Been reading a few threads that got dredged up from back when (on purpose or not), about booking with tour operators not "blessed" by the cruise line. That usually means you bought them on the pier, or online, but NOT onboard or from your cruise line directly... save a few bux, more choices, etc etc. Folks seem to fixate on their claims they "guarantee" getting back to the ship. I have no clue what that means. Things happen. Buses hit trees..Traffic jams, someone on your tour gets hurts, whatever...a delay! mebbe a big delay. You buy it from your cruise line, they wait...till hell freezes over, but they wait. I suppose there really is a limit, but I wouldn't know how to begin to guess what it is. On the other hand, you buy it "on your own", and that ship will wait out of courtesy, mebbe 30 min tops, but not for long, They wouldn't even let you run down the'll get stopped at the gate, because the ship has already cast off. So whats your "guarantee" get you? a nite in your swimmies in a motel? air fare to catch the ship at the next port? (HAH!) Never could understand the "risk management" involved.

13 Answers

I've never tried a 3rd party excursion. I thought about it once in Cozumel, but RCI was actually much cheaper for the same excursion ($97 vs $150). Going with RCI was a no brainer!

Moral of the story: check all of your prices and make a decision. The cruise line offers better guarantee and isn't always the most expensive.

Generally when a third party tour company that hasn't been booked through the cruise line makes a guarantee, it means that if the ship does leave you in port, they cover accommodation costs and the price it takes to fly you to the next port to meet back up with the ship. So not the same guarantee as the cruise line excursions, but a guarantee nonetheless that at least you won't have to pay for the arrangements to get back to the ship.

Yes, I know what they SAY they'll do but..lets and your family are standing around, in your skivvies, sunburnt, tired, hungry, (mebbe 1/2 in the bag if ye know what I mean), the ship is gone, and you....what? no way piece of paper is worth that...its not a money issue at all. Think about the logistics of it...

The risk assessment is largely based on the type of excursion you're doing. We don't tend to do excursions that last longer than 3-4 hours, and are never more than an emergency cab ride away from the port. So, I don't much worry about the need to invoke a tour operator's guarantee.

I'm not paying $100/pp for a beach day through the cruise line that would cost me a cab ride and a chair/umbrella rental for the same experience.

Also, the most fun I've ever had on an excursion - a self-guided golf cart tour of Bonaire - isn't even offered through the cruise lines. I would have missed out on my single, favorite day in port anywhere to date, if I weren't willing to book outside of what the cruise line offers.

One provider I use was up to $500.00 expense to get you back to the ship. I doubt this would do it in most cases. I buy travel insurance in case I miss the ship but I am aware of the dangers of non-cruise line providers but I have do it to save more than 50%. Some cruise line provide a price match, we have done this several times.

I always book my excursions directly through the cruiseline for security reasons. I do not want to be left in an unfamiliar place. I also have not found the outside tour companies to be that much cheaper than direct bookings if at all, so I don't see the benefit.

Which cruise lines do you have experience with that have done a price match? I don't think I've heard about that before!

I use private tour operators all the time and never had an issue with getting back to the port in time for the ship. I always have travel insurance and also book with tour operators that guarantee they will get you back to the ship in plenty of time or they will take you or pay for you to meet the ship in it's next port. But like I said in the last 10yrs of using private tour operators I have never missed the ship.

I'm glad for folks who do it and NEVER missed the ship. But I doubt theres ever going to be a post in here from someone who has. Course there'd be no way to verify it anyway. So my nightmare scenario stands... You, in your skvvies, and flipflops.. po'd wife, screaming hungry kids, mostly have $1.32 in your pocket, and your passes to board. MEBBE you have your assorted passports, mebbe not. The shop can see it "out there", the sun is going down......and you do what??..find Raoul who drove the bus? (which is also gone)...find the "officina" of the tour co, wherever that is..I really want to know how any of this is worth the buck three eighty you thought you saved.

Make wise well informed decisions or suffer the consequences.

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