Shore excursions: ship-sponsored or independent?

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Guest Writer

Seeing the local sites, diving in the depths, white water rafting or simply ambling through a colourful local market – a cruise holiday often means all this and more.
For many holidaymakers shore excursions are the most important part of a cruise; in fact, unpacking once and visiting multiple countries all in one holiday is one of the most appealing things about jumping on board.
If you’re new to shore excursions, you might be mulling over the merits of going it alone versus joining the ship’s organised excursions. Before you decide, here are a few things to consider:

Why ship-sponsored? Why independent?
Places like Paris or Rome are both over an hour’s drive from the docks; therefore, a long way by public transport or taxi. If there are any delays in the excursion, ship-sponsored trips give you the peace of mind that the ship won’t set sail until its excursions return. Great for anyone who doesn’t like being one of a crowd. If you prefer to linger longer or move swiftly on, an independent, personalised tour is probably worth your while. You can also explore hidden corners that you might miss on a standard tourist excursion.
Ship’s tours are ideal where English isn’t widely spoken or where customs differ from ours: In Brunei, where the tourist infrastructure is limited, you’d need a guided tour to sites like Omar Ali Saifuddin, the biggest mosque in Asia as you’d probably never find it on your own. Your guide would also ensure you respect local customs by covering your body from head to toe. Similar cultural issues might also arise in Asia, Africa or South America. Doing your own thing at a small port of call is easy: In the Caribbean, beaches, shops, restaurants and bars are often very near your ship, and in tiny Monte Carlo, you will always be within easy walking distance from the port.
In places like Tunisia and Morocco, you’ll probably want to avoid the aggressive haggling involved in negotiating a reasonably-priced ride amid the swarms of taxis waiting at the port. In cases like this, a ship-sponsored tour can be invaluable. Many private companies organise trips around cruise ship timetables, often offering the same excursions as the cruise lines but for a fraction of the cost! Book beforehand and they’ll be waiting for you as you disembark to whip you off to see the sights and have you safely back before the ship leaves.
If you want to do something that’s tricky to get tickets for, like Monaco’s Formula 1, cruise lines often have great buying power, enabling them to offer tickets that would otherwise be hard to get. A guided taxi ride can give a personalised local’s view of everything – make sure you pick a licenced one and fix the price first.
Pick your ship carefully as some cruises, especially in the Caribbean, specialise in certain activities like scuba diving or other water sports.

Sold on a cruise? Consider covering possibilities like missed port departure or an itinerary change.