hours. Keep an eye out for ‘hop-on, hop-off buses too, if you’re pushed for time and looking to see a city in a jiffy, they’re a handy way to get around.

  • Have you been to the port before?

Perhaps this is your second or third time visiting this neck of the woods, you’ve seen all the highlights before and you’re looking for something different this time around. An independent excursion fine-tunes the focus, giving you a taste of something more specific, whether it’s snorkelling, hiking, or something really adventurous like a helicopter tour high up in the sky.

european city break

  • Do you want to go personalised and in-depth?

Since they have to cater to so many, ship-sponsored excursions tend to take a generalised approach. In cities that are rich in history and culture, these kinds of tours might only scratch the surface.

On independent excursions, the range of activities goes deeper. Think learning about the local cuisine with cookery lessons, snorkelling in the sea, and wine-tasting classes – more immersive, distinctive experiences that put you at the heart of the place you’re visiting.

It’s a comparatively tailored experience in a smaller group of people, which means your guide is there to offer a more personal, knowledgeable experience where the focus is on you and a few others. If you’re travelling with friends or family too, then it’s possible to make it a private experience that’s exactly the way you like it.

  • Are you looking for some retail therapy?

On ship-sponsored excursions, you often don’t get much free time to yourself. By their very nature, these kinds of excursions tend to be quite packed, so any hopes to get some serious shopping done are likely going to be dashed. Independent excursions sometimes offer free time, so you’ll able to shop the port’s wares to your heart’s content.

couple on a shore excursion

  • Are you looking for something cheaper?

Generally, the independent route tends to be easier on the wallet. If you’re travelling in a group, they’re especially cost effective too and you can shop around to find a price that you’re comfortable with, as opposed to the cruise line’s excursions which will be at a set rate. 

Ship-sponsored excursions

What should you consider?

  • Is this your first time on a cruise/visiting this port?

In contrast to the same question answered earlier, you may be unfamiliar with the port you’re in and where the best tourist attractions are. As a result, a ship-sponsored excursion that touches on the highlights of this particular area could be for you. Not only will you see a large swathe of what the port has to offer, and you’ll be comfortably back on the ship before it departs for the next port. (If you choose to do it independently, getting back to the ship is entirely up to you; and be aware the ship won’t wait around for you if you’re running late).

european city break

  • Are you looking to see as much as possible?

Similarly, ship-sponsored excursions are less focused on one thing and more all-encompassing, which is great if you’re trying to see as much as possible of the port you’re in. They’re especially handy if the areas of interest are spread out across the destination and seeing them all in the allotted time simply isn’t feasible on an independent excursion.

Certain cruise lines often specialise in particular regions too, in which case, an excursion of this kind is well worth going for. Investigating the specialities of your cruise line is advisable, you might find they’re particularly adept at exploring a region’s cuisine, or offers plentiful opportunities to get immersed in its waters. Shop around and see what works for you.

  • Is tourism limited in the region?

If tourism is particularly limited in the port you’re visiting, then a ship-sponsored excursion could be the only way to go. This way, you won’t have to deal with the problems surrounding organising transportation or finding a tour guide of reputable quality. Again, if you’re in a smaller port that you’re unfamiliar with, a ship-sponsored cruise is the comfortable option.

  • You’re not too bothered about budgeting

Independent cruises tend to be on the cheaper side, but if you’re not fussed about being frivolous with your cash, then splashing out on a cruise-sponsored excursion is the way to go. The price can build up if you opt for them at every port but if you’re going to treat yourself, you might as well do it this way!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or you’re looking to expand your horizons, head over to Cruise1st’s dedicated homepage to view our available cruises or alternatively, give our friendly customer care team a call on 0808 2746 777.

Is an Independent Shore Excursion Right for You?
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Is an Independent Shore Excursion Right for You?
In this post, we weigh the relative merits of organised, cruise line-sanctioned excursions versus independent expeditions. Read our guide and decide which is right for you.

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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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