Always a hot topic when it comes to the World of Cruising!
Many times when we’re chatting with someone who knows we’ve done a ton of Cruising and many times when Shawn books a new Cruise client, the question of…
“Whats the Best Way To Book My Shore Excursions?”
Now first off, if you’ve never heard the term Shore Excursions before, we’re talking about those fun or historic and/or educational tours that you take when you make a stop at a Cruise Port.
So for example, if you’re Cruising the Mediterranean (an awesome destination) and you stop at the Port of Civitavecchia to spend the day touring Rome (about 1.5 hrs away) to see things like the Vatican, The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, etc. you’ve taken a shore excursion… pretty simple, right?
But where is gets confusing for some people is, do they book their Shore Excursions with the Cruiseline OR with a reputable 3rd party Shore Excursions company OR with a local tour operator by finding them through Google, etc.?
Well, like with many things when it comes to Cruising there isn’t one simple answer to this popular question. 🙂
First off, it’s important to make sure your expert Cruise Consultant (such as Shawn or whoever else does your booking) reviews with you any included Shore Excursions that are a part of your cruise price or if there’s any shore excursion discounts through the Cruiseline.
For example, with Luxury Cruiseline “Regent” they include tons of Free Shore Excursions in their Cruise price and those Shore Excursions that aren’t included are extremely discounted.
Upper Premium Cruiseline “Azamara” includes one Free nighttime shore excursion per Cruise and they give a 25% discount off the rest of their Shore Excursions as long as they’re booked online… and their main competitor, “Oceania”, offers some great discounts on Shore Excursions when you buy them as a package.
And River Cruise lines, well they include all the tours you’d want to take when doing their sailings so you don’t need to buy any extra Shore Excursions there.
So as mentioned, the key is to find out from your Expert Cruise Consultant what’s included and what promotions the Cruise-line has going.
Now, if there’s nothing included and no deals through the Cruiseline, don’t be afraid to explore your options as “Yes” sometimes the Cruiseline’s Shore Excursions can be over-priced and u can find them cheaper elsewhere.
**Important Note** Cruiselines have gotten into the habit of almost scaring you into buying their Shore Excursions as they say if you don’t you could miss the ship and have to pay to get to the next port.
Sure, it’s true if you’re late for the ship & aren’t on one of their tours they won’t wait but if you use a reputable 3rd Party Shore Excursions company, the chances of you being late are almost zero!
Companies like Shore Trips (here’s their Shore Excursions options) and Port Promotions (here’s their Shore Excursions options) are in the business of Shore Excursions and that’s what they 100% focus on so they’re truly experts in that area and we’ve never been late from a tour we’ve done with them (we’ve used them both) and Shawn has never had a client late either.
Here’s how good they are… in 2008 we did a group Cruise where we had a stop in Belize. We booked “Cave Tubing” through Shore Trips. There was a schedule change for our Cruise (our date for Belize was changed) and Shore Trips informed us of the ship’s schedule change before the Cruiseline did... that’s how good these guys are! 🙂
FYI, usually their pricing is 15% less then the Cruiseline on average but more then the money savings we like that the groups are smaller… there was 13 of us on our Belize tour… 2 busloads of 50+ people on each bus is what you had to deal with if doing this with the Cruiseline.
Now another option is to simply buy a tour when you get off in the port with a local operator. In Alaska for example when you get off they have booths right at the pier with plenty of options… we’ve done this too at times.
Warning: This option can be great for the pocketbook as you’ve cut out the middle-man and are dealing with the tour operator directly. This may not be a good option though if you HAVE to do a certain tour as many times these guys sell out fast. We’ve got some good last minute deals this way but we never risked this for something we truly wanted to do. If it’s a “Must Do” tour for you- plan ahead.
So there you go, our thoughts about Shore Excursions and the options to book them for your Cruise.
As we said, like a lot of the ins & outs of Cruising, there’s not one simple answer but as long as you book your Cruise through an Expert Cruise Consultant (and not through a faceless booking engine or a biased Cruiseline) they can give you some great insight into the best booking options for Shore Excursions for your particular itinerary.
We appreciate You!
Nancy & Shawn Power
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!