|For most, the main part of a cruise vacation are the shore excursions, and yet it is also, ironically, the least planned part of the trip.
Before looking at a few suggestions to help you make the most of your ports of call, however, it is worth reminding yourself that the cruise line shore excursions are not always the best option, and that with a little research you can get better value for your dollars by doing it yourself.
This is particularly true in ports you have visited before and now wish to be more selective in what you choose to see, or in ports where the town is just too small to warrant a bus tour for most.
I remember watching from my perch on deck as passengers climbed into a bus at the dock in Sitka, Alaska. I then watched the bus as it drove around the town very slowly for 20 minutes and then return to the dock where the passengers got out and once again lined up to get back on board. And all this for a princely sum of $100 each!
Clearly common sense is called for, but there are, of course, a good number of excursions that are well worth the cost. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of them.
- the excursions worth taking are naturally the first ones to be booked up so it is worth considering booking those before you leave home. Many cruise lines offer booking services on their web sites. If you haven’t booked before you board, you might want to make this one of your priorities.
- make sure you choose your excursions wisely keeping both time and cost in mind. I have seen many passengers cram two or three tours in each day and see them rushing from one excursion to the next without pause for lunch or breath! And then there is the added shock of the bill at the end of the cruise.
- if you are on an excursion and are given time to yourselves, make sure you know exactly the time you are required back at the bus or other mode of transport, and make sure also you can identify the bus or craft you came with. There is always someone who is late or is found wandering aimlessly about looking for their transport. Make sure it’s not you!
- whether you are on an excursion or not, make sure you know what time you need to be back on board and that you have a watch with you. There may not always be time to wander off after an excursion and if you miss the sailing you will have to meet the ship at the next port of call at your own expense. (One of the advantages of a shore excursion is that if the tour is late getting back to the ship, the ship will wait for you. If you’re on your own, it won’t!)
- while still on shore, away from the group or touring on your own, make sure you use the same common sense precautions for your own security and safety as you would at home. Just because you are on vacation, it doesn’t mean the petty thieves are too. Leave your valuables on board.
- during any time ashore, always carry identification, a photocopy of your passport, and the name of your ship and where it is berthed.
- check the excursions before you book to make sure they are not too strenuous for your specific circumstances. The level of agility required is not always immediately obvious, though many cruise lines do note such things on the list of shore excursions they offer.
- also, if disability is part of the equation, make sure that the ship can accommodate you when they use tenders to ferry passengers from the ship to shore. Getting on and off the tenders is not always the easiest, even for the nimble footed.
Basically, as with security on board, the key phrase is common sense. Investigate all your options thoroughly and make sure that the shore excursion you are arranging is suited to your needs.
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