Tips For Choosing Shore Excursions

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Cruising is a wonderful way to explore the globe, and the shore excursions offered by cruises line are a way to immerse yourself in a destination and see its highlights, or enjoy a unique experience ashore. However, you need to choose what you do carefully, making sure any tours are right for you, and your partner or family. Here’s our top tips to help you get it right first time:

1.  Check The Price

Depending on where you are in the world, and what you are doing, shore excursions can have anything from a small to a very hefty price tag. Once you have booked and paid for your cruise, most cruise lines allow you online access to information about what’s on offer in each destination you are visiting, including prices. Check the price for adults, and for children if applicable, and if the tour is priced in your local currency or in US dollars.

2.  Check The Details

Find out what is included in a tour so you can plan accordingly. For example, half-day tours usually won’t include any meals and sometimes don’t come with refreshments, so you will need to eat before you go, and plan to take drinks with you. If your tour does include a meal, make sure it is suitable for anyone in your party in terms of their dietary requirements, as alternatives aren’t usually offered. Also check if any special equipment is provided for tours such as snorkelling or hiking, or if you need to bring any gear such as rainwear.

3.  Is The Tour Really What You Want?

If you are looking simply for a sightseeing trip, or something to help you familiarise yourself with a destination, a boat trip for whale watching purposes won’t do the job. On the flip side of the coin, however, a long day-trip to a far off destination may involve many hours riding a bus, and may not be suitable for small children, the elderly, or anyone with a health or physical problem. Read all the information provided about tours available to you, and if you have any questions ask the cruise line before booking, or pop into an online cruise forum.

4.  Make Sure You Are Up For the Trip

A big mistake many people make is booking excursions which are unsuitable for their fitness level. While one excursion may involve spending most of the time being driven to sights, with little time on foot, others may involve lots of walking, or climbing stairs etc. Check the conditions carefully for all tours, in particular those for horse riding, water sports activities and hiking, and also make sure that any excursion you choose is suitable for children.

5.  Timing Is Essential

Make a note of the excursion time when booking, and how long the tour runs. Also see if there are any options for morning or afternoon touring, should one be more suitable than another. If you’re at a port of call for only half a day, for example, a three or four-hour tour will take up all the time you have there. Also, if you are in a place where it rains in the morning, and there’s an option for an afternoon tour, it might be better to opt for the latter so you get better photographs and won’t get wet.

6.  Pre-Booking Avoids Disappointment

On some tours there is limited capacity, so it might be worth booking something special before you cruise so you don’t miss out. This can usually be done using the cruise line’s website. Be aware, however, that these charges are usually applied to your credit card immediately, although you will have the option of changing or canceling your tour (within reason) once you’re on board. 

7.  Ask The Experts

Shore excursion staff on board ships have usually experienced most or all the excursions they sell, and they can help with additional information you may need. If they don’t know the answer to something or haven’t tried a new excursion, however, be a little wary as you may end up spending money on a tour which isn’t good, or doesn’t suit your needs. Also be aware that if capacity is limited, you might miss out by waiting to book once on board, particularly on large ships with many passengers.

8.  Don’t Be Late

Being late for a tour can set the entire day back, especially if traffic is a concern, or you have a tight schedule for an event. Make sure you know where the meeting point for the tour is, and what time, and if you are a heavy sleeper consider getting a wakeup call if the tour departs early in the morning. A good rule of thumb also is to get your belongings ready the night before, including any bottles of water, tickets, money, camera gear, and your key card for ID.

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Joanna Hall