One of the most exciting parts of any cruise is getting off the ship at the various ports and going on a shore excursion. I remember when I took my first cruise. I started reading about all the fun and exciting ship sponsored shore excursions. But there are other types of shore excursions besides what the cruise line offers. So here’s the question: Ship Sponsored or Independent Shore Excursions | Which One Is Right For You?
Ship Sponsored Shore Excursions
The most convenient way to book a shore excursion is through your cruise line. Other reasons to book through your cruise line are:
- The excursions are carefully vetted and validated for quality and reliability. From their experience with thousands of passengers, cruise lines offer excursions that they know their passengers will enjoy.
- You can apply any onboard credits you have toward the cost.
- The ship guarantees to wait for you, even if your tour is delayed and you are late getting back to the ship.
Here are two tours we booked through our cruise line on when we went on an Alaskan cruise. Both were excellent and worth the cost.
Shore Excursions With Independent Providers
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Did you know that you could book a shore excursion in advance with an independent provider through sites like Shorefox and Viator? Here are some reasons to consider booking through an independent provider:
- They have different types of tours that may not be available through the cruise line.
- Sometimes they offer the same tours as the cruise line but for less money.
- Their tours often have fewer people than those offered through the cruise line.
- You can read detailed reviews and see photographs from travelers who have taken these excursions.
- You can find providers who guarantee that you’ll get back to the ship on time OR they will pay for you to get to the next port to get back on the ship.
Shore Excursions With Private Guides
- Private Guides take individuals or small groups around to the main sites and are able to tailor your tour toward your interests.
- Choose guides with some type of accreditation through the local tourism board or tour guide association.
- Book in advance rather than negotiating with someone who comes up to you when you get off the ship.
- Do your research. Go on message boards on sites like CruiseCritic.com where you can ask for recommendations on guides from experienced cruisers.
- You can also research private guides by contacting the local tourist office in the city where you’ll be touring.
Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Shore Excursion
- You can usually purchase tickets and get on near where you disembark the ship.
- With these tours, you’ll get a map of the city, transportation to key sites and recorded commentary.
- You can get off at the sites you want to see and get back on to go to the next destination. These buses run on a frequent schedule, so you don’t have to worry about long waits for transportation.
Self Touring Shore Excursions
You can have a custom tour experience without spending a lot of money by doing a self-tour. I’ve done two of these on our Alaskan Cruise with great success:
- If you decide to go the self-tour route, research your destination to find the must-see sites and the most cost-effective way to get there.
- Read advice on cruise forums and cruise travel reviews to get the best information on your destination.
With so many options, take the time to look into each one. You’ll certainly find the best shore excursion at each port for you!
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