Originally Posted by tropicalrez
You bring a up good points but also not all true. I can see you have booked may time thru a cruise ship but I don't think you have used a travel agent many time. We can offer you the same package, ex: zip line, lunch , and another stop at your favorite view spot. We can offer you the same package deal that would be a lot less money 95% of the time. All the benefits you named about booking with a cruise ship we offer too, refund, easy to pay, and booking packages of your choosing. We have went on every tour on the island so we can tell you which is the best. You don't have to wait in line at any of our tours, ships don't have pull who goes first. You never have to watch the clock because we make sure your back to the island with lot of time to spare.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree and the people that want to save money, and do the same thing as everyone else for less money can use a travel agent.
Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.
This is a good discussion and civilly conducted. It covers some particular points often discussed and often confused. Let's keep it going -- even if it turns out to be you and I talking to each other. There are many lurkers on this board who are probably reading it.
First, please understand that American usage makes a difference between "independent tour operator" and "travel agent." A true Travel Agent books cruises, airline flights, hotel packages and such. The operation you are describing is an independent tour operator.
Much of what you say about independent tours is very very true. If you review some of my cruise reports you will see that we probably use independent tour operators somewhat more than half the time on cruises. We like independent tours very much and do them frequently. For an example of our mix, check out HAL Maasdam Cruise Review
. That trip worked very well. One ship's tour, two custom tours with independent guides, two standard tours booked locally, and one you-drive on our own. I did a lot of research to come up with those.
However -- I think it IS important that passengers understand the very basic fact of ship's excursions. Every ship's excursion is monitored by the shore excursion staff, and the officers of the ship are made aware of any situations. In most instances the ship makes every effort to ensure that passengers on ship excursions are cared for. Ship sailings have often been delayed for ship excursions to return. I remember in one Central American port a massive traffic jam resulted in buses being late back and the ship delayed over four hours for them. Of course, time and tide wait for no man, and if the ship does have to sail without excursion passengers, the cruise line takes responsibility for their care and return to the ship.
Anyone who books with an independent company MUST understand that they have no such protection from the cruiseline. The ship can, and will, sail without late returning passengers who are on an independent tour. It is a question of where the responsibility rests. In booking with an independent, you are making that operator, and yourself, responsible for your timely return. This is a simple fact that is key to the discussion.
Clearly then it becomes the duty of the passenger to check out the independent operator carefully. As I have noted, most independent operators are VERY VERY aware of the time they have to have passengers back to the ship, and know that their reputation depends on it. We seldom hear cases of passengers on independent tours with reputable operators being left. But it can, and has, happened.
This means a lot of research and time goes into booking independent. Clearly we think the time spent is worthwhile as we book independent so frequently. Nevertheless we have had a couple of scares. One company that had good reviews and a very flashy website (see the discussion of design on another board
) turned out to be planning to send us back to the ship in a taxi, which did not show up. We ran up the gangway just minutes before they pulled it up!
So nobody is picking on independents or trying to scare anybody. A simple fact has to be stated, and the responsibility has to rest where it rests. I urge passengers who are willing to do their own research and accept their own responsibility to consider independent tours. We have had some great ones! But I suggest that those who like simple convenience and assurance to go with ship's excursions and be content. We have had some great ones of those too!
I stand by my remarks on price. Saving a few bucks is rarely a reason to use an independent, IMAO. Use an independent for personal attention, small group size, comfortable vehicles (sometimes), custom itineraries, accommodation of disabilities and many other good reasons. But on a cruise costing thousands, saving a nickel should not be the main purpose.
I LOVE independent tours. You have some good salesmanship and are pointing out the positives. But it must be thought out and a wise consumer decision made.