For our upcoming trip to Asia which actual cities does the ship come into? In which of these cities should we participate in the excursions Princess Cruises offers and which of these cities can we do on our own:
Nagasaki Japan; Pusan Korea, Dalian China; Vladivostok Russia
I always take a tour from the ship on my first visit to a port of call, especially if it's in foreign country where I don't speak the language and I'm not familiar with the local culture. I find that the tour guides invariably provide tips on local customs that can spare much embarassment or awkwardness.
It's also best to take a tour from the ship if you wish to go to any attraction that is not right in or near the port city. If you go on your own return late due to traffic or whatever, the ship will sail without you -- and you get to pay your own way to the next port of call (the port agent can make arrangements for you and bill the cost, plus service charges, to your shipboard account if you need assistance). If a tour from the ship has a similar problem, the ship will either wait for the tour or make alternate arrangements (possibly an unscheduled "service call" in a closer port) to get the affected passengers back aboard at the cruise line's expense.
If you are concerned about the cost of the tours, look for shorter ("half-day") tours that might provide a good balance. Princess seems to offer such tours in most ports of call, and the cost is about half of that of a full day tour. If you take such a tour in the morning, you'll have the afternoon free to shop or to explore on your own.
Hi....I agree with Norm...especially in countries where there is no chance you can read the signs....we did do Dalian on our own...we just walked around the city and got a bite to eat...but for the others I would definitely take a tour.