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stepbill June 25th, 2013 02:11 PM

Shore excursions
We are going on our first cruise to New England and Canada in September. When we get to the ports of call, do you recommend not booking an excursion through the boat but try and get a deal when we leave the boat? We would like to try and save a little money, the excursions listed through the cruiseline (NCL) seems a tad bit high but I was not sure if we should take a chance with playing it by ear? June 25th, 2013 02:49 PM

There are two schools of thought concerning shore excursions; book through the cruise line or book independently.

If you book through the cruise line, people will say it's more secure and they guarantee you won't miss the ship. However, these excursions are usually more expensive, more regimented, less enjoyable, and always more crowded.

If you book independently, people will say it's less secure and there's no guarantees you won't miss the ship if something happens. But there are different ways to book independently; one is to simply do you own thing - rent a car, hire a taxi, take public transportation, etc. Or you can book it with an independent company, such as Shore Trips (there are many others - I'm just using them as an example). Good thing about booking with a large company like this is that they guarantee you won't miss the ship and if, on the off-chance you do, they'll pay to get you to the next port of call. However, as Julie Karp, President of Shore Trips, likes to point out, in the tens of thousands of shore excursions they've booked for people, no one has ever missed the ship. Excursions like this are sometimes the same price and sometimes cheaper, but they are not as regimented, more enjoyable, and always less crowded. We've been doing them for years and in 45 cruises have never had any problems.

Now, with that said, during your Canada/New England cruise is different than going to 'foreign' countries. The ports are wonderful and there are some great options for you. For example, if you're going to Bar Harbor, which is one of our favorite ports up there, you can do the Hop On Hop Off bus and see what you want to see. It'll definitely save you money over any excursions offered by the cruise line. You can do the same thing in Boston and it's a great way to see the city. Halifax is awesome and easy to get around - definitely suggest going to see the Citadel.

We loved our Canada/New England cruise and hopefully we'll get the chance to do it again sometime. Wonderful ports, awesome seafood, great sightseeing, and terrific people!


seadog2 June 25th, 2013 03:31 PM

stepbill welcome. Always check carefully when you book independently. There are drawbacks to this. As stated the big one is being left behind by missing the ship. We know for sure that the cruiseline will not put you in that position. We have done both and have enjoyed both. June 25th, 2013 04:48 PM

I've had this conversation with several captains and they have all told me the same thing; they never want to leave anyone behind, but it's all about communication. If the people who are going to be late are not in communication with the ship, then the captain has no alternative but to leave them.

The number one reason anyone is left behind is NOT because they were on an independent excursion. It's because they either did not make sure their watch was set to ship time and check it regularly, or they were in a bar, got a little drunk, and forgot what time it was or what time the ship left.

This is why I always highly suggest people take the daily newsletter with them when going into port. It has the local port authority contact information on it and should something happen, you're able to get in touch with the ship.

Any reputable independent company is well aware of this and will be able to get in touch with the ship, but it's always advisable to take a cell phone just in case. You could just be walking down the street, trip, break an ankle, and have to go to the hospital - this would cause you to be late and it had nothing to do with an excursion. As long as you take the normal precautions, you'll be fine. We've done independent excursions all over the world, including China, and have never had any problems.

So don't let people scare you into thinking that taking shore excursions through the cruise line is the only safe way to go - it's just not true and there is absolutely no proof to the matter and no statistics to back up the claims. Besides, there are been many reports where thieves have specifically targeted cruise line excursions because they know all about them; when, where, how many, and who.

Of course, the cruise lines encourage this fear because it's better for them. They make alot of money on excursions. As an example, we wanted to book the motorcycle tour around Aruba. Cruise line wanted $355 per couple; the local Harley dealer only charged $155 per couple. There were 6 couples on the tour; 4 of us booked with the dealer and two couples booked through the cruise line. We were all on the same tour together! Guess who had more fun; those who paid $155 or those who paid $355? We booked the helicopter/dog sled tour in Juneau; paid $125 less per person than the cruise line charged! I could give you hundreds of examples, but you get the point.


Lakers Fan June 25th, 2013 08:30 PM

My wife and I are doing a fall cruise to New England and Canada .We normally book excursions from the cruise line ,however ,as we have been to Canada 17 times and to virtually every major city over a period of 45 years we are thinking of doing an independent tour.

seadog2 June 25th, 2013 10:17 PM

I have read of several Instances where people have been left behind because of being on independent tours. I believe that it is true that no captain "wants" to leave anyone behind but there are times when no option is available. People are advised of what could happen if not back on time. Take all of the precautions that were mentioned but it is your responsibility to make sure you are back before departure. Do your independent tours, enjoy them just be aware. If by chance an unfortunate accident does happen that is where your trip insurance comes into play.

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