Choosing shore excursions

In some cases what you do ashore is as important as the shipboard experience.

Choosing Shore Excursions

A cruise ship tour ashore used to mean little more than piling on a bus to go sightseeing, but fortunately times have changed. In recent years, the high seas holiday experience has evolved on every level, including shore excursions. In some cases, what you do ashore is as important as the shipboard experience. Today it's possible to experience a destination in a variety of ways which weren’t possible a decade ago, but the key is getting it right; here’s some key things you need to know.

1.Do a price check
Shore excursions come with all manner of price tags, but once you have booked your cruise, most cruise lines will supply information about tours in each destination on your itinerary. Check the prices carefully for adults, and for children if applicable, and whether it is priced in your local currency or US dollars.

2. Check tour details
Check what’s included. A half-day tour usually won’t include any meals or drinks, so you will need to eat before you depart and take drinks with you. If your tour does include a meal, however, make sure it’s suitable for everyone in your party, as alternatives aren’t always offered. Also check if equipment is provided for tours such as snorkelling, or if you need to bring any special gear of your own.

3. Do I want to do this?
If you want to do a tour to help you familiarise yourself with a destination, then a whale watching boat trip won’t help. Also, a long day-trip to a far-off destination may involve many hours on a bus, and may not be suitable for some people, such as anyone with a health or physical problem. Read up on all the information about a tour and ask questions before booking.

4. Make sure you’re fit enough
While one tour may involve a lot of time time on a bus being driven to sights, another may involve considerable walking, or climbing of stairs. Check the conditions carefully, in particular for tours such as horse riding, water sports activities and hiking and don’t overestimate your fitness level.

5. Check timing
Note the departure time and length of a tour, and options for morning or afternoon departure in case one is better than another. If your ship is only in port for half a day, a three or four-hour tour will take up all the time ashore. Also, if you are in a place where it tends to rain in the morning, and there’s an option for an afternoon tour, it might be better to opt for the latter.

6. Pre-book so you don’t miss out
Some tours have a limited capacity, so it might be worth booking before you cruise so you don’t miss out. Be aware, however, that tour charges are usually applied to your credit card immediately, although you will have the option of changing or canceling your tour (within reason) once you are on board.

7. Ask the experts
Shore excursion staff on board have firsthand experience of excursions on offer, and can help with additional information. If they don’t know the answer to something, or haven’t tried a new tour, however, be wary as you may end up spending money on a something which doesn’t suit your needs.

8. Don’t be late
Make sure you know the meeting time and departure point for your tour, and if you’re a heavy sleeper organise a wakeup call if needed. Also get your belongings ready the night before, including any bottled water, tickets, money and your key card for ID.

To find out more about cruising or to find the cruise of your dreams within your budget, visit


    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th Sep 2015
    Shore excursions are for the most part a real con. Expensive and little value for money. In almost all cases you can see the same things for free, the only exceptions being where there is no transport to get to a venue.
    My wife and I cruised the Greek Islands earlier this year. We saw it all for free except Crete where we needed transport. The tours groups had a bus and we were lucky enough to get a taxi (brand new Mercedes) which gave us a cut price because he had nothing else to do for the rest of the day (shoulder season!). For 100 Euros we got a wonderful to Kanobolis. The driver waited until we were done (2 hours), took us back and recommended the best coffee place in town and of course dropped us there. A wonderful day.
    As I said avoid the tours if you can. WHilst you get some commentary I am not too sure some of this is not fiction anyway. The sites and a bit of pre touring research are all you really need.
    26th Sep 2015
    It all depends on your risk threshold. If you do it yourself it works out at about half price but if anything goes wrong you are on your own. However on a ships excursion you are covered by the ships insurance and if anything goes wrong you will be looked after. If you are a seasoned traveler and know the area then fine but if you are a first timer in a strange city like eg Rome are you really willing to take the risk
    The ship won't wait for you if your vehicle is broken down or involved in an accident
    30th Jan 2016
    Recently I sailed up the west coast of Norway via Serenade of the Seas. Brilliant. On the 8 night cruise we called into 5 Norwegian towns with approx 9 hours to spend in each. I booked 3-4 hour tours in each place via the cruise website well before I sailed and wouldnt have done it any other way. Organised and informative.

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