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European Crusin 2015

Excursions--Book on your own or through the ship

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On our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel disembarking for the excursions was a hot mess. 

 

For our next cruise in May 2021 we are thinking of booking our excursions on our own. Our question is if we choose to book on our own how does it work getting off the ship?  Do you go before or after excursions booked through the ship?  Thank you!!

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We booked our own, saved money, and had a great time.  We left the ship (in Nassau) right away so no worries about having to wait if you don't book through NCL.

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When we did our first cruise we did only ncl excursions. Now after 9 cruises we mostly do our own thing. I do a lot of online research to find a fun, realizable and cost effective excursion. Now having been to most Caribbean ports we spend more time on the ship in ports than we used to. Still get off in most ports but will do short trips and then enjoy the empty ship.

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5 hours ago, European Crusin 2015 said:

On our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel disembarking for the excursions was a hot mess. 

 

For our next cruise in May 2021 we are thinking of booking our excursions on our own. Our question is if we choose to book on our own how does it work getting off the ship?  Do you go before or after excursions booked through the ship?  Thank you!!

You wait in line for general disembarkation. If the ship has early excursions, they will be given priority. 

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6 hours ago, European Crusin 2015 said:

On our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel disembarking for the excursions was a hot mess. 

 

For our next cruise in May 2021 we are thinking of booking our excursions on our own. Our question is if we choose to book on our own how does it work getting off the ship?  Do you go before or after excursions booked through the ship?  Thank you!!

If you aren’t on an excursion you just walk off whenever you want. In most places you can be off the ship whilst the people on ship excursions are still hanging around in the theatre waiting to be called.

 

if it is a tender port then things are more

complicated, and if you are arriving somewhere later in the day then queues and form. But otherwise it’s just a case of walking off when you want.

 

There are some occasional ports where you have to go through customs or have stricter security checks which slows things right down, but that is rare in my experience (only happened to us in a couple of ports on European cruises).

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As a widow traveling solo, I ALWAYS book my excursions through the ship.

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In tender ports all the NCL tours get priority.  On the Jewel for Ko Samui,  Thailand, the people with non NCL tours did not get to go until after all the NCL tours, which were sold out, got to go.  Saw people with a 9AM private tour not getting on a tender until 9:45 AM.  I am not sure if they could have tendered sooner, but they had not checked into it, thought they could get off with group one, which was called about 9:15 AM.  Same deal coming back, with a 4:30 on board time, but everyone was not on board until after 6:30 PM.  I would not take a private tour at a tender port.

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10 hours ago, European Crusin 2015 said:

On our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel disembarking for the excursions was a hot mess. 

 

For our next cruise in May 2021 we are thinking of booking our excursions on our own. Our question is if we choose to book on our own how does it work getting off the ship?  Do you go before or after excursions booked through the ship?  Thank you!!

Generally you will not get to one of the first off the ship if you have booked on your own. When you can get off still depends on a few things. There are pros and cons about when to book via the ship and when to book on your own. It you are going to do private tours make sure you allow plenty of time to end the tour before the ship is scheduled to leave port. Our first few cruises we booked via the cruise line. After we knew what we were doing and how things worked we started doing private tours they are usually better and less expensive. Now that we are very much seniors and we are plat plus we are inclined to do the ship excursions. We just feel safer. Let me add, you have 2 years before you sail, I would even think about when and how to book tours this far out. Too many things can change. 

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9 hours ago, KeithJenner said:

If you aren’t on an excursion you just walk off whenever you want. In most places you can be off the ship whilst the people on ship excursions are still hanging around in the theatre waiting to be called.

 

if it is a tender port then things are more

complicated, and if you are arriving somewhere later in the day then queues and form. But otherwise it’s just a case of walking off when you want.

 

There are some occasional ports where you have to go through customs or have stricter security checks which slows things right down, but that is rare in my experience (only happened to us in a couple of ports on European cruises).

This is very reflective of our experience as well.  We almost always do private excursions, and most time, we are hopping in our excursion van and driving away from the port while long lines of cruise line excursions buses are still waiting for folks to arrive.  One of the great advantages is getting to key tourist areas at least 30 minutes before the buses.  Enjoy that time!!  We have done private excursions in the Caribbean, all over Europe and the Mexican Riviera.  There have been bumps, but all minor, and at no time was getting back to the ship on time an issue at all.  In all cases, our guides/drivers have obsessed over the time we need to get back...confirming and reconfirming.  

 

We've only tendered in a few spots, and even then, it's not been a real problem.  We are usually anxious to get off early...it seems that the majority of folks are a bit slower to get going...so we've never had to wait long to get on a tender.  And going through customs slows down the overall process, but it slows it down for EVERYONE, including those taking ship sponsored excursions.  

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You will save alot of money booking on your own especially if you do a tour sharing.  Usually, you get a group of 8 together and post on your roll call (you will find your ship and others on the same date on cruise critic).  

 

I learned the hard way the first time, using the ships tour. The next time, After speaking with fellow cruisers, I booked my own tours (3 of them at 3 ports- big savings) and used italytoursharing.com   I also wanted to take some private tours with just the family so I used Joe Banana Limos  This is an Italy based tour company who I have now used over 10x. 

 

Book the tours early if you want to share, and post on your roll call. You will get a group of 8 together pretty quickly and save alot of money and experience a lot more because of the time savings of not going on a big bus, lol.

 

Definitely use your roll call and tour share!! Meet friends for life as I have on the tours. Also, keep in mind, these companies do this for a living , so they will have you back to the ship on time!

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Posted (edited)

As a general rule, most ships will use two gangways or have two tender debarkation stations. The forward areas are used for NCL tours and the midship areas are used for general passengers, those not on tours. 

 

If the port call is early AM, say 7 or 8, lines shouldn't be too bad early on. Where you can have issues, is when you have a 10 or 11am arrival. The entire ship is up and everyone is trying to disembark at the same time.

 

Regarding NCL vs independent, you'll save money and enjoy smaller tour groups on your own, but you'll give up the insurance of getting back to the ship on time. It really depends on the port for us. There are ports we would never book an excursion through the ship, and there are ports where we would never book independently.

Edited by blcruising

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