ruins at Chacchoben
by Linda Coffman
Excursions vs. Independent
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
Time" vs. "Island Time" — What's that all about?
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