I agree that more port information would be helpful. On too many lines, the "port talks" are lile more than "infomercials" for stores in the port with which the ship has a "kick back" deal and for excursions the ship sells.
There are some lines that DO offer great port information on sites and activities in which the ship has no financial interest. These even often include lectures on the history and culture of the port. Unfortunatly, this seems to be true only of the more expensive lines.
It would be nice, but since the cruise line want's you buy their sponsored excursions and not go out on your own i don't see it happening, its all about the $$$. You can always ask the Purser for that information.
I may be in the minority, but I would be willing to pay a few dollars for information like this, particularly in European and Asian destinations where a good transportation infrastructure exists. For example, $5 for small packet with maps, train schedules, etc. that covers all the ports. Actually, I think it could be offered free if they also threw in some advertising brochures from local eateries and shops.
Well, the cruise line that I have as my current favorite DOES include info on the excursions they offer in their port talks, but they also include other information on things to do and see than have no connection with the ship. Also, they have no "deals" with any stores in the ports, so any shopping info they include is unbiased. And as stated before, they also have lectures on history and culture of ports. Their excursion-selling business is pretty much a break even proposition.They mark up what they pay per person for each excursion by 24% to cover the cost of maintaining the tour desk and checking out the excursions to make sure they offer value. Excursion desk personnel are often actually on the excursions. This is the way I like it anyway ---straight-up, educational, informative, and non-commercial.
Sometimes we book the ship's excursions and sometimes we don't. At one port on our most rcent cruise on this line, the ship offered nothing to our particular liking, so the Excursion Director arrainged for a private car to take us to a local beach and bring us back ---- all for $5 pp.
I just returned from Splendour of the Seas Mediterranean sailing, and they do provide some train & metro info as well as local maps and port info. Unfortunately they still are detailed enough, so you still must find additional material on the port. For example, the schedules don't include the early or late times, the port maps don't include street names, etc.
This is a step in the right direction, however more detailed information is still needed.
Unfortunately, if a cruise lines starts trying to give too much local information then some cruisers will try to make them responsible for what they say. As in "You said I could get a bus to Rome from here, but I got lost and now you owe me a trip to Rome!"
Sometimes you can't win for being helpful. Better for a cruise line to offer a tour professionally and charge people for it than to try to be helpful and end up getting blamed. I think we have all been there, right?
If you want free local info, buy a guidebook. That's what I do.
Also - even though they do not usually make a big announcement about it, if you look in the lobby when the ship is docked they OFTEN have local info set up. You just have to look or ask for it.
Asking the crew the night before is a good idea, too. They have often been to a place many times. Depends on whether the ship is repeating the itinerary or not.