Cruise Tours and Shore Excursions: what they don’t tell you

The big lines sell excursions starting at $60


If you’ve booked, you’ve might have been bombarded with e-mails regarding cruise line shore excursions, offering reasons for booking with them, but there are some things that they can’t tell you, so it’s always good to get a second opinion, although it may make the most sense to book from them eventually. You might meet shipmates whose company you’ll enjoy, but ship tours are not always the way to go, as the efficiency of tour operators vary, and all too often, they imply time-consuming rides with shopping centers you can live without or following a hot tour outside of Athens, just to get driven to your ship or a tacky shop of the tour guide’s brother. Snorkeling through reefs, hiking and shopping are shore side activities, a part of the experience as much as onboard amenities, because half the fun is exploring new places such as islands, metropolises and other countries, so in order to increase their profits, there are the organized excursions for additional fees.


Most cruise lines will say they can’t guarantee you’ll be back unless you book through them

The tour operators know their timing, and asking them to rush through a tour is unfair to other guests. But everyone has been trained to keep their timing consistent no matter the week, and the tour departures are built around their schedule, especially in ports where the majority of visitors are on a cruise, so it is almost impossible unless you purposefully try to.

With spring coming along, you might be starting to plan a cruise vacation, although, on many levels, good rates come with high expenses on other stuff, because cruise shore excursions usually mean you might be overpaying. You can take a sunset cruise, visit penguin colonies, go wine tasting or bike in Copenhagen and all can be booked onboard or online, as the benefits of ship-sponsored tours are many. You actually have alternatives, so an update on typical pricing is in order, to find out some prices for the most popular excursions in prime ports, with sightseeing and local features.


From underwater photo of snorkeling with golden jellyfish to basic trips overnight tours to see the Great Wall, cruise lines offer a wide array of tours

Remember that excursions look different in the Caribbean (snorkeling or transportation to beaches than in Europe (focus on full-day tours from Livorno to museums in Florence or lunches with local produce and wine in Tuscany), and the shore excursions vary as some take up all your time, while others are a few hours. Active tours cover all levels of interest and depend on what’s, from water sports to hiking and dog-sledding and might feature a day at the beach as well as a wine tasting or a visit to the museum. A half-day tour might focus on a three-hour trip with highlights of a city, but leaves you with time to explore on your own, and not all excursions involve tourists following umbrella-waving guides in sightseeing tours.

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