Today’s cruise ships offer everything from Broadway plays to water parks. But for some passengers, the ships are still primarily a means to get from one port of call to another. For them, the entertainment is on shore. So whether you’re in Monte Carlo or the Caribbean islands, how do you make the best use of that time? Do you buy a shore excursion from the cruise lines or do you explore on your own? And how do you budget for it? Well, it comes down to two things: time and money.
The attraction of a shore excursion hasn’t changed much over the years. It offers both the convenience of having all arrangements made while you’re still on the ship, and the security of traveling in an unknown destination with an approved vendor among a group of fellow passengers.
But there’s a financial caution. All that convenience and security comes at a price. It’s very possible you can find a third-party local tour operator for less money. Or you can also strike out on your own.
For instance, it’s possible to book a Misty Fjord flight trip locally in Ketchikan, Alaska for less than a similar trip booked on board.
And a third-party operator can save you about $15 on a catamaran and beach excursion in St. Martin.
Also, you can take a ferry to Capri from Naples for a bit more than half the price of most cruise line shore excursions.
So you’ve decided you want to explore on your own, and that’s great. But the responsibility just changed. There are some common mistakes you don’t want to make. First of all, keep your eye on the clock. Know how far it is you’re gonna be going from the shore, how long it’ll take you to get back and what time the ship leaves. Take into account local traffic or you may literally miss the boat.
And one more thing, when you go to shore, keep it authentic. For many people who have a holiday at sea, their fondest memories are what happened on land.
By Arnie Weissmann for PeterGreenberg.com