For many cruise holidaymakers it is the ship itself that is the most important aspect of the holiday, for some it is holiday destination(s) that is the key aspect of a cruise but for many it is the excursions on offer that really make or break a cruise holiday.
Shore excursions, more commonly known to many as Shorex, can be everything from a short bus ride around the port town to a 2 day trip to a world heritage site. They can also be perfect for thrill seekers or just a gentle stroll to see the sights.
There are a number of questions that are commonly asked when it comes to cruise excursions including the following.
Should you buy excursions form the cruise? We cover this is detail below but the short answer is it depends. It is arguably easier and perhaps more enticing to those new to the world of cruising but experienced cruisers know that it tends to be just as easy to book yourself and can more often than not be much cheaper.
Do any cruise lines include shore excursions? There are a small number of cruise lines that offer an all-inclusive service that includes shore excursions but these tend to be either the more luxurious (and pricier lines) or expedition style trips and often they equate to not much more than a quick tour around the port town or city and then a few hours spare time to do as you wish by yourself.
Which cruise line has the best excursions? The honest answer in short is that they are all pretty much the same as the vast majority of cruise liens take your booking and pass it on to a local company with most using the same ones, so offering the exact same excursions.
Are cruise shore excursions worth the money? This is a question that only you will know the answer to. By booking with your cruise line it tends to be more expensive but you do have a point of contact on board should problems arise and that can be an added value for many but if you are on a budget, booking with local vendors is often much cheaper and more often will result in better value as you will likely be in a smaller group size as well.
What are the most popular shore excursions on a cruise? The answer to this questions depends on the port of call and the type of cruise to be able to give a definitive answer but there are some types of excursion that are always popular including those that take in the following.
Cruise companies normally work with local specialists to give you great experiences that are set up for you in advance but that of course comes at a cost. The savvy cruiser knows that you can get the same service, from the same local specialists and a much cheaper rate simply by taking the time to book directly with them.
Whilst the upside to that can be huge, it can be difficult to track down the companies offering the Shorex you want and it can be difficult to know who you can trust and who you cannot.
The good news is that there is a 3rd option and one that is a hybrid of sorts. By booking with a company such as Viator, owned by TripAdvisor, you can book shore excursions with a well-known and reputable company whilst still receiving the expert service of local tour operators.
When it comes to shore excursions, each and every cruise line will offer you the chance to either pre-book them or to buy them online and some will even include basic tours in their cruise package.
So with the cruise line making it so simple and with the chance to simply sort everything out when you are onboard and in full holiday mode, what could possibly the benefits of booking early and sorting out all of the details of your shore excursions yourself?
Here we explain why we always recommend pre-booking your cruise excursions and why you should use local suppliers directly.
Let us start with arguably the biggest benefit of booking your excursion before you travel and directly with local companies and that is that your tour will more than likely be much cheaper.
A lot of companies and booking websites allow you to put down a deposit and offer you a money back guarantee if your ship misses its port of call.
That allows you to book as early as possibly with confidence no matter what happens and that also allows you to take advantage of money saving offers for booking early.
Even without those offers, booking directly yourself will on the majority of occasions be much cheaper than booking with your cruise line who are well known for charging a premium and in all likelihood, you will end up using the same company or have the exact same itinerary as you would by booking with your cruise line as they simply take your booking and pass it on to local providers.
Smaller Groups / More Personal Service
When you book your excursions with a cruise line, there main aim is to get as many people as possible to book with them and when you have cruise ships capable of hosting 5000+ guests, you can, as you will be able to imagine, get a lot of people wanting to do the same trips.
In smaller ports and at destinations where there is one or 2 main attractions for holidaymakers to enjoy, you can end up with hundreds and hundreds of your fellow cruisers all heading off at the same time to do the same thing.
That all but guarantees crowds no matter where you go, battles for seats together on coaches and no chance to take phots without people getting in the way.
If you book before you go, you can more often than not choose to travel in small groups, or on a minibus rather than a coach or for a small premium and often for around the same price as a group tour booked with a cruise line, you can enjoy a private tour of your destination or transfer to must see attractions.
Whilst cruise lines should be commended for in the main offering a fantastic choice of excursion for the ports of calls that they visit; they still only tend to offer the most popular choices and are limited by their providers.
If you take the time to research in advance what is available in the ports of call on your next cruise, you will often find great attractions and must visit places that are not offered by your cruise line as an excursion, but you will more than likely find it via a local provider.
Tailored To Your Needs
When you book via your cruise line, they have to offer Shorex that will appeal to the most amount of people but of course that mean some parts of the excursion will be what you are interested in whilst other parts may not be to your liking.
When you book an excursion in advance and via local providers, you can pick and choose the excursions that wholly appeal to you and even better than that, a lot of tour providers will allow you to tailor make your day out to fit in with your interests if you book a private tour.