I hear all the time about people saying they prefer to book excursions through the ship so they have the security knowing the ship won't leave without them.
I talked to Julie Karp, President of Shore Trips, who proudly states that in the thousands and thousands of excursions they've booked, they've never once had anyone miss the ship. (Not trying to push Shore Trips, but just wanted to use them as an example.)
I've also had very long conversations with two Captains with two different cruise lines about this very issue. The bottom line is communication. They do not want to leave anyone behind, but it all boils down to communication. If you're not on the ship and they don't know where you are or wants going on, they'll have no choice but to leave you. You could be walking down the street, break an ankle on a curb, and end up in the hospital. Has nothing to do with an excursion, yet they'll leave you unless you get in touch with the ship. This is why I always tell people to make sure you take your daily newsletter with you when going into port. In there is the local port authority contact information. In the event you need to get in touch with the ship, this information can be invaluable.
But based on the information I got from these two captains, they both told me they have never left anyone in port that was on an excursion whether it was through the cruise line or not because they know how to communicate with the ship. They said the only people they've ever left behind are always these people who go out on their own and lost track of time or forgot the ship in on a different time than port time - alot of times it's people who get hung up in a bar.
But it's a complete fallacy that they will automatically leave passengers who are late simply because they are taking an independent excursion. Cruise Planners has over 800 agents and we've booked thousands of excursions through Shore Trips and have never had anyone miss the ship, so we can attest as to Julie's remarks.
We've personally been on 43 cruises and have only done 3 excursions through the cruise lines, dozens of independent excursions through companies like Shore Trips, and more dozens of excursions on our own. Plus, we have over 2500 clients doing the same thing and, as I mentioned, there are over 800 Cruise Planners agents throughout the country with many thousands of clients who have done the same thing, and between all these numbers we've never had anyone miss the ship while doing an independent excursion. So the chances of anything happening are very slim. On the other hand, I've heard there have been several occasions where people on cruise line excursions have been robbed at gunpoint, whereas we've never encountered that through our vendors. So there really is no 'extra' security booking through the cruise line, if you want to look at it that way.
Again, not trying to push any one thing over another, but just want people to understand that there are other ways to book excursions than through the cruise line that are just as safe and often much better overall. This is especially true when visiting U.S. ports, such as Key West or Alaska. In fact, on a couple of occasions, we've been the only two on the excursion whereas those going the cruise line were on a bus with 45 other people. This has happened many times for our clients and they have always come back with glowing reports about their experiences.