I am cruising May the 15th on the Star Princess and have booked a shore excursion with Red October. Because time is so precious and I am paying for a full day of service I would like to depart the ship ASAP. I have been warned that I might be harassed about attempting to leave the ship early in that they insist that their tour groups be allowed to leave before those of us who have booked independent tours. Has anybody had any experience with this? If so, how stringent is their enforcement of the "rules". Red October advises that the port "guards" authorities don't care as long as your paper work is in order. I have booked all my other tours via the cruise lines. If this is their attitude then I am considering cancelling all my other tours with them. Any advise would be welcome.
We did it on Celebrity, and although we were told that we had to wait upstairs until we were called, we just went to the gangway with the paperwork at the time specified by Red October, and we had absolutely no problem getting off.
Naturally, the cruise lines like to try to convince you that there will be difficulties if you do anything other than take their tours, but when it comes right down to it they can't really "kidnap" you as long as the ship has been cleared and your papers are in order. And although I've heard a lot of "threats" and "warnings" about this from many lines, you can get off when you want to. Just go.
They might be able to exert some leverage if this was a tender port, but fortunately it isn't.
I am on the same cruise and booked with DenRus (they were willing to add us to two other couples to save money). When I read the Princess documents threatening non-cruise tours, I contacted DenRus who emailed me a cover letter for the cruise line stating that passengers such as ourselves are not to be discriminated against -- we are using valid Russian operators too. They said that we should take this to the purser if any problems. I have heard of no delays so far on web sites.
Hope we have better weather than the web sites predict for May 15-25.