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Tips for Choosing the Shore Excursion Type that is Right for You

By Lisa Plotnick


For some cruise travelers, the itinerary is of greater importance than the ship. This is the case especially when traveling internationally or to any destination that is far from one’s home. When itinerary is a key element of the cruise decision, finding shore excursions that are the best fit becomes a crucial part of the planning.


Generally, shore excursions can be segmented into three types: those offered through the cruise line, those offered through an independent company, and those that are completely self-guided. Several factors go into the decision, including cost, level of personalization, and comfort. Many cruisers select a combination of these on a single voyage, depending upon the individual ports of call.


Cruise line shore excursions: All cruise lines offer a variety of tours in port, ranging from general sightseeing from a bus to adventurous activities requiring physical stamina. The cruise line contracts with local tour companies to provide these options to passengers.


The benefits of a tour through the cruise line include:




Cruise line shore excursions are best-suited for:


Independent tour companies: For passengers who want the security of professional guide along with some room for customizing the itinerary, booking directly with a tour company may be an option.


The benefits of booking with an independent tour company include:




Independent shore excursions are best-suited for:


Self-guided tours: As the term indicates, passengers will be completely on their own in ports. This can involve seeing the sites on foot, using taxi or train service, or touring by a hop-on-hop-off bus.


The benefits of self-guided tours include:




Self-guided shore excursions are best-suited for:


No matter how you plan to explore ports of call, pre-cruise research is essential. Even if you are going on a guided tour and will, therefore, be provided with commentary, you can make the most of your tour by learning about your scheduled stops in advance. And, for those who will venture on their own, reading the shore excursion descriptions can be helpful in determining places to see, thereby saving you time while in port. Most importantly—enjoy!