Thirty Three Shore Excursions Every Cruiser Should Have on Their Bucket List - Part One

February 11, 2015

Too often when we think of cruising we picture giant ships sailing the ocean; we think of the amazing restaurants or the elegant surroundings, we tend to think of the ship itself, not the exotic ports of call or the amazing things you can get up to whilst there! Quite often in fact the destinations are given short shrift.

Cruise ships will call in at nearly every country on the planet (admittedly said country needs to have a coast line or at least a river to cruise along) but that gives cruisers the opportunity to enjoy some once in a life time places.

At each port of call you arrive in you have the choice of either disembarking and doing your own thing or booking one of the cruise lines organised shore excursions.

For the adventurous cruise fan however there’s a third step that can be taken. These are the shore excursions that you wouldn’t normally consider, the excursions that can be best described as dream shore experiences, never to be repeated. once in a lifetime opportunities!

Below then is our top thirty three of the weirdest, wackiest or most unusual excursions on offer from the cruise lines around the world  that should be on every serious cruisers bucket list.

Take a tour of the Game of Thrones set 

The team may be revealing their inner geek here but did you know many of the Westeros scenes in GOT (Game of Thrones) were filmed in Belfast and that you can take a tour of the set on a shore excursion?

Holland America offer a four hour tour called Experience the Game of Thrones with prices starting from about $270pp

Game of Thrones

Salmon snorkelling with Ben Fogle

Celebrity Cruises announced last year that they would be going into partnership with Ben Fogle to introduce a series of adventure shore excursions (as we reported here).

One of those excursions would give guests the opportunity to go snorkelling with salmon. If that’ sounds like it might be cold it’s because it is! You’ll be kitted out in a survival suit, mask and snorkel and taken to the Suldalslågen River in Norway where you’ll have the opportunity to truly experience salmon in their natural habitat – Then you can head back to the ship to warm up and eat one for dinner!

Salmon snorkeling

Stay in a hotel entirely made of ice

If you’re brave enough to travel to Norway in the winter months then something you have to try is sleeping in a genuine ice hotel.

Built anew each winter we guarantee you this will be the coldest hotel you’ve ever stayed in (or we hope it would be anyway).

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy sleeping here though, Hurtigruten offer day trips to explore the hotel with a complimentary drink in the ice bar included for just £61pp (and yes, there will be plenty of ice in your glass!)

Ice Hotel

Husky sledding

If you were brave enough to face the cold of the ice hotel then you might also want to try your hand at sledding.

Dog sledding that is.

You’ll be given the opportunity to learn about both the dogs and the equipment, see some amazing wilderness scenes as you skim along the packed ice and depending on the time of year, you might just be lucky enough to see the northern lights!

Prices start from just €181pp with Hurtigruten.

husky race


Join a Biker Gang in Alaska

If you enjoy cruising but secretly have always been a bit of a rebel at heart then Holland Americas biker shore excursion may be one for you.

You’ll head out on a Harley Davidson and explore the Tongass forest in Ketchikan Alaska under the leadership of a ‘gang leader’ (re. Tour Guide).

You’ll need a motorcycle license to be able to ride your own hog but don’t worry if you don’t as you can always double up with someone that does.

Prices vary depending on the length of the tour but start from $190 and range up to $369.

Alaskan Bike excursion with Holland America

Pretend to be Indiana Jones at Petra

Unknown to the Western world until 1812, Petra, Jordan has been described by UNESCO as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage

That alone should earn pride of place on our bucket list but combine it with the fact that Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was filmed here and it catapults to a must see position with us!

You can explore Petra on an excursion with Thomson cruises. The tour is a full day (9.5 hours) and costs £116 per adult and £82 per child.

Petra Jordan

Jump out of a Plane   

Good news cruise fans! When it comes to free falling from ridiculous heights you’re actually spoilt for choice on cruises.

For the less adventurous you can take a simulated sky dive on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class of cruise ship – You can check out one of our specialist cruise consultants below on the Ripcord by Ifly

For those that demand the real thing Thomson Cruises offer tandem parachute jumps at the Gran Caneria Aeroclub. It’s a half day shore excursion which flies you up to 3,000 meters in a private Cessna for £250 per adult. – Not for the faint of heart!

Trek the Amazon from Manaus

Manaus must be one of the most unusual cities on the planet. Smack bang in the middle of the Amazon jungle it’s a city of nearly two million residents, surrounded on all side by rainforest.

Many ships cruising up the Amazon will make Manaus their final stop before turning around, often docking for a few days before heading back.

This stay means it’s the perfect opportunity to make a trek out into the Amazon and if you’re brave enough (and don’t mind skipping the luxury of your cruise ship) camp out overnight, Bear Grylls style!

Fred Olsen offers many different tours out into the jungle with overnight stays starting from £325 per person. Options range from sleeping (assuming you can sleep) on the jungle floor in a sleeping bag right through to luxury tree house resorts!

Amazon Jungle

Tie Yourself to a Bridge and Jump off

Thirty years ago attaching yourself to a rope and throwing yourself off a bridge would have very different connotations than it does today.

Ever since the bungee craze swept New Zealand and then the rest of the world, jumping from bridges has become extremely popular. Unless you’re a fan of cruising that is…..

We asked around and the best we could find was an excursion to watch a bungee jump with Princess cruises…boooooring! Or not much better take a virtual bungee jump with P&O.

The more adventurous of you might have to book a private jump which can range in price but start from around $101NZ

Bungee jump

Learn to Luge in New Zealand

New Zealand has always been the spiritual home of extreme sports. If you don’t fancy bungee jumping though why not strap yourself to a giant plank of wood with wheels attached (apologies to any luge manufactures out there – we’re sure there’s more to it than that) and hurl yourself down a hill?

Princess cruises do a combined skyline and luge shore excursion down Mt Ngongotaha in New Zealand at just $129 per person.



Giuoco del calcio fiorentino

A square, one ball, two goals, 50 minutes and absolutely no rules – No it’s not a local English soccer derby is Calcio Storico, a form of football, now only played in Florence, that was purported to have been started by Roman Gladiators.

Four teams of twenty seven men play each year in the third week of June with the final always being held on the 24th June.

If you’re interested you can book tickets online, (you just need to coincide it with your ship visit) but we’d recommend you watch the video first – be warned! When the Italians say it has no rules they REALLY mean it!



La Tomatina Festival

La Tomatina has become famous in the last decade or two with more and more tourists heading down to take part in the festival but did you know it originally started as a riot and the town council spent years trying to ban it?

Held every year on the last Wednesday of August, the town of Bunol is only a short inland trek from Valencia so if you time your cruise right you’ll be able to take part as well.

The rules are simple enough:

  • No tomatoes may be thrown until the starting shot is fired.
  • To avoid injuries the tomatoes have to be squashed before throwing
  • Only tomatoes may be thrown (pineapples and other spiky fruits are strictly forbidden!)
  • Participants must give way to trucks and lorries
  • After the second shot is fired to close the festival you must stop

Top Tip: Don’t get over excited and start the festival early in your cruise ships buffet. We doubt your fellow cruise mates will appreciate it.

Tomato Festival Bunol

Go Alligator Hunting in the Everglades

There’s no guarantee you’ll catch one unfortunately but if you book a tour of Florida’s Everglades by Airboat with Carnival Cruises they’ll make sure you get to munch down on alligator tail at the end of the day (it tastes like chicken).

The tour, imaginatively called Airboat tour and alligators and will have you whipping through the swamps at a healthy 40mph. The tour costs $71.99 per adult and $49.99 per child

Aligator wrestling

Walk Across the Highest Two-Storey Bridge in the World

The Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur soar over the city at a gravity defining 452m but perhaps the scariest looking part is the double decker Skybridge located on the 41st and 42nd floors.

If you fancy taking a look then as long as you don’t have a crippling fear of heights Princess Cruises offer a Kuala Lumpur tour which, as well as taking a tour of the city, will whisk you up to the 41st floor for best view of Kuala Lumpur you could possibly get! The whole tour is just $149 per person.

PETRONAS Twin Towers SkyBridge

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

For the young (although the law states you have to be over 18 to run) and the young at heart, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona Spain should give you enough bragging rights to not only see you through the cruise your’e on but a dozen future cruises as well!

Unfortunately you can’t book a shore excursion direct with the cruise line (we’re assuming they don’t want any injured or dead passengers on-board) but Pamplona, located in Northern Spain, could be a good pre cruise excursion for the adventurous.

For anyone who has moral objections to the Running of the Bulls you could always turn up the day before for the running of the nudes, organised by PETA, in objection to the event (we’ll let you guess what you have to do!)

Running of the Bulls

Take a Selfie with the Terracotta Warriors

Since their discovery in 1974 the world has been fascinated with these guardians of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. Whenever some of the statues have been loaned out to foreign museums the tours are always sold out with record numbers coming to see them so interest remains high even to this day!

It’s a lot easier to see the Terracotta warriors by cruise than you might think as well. A lot of our Far East tailor made holidays come with pre or post cruise stays that incorporate visits to see them. So if you fancy seeing the Terracotta Warriors in all their glory (and taking a cheeky selfie) rather than in a museum then you can learn more here

Terracotta warrior

Take a Cruise to Middle Earth

The movie buffs amongst you may or may not know that both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogy were filmed in New Zealand. What this means for you is that if you book an around New Zealand cruise you can actually visit many of the locations.

You can take a four hour tour of Hobbiton with Royal Caribbean who charge £100 per adult and £67 per child.

Hobbiton, Shire, New Zealand

Click here to continue to Part Two of our Thirty Three Shore Excursions Every Cruiser Should Have on Their Bucket List

*All prices quoted valid as of 11/02./2015