Shore Excursions - Never Have Done it Before.

We are practically first time cruisers and will be sailing aboard the Crystal Symphony up the Chilean coast in February.   We will have 3 ports of call en route and we need to decide on shore excursions.   All three ports seem to connect to rather smallish sized towns.   We are very experienced independent travelers and would be most comfortable hiring a local guide/taxi once we go ashore, rather than the very expensive and somewhat restrictive nature of the planned shore excursion options.   However, since we are picturing 800 passengers suddenly flooding these small towns, we imagine independent tour operators will also be equally expensive and may also be attracting rip off artists to take advantage of the flood of tourists.

 

So.....in short is it practical to try to arrange your own shore excursions or should we stick to only those offered by the cruise lines?

 

Thanks!

Robert 

Tags: South America

17 Answers

We tend to do our own thing if it is the first time for us at a new port of call, saying that we do a bit of google search to see if there is anything close that we would really like to see. Try searching for the 'local tourist information office' I have found a quick email very advantageous. If you do find a local guide at a reasonable price then i would advise to book early. We enjoy being spontaneous but others prefer to get organised, it is up to you.

Mal

MAL has raised some very valid points. Doing your homework will relieve a lot of the angst. Find potential excursions at your lines website, then read what experienced cruisers have to say about it, who have actually done the excursion that catches your eye. If for some reason you can't find reviews there worth reading, we use TRIPADVISOR... Don't wait to make reservations standing at the excursion desk onboard, with 1000 of your closest new friends doing the same, when all you have to go on is the lines hype and absolutely gorgeeeooous glossy pics. Usually reserving a tour online means you have to pay for it then as well.

Additionally, returning "late" from a tour on a land vackay might not mean anything...on a cruise, it can mean disaster. You can watch your ship sail without you. While rare, it can and will happen. I appreciate you being "experienced independent travelers" and all, but to us, when we feel the need to get off the ship AND take an excursion, we book it with a tour operator blessed by the line. Your suspicion about what happens when theres up to 1000's of cruisers, sometimes off 2-3-4 other cruise ships in port at the same time, is well founded.

To us, it simply isn't worth the aggravation. and frankly, some ports aren't even worth getting off the ship for, but you have to do it once to reach that conclusion... good luck!

I agree with what has been said already! On our first visit to a port we tend to take a ship sponsored tour because we know the ship will wait if anything goes awry (flat tire, heavy traffic, etc.). It will also give you a feel for that area. However, being an experienced traveler you may be more adventurous and as Yankee47 said, with a bit of homework you may feel comfortable enough to go elsewhere. Cruiseline also offers shore tours and you may wish to check those.

Enjoy your adventure!

Excellent advise. There are many reputable third party tour companies that you can review and check out on line that offer large or small private tours and some even provide guarantees as well.

Start by researching the ports you want to do excursions in. Look for private tours. That will give you an idea of cost. Check out reviews on Trip Advisor.

Thanks so much for your advice. What to you mean by "provide guarantees" from the private tour operators? Appreciate your clarification!

Bob

I have noticed on the Ship Mate app that in some ports they have private tours where you can get private tours n a car or a van if you get others to go with you.

We have done that before and it works great! Much better service than the ships tour which has a lot more people. Get on your roll call and promote it. If you are on another roll call for your cruise ask about it there too. See if you have a FB page for your cruise. If not, maybe you want to start one.

If we are new to the port, and the cruise line has a reasonable excursion package, we will take it. If we have been before, we will tour on our own. Always set your watches to ship time, You do not want to miss the boat....

We almost always book shore excursions provided by the cruise line. I realize from time to time folks get a better tour by going with an independent or just doing it on their own, Alaska is a good example. They also get a better price.

We find though, that the cruise line's we frequent anymore, Regent and Princess, stay on top of the reviews concerning their excursions and if there is a blemish, such as a poor guide not very historically knowledgeable about the area or one that can't articulate very well in English, or a poorly maintained coach and PA system, adjustments are made. I know from experience that the cruise lines require their excursion providers to maintain insurance over and above what they normally carry for regular operations. Then, there is always the possibility of looking at your vessel "hull down on the horizon" with the next port a weeks sailing away as a result of your independent guide and/or company getting you back to the pier after sail away. The ship will delay sailing if guests don't show due to a late pier arrival by a cruise line shore excursion provider.

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