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jlynchtx

Shore excursions questions for first time cruiser

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I have a cruise booked and almost paid for in December of this year. I have a few questions specifically related to shore excursions. These shore excursions stress me out more than anything. 

 

1. Is it too early to go ahead and start booking shore excursions? Or should I wait awhile and see if there are any sales, etc? I don’t want any of the excursions we want to do to sell out.  I’m not sure how fast these sell out...

 

2. If we book an excursion through Carnival and the advertised time is only 3 hours, say 9am to 12pm for example... will we have time to walk around the cruise port when we get back and buy souvenirs or whatever? They don’t force you back on the ship or anything when you get back do they? 

 

3. If the shore excursions starts really early, is there any fear of not getting off the ship in time? I have heard the lines are long to get off?

 

Thanks so much, I promise I won’t ask any more questions for awhile. 😀

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1. No, not too early. if there is something available you like, you can book. the price should not change (no sales, typically, on anything).

2. Of course you can explore before or after your shore excursion, depending on how much time you have. Don't be late!

3. Yes lines are often long to get off. if you book through the ship (not a 3rd party vendor) and you are not dawdling getting off, i.e. many people still trying to get off, they will know you are coming and will wait. Again, don't be late just because you are straggling.

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Book your excursions when you see something you like.  You can always cancel and rebook if something better pops up, or if there's a sale (it's rare but it does happen occasionally).

 

After the excursion, they'll drop you off just outside the port area, so you're forced to walk through the port shopping.  This is a great time to browse/shop/just wander around.  The stores won't be open as you head out for an early excursion, and they won't be as packed as at the end of the day.  

 

If you're booking an excursion thru Carnival, you'll have a meeting spot- either on the ship or right off the ship.  You shouldn't have any trouble making the excursion, as long as you aim to get there on time.  Groups which meet on the ship leave together, and groups that meet off the ship- they know about how long it will take to get everyone together.

 

If you are looking at booking 3rd party excursions, you'll want to check on their cancellation policies.  Also, for those, you'll want to aim to be off the ship as quickly as possible- they're still not going to leave you unless you're REALLY late, but you may not be able to get off as quickly as Carnival excursions

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When I've taken shore excursions through Carnival, if there is a bus that takes you far away, then they give you the option to return back to just outside the port area or to drop you off downtown. If you choose the latter, then there is a little waiver you can sign on the bus. The only people in the excursions I've been on who have ever chosen to get dropped off back at the port are those who had a second excursion they had to get to.

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1 minute ago, DukeASUGirl said:

When I've taken shore excursions through Carnival, if there is a bus that takes you far away, then they give you the option to return back to just outside the port area or to drop you off downtown. If you choose the latter, then there is a little waiver you can sign on the bus. The only people in the excursions I've been on who have ever chosen to get dropped off back at the port are those who had a second excursion they had to get to.

 

 

I do a fair number of excursions thru Carnival (yeah I'm a terrible Cruise Critic poster, i know lol) and I've never had to sign a waiver on the bus.  It's rare I've even had that option to be dropped off downtown, but when I have, there was no waiver involved.  But, I guess every port and every excursion is different- so I'll take back my "you're usually dropped off outside the port" comment. 

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Thanks for the feedback. Sounds pretty simple. My thinking is, I might book a shorter excursion in the morning that lasts for only 2 to 3 hours. Something kind of different and exciting like a submarine, boat ride, dolphin swim, helicopter, ride, etc... And then after that is over, go find a beach somewhere and swim for an hour or two. Does that sound reasonable? Are there taxis plentiful at the ports to take you wherever? We will be in Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.. 

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Posted (edited)

Very reasonable and yes plenty of taxis

Edited by amyotravel

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2 minutes ago, amyotravel said:

Very reasonable and yes plenty of taxis

 

I know these seem like dumb questions, and I would never ask something like this for a land vacation... I’m just out of my element when it comes to cruises. Thanks for the response. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, jlynchtx said:

I know these seem like dumb questions, and I would never ask something like this for a land vacation... I’m just out of my element when it comes to cruises. Thanks for the response. 

 

Don't hesitate to ask questions and don't feel bad about doing it. That's what these forums are for. Nothing wrong with being prepared. I'm a big planner/researcher when it comes to our vacations (cruise or otherwise). That's part of the fun for me. I like to find out as much as I can about all kinds of different things.

 

FYI, if you book an excursion through Carnival, the ship won't leave without you. Many people with cruising experience book excursions through third-party vendors because it's often cheaper, but there are a lot of people who don't mind paying a little extra going through Carnival for the convenience and the peace of mind that the ship won't leave without you.

 

If you haven't discovered this yet, if you open a Carnival excursion and click on "Departure Times," it'll give you a vague idea of how many spots are left. It'll say Tickets Remaining and either "More than 10" or "Less than 10."

Edited by Organized Chaos

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3 hours ago, amyotravel said:

3. Yes lines are often long to get off. if you book through the ship (not a 3rd party vendor) and you are not dawdling getting off, i.e. many people still trying to get off, they will know you are coming and will wait. Again, don't be late just because you are straggling.

 

3rd party vendors will wait and you will get back to the ship on time. These guys do this everyday 6-7 days a week. They know the ships arrival and debarkation time better than the passengers. My son Captained tours in St.Thomas for years and they never missed a ship. Our dive trip in Belize, the tenders were a cluster. Our dive company had a manifest list and we waited about a 1/2 hour for some late guests. 

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5 minutes ago, coevan said:

 

3rd party vendors will wait and you will get back to the ship on time. These guys do this everyday 6-7 days a week. They know the ships arrival and debarkation time better than the passengers. My son Captained tours in St.Thomas for years and they never missed a ship. Our dive trip in Belize, the tenders were a cluster. Our dive company had a manifest list and we waited about a 1/2 hour for some late guests. 

True the vast majority of the time, and I have booked through 3rd parties several times. It's just that Carnival guarantees it if booked through them. If new to excursions people may feel they should play it safe.

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as long as you all realize, that all the excursion companies contract with one cruise line or another. So my son's company contracted with NCL, so their guests could not book independently. So my son's boat had Carnival guest who booked independently. So basically they all the same vendors. The waiting for you is part of Carnival's "fear factor". Example: They lost power in BVI with 40 guests from 4 different ships. the tour company called all the ships, yes they have a direct line, and all the ships waited, about 45 minutes late. There are about 5 guys that own all the shore excursion companies in STT. 

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I understand you have intimate knowledge due to your son's employment. And, again, I HAVE booked through 3rd parties. But, not everything works exactly the same every single time, and we did have one near issue in another port with a 3rd party vendor. Did not miss the boat, but would have if we all did not basically threaten a mutiny against the tour person who wanted to hang out longer with his buddies instead of getting us back on time - we are talking serious intimidation by some of the bigger passengers, if you get my drift. That person got in big trouble after we all told the company what happened.

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I do understand. We always read reviews and use reputable companies who have good cancellation polices and some have return to ship guarantee. Fortunately we have never been close to late for a trip. 15 cruises never did a Carnival excursion. FYI, snorkel trip to Turtle Cove is $75, book it online for $55

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You might also want to look at the Carnival price guarantee. If you can find the same excursion for a lower price from a private vendor, Carnival will give you the difference plus 10% as OBC. Again it has to be the same.

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unfortunately that means you have to go with Carnival, private tours are smaller, more intimate, and more flexible.

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1 minute ago, coevan said:

I do understand. We always read reviews and use reputable companies who have good cancellation polices and some have return to ship guarantee. Fortunately we have never been close to late for a trip. 15 cruises never did a Carnival excursion. FYI, snorkel trip to Turtle Cove is $75, book it online for $55

It's not like I don't read reviews or do a lot of research. I do. It was a one-off situation. Just saying, things can happen.

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2 hours ago, jlynchtx said:

Does that sound reasonable? Are there taxis plentiful at the ports to take you wherever? We will be in Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.. 

 

Totally doable!  However, if you are on your own watch your time and recognize that the travel time back to the port may be different than the travel time to whatever beach you're at.  In Grand Cayman we took a shared cab/shuttle from the pier to Seven Mile Beach.  Took all of 10 -15 minutes to get there in the early morning.  However, the shuttle getting back to the pier later in the afternoon took over 30 minutes as there was a lot more traffic.

 

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50 minutes ago, coevan said:

as long as you all realize, that all the excursion companies contract with one cruise line or another. So my son's company contracted with NCL, so their guests could not book independently. So my son's boat had Carnival guest who booked independently. So basically they all the same vendors. 

 

I've done third-party excursions before booking directly when much of the rest of the group are booked through my same ship -- so I paid less but we literally got the identical tour. For example, the sting ray snorkel I did in Bahamas -- I did it independently, but our group consisted of both Carnival and NCL passengers who had booked through the cruise lines (we were on NCL).

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yeah, you can tell by the color of the towels

 

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Fact of the matter is, there's nothing wrong with booking an excursion through Carnival if that's what makes a person more comfortable. A lot of people admittedly buy Cheers knowing they won't drink nearly enough to break even with the cost of the package. They do it because it's convenient for them and they want the peace of mind of not worrying about a final drink bill. The same goes for excursions. For many, booking through Carnival is convenient and they want that peace of mind. And it's worth it to them to pay a little more for it.

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13 hours ago, coevan said:

unfortunately that means you have to go with Carnival, private tours are smaller, more intimate, and more flexible.

When we booked a Carnival tour for the Harrison Caves in Barbados and then used the price guarantee to get the lesser price + 10% difference in OBC, the tour with  Carnival only had about 10 on it (maybe a couple more). I don't know how much smaller and intimate you can get. Of course, it may have factored in that it was off the Fascination which is a small ship.

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17 hours ago, jlynchtx said:

Thanks for the feedback. Sounds pretty simple. My thinking is, I might book a shorter excursion in the morning that lasts for only 2 to 3 hours. Something kind of different and exciting like a submarine, boat ride, dolphin swim, helicopter, ride, etc... And then after that is over, go find a beach somewhere and swim for an hour or two. Does that sound reasonable? Are there taxis plentiful at the ports to take you wherever? We will be in Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.. 

 

We did the submarine in Cozumel.  It was as you said different and exciting.  We were suppose to go to the bottom but the current was too strong so we only went down 64 feet.  It was amazing how far you can see underwater.  We could still  see the bottom and all of the corals and fish down there.   I must admit, it was a little spooky at first but we got use to it.

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