I understand that booking an excursion through the cruise line insures that the ship will not leave without us. I have been doing a lot of reading on various port sites and it seems as though on several of the excursions that we are interested that we will save a significant amount of money booking through individual companies.
I’m wondering if anyone has really ever had a problem getting back to the ship on time.
Yes, once a tender boat broke down. I had taken my parents on a cruise and gone to Chichen Itza, which is a really long tour. It was a ship's tour and so they waited for us...for several hours as it turned out. I have also met people on cruises who missed the ship in a port and had to then fly to the next port on the itinerary. A lot depends on how long the tour is, but also on factors that you can't get info on, like how well their vehicles are maintained, how good the tour company is, etc. This board is probably the very best source for that kind of info. I would not do a tour on my own unless I had previously done it via ship's tour or got lots of good feedback here. Actually, even having done some on ship's tour and then doing them on our own, we have run into a bit of trouble. When the tour company is slightly less than reputable, that may mean that their primary motivation to keep you safe and on time isn't there when you book separately.