You’ve done it. You’ve booked a cruise; the countdown is officially on — now it’s time to plan your excursions – without breaking the bank.
It can be done with the right research.
If you’ve sailed before then you know that cruise ship shore excursions can add up. The cruise lines are in the business to make money so they mark-up shore excursion prices 30 percent or more.
In Alaska, some of the cruise excursions are over $300 per person; for a family of four, that can add up!
Here are some resources to research shore excursions:
Viator. This company has been in the shore excursion business for a while but recently just started tackling the cruise market aggressively. Besides being up to 60 percent cheaper than the cruise lines, Viator tours promise to get you back to your cruise ship before it leaves or they send you to the next port of call, for free. Not a bad deal and worth checking out. Viator also has an extensive directory on what’s available at each port.
Zweeno. This new website recently rolled out and has increasingly become popular with the DIY (do it yourself) crowd. Unlike the long threads on the cruise forums boards, this website offers just excursions and transfers, allowing you to find what you need and is very straight forward. Zweeno (www.zweeno.com) is open to cruise passengers, shore excursion operators and transfer services.
Message Boards. CruiseCritic.com, Cruise-Addicts.com, MeetOnCruise.com, CruiseLineFans.com, the list of message boards is endless. Message boards offer plenty of advice for people who have been to the port, done the excursions and gave their opinion. If you find a good tour operator, don’t be afraid to reach out directly to get pricing and ask questions.
Port Websites. The port of call that you are visiting typically have great resources on their website for things to do in the port. For instance, Cozumel just recently revamped their website and offers a plethora of activities for cruise passengers to do once they are in port.
Trip Advisor. A great resource with reviews of everything from beaches to zip lining. One word of caution with Trip Advisor is that the reviews can be very biased, sometimes the owners of the tour can plant great reviews but otherwise, a lot of them are unsolicited and honest. Always cross check with other resources. They do have a great smartphone app that you’ll want to spend hours on.
- Be careful when booking an excursion by yourself, remember that if your not back in time and not booked through the cruise line – you’re on your own.
- If a beach is what you’re looking for be sure to research day passes, the cruise line “Beach Parties” are typically overpriced and held at a resort that you can usually get a $25 day pass to.
- If you’re not going to book through the cruise line then take your passport ashore just to be safe.
- Some excursion companies are exclusive to the cruise line so check first. You don’t want to waste a day in port because you thought you’d get a better deal on land.
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