Shore Excursions..better to book directly through vendors?
So as I'm prepping the shore excursions for my family's alaska cruise the end of July going into August. I'm curious about a few things:
1) Is it better (regards to value/price) to book shore excursions with the actual vendors of the shore excursions themselves (i.e. helicopter tours, dog mushers, whale watching tours) than through the Cruise Line itself?
2) how early in advance should I book shore excursions and/or Spa reservations. I'm planning to get this all sorted out this weekend or next weekend (so almost two months in advance)..or should I get on this like ASAP (like tonight and tomrorow night?).
While most folks who are new to cruising seem to choose the ship excursions for the percevied safety of them, most experenced cruisers know that independent is better for smaller size groups, more personal service and often lower prices./ Some excursions, however, can only be done through the ship.
With the majority of tours you're fine booking a few weeks out - spa treatments and such can be last-minute-before boarding decisions.
I'll second...err...third the idea to book directly. There are a few tours best booked via the cruise lines, but be sure you know who the vendor is since we all tend to name our tours in a similar fashion.
Some people advocate booking direct with the vendor because their tour of choice is ONLY available independantly. Others advocate booking via the cruise line for the "perceived" safety. I'd say I advocate booking the specific tour that's best for you, regardless of the vendor.For example: If you "need" an Allen Marine Whale Watching tour on a larger boat, book via the cruise line. If you need an Orca Enterprises tour, book it directly, and if you need an Alaskan Marine Adventures tour, book it any way you're comfortable.
Smaller capacity tours are already booked full now. If there's something specific you want, it's worth a call to check availability ASAP, and go with the vendors' recommendations regarding booking now or in a week or two.
The only way to keep everyone happy is to delete my signature completely.
If anyone wants advice from a life-long Alaskan resident, please don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks for everyone's responses. Yeah some tours Im not sure where to book directly. But I already booked our group's helicopter tour directly with Temsco...I'm surprised just how much cheaper it is to book directly. (i.e. $360 total for the helicopter tour, 6 people at $60 less per person). Anyone know where I can find the direct vendors for Best of Skagway, Jeep & Canoe Safari in Ketchikan, and City Lights, Wine & Chocolate in Victoria...actually anyone been on those last three?
OK folks. I could use a little help as I dig through all of the Alaska threads on CM and CC.
I just booked (yesterday) a Northern passage on the Coral Princess departing in 3 weeks, so needless to say I'm skampering for excursions. If you have the name and number or web site for an independent for KETCHIKAN, JUNEAU or SKAGWAY you really like, if you could let me know, I would greatly appreciate it.
FYI - my SO and I are in our early 40's & very active, but the 'boss' wants to see as much nature and as many whales as she can!
So I just came back, and saw a reply below. Anyway from my experience now..it was definitely nice and easy to book through the cruise itself for the shore excursions..they just made everything real easy from pick up to drop off...AS for booking directly...I did the helicopter tour that way. We had to walk maybe an extra block or two for that pick up, but they were very professional, and we saved a good $50 per person...which meant $300 as a group...can't complain there either.