Travel SOS: best-priced cruise shore excursions

Paula would like to know how to get the best value shore excursions

A woman contemplates which shore excursion to take with her cruise

In this week’s Travel SOS, we offer some suggestions to Paula who wants to know whether it’s cheaper to book her shore excursions via her cruise operator or locally in a port.

Q. Paula

My husband and I are going on a Viking Cruise in July. My brother-in-law suggested that we don't book the tours through Viking, but rather organise them when we get to a port, as the tours are way too over priced through the cruise company. Can you please give us some advice?

A. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to compare the cost of tours locally and what is charged by your cruise operator, but you must be careful to compare apples with apples.

Some of the tours may differ slightly, or not offer the same inclusions. You can find details of the trips offered by Viking on its website. Once you have highlighted the tours in which you’re interested, you can check with the local tourist centre in each destination what’s on offer.

There are a few things you should, however, note:

1. Cruise operators can sometimes offer experiences not available through regular tourist offices.

2. If you opt to book your own tour and return late form the excursion, the ship is not obliged to wait for you.

3. Your time at a destination may be limited, so do you want to spend part of it trying to book a tour?

I hope you have a fabulous time. We’ve heard great things about Viking cruises, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy no matter what you choose to do.

Other articles:

Unusual shore excursions

Choosing shore excursions 


    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Jan 2016
    I agree with all the above, especially the late return from a private tour and the ship has departed. Seen it all too often. AND if you're booking a private tour before you arrive, and the ship arrives late, chances are you can't cancel and receive a refund, and the company may not be able to accommodate you at a different time frame. At least with tours booked through the cruise line the tour operators will accommodate changed tour times and still endeavour to get you what you want.
    30th Jan 2016
    If you want real value for money and still get the experience then DON'T BOOK A TOUR. Almost everything a tour offers can be had by researching a destination and then going solo. You sometimes can do this with people you meet on the ship and helps to reduce taxi costs if required. Having seen some of the tour operators in action and having been on a 1 weeker I have serious doubts about some of the commentary you get. Some of it is highly likely fiction. Who needs it...............I'd rather conserve money for where it really counts.
    Good luck on that one Debbie. We all travel differently but I can vouch for the DIY option. Nothing worse than being held hostage by a tour guide who should be back in the classroom rather than running a tour.
    30th Jan 2016
    Yes you are spot on Mick I have also used hopon hopoff buses they are a reasonable price and will give you a feel for the city you are in especially overseas.

    30th Jan 2016
    I agree with Mick - wife and i go on 2 to 3 cruises a year -2 examples - ship was offering a 3 hour tour for $90pp- 6 of us met up outside customs - spoke to a local and after some negotiation got same tour for $15 pp. On another tour ship had an all day tour for $295 pp - by using trip advisor we were able to contact an operator before we left and got same tour for $160pp
    I have done a couple of ship excursions but they were unique and I was prepared to pay a premium. Mick I found the tour operator commentary in Japan excellent - the one exception but othewise my experience has been the same as you
    Canuck - all that you say is true but I've done a lot of cruises now and haven't had a problem yet. I just don't see the benefit of paying 2 to 3 times what one should - I've done many interent checks and the tour prices are nearly always half the price when a cruise ship is not in.
    For anyone who hasn't tried cruising - give it a go - more competition today so can gt good value for money - I'm off again in Feb then again in Apr/May and Nov - all booked
    30th Jan 2016
    Its a different story if you are solo like me, great that couples have each other.
    I need to book tours on board to hopefully get the best the country in question has to offer, have had good tours and not so good (same as in OZ)
    However last cruise I got quite unwell the day before the big tour, the cruise desk accepted the Dr on boards word, and happily refunded my money.
    I find the tour operators want to please everyone - so as to get repeat business.
    Just putting it out there from my point of view.
    30th Jan 2016
    I recently read an article regarding this very subject.
    If you are on a tour booked through the cruise line and it is late returning, they will wait for you. They have check lists of the people on organised tours and ensure you are back before the cruise leaves port. Also in some countries there is some shady operators who often don't take you where you want to go or go the long way round, you get back late, your cruise is gone and you have to then get accomodation where you are.
    30th Jan 2016
    Tours booked on board ship are about double the price of a tour booked on shore, but you are taking a risk. With the ships tour you are covered by ships insurance, and if something goes wrong, you are looked after. When a bus got stranded in Florence, the ship waited an extra 2 hours. It wont wait for a private tour.
    31st Jan 2016
    The extra price charged by the ship is worth it for the peace of mind.
    1st Feb 2016
    Viking usually offer shore excursions but they are basic and if you want to do extras I guess you have to pay their price. We have done many ocean cruises and depending on the destination will either go our own way on hop on hop off buses or meander through towns. If it is somewhere like St Petersburg we booked the ships tour. We felt we may get lost or encounter language problems. So think about where you are - River cruises are easier to do your own thing as you land right in the town

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