2 Easy Questions For Cruisers

Oct 24th, 2013, 11:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 1
2 Easy Questions For Cruisers

Hi there,
I'm looking forward to reading your responses to these 2 questions (and I've provided my own responses, below).
Please feel free to include as much detail as you like. Now's your big chance to vent!

1. When you're planning a cruise, what's your biggest problem, challenge, frustration or desire

2. How would it help you if you could more easily find information about the topic you mentioned above (why is it important)?

Here are my answers.
(First, an introduction - I live in Vancouver, Canada and so far I've been on 3 cruises, all with Princess (Alaska, Mexican Riviera, and Europe). I'll be going on my 4th cruise in about two weeks, to Cozumel, Roatan, and Belize...can't wait!)

1. My biggest problem is figuring out which shore excursion(s) to go on. Do I just go with the ones offered by the cruise line? Are the 3rd party shore excursions better? What should I see in each port? I'm travelling with kids, so which ones are suitable for kids, but also enjoyable for adults?

2. If I could more easily find information that would help me select shore excursions, then I would be able to spend less time researching and more time anticipating what we're going to see. And also I'd be more confident that I wasn't going to be wasting my money.

Look forward to reading your responses!
JustOneDay is offline  
Oct 24th, 2013, 11:54 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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There are many options for shore excursions. You have to do what you, and in your case, what the whole family enjoys. Unless the family can go on separate ways and different shore excursions.

Typically, ship's shore excursions are to "popular" places and a good starting point for your research. Talk it over with teh family and finds out what everyone wants to go. In our case, figuring out (research) where to go on shore excursion is part of the fun. Anticipating is over-rated.

Your options for shore exursions are as follow:
1. ship's excursions
2. on line shore excursion company
3. Private tour
4. self guided

For options 1 through 3, the guide is what makes the difference. When it is self guided, your familiary with a map and adventurous spirits would be the key.

I have done all 4 and here is my personal comment based on my experience.

The ship's shore-ex guide is generally good, I ahve no come across anyone lower than a 3, except for 1 occassion. We complaint and were given a full refund plus an apology. I think the whohe group received some sort of compensation. This is by far the "safest".

The on line shore-ex company priced themselves lower than the ship adn essentially uses similar local companies. My experience was good but on average, I found the ship's shore-ex guides and equipment are better. This is a decent alternative if the ship's shore-ex are fully booked.

Private guide would be the best way to go but probably most expensive unless you have a decent size group (6 to 8) then it is fairly price efficient. You must do your homework on this one as the quality of the guide (and their command of the English language) is all over the map. We only use private guides that people had referred. Same goes for local tour companies. This is the most risky but most rewarding if you trust your referrals.

Self gudied is easier than most people think but you must be prepared to self-pace and plan for extra time. We did a self guided this June for an Alaska cruise. Below is the link to that trip report.

For Cozumel, Roatan, and Belize, self guided is relative easy as you won't be able to get lost. All you have to do is post a question on this forum and you will get suggetsions.

Other research option would be go to the official tourist information sites from those places and see what they list on their web site.

Assuming you have not been to any of those 3 places, you will have a lot of options depending on your family's likes and dislikes.

Good luck!
Eschew is offline  
Oct 26th, 2013, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 19
I agree that shore excursions can be a big source of stress! Some ports there is NOTHING to do if you don't book an excursion, and others you feel like you wasted your money paying for something you could have done for free or that weren't worth it!

Roatan is FANTASTIC, by the way! If your kiddos are big enough, bring your own snorkels. Don't book the magic chair thing unless your kids just really really want to do that. You can walk to the exact same beach- it's not far at all! That beach has a long pier on the left hand side. Snorkel on the LEFT side of the pier. There is a HUGE coral reef over there, and even a giant dropoff!

Did I mention it's FREE? Probably my favorite shore excursion of all time (besides swimming with dolphins, but that's in this own league.)
WorldTraveler2499 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2013, 06:08 AM
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check out shorebee.com or a new one I LOVE, whatsinport.com
jan47ete is offline  
Oct 27th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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We always look them up on TripAdvisor.com as well
WorldTraveler2499 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2013, 02:23 PM
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For me figuring out what excursion to take is important as it's an investment in time, money and the quality of your vacation. We usually do private BTW so research is important. I have learned to use resources such as this forum, trip advisor and the various boards on cruise critic.

Let me back track a little. I first google the port stop for highlights and private operators, then check them out as best I can. You learn as best as you can who is recommended and who to avoid. Sometimes you can email people who have used these operators. I have done this thru trip advisor and also been asked questions this way as well.

I don't know how this process could be made easy as it always pays to do your homework. I do know that a good guide can make the excursion memorable, especially when the port has a lot of history such as ports in Greece, Italy and Israel and Turkey for example.

For me this process takes time. Again I don't know how this can be avoided but it's an investment you have to make to get the most out of your experience.
jacketwatch is online now  
Oct 29th, 2013, 07:15 PM
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Posts: 19,875
This post looks like somebody is doing homework or research
Dayenu is online now  
Oct 31st, 2013, 08:48 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 651
Something that might help you with shore excursions are port reviews on AllThingsCruise:


They're a bit sparse outside the Caribbean, but it is nice to be able to read what other people did in a particular port and how they liked it.

triathlete is offline  
Oct 31st, 2013, 09:28 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 227
I've been on nine civilian cruises (Caribbean, Europe, Alaska) and several more with the military (Asia, Europe, Middle East, Hawaii, Australia). Regarding shore excursions, I am a HUGE believer in the private excursions. I find the ship's excursions to be overpriced and a step above a cattle call as they routinely pack in 30 to 35 people. I much more prefer a smaller group so I'm a fan of CruiseCritic where I find out what companies other cruisers have used in the past and then organize tours for my Roll Call based on those positive recommendations. If there are no past referrals (as has happened in out of the way places like Montenegro) I go to my friend "google" and run a search. I then compare my findings with TripAdvisor reviews to make sure I'm not getting a deadbeat tour company. So far, so good! I'm currently working on tours for an Ireland/Scotland cruise in June and have already put together 3 tours. It can be a bit of work but it's rewarding - especially when comparing the price that the ship's tour runs and what it provides with what you are getting with your tour.

As for my biggest frustration when planning my cruise is trying to narrow down what exactly I want to do with the limited amount of time I have in port. For some places it's easy...i.e., in Belize we knew we would go scuba diving as our family of six are all certified. However, in other ports that is not so cut and dried: in Le Havre do we go to Paris or to the Normandy Beaches? Things like that

Hope my answers helped.
suzski is offline  
Nov 1st, 2013, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,268
CruiseCritic.com can provide a lot of information on the various ports, plus reviews from its editors and posters.
ET is offline  
Nov 1st, 2013, 03:56 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,522
Check out roll call on cruise critic. We have only taken cruise line exs in Morrocco and Tunisia.. that was just fine as the junk peddlars were kept away. They can be a scourge. I have organized 2..1 in Ephesus, 1 in Istanbul both were excellent(I thought) and about half the cost of the cruise's and more stops. Went on 2 in Alaska done by roll call people..again excellent. Don't like large tour groups. Continue your research.
amer_can is offline  
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