Your Definitive Guide To Cruise Shore Excursions

Your Definitive Guide To Cruise Shore Excursions

Ruined temples, horse riding through the surf, zip wiring over jungle canopies or just exploring an authentic local market – did you know you can do all this, and so much more, on a cruise holiday?! 

In fact, there are many that would argue that shore excursions are almost the whole point of the cruise; unpacking once and seeing multiple destinations all in one holiday! 

Whether you’re researching what to do on your first cruise ever, or you’re looking to do something else rather than sun-lounging and devouring delicious eats, in this definitive guide we detail what exactly shore excursions are, the benefits of these tours and how to book them. 

So, read on to learn everything you need to know about shore excursions…

What Is A Shore Excursion?

In essence, they’re nothing more than an organised sightseeing tour arranged by cruise lines to make sure guests see the very best things to do while in port.

That being said, however, there’s still a lot to consider when it comes to shore excursions. The first question being – do you need to book an excursion, or can you do your own thing while in port?

Opting for a cruise line-provided shore excursion means that you’ll know that these tours have been carefully selected, meaning that you won’t have to do your own research on destinations and unknown tour suppliers. Much of this work is done for you, by the cruise line themselves!

After deciding that (assuming you’re still interested in an organised shore excursion) you may want to put some thought into the type of shore excursion you book…

Frequently Asked Questions About Shore Excursions

How Active Do I Need To Be?

Cruise lines are helpful folk and they want your holiday to be as relaxed as it can possibly be. To help with that, they’ll label each shore excursion in their itineraries by how active or strenuous it might be.

That means, when you’re perusing what’s available, you might see a little label indicating a particular shore excursion is active/strenuous or moderate or maybe even sedentary.

Try not to be too put off by these labels though, you won’t be white water rafting or running through abandoned temples with giant boulder booby traps chasing you, Indiana Jones style! Active simply means there’ll probably be a lot of walking or even possibly hiking involved.

Disclaimer: If you do book a white water rafting excursion please note there may be some white water rafting involved!

Do I go for a full-day or half-day tour?

This one should be fairly obvious from the title but, as it says, many cruise lines offer both full and half-day tours when you’re in port. What you might not realise, however, is that there will normally be a transfer bus running to and from the ship all day.

This means you could do a morning tour with the cruise line and then wander around on your own for a few hours before heading back to the ship on a later transfer. This is a perfect option if you’d like to do some solo exploring of your own while in port!

Do I have To Book Shore Excursions?

Shore excursions are undoubtedly a fantastic way to really get into the heart and soul of some of the cruising world’s most amazing destinations. Excursions are also super convenient, handle all logistics, are led by expert guides, and ensure safety, making them ideal for structured, worry-free exploration. 

However, they can be costly and less flexible if you’re more of a free-spirited cruiser who likes to do their own thing. No matter what kind of explorer and traveller you are, cruise shore excursions are absolutely not mandatory while at sea. 

Although shore excursions come with a huge amount of benefits, they are totally optional. You also don’t need a booked shore excursion to get off the ship, cruise ships will let you off regardless if you have a tour booked or not! 

Top Tips When Booking Shore Excursions

If you’ve set your heart on a shore excursion while in port, there are lots of other things to consider when booking. Below, we’ve laid out some top tips for when you make the jump to booking your dream on land excursion:

Consider Where You Are

Some destinations just cry out for you to book a ship’s shore excursion, whilst others practically beg to be explored on your own. How can you tell the difference though? Well, if you’re heading off to a place you’ve been before and know well then it makes sense to do your own thing.

If your cruise takes you to a particularly small town then it makes sense to explore on your own (many towns in the Caribbean are like this with the beaches, BBQs, shops and bars all within close walking distance of the port).

However, in some ports a ship’s tour becomes much more important, especially in destinations where English might not be widely spoken or where customs might differ widely from what you’re used to (like in Asia and Africa).

You may also want to consider the distance of the port to the places you’re visiting. Most people don’t realise but not all cruise stops are located near a port. Take Rome or Paris for example – both of them are over an hour from where your ship will dock – a long way by taxi or public transport!

Booking the ship’s organised tours in these instances can give you a lot of peace of mind knowing you won’t turn back up at the dock just in time to wave the ship goodbye.

Book Early and Plan Ahead!

It probably doesn’t need saying but popular shore excursions, like most things in life, will sell out quickly if you wait to book when you’re on board. After all, there are only limited places per tour!

If your heart is set on a particular excursion, you can book this in advance right when you book your cruise through one of our dedicated cruise consultants! Alongside booking your dream voyage and shore excursions, our cruise consultants can also organise pre and post-cruise hotels, flights, transfers and, of course, talk you through what cruise excursions may be for you. 

Not to mention that it’s so much cheaper to have it booked before you go! Peace of mind and a smaller hit on the bank account is what we like!

A Third Choice

If you like the peace of mind in booking an organised shore excursion, but don’t fancy paying the cruise lines prices, then there is a third option you could look at.

There are many private excursion companies that organise trips around cruise ship timetables that are worth investigating. You can book a trip with them before you go and they’ll will usually be waiting for you in your chosen port as you disembark, whip you off to your chosen destination and transfer you back to the cruise port too. 

Quite often these companies will offer the exact same excursion as the cruise line but for a fraction of the cost! However, because they are not provided directly by the cruise line, there is a slightly higher risk you may not get back in time if you choose an all-day tour. 

Another option is hopping in a taxi near the port, if you’re really set on doing your own thing but don’t fancy just wandering around aimlessly! 

At the entrance to each port, there’ll always be plenty of taxi drivers. If you have a haggle with them (and we do advise you to haggle if you’re comfortable doing so) you can normally hire them as a guide for the day. Just make sure you use a licensed taxi!

Whatever you choose to do while in port, the goal is to make the most of your cruise—whether you’re scaling a volcano with a guide on a guided shore excursion or finding a hidden beach on your own! 

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