Going on a cruise is a conscious decision. No other mode of travel is as comfortable, diverse and convenient. There is a ship and a destination for everybody, so that cruise experiences and memories are very much individual. However, what really makes the experiences unique are the harbours and regions that the vessel calls at. So, you want to explore them.
Generally, there are multiple options when it comes to planning a shore excursion: you could book an excursion organised by the cruise company, a tour with a local tour guide, or explore everything on your own either by foot, public transportation or on your own. It does not matter which one you choose – they all have advantages and disadvantages.
Organised shore excursions by the cruise company
For an all-around successful cruise, you need to go off board and explore. That is also why cruise companies put in lots of effort to create beautiful trips that make for great memories. Offers include everything from city tours and culinary experiences, beach and diving tours to active tours – anyone is bound to find something they like.
It is possible to get more information from the cruise companies about the ports of call online prior to departure. As soon as you booked your cruise, you can reserve the excursions that you desire. Our Cruise1st experts recommend to book as early as possible, because some of the excursions have a limited number of participants. If you book at the last minute, there is the chance your desired trip may not be available anymore. Additionally, booking early allows you to look forward to the trip. If you spontaneously decide you want to take part in another tour, you may do so aboard within a certain time frame.
Deciding on a pre-organised tour has further advantages to it. All excursions are managed and performed by reputable and experienced travel organisations. That way you will always be in good hands and there won‘t be any hidden costs. You will receive relevant and important information from the cruise company, such as the location of the terminal, safety instructions and information on the sights, prior to departure. You are also the first to get off board when you are on an organised excursion, which can be a really important factor, depending on the time you must get back aboard – it maximises your time ashore. That way you have more time for experiencing local culture and get a good look at all the sights. For the duration of the tour you will be have a guide that can assist you if needed. If there are any delays on the way back, you have the guarantee that the vessel will wait for your group.
However, you must be aware that all tours can only take place if the minimum number of participants is given. If there were not enough interested passengers for a tour, the aforementioned would be cancelled. In that case you would have to look for an alternative tour.
Shore excursions with limited mobility
Different people have different needs regarding their travels. Same goes for any trips off the boat. For example, guests with limited mobility and families with young children are informed about the degree of physical exertion and if a tour is barrier free prior to the reservation of the tour. Staff aboard are also very helpful in this regard. Some companies, such as Carnival Cruises, offer excursions tailored for guests with limited mobility.
Shore excursions on your own
Organised shore excursions are not for everyone – whether it is because you’re travelling in a group, due to the slightly higher price or a perceived lack of flexibility. That is why many guests consider going on a tour on their own. More information on everything local can be obtained from the tourist information in the cruise terminal. For example, some harbours are located very close to the city centre, so that guests can simply disembark the vessel and discover the city. It makes sense, however, to keep an eye on the time, in order to be back in time for the ship’s departure. In this case it is always important to keep in mind, that passengers with pre-booked trips will always leave the ship first. If you decide to go on your own, especially in bigger cities this is the case, hop on-hop off buses are a great way to use your time efficiently. Passengers using a car, or similar mode of transport, must be aware of their time. It is imperative to include a buffer, especially when tendering to the vessel. The time the last tender boat leaves the harbour is always announced aboard prior to disembarking the vessel. Passengers not on time will not be able to board, as the ship set its sails. Normally, passengers then must ensure they get to the next port of call on their own, in order to get back aboard. Not only is that stressful, but it could also be very costly, depending on the area.
Rental cars and shore excursions can be booked up front very conveniently. There is a variety of offers out there. Don’t forget to organise your excursions early enough.
Tips for the spontaneous
Often you are not sure of what you want to do once you are there. That is why there are always sessions aboard regarding the various destinations, which inform guests about topics such as attractions, events and safety on site. After said sessions you can still decide whether to book a pre-organised excursion or go out on your own. Mostly you will find taxis waiting at the terminals that can drive you into the city or to see certain sights. In general, this is great, but make sure you are aware of customs and conventions, as well as safety. In some destinations you should not leave the touristy and crowded spots.
As previously mentioned, if you are familiar with a destination or you decide to (almost) have the ship to yourself, there is nothing to say against a day aboard. However, in the end you want to see as many beautiful places as possible, so maybe make a short trip off the vessel.