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pat May 18th, 2001 07:20 AM

Booking Shore Excursions
I will be on the June 25 land cruise tour to Alaska on Celebrity Mercury. Is it necessary to book shore excursions before sailing? I understand they fill up fast.

hockeymom May 18th, 2001 09:51 AM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
I was on the Mercury last August. I booked almost all of our excursions before we left and saved lots of money. There are also vendors available in each port with available excursions, many times much cheaper than those on the ship. If you are interested in seeing my excursion write-up with pictures, feel free to email me.

browezilla May 18th, 2001 11:26 AM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
At least for Princess's excursions, I'm only seeing about a 5% uplift. In some cases it is easier getting money refunded from the excursion desks than from tour operators in the event of inclimate weather or if the tour isn't as advertised, was poor, etc. so it may be worth the 5% as insurance :-)

Karen May 18th, 2001 05:37 PM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
In my experience I have sometimes found significant savings booking direct. It is necessary to have all your plans and reservations made in advance. But another consideration with independent touring is you are not with the same cruise passengers on what I feel are quite "insulated tours". Going on your own will give you a feel of some real Alaska. Some of the tours which may be about the same price will also be much better direct - this is especially true with the Juneau whale watching tours. The ship tours will have 150 passengers vs 20 or fewer on an independent with about 30 more minutes sailing- similar price though - at $100+. I never take any ship tours and haven't for the last several years.

browezilla May 18th, 2001 07:02 PM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
In general, I agree that it is typically cheaper and "fuller featured" to book direct, which is usually what I do. ...but at least in the limited cases I've looked at so far on my Princess cruise the text in the write up is almost verbatim what I'm seeing on the web from independents, and here is a sampling of prices.

WhitePass Rail: Direct<$82> Princess<$89>
MistyFjords: Direct<179> Princess<189>
Mendenhall: Direct<169 for 55 minutes> Princess<189 for 75min>

There's always the case of possibly comparing apples to oranges, and the cruise ships can always bump their "tour times" by including transport to heli-pads, rail stations, etc. but this price uplift is the smallest I've encountered so far (8-9% uplift). However, at least they do deliver you to the operator, if you book yourself, getting to the operator is your responsibility.

I don't like paying the uplift at all, but I've also had friends that were burnt by independents when their ship had to change itineraries without notifying the passengers ahead of time (hurricanes can cause a ship to run the itinerary in the reverse direction, port problems etc. Read the fine print on that book contract!) so there was money/deposits that were lost to the independents ranging from 10% to 100%, money that was lost when the weather was inclimate, poor service from operators, etc. Granted these are rare, but it does happen. So, you can think of the uplift as a type of insurance. I have had three occasions where I was glad I booked through the ship (usually when I can't find an independent): 1) I was very displeased with the operator (tour operator equipment problem - RCCL refunded 80% of the tour), 2)severe weather yet the tour was still "on" (I was able to cancel at the time the tour was to depart for 100% refund),3) changed my mind after reports from people on the previous excursion (100% refund). I also have a friend of a friend that was "left behind" on an island because his "private tour" got him back too late due to equipment problems and he had to pay the cost of catching up with the ship.

Sooo there are pros and cons both ways...
So, there are multiple ways to look at it, and if you're the cautious type that usually buys trip insurance for example, then maybe booking through the cruise is for you (easier, faster, safer, little to a lot more expensive). However, if you like to maximize every minute and dollar, booking direct is the way to go. For me, I'll be booking direct (but then I never buy trip insurance :^) if I can cancel at the last minute, but some independents I've looked at are charging a 10% cancellation fee so I'll steer clear of them. Also, if booking direct, do it in advance. You don't want to get to your destination and have to hunt for an operator or find they are sold out (e.g. WhitePass Rail).

Pam Thomasson May 20th, 2001 11:00 AM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
Can I see your write up and pictures.

Pam Thomasson

Karen May 21st, 2001 08:37 AM

Re: Booking Shore Excursions
There are a few errors in this post- you are comparing apples to oranges in some cases. I have actually flown longer on the helicopter trips going with the independents. The ship tours take a long time to load and check people in, usually in larger groups, sometimes give a drive by city tour. Transportation IS included with all flights from the dock. It also sounds like you are comparing this to the Caribbean- one word there is NO comparism. High business standards and you are still in the US. :)

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