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Going Ashore

Mayan ruins at Chacchoben

by Linda Coffman

Shore Excursions vs. Independent Touring 
Sightseeing can be a large add-on expense to a cruise vacation and tour choices must be selected wisely to avoid seeing your vacation cost soar as high as a helicopter over Bora Bora. 

Shore excursions purchased on board from the ship's tour desk can range from a simple half-day bus tour for less than $50 per person to exotic adventures that can run upwards of $300 per person.

Whether you book a shore excursion on the ship or explore your port of call independently depends on you, your interests, and your comfort level in unfamiliar surroundings. It helps if you speak the local language.

I don't hesitate to suggest touring on your own in Bermuda and most Caribbean islands. Many taxi drivers are accustomed to acting as impromptu guides and, in some ports, they are actually fully-qualified "official" guides. A taxi or van can certainly be more comfortable than a bus and you might get a lot more insight into your destination from your driver/guide. One of the best ways to see Bermuda is from the water and the public ferry system is inexpensive and rewards riders with exquisite views and opportunities to meet local residents.

Some private tours are cheaper if you arrange them yourself, either by contacting a tour operator ahead of time or hiring a guide when you arrive in port. In the latter case, the per person cost can be cut even further if you share your guide and transportation with another couple or small group.

A private guide who comes highly recommended can offer a very satisfying experience—you can set your own agenda and often see a lot more than you would with a ship's shore excursion. Striking off on your own with a guidebook can also be a satisfying adventure and many port cities around the world have efficient public transportation systems that aren't difficult to navigate.

On the other hand, if what you want to see or do is quite a distance from the pier, you might want to book a ship's excursion for safety and to insure you return to the ship on time. If you book a shore excursion through the ship's tour desk and are delayed, the ship will wait for you. In the rare case that the ship has to leave the pier, arrangements will be made for you to meet the ship. A likely scenario would be that the ship would anchor offshore and passengers would be tendered to it to reboard. 

When a delay is encountered returning to the pier from a day of independent sightseeing, the ship may sail without you. Passengers are responsible for being back on board in time and, if they miss the ship, it is their responsibility to pay to get to the next port to rejoin the cruise. 

In some ports of call it's just advisable to stick with a ship's tour. For instance, due to security concerns, you don't want to go wandering around some locales on your own.

These are some of the pros and cons, but only you can determine what is the right choice.

Helpful Hint
The ship's daily program should have the name and telephone number of the "port agent" listed in it. If you have a problem ashore, you can call on the port agent for assistance. Always carry that information with you when going ashore.

How to Read an Excursion Description — What are you getting?

"Ship Time" vs. "Island Time" — What's that all about?

Back to --> Going Ashore

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