Should you Do Cruise Line Excursions? Yes or No?

Should you take cruise
line excursions, yes or no? I’m Gary Bembridge, this is another of my cruising tips for travellers. I’m going to explore the
arguments for and against taking the excursions
offered by the cruise line. First of all, I want to
talk about the main reasons for not doing a cruise line excursion. The first of these is as follows. Is going on a cruise line
excursion going to maximise and be the most efficient
use of your day in port? You don’t get to choose
what time the excursion that you’re interested in goes, so you might find it falls at 11:00, or it ruins the whole flow of the day. So actually your whole
day in port is focused around going on that excursion where you might have eight hours in port, so it’s not the most
efficient use of your time going on the excursion
because you have no say. Secondly, what is the process for getting people out on excursions? You’ll find particularly
on bigger ships, it’s very inefficient. You can be sitting around
from the time you have to go, hand in your ticket
and wait for the groups to get together. You can be waiting an hour or so before you’re even heading
off on your excursion so it’s a very inefficient
use of your time. On smaller ships, you often just walk off, and there’s a small group and off you go. So one of the things that
puts me off on bigger ships of doing excursions is
just the whole process of getting off on the excursion, it’s a very inefficient use of your time. And you’re sitting
around for an hour or so, in the theatre or wherever, when you could be exploring the port. The third thing, is ask yourself
how developed is the port? So particularly in the
Caribbean and the Mediterranean, the ports are very
developed and experienced at dealing with tourists, so
there’s lots of infrastructure to deal with people
travelling by themselves, or independently, or looking
for alternative excursions. So if you are in one of those regions like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, and the ports are very
popular cruise ports, don’t feel worried that you’re not going to find something to do
at a reasonable price. So I always look at the
ports and ask myself, how established is this port? If this is a port that very
infrequently sees cruise ships, you may have a different perspective, and a cruise line excursion
may be more appealing. The fourth question to ask yourself is, how big is the group size? You’ll find on some
of the bigger ships, particularly the value lines,
you might have 40, 50 people on an excursion because
they fill up the whole bus. On some of the more premium lines, or the smaller lines like Oceania, you might have 20 people or so. So ask yourself,
how big is the group? And are you happy seeing the destination and going on the excursion
with a big group of people, and all the things that
means in terms of time it takes moving people around, and just being with a big group. Linked to that is the fifth
question I ask myself is, am I happy whatever excursion I’m going on to be driven by the slowest
person in the group? Because the way that excursions work, is whoever is the
slowest, whether it’s slow in terms of just timekeeping,
or whether it’s just in terms of their physical ability to get around, the tour will have to adapt to whoever’s the slowest person
or the last back on the bus. Are you happy with the place
you’re going to to do that? Now you might find that
it’s the sort of excursion there’s not a lot going on,
especially panorama sightseeing, you don’t mind that you’re
going to be driven at that pace. The sixth thing I ask when I’m considering a cruise line excursion is the following. Based on what we’re going to
be doing on the excursion, am I happy that I’m not going
to be able to stop and dwell and spend time on things I want to, because I’m going to be moved along. You’ll find that on
cruise line excursions, they try and pack as much in as possible. So if you come across something,
it’s a site, a painting, whatever that you want to dwell, you might want to take some pictures, or just sit and relax and watch it, you’re not going to be able to do that, so often I look at the
excursions in the ports, and ask, are they going to be things I want to stop and look at, because they’re going to interest me more and not the whole group. That’s very important to think about what you’re going to be doing and are you going to be
wanting to spend time? Really important particularly
if you’re taking photographs. Linked to that, of course,
is also you can’t speed up. If you’re travelling by
yourself and there’s something that doesn’t interest you, you can just move on and just keep going, skip something if it’s not appealing, whereas you’re going
to have to stay as long as the group is allocated
to look at something. The seventh thing I ask is, just how much is included
in the excursion? As I mentioned earlier,
cruise line excursions tend to pack loads of things in because they want people
to see as much as possible and it can be very rushed. And the question I ask
myself, is do I actually want to do as much as the excursion offers, or are there fewer things
I want to see for longer? The eighth question, of course, is cost. Is it going to be cheaper to do it myself, or with an independent provider? There are lots of independent providers who offer excursions that mirror
the cruise line excursions. And it can often be cheaper, so the question, of course, is cost. Excursions can be a major on
cost and you can be spending, you know, $100 per
person per day on average for an excursion, so it can mount up. So can you actually do it more efficiently by either doing it yourself, or with an independent provider? Most people will focus on the cruise line offer choice excursions
for two key reasons. One, because it’s simple and
easy because they’re there. And secondly, a lot of
people fret and worry about getting back to the ship on time. And with the cruise line, they guarantee the ship will always wait
for their own excursions, no matter how late they are. If you go off and explore by yourself, or with an independent provider,
there’s always that risk they get you back too late
or you’re back too late. So how important is that
in terms of timekeeping? Or how comfortable are you
just managing your own time and making sure you get back? There are two things
that I use to guide me to decide me if I am going to
take a cruise line excursion. The first of those is complexity. Are we going to a place where there’s a lot of language issues,
or huge distances to travel, or culturally it’s very difficult, or the actual excursion
is very complicated because it involves helicopters and trains and getting to places
and just huge complexity. So if the excursion I want
to do is very complex, or the place I am going to is complex, then I choose the cruise line excursion. So, for example, when we were in Japan, I wanted to go to Kyoto from Osaka. It’s quite far away and also
I knew that I would need a guide to show me around, so I went with the cruise line excursion. In Iceland, you travel huge distances, for example, on the Golden
Circle seeing all the key sites, although you can get
independent people to help you, it’s an eight-hour tour,
and I felt it was just safer to go with the cruise line
because they were curated and they would have no
issues getting back. Another example is when we were in Alaska, we wanted to go dog sledding on a glacier. It was quite a complicated excursion because you had to get
to the helicopter place, you go through all the
check-ins with the helicopter, you had to go to the helicopter,
come back, be picked up. It was quite a complicated
and quite expensive excursion so I was much more comfortable letting the cruise line
handle all of that complexity. So if the excursion
looks very complex to me, very time-intensive, then I would always go with the cruise line excursion. The second thing I do is again linked to that risk of missing the ship. If the ship is docking very far away from the place I want to explore, I’ll often go on a cruise line excursion even if it’s one of the excursions where they basically take
you from the ship to a place. So for example in Taiwan,
we docked really far away from Taipei, and it was a simple excursion which took you from the ship
to a central meeting point. It left you there for a couple
hours to explore yourself. It picked you up and took you back so that’s an example where I took it. I often in Rome will take the excursion which goes from the Civitavecchia port, which is I think how you pronounce it, I always get it wrong, it takes you into Rome just
because it’s so much easier and it reassures me. So any of those things
where the ship is docking very far away from where I want to go, I’ll often just the take an excursion, and if possible, I take the one that just takes you
there and explore myself. Those then are my thoughts on
taking cruise line excursions. If you find this helpful, why don’t you watch another one of my many cruising tips
for travellers right now?

36 thoughts on “Should you Do Cruise Line Excursions? Yes or No?

  1. I enjoyed your video 🙂 Keep it up! Would you like to be YouTube friends? 🙂

  2. The cruise lines don't want you to maximize your time in Port they want you to keep coming back.

  3. Hi Gary nice video I have been on cruise excursions the only problem I had is in a large group the guide walks so quick could not keep up and missed what she or me were saying and just move on .so what I do now is to go back on future holidays and do and look around at your own pace. Many thanks for the video and information 👍🙂.

  4. I took a repositioning cruise from San Pedro (port of Long Beach) California and we went up the coast to Vancouver BC with a stop in Victoria and I took the "Ship's excursion" to Butchart Gardens and it was thoroughly enjoyable. When we returned to the ship, I went off on my own into town. Victoria wasn't good in the nightlife category and that's why I was grateful to the cruise staff.

  5. One of the best times I ever had on an excursion was going through an independent provider. I got a bus ride to a secluded beach with an excellent restaurant. Spent a few hours in peace and quiet away from the tourist traps near the ship and a had great meal too.

  6. Another factor that plays into my decision is whether I have visited the port before, especially one where I'm not comfortable with the local language.

  7. Gary, This video is by far one of the best I have seen on the advantages and disadvantages of ship shore excursions. Excellent points on both sides and exceptionally well presented.

  8. Good points, Gary. We have had very good luck with independent excursions (and saved 50% plus) by researching travel web sites with user reviews/ratings. However, I would not take an indy excursion that was scheduled to finish within 1-2 hours of ship departure (too close for comfort)

  9. Gary, u read our minds! We are taking a cruise in late May and was wondering which way was better…Thanks!

  10. I’m very happy that we booked our excursions through the cruise. We received an email from carnival saying that we will be arriving in port 4 hours later than expected, which will affect one of our excursions. Carnival will take care of everything, so no need to worry.

  11. Hello Gary, we’re booked on a cruise heading to the Mediterranean in middle May 2020 through Royal Caribbean. Leaving from Rome and returning to Rome. What are the odds of it getting cancelled due to the coronavirus? Thanks!

  12. yes if you are perennially late. yes if you can skip line at uffizi, accademia, vatican, orsay, louvre, peterhof, tsarkoye selo, alhambra, where lines can be miles long , and hours just waiting in line just to buy tickets before getting in the door. yes if your city is two three hours one way from port. no because expensive, no if your port is within one hour one way drive from city to port. there are transport only excursions rather than guided, are there unguided transport but with skip line excursions? if your town is one to two hours one way from port then debate. yes if you need ship to wait for you.

  13. Excellent information! We booked independent guides for Bar Harbor and Halifax on last years New England/Canada cruise. Terrific guides, small vans for our party of 4. Cheaper and very enjoyable experiences.

  14. are there english speaking guides in asian, african ports, or is it better to book an excursion for the guides. again transport only excursions are awesome for rome, florence, milano, berlin, paris, brussels, london, seville, cordoba , granada, siena, orvieto, ….. consider if there is something you would rather do closer to the port by public transport rather than the featured famous city, like if you would rather go to luebeck instead of berlin from warnemuende, pisa or lucca rather than florence, giverny honfleur or rouen or bayeux instead of paris…bruges instead of brussels. but please dont just stay on the ship just because of excursions prices, find alternatives if you must.

  15. We do a bit of both! For example, a few years ago, Bonaire’s best rated snorkeling tour was through the Sea Cow, and we really wanted to make sure we got that tour. Come to find out, the SeaCow, was through the cruise line only. We were not disappointed with the experience even if we payed a premium fee. Other best rated tours aren’t always through the cruise ships, though. So it all depends on how you want to go about doing excursions and if you care about the ratings. Usually we like to have an idea of the feedback for most tours and do research beforehand so ratings are something we take into account. But to each their own.

  16. So you are pretending like this corona thing does not exist? You are an overwhelmingly optimistic guy, have to give you that. For other people, with common sense left yet, DO NOT CRUISE, for now. All the best guys.

  17. Fascinating analysis. Thanks for posting. Me personally I'm always concerned about getting back to the ship on time. But that's why different folks do different things.

  18. I do ship excursions when I’m in a country I’m not familiar with and our time in port is short.

  19. May be worth taking a look at medallionnet, the new 5g wifi being fitted to cruise ships just like Diàmond Princess!!!

  20. One more point in favor of cruise-sponsored excursions is having recourse if you are dissatisfied. I have been compensated on a couple of occasions for tours that did not fulfill the described itinerary. I’ve also been on a tour bus that got stuck in soft sand and the experience would’ve been entirely different had we had the worry of missing the ship that evening! We got a generous credit for that misadventure and a disappointing day became a fun story to tell.

  21. We generally avoid ship shore excursions however we have booked a two day tour with Cunard in St Petersburg for simplicity and to make the most of our time there, however we feel we've paid a premium.

  22. We always do cruise line excursions but probably should look to independent ones but the not being left behind guarantee is very important to us. Really don't want to miss the ship. I mean that would be a total disaster for me. I don't fly so this would be nightmare situation.

  23. I am finding the cruise line excursions are beginning to lower their prices to become more competitive. We have book more cruise line excursions on RCL lately than before due to the cheaper price. Princess cruises on our Panama Canal trip the excursions were much more competitive with the local excursions. Hopefully this is a new trend.

  24. …it depends…if you don’t mind getting up very early to muster prior to the excursion…a long walk off the boat – down the pier and probably a few more blocks (in a gaggle of slow-moving people in your excursion group) to some cruddy bus – and the long, bumpy ride to whatever you’re doing – spending all day doing it (seriously, you’ll get back to the boat just prior to debarkation and dinner)…and be hounded for tips at every turn. Go for it. Great breakdown, Gary!

  25. I’m thoroughly enjoying all your videos as I prepare for my first cruise – Baltic Sea. I’ve traveled through Europe four times already, so I’m pretty comfortable on my own, however I do have a question about one stop. At the Warnemunde stop, I want to go to Berlin. This is one of those LONG distances from the ship. The ship’s excursion allows five hours in Berlin, but my calculations show that, if I plan this well, I could double that time in Berlin. Who can see Berlin in five hours? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  26. We went out on our own and rented a car in Cozumel and it worked out great. The Cozumel beach resort excursions offered by the cruise lines are a complete ripoff. You can easily get there on your own (taxi, rental car or scooter) and easily get back to the port for a fraction of the price.

  27. Is it possible to tap into the issue of the Corona virus now and for future use of going on vacation in the near future?? Will the ships be proactive about treating their ships differently? We have reservations for a week cruise in late May. Should I consider buying insurance if things go wrong prior to sail date?? Thank you

  28. Due to Coronavirus cruise
    lines may be going the way of the dinosaur.

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