So much depends on upon the particular excursion.
Will you save money if you book independantly as opposed to using the cruise lines excursions? YES
Popular excursions sell-out fast, either from the independants or from the cruise.
Might you find some last-minute deals? SURE if you want to waste your time running around town trying to find them.
Best bet, book on your own, save some $$ and time and get the excursion you really want.
One big drawback to purchasing excursions from independents is...what happens if the excursion has a problem? In particular, what happens if that excursion runs late and you miss the ship? That would be a MAJOR problem and expense.
As a for-instance, we were recently in Grand Cayman on the Dawn Princess. My wife and daughters took the standard Turtle Farm/Hell/Stingray City tour. On the way back from Stingray City, their boat ran aground. They were delayed getting back to the dock and missed the last tender. This tour had about 70 passengers on it. Another tour (diving, I believe) broke their propeller and was also late. Since both tours were purchased onboard, Princess waited and sent another tender for both tours.
Had this not been a ship's tour, my wife would have spent hundreds of dollars (assuming she had a credit card with her) to get the three of them from Grand Cayman to the next port, Ocho Rios.
Some tours I wouldn't mind doing independently. For instance, the Atlantis minisub can be done independently for about $10 or $20 cheaper than the ship's price. Since this is only a 2-hour tour, being late wouldn't have been as much of a problem.
Some tours you just can't get from the ship. For instance, we booked an independent horseback riding tour in Mazatlan. The ship's horseback tour had only about a 1-hour ride, while ours was more like 4 hours. Similarly, a reggae fan might want the Ocho Rios tour that visits Bob Marley's house, which is not offered thru the ship.
So, the answer is, It Depends. Evaluate your options, and if the ship's tour isn't much more than the same tour independently, decide how much "peace of mind" is worth.
We used Dream Tours out of Villefranche and Ghorex Turkey in Kusadasi and Istanbul. They were both very nice and they did take us all over. We went to St. Paul de Vence, Nice, and Monaco. Price wise - okay - not as reasonable as Debbie in Barcelona, though!
Dream Tours can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shorex Turkey can be reached at email@example.com
In addition(and this is just my opinion! lol )where ever the cruise ship goes u can go cheaper. Example a snorkeling trip, butterfly house ect. We are renting a car spliting it four ways to "beat" the cruisers and are basically one step ahead of the crowd. The cruise ship doesnt have carte blanche on the "beauty" of where ever it is your going. Take a map, compas and cell phone and explore, meet the locals and get away from the hoards of cruisers.
As the last guy said it just depends on what u want to do.
Shawn and less than 40 days!
Do your research ahead of time so you know exactly who and where you want to go and who with. Then I usually only do tours on my own with another couple. For instance on the Mexican Riviera cruise to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan I knew what we wanted but needed another couple to rent the taxi cab with us to make it cost effective. We ran across another couple on board and got talking and we basically had the same wants on tours so they went with us spliting the cost and we had a great time. For safety sake expecially and to make it really cost effective you need more than one couple. Now some things are no problem. TO snorkel in Grand Cayman we walk to Edan Rock DIve shop 5 minutes off the tender and snorkel there. Also do our own thing in Cozumel - usually scuba diving but plan to go early and leave plenty of time to get back to the boat. BUT Cabo for instance you are only there 3 hours - not enough time to do on your own. Belize is dangerous and if you want to snorkel or dive too time consuming by tendering to the mainland to catch a speed boat back out to the cays. Jamaica I just will NOT do on my own. Just me. Not safe. Debbie
According to a local from STT - on another vacatioin board- the tour operators are not suppose to book any of Princess' passengers. Due to some sort of contract all excursions are suppose to be booked thru Princess. I leave 8/20 on the Caribbean Princess but before I go I plan on getting in touch with some of the tour operators just on the chance they will book anyway. Worth a shot and some big savings based on what I have found online vs. Princess.