Snorkeling through coral reefs, hiking on glaciers, exploring ancient Roman ruins, shopping at local outdoor markets – all of these shoreside activities are as much a part of the cruise experience as enjoying the onboard amenities of your ship. You must agree that half the fun of taking a cruise is exploring exciting new places- tropical islands, exotic countries and bustling metropolises.
In order to enhance each port visit, cruise lines offer organized shore excursions on all ships for additional fees. These land-based trips run the gamut from sightseeing city tours to cultural events and active pursuits. You can take a sunset pleasure cruise in St. Lucia, go wine tasting in Provence, visit penguin colonies in the Falkland Islands or bike through Copenhagen. The tours can be easily booked onboard at your ship’s excursions desk or online before you depart on your trip.
There are numerous benefits of booking ship-sponsored tours. You can skip the hassle of arranging your own onshore activities, you’ll know that the tour provider is licensed and reputable, and the ship won’t depart until all of its tour buses have returned, even the tardy ones. You might also get to meet other shipmates whose company you’ll enjoy back on the ship.
But ship tours are not always the way to go. The efficiency and knowledge of the tour operators vary, and some tour offerings are simply flops. Quite often, shore excursions translate into time-consuming bus rides with drop-offs at shopping centers proffering souvenirs you can live without. For example, following a long, hot (but worthwhile) tour of the Acropolis outside of Athens, passengers who thought they were being driven back to their ship were taken into a tacky little shop, belonging to the tour guide’s brother-in-law. Finally, you will often pay more for the privilege of letting the cruise line arrange your day than you would if you booked directly with a provider.