What is the general feelings of experienced cruisers about booking tours through the ship or booking them on their own through a private company. I understand that booking through the ship is more expensive. What are the disadvantages/advantages of booking your tour on your own (not booking through the ship/cruise lines)? Thanks.
I am probably in the minority, but I prefer to book my shore excursions through the cruiseline. The biggest reason I do this is because if you are delayed in getting back to the ship for any reason.....the ship is NOT going to leave without you. Last year on our cruise, our morning tour was delayed by over an hour....so we were very late getting back to the ship. We returned after the normal lunch seatings...but they made an exception because we were late getting back. They would not have done that if they weren't responsible for booking the tour. I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, and it really isn't, but I like knowing the cruiseline is responsible for our group.
It usually is more convenient and less expensive to do it yourself and it is much safer to book a ship's tour for the reasons stated to include being on St Johns when the ship must leave St Thomas early or viewing the ruins in Mexico and the ship cancels Cozumel.
I've talked to a number of cruisers who've obtained much better "deals," i.e., less expensive or more personalized tours, by hiring private drivers and have been tempted to do so myself. However, I'd like to learn how others determine that the driver they've hired is reliable? I know on ship-sponsored tours I've passed thru some rather undesireable areas en route to the featured attractions of the tours...methinks I'd have been a LOT more uneasy had I been passing thru these areas with a driver I'd hired off the pier and knew nothing about...is this type of excursion not for the faint of heart?
Booking on your own is almost always cheaper and you do get the chance to do 'your thing' more than if you booked through the ship. The disadvantages is that if the tour is delayed you may miss the ship, you have no recourse at all if you are dissatisfied, there is nobody to check and make sure the 'operator' is legal, legit, or maintains safety standards. Suffice to say, if you do it on your own, your really are 'on your own'. The choice is yours and even though we often do our own tours etc, I cannot in good concious ever recommend doing so to others as there are many things that could happen that result in possible missing of the ship, injury, assaults, being ripped-off, etc. etc. It doesn't happen often fortunately, but if does happen and I will not be responsible for recommending someone that a tour that hasn't been checked out personally by professionals. There are certain people and tours that are not ship run like Peat Taylor in Jamacia and Capt Marvin in Grand Caymans that have had enough people go through satisfied that they can be recommended as being safe, but a blanket "book on your own", I just can do.
Community Staff Leader