My wife and I set sail in 3 days. Today, the private tour guide that we had booked for St. Thomas/St. John's cancelled on us. Now, we had booked a half day tour with this guy because we wanted as private a tour as possible. He at first told us that he would have to book 2 other people for the half day and told us it would be easy to do so. He later changed that and told us not to worry about it - he would take us out either way.
This morning we get an email telling us that since he couldn't find two other people, and because he received an offer from six people for a full day, he was cancelling.
I need another tour guide for St John's/St Thomas. Any suggestions?
And also for being completely overcharged for what you get - a ship tour is also hard to beat.
And guessing that someone will now respond with "I can't see how some people are willing to spend XXXX to take a cruise and then don't want to spend blah, blah, blah."
Listen, money really isn't too much of a concern for me - but I don't like to be ripped. And that is what ship tours are - a rip. I can either spend $89 on a ship tour and share the tour with who knows how many other people, or I can spend $75 for a private tour with maybe 4 other people and get an hour of extra time. Sure you run the risk of the guy cancelling on you, but you run an almost equal risk of something going wrong. Like, for example, on our cruise 2 years ago, the bus driver nearly got us killed - twice! And, the trip (it was to a private island) was absolutely nothing like what was sold to us.
I'd rather take my chances with some hard-working, although obviously scatterbrained, private tour guide then be part of Carnival excursion scam.
One thing in defense of the ships tours. If you any reason you are late getting back to the ship, they will wait for you. That happened to us at Stingray City. We had engine trouble and we were later getting back to the pier. There was a tender waiting for us and as we approached the ship, the crew were raising the anchor. They literly did wait foor us to get back. Had we booked a private tour we would have missed the ship by 30 minutes!!
February 25, 2011
First off that last post was from me not from BlueEyes- I used my wife's computer to post that last- I didn't realize that she was logged in. Mea culpa.
Anyway, I would like to point out that had you gone with a private cruise perhaps you wouldn't have been running late in the first place? My point is that Carnival gets very good deals with these tour groups because of expected volume. The tour guides get the promise of a steady stream of customers, and Carnival gets a lot of profit. Who suffers is the cruiser who gets less service for more money.
I beg to differ. yes there is a mark up but it really isn't that much. You may think you know but unless you know what the cruiseline pays for each individual then you cannot judge if they are ripping passengers off. (hint, I DO know what I am talking about and CAN judge), The tour operators that work through the ships MUST have insurance and are held accountable if they do not produce what they promise. I am very familiar with the shore excursions and I can tell you that the level of profit come no where near the "rip-off" standard. Yes you can get individual tours cheaper and in some cases they are a better deal. I often use private tours but I know what ports I can do this in, AND I speak Spanish, AND I know the ports, AND I know how to handle myself in a foreign country, AND I am comfortable doing so. Still, in many ports the best deal is are the ships tours, period. When you book individually you are truely 'on your own' if anything happens at all including but not limited to, accidents, injuries, returning to the ship too late for boarding, getting robbed, abandoned, etc. etc. For a few bucks differance the peace of mind is well worth it. Because of the possibility of something serious going wrong I will never 'recommend' anyone taking a private tour and advise those that do to reallly know and understand exactly what they are doing. I will say that certain 'tours' are very often quite safe and a bargain over the shipos tours. Examples are Chaknaab Park in Cozumel, Island tours in St Thomas, Snorkeling at many beaches and the like.
Of all the cruises I've been on, I've only taken one ship-sponsored tour. Needles to say, it was my last. And I agree with the others when they say they are a "rip".
The cost is well in excess of what you can get on your own. The tours are crowded. The busses spend too much time dropping you off at tacky and over-priced shopping areas, in which the cruise lines get a "kick back" from the vendors.
I have been on dozens of private tours and have always returned to the ship well in advance of the ship-sponsored tours.
What I like to do is to charter a taxi, tell the driver what I want to see, plus ask for recommendations of other sites. I make sure he speaks English, and negotite the cost prior to arranging the tour. I pay for half the cost up front, and the balance at the end of the trip. The driver takes me where I want to go, and most importantly avoids the places I have no interest in seeing (cheap souviner stands). I stay at each place as long or as short as I desire. I beat the crowds (not part of a large group). When I go to the beach, the driver will wait several hours for me (that is why I only pay half up front).
When I return to dinner, the other guests are often envious of me when I share my experiences for the day vs. their's. I ended up seeing more, in less time, paid far less, avoided crowds, and overall had a more enjoyable trip.
There may a few ports (Venezuela for example), where you would not want to venture out on your own, put it is perfectly safe in all the Caribbean islands.
I am not a bully-pulpit for the cruise lines. Do consider go out on your own. You're not only save alot of money, you'll have a better time and see more in less time.