Cruising 101 Part 5: Plan Your Own Excursion

March 23, 2021

10 tips for Planning Your Own Cruise Excursion

This information is based on my personal experiences and research. I currently do not receive amenities. 
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If you are first time cruiser, you may get sticker shock when you see what is not included in your fare and how much extras cost.  Activities that you do while in port are generally called excursions. Cruise lines charge extra for excursions and you may be led to believe that they are mandatory. Check out my tips below.

Bonus tip: You don’t have to get off the ship! Check out the newsletter for the day and enjoy the peace and quiet, along with available deck chairs at the pool.
Extra bonus tip: Be aware of how much time you have. If you have a long time (6 hours or more), get off and explore the town, come back to the ship to eat lunch and then get off again to catch a cab to a great free public beach.
Here are my top tips:

1. You do not have to buy the ship’s excursions but there are some advantages: they have already researched reputable and reliable companies; they're guaranteed not to leave you behind (the ship will wait for you); it’s easier for the more exotic day trips, like parasailing, zip-lining and ATVs.
Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park, Grand Cayman
 2. Stop at the port information desk when you disembark. They have maps and brochures. They will also guide you to the more reliable excursion vendors. 

     3. Explore your options about ports before your cruise (don’t waste precious data while onboard if you bought the internet package). Travel guidebooks that combine several ports in one book are economical (hard copy or electronic) and are also a wealth of information. 

Firo, Santorini, Greece
4. Don’t be afraid to rent a car and explore. Check with your insurance company to see if you are covered. Stick with well-known companies and reserve before you set sail. Don’t waste your mobile phone data using the GPS, use a map, the rental companies will give you one. See more information here.

Don't forget to gas up before returning the car. You may need local currency, since swiping a credit card at a pump may not be wise.
    5. The above tip being said, be aware of which countries drive English style and which drive American style. Sometimes you get a right-hand drive car, sometimes not. Don't worry, you will get the hang of it.
Barbados lets you know right up front about the taxi fares
 6. For the less adventurous, many places have public transportation. When a ship is in port, buses might be available when you dock. Tell the driver where you want to go and when you need to be back onboard. He or she will tell you what time you should catch the bus back. Take an earlier bus just to be safe (remember the tip about getting left behind).

Hiring a van for a group can be more economical: they'll give you a tour and take you to a local beach. Settle on the price before you get in and make sure they will return for you.
      7. For the less ambitious, a cab will take you to a location and will pick you up at an agreed time. Get a price before you get in, don’t be afraid to bargain. A cab to a beach will probably run you half of the price of the cruise excursion price. 

Local public ferry in Venice, Italy
8. You can arrange your own excursion with a company in advance from home. However, do your research. And be careful of trusting the reviews. 
The Butterfly Farm in Saint Martin
      9. Some sightseeing that you can do on your own are museums, shopping, public beaches (the local cabbies will know which ones are safe for tourists), or even day passes at resorts (Atlantis, for example). 
Save money and catch a cab to Dunn's River, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
      10. The more you visit a port, the more familiar and safer you will feel. Talk to experienced cruisers. Many haven’t bought an excursion in years, yet they have explored everywhere.
Happy Travels!


All photos and text copyright Marcia Crayton, All Rights Reserved, 2020
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