We do a mix. First trip to Europe in 2005 we booked all private tours and it was amazing!! 2007 we went back and did our own thing with one ships excursion. Caribbean, we've usually do a mix of both. If it's a general overview of the island we want, we book the ships tour.
Just did Panama and booked all ships tours, not sure why, they just sounded good and I have to say, for a ships tour, they were excellent. I was probably more paranoid about missing the ship in Columbia than in Florence
We've never come close to missing the ship. I don't remember any tour being really bad. Friends have done the Elite Tour on Santorini paying $200 pp and were very disappointed but to be honest we thought they were nuts in the first place for booking it.
Starting to plan the Med again for 2012 and have made one private tour contact for Crete and will be researching someone for the Cinque Terra. Most we'll just do on our own with local transportation.
We always book the ships tours online when they become available. Don't think we've ever booked anything right on the ship.
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Over many cruises we have pretty much evolved a routine. Most of the time we pick an itinerary because there are some special things we want to see on that particular route: The pyramids, the hermitage, Scara Brae, or whatever.
Around 6 to 8 months before sailing we start looking at excursions. Then we check out the ship's excursions. They are always a good starting point and usually include the most wanted attractions. Often there are a number of ship's excursions that appeal to us and we go ahead and book them, especially things like culinary tours or helicopters that may sell out. Otherwise, frankly, we take the attitude that we can cancel if we find something better.
Then I will begin to research independent tours. Frankly I just Google "<name of port> day tours" and get a good idea of what is available beyond what the ship does. Then I visit this board, and other places like TripAdvisor, Frommer's, or Fodor's. I usually check out shoretrips.com and toursbylocals.com. By now my head is spinning with possibilities. Usually from among all this, something rises to the top.
Particularly when it is a single recommended guide we go ahead and get in touch with them. If it is an agency we do the same. A long exchange of emails usually follows, and eventually we wind up with a customized tour that satisfies us. We will put a deposit down with an independent company but don't like to pay in full.
On some rare occassions there will be some good independent driving tour. We did this in Halifax, for example, and Skagway is a very good place. Then we might rent a car and drive ourselves.
It has been VERY rare that we will just get off the ship and hail a taxi. Occasionally we will do this when we have a half day tour booked, and take a short tour with the taxi for the other half day. Or now and then we will have a plan and hail a taxi to take us there.
So normally we wind up with a mix of ship's excursions and independent tours booked well in advance. Now and then a ship's tour will be cancelled and we have to scramble to find something else.
This works great for us. Our latest trip, Australia and Indonesia, is a good example of how it works. Check out our trip report and pictures at Australia and Indonesia Cruise
We always book tours on the ship . We are going to Bermuda in July ,one of my SIL's does business with a company located there .He told us that his contact offered to send his personal chauffeur to guide us around the island .
we do a mixed bag like what MercedMike does. When the cruise line posts their excursions on line we go thru them, pick out ones that make us go hmmm that sounds interesting. If a tour requires water, air or a long travel time we will always book with the ships excursion.Once we have a general idea of what we want to do from the ships choices, we will post here ask questions, get ideas and start shopping around for independant tour operators. We will only play it as it goes if we have been to a destination before and are familar with the lay of the land and know what we want
I am cruising on Seabourn Quest in October and am trying to descide if I should wait for more shore excursions to be listed on their website? They do not appear to have a wide variety of excursions, however, I have never been on a cruise. Is it normal to only have a selection of 2- 6 excursions per port? With their policy of purchasing excursions when you register, I am hesitant to "settle" with the hope of more excursions becoming available over the next couple of months. Any advice?
We have either done ships tours, with only a couple of times prebooking, and finding something at the dock. A few times when we have booked at teh dock we have found that others that booked the same tour thruthe ship we had a better time and it was less money. If we are interested in a tour that is a full day we always book thru the ship. And of course there are times when we have not booked any tour just gotten a taxi and had them take us were we wanted.
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The more we cruise, the less excursions we book through the cruise line. I never found the Shore Excursion desks to be particularly helpful or knowledgeable on any ship. I check out what they're offering prior to cruising, then do my own research, check out CM and other cruise forums for passenger opinions. I've also booked through Shoretrips with great results. We only cruise the Caribbean so after 13 cruises we know where we feel comfortable just winging it. On our last 2 cruises, we only booked one excursion through the cruiseline, a couple privately and the rest were "spontaneous"-went ashore and let things happen
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Paris, sadly I have not yet traveled to these ports.Rather than having your post get lost within this thread, might I suggest that you begin a new one, asking for information for this great itineray. I am sure our savvy Cruisemates can help you out.
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Thank you for the feedback
Most of those ports, except perhaps Mykonos, should offer a large range of possible activities. Because you are on a relatively small ship, they may not want to fragment their market into too many options.
In Istanbul and Kusadasi I would seriously recommend a private tour. We have used Kagan in Istanbul and Ekol in Kusadasi and they are very good.
Thank you for the feedback
I have been to Mkonos twice and my friend has been to Patmos.
My suggestion is to look for a private tour on the smaller islands. If you research on the internet, there are some recommended for hire on the Greek Isles.
Here are my suggestions for Mykonos:
- taxis are lined up at the port and it is relatively cheap to go to some of the beaches in the area. In 2007, it cost about 5 euros from town to Ornos beach and 12 euros to Paradise Beach (younger crowd)
- Delos is a small island near Mykonos with preserved Greek ruins - this is a half day tour, great for the morning, can look at schedule and book anytime.
- Mykonos town is walking distance and lots of shops/restaurants to explore, you'll need about 2-3 hours.
Typically, based on my experience on other Greek Islands, nothing is fully booked and they come to port offering tours the morning you arrive. During high peak season (mid June - Aug) is when you should pre-book.
When going to a new Island or Nation for the first time we normally book a ship tour because it gives us a chance to scope out how safe we feel there. When we visit a second time, if we feel it is safe, we normally do our own thing, rent a car, take a cab or take a private tour.
Case in point would be Ocho Rios Jamaica. Many feel the Island is unsafe, however after being there the first time we always do our own thing when we go there because we have never felt threatened or unsafe there. Once we took a cab to a all inclusive resort for the day and the other time just took the bus to mystic mountain.
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We mostly book tours independently of the cruise line, in advance, but if we are concerned about timing, we'll book direct with the cruise line, but always in advance.
I think the only time we booked while on board was when we were notified that a tour we booked via the cruise line had been canceled, so we opted for something else. We had a couple of days' notice, and there were plenty of other options still available.
For areas we've visited before, we usually just grab a cab and head to a beach or around town on our own.
I travel alone I felt VERY unsafe in Ocho Rios, even with the tour. I was almost afraid to venture out to the next port in Grand Cayman. To my delight, I felt incredibly safe in Grand Cayman and would just book a taxi the next time to wherever I wanted to go (unless I went snorkeling.)
We are like Tim in that when we go to a new port, we'll do ship's tours. Not many ports left that we can get to and haven't been to. Once we are familiar with a place, then we tend to do our own thing. The only time we tried to prebook with a shore excursion company, they never got back to us. Most places, we are fine just walking around a tad.
But, if there is something we really want to to, then back to ship's tours. Years ago, we tried to do something on our own that we had done before, but the ship had booked the entire maximum number of people, so we couldn't go. Learned another new lesson!
Hi Marty, I have to agree with your suggestion, if there is really an excursion that you really want to do, go ahead and pre-book it... Better be safe than sorry. There has been times, that once onboard something I wanted to book, was sold out, very disappointing, so I learned my lesson.