Originally Posted by agen_kolar
This will be my first cruise, so I'm pretty unfamiliar with how shore excursions work. I realize we have little time, so I would like any advice on what to do and how to do it on a budget in the following cities:
Thanks so much for your help!
To reply to your general question, for the benefit not necessarily for the OP but for the many readers and lurkers on this board:
On any cruise on any cruise line, you will usually find that the ship offers a large selection of excursions in every port. These are usually excellent excursions. Frequently the ship has the best tour companies, the best vehicles, the best guides, and the best access to the best venues. Particularly for a novice cruiser and the first time you visit a port, they are a very safe and convenient choice. Reading over the cruise line excursion brochure can usually give you a very good over view of the port. Usually the cruise line excursions will be on a large bus, and will strictly budget time at each attraction and shopping opportunity. We have often done this with uniformly good results.
Another excellent option is to book with an independent excursion company, such as shoretrips, port promotions, or toursbylocals. They normally offer a large selection of tours, frequently the same tours the ship offers, but give you the chance to tour with a smaller group and a certain amount of customization. We have done this a few times and it works very well.
For those who like to do research, are experienced cruisers, and have been to ports before, it often works well to find an independent guide and book a special private customized tour with them. In this case, you can set up the tour exactly as you want it, do what you want to do for as long as you want, and travel in a private vehicle in comfort instead of a large bus. Often, it is surprisingly affordable to do this. We do this very often and most of the time it is a great way to tour.
Another option is to get off the ship and book a tour at the port or find a taxi drive who will take you around. This is, IMAO, extremely chancy. We have done this a very few times, some good and some disastrous.
Finally you can go ashore and take local transportation on your own. Our usual experience is that this is very time consuming and confusing. We do it seldom.
You can view some of our European cruises and see how we have used each of these methods with good results. We decide on a port by port basis, read the ship's excursions first, do our research, and then come to a conclusion about the best way for US at that particular port. YMMV.
Grand Princess Mediterranean Cruise Review
Have a GREAT cruise!