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Required to take a HAL excursion to leave the ship in future?


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3 hours ago, kazu said:

 

Absolutely correct.  We have been to St. Petersburg twice (and it's worthy to visit twice)

 

the first time was on a HAL tour as we got all the "stuff" about needing a visa so we signed up (a long time ago).  I remember lines and lines for everything.

 

the second time I was wiser and we booked with a licensed guide (in our case, Alla tours but there a number of them) and they arranged the visas for us all

We had NO lines, pre-entrance and everything was figured out to a T.  

Our guide was great and although cost doesn't come into it (I prefer quality), even though it was pricey, it was still cheaper than HAL's.  It was worth every dollar even if it was U.S. 😉 

When we did our Alla tour from a Princess ship, I had set it up from our roll call. I remember needing 8 total to make it not only better than the ship's tours, but also actually less expensive. The tour group ended up with 10. And we were able to add a few things to personalize the tour according to the wants of our members.

 

I spoke with many on the ship who had used Princess tours, and they were mostly happy with their tours. However, I heard a few complaints. One said their bus' air conditioning did not work (While we were in an air conditioned Mercedes van). When I said our guide had 18 years experience, I was told their guide was 18. And one complained that their guide missed communism.

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We visited St Petersburg twice, first time on a Princess ships tour couldn’t go inside the churches, missed the treasury in the hermitage and were herded in a group of 50 and missed two of the spots! 

Second time used SPB tours, saw the treasury, inside the churches, visited a farmers market, behind the scenes at Peterhof, rode  the subway, on a hydrofoil, a canal cruise, Yusipov Palace...... all in a small group that whisked us safely around in comfort. 

 

So we too rarely use a ship’s tour.   I prefer to organize my own as well.  We travel a lot independently so have seen most the major sites,  I want off the beaten path.  Last year in Athens I organized a private overnight tour to Meteora.  And in Catania we visited Noto and Ortygia, had a local lunch and a winery that makes one of my favourites and topped it all with one of the  Netflix Chefs table pastry chefs! 

 

So yeah, No if we can’t do our own thing. 

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This isn’t forever.  Even if science never finds a vaccine or fail safe therapy society will find solutions.   One obvious low tech solution is it is swept under the rug and life goes on with every adult deciding their own acceptable level of risks.   Governments cannot realistically maintain tight control of human behaviors indefinitely, that is simply not possible.  I constantly remind myself that the 1918 flu mysteriously disappeared and was never “solved”.   

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2 hours ago, Shmoo here said:

I'm thinking it's not the cruise lines requiring it, but the countries that are allowing cruise ships to port only if they can guarantee their passengers will not mix with the locals somehow.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if I can go along with this theory.

Cruisers are going to mix one way or the other - whether it’s the ship’s shopping stop or lunch.  I can’t believe that the countries wouldn’t want their private tour operators and tourism back in business.  The cruise ship excursions go to certain sites and bypass others.

But. It’s a new world, new normal, so who knows what wisdom lurks in some people’s minds?

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4 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

The difference between visiting the Vatican Museum in a group and then doing it on my own (just with an excellent guide book) was an OMG! difference.  

 

 

2 hours ago, kazu said:

 

An excellent guide book doesn’t get you into the room where the Pope prays before he accepts his position.  

Have you seen the Da Vinci code?  And all those key chains?  That’s what our guide had and we skipped the crowds with the secret entries and exits he had other than a couple of spots.

It was amazing.

A guide book can’t take you to little spots that regular tourists aren’t allowed into.  

 

I found the same thing in a couple of other places and there are times when a guide is really worth it.  Divide it by 8 and it doesn’t cost much (Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ephesus), etc. 
 

These people can really enlighten you on the history that you won’t find in a guide book IMO.

 

 

There are good arguments for both wandering with a guide book and having a private guide.

 

I too have enjoyed the pleasures of wandering many a museum with a good guide book and my own notes (preparing them is one of my pleasures when anticipating a trip).  I especially like being on my own in museums, because I will find things that I really want to linger in front of and study for quite a long time -- much longer than most tours can allow.

 

By dint of extreme diligence (stubbornness?), I have in fact weaseled my way into quite a few places that at first glance require a private guide. The inside of the pyramid-tomb in Rome, for example, or various houses in Pompeii during special openings. Being able to speak passable Italian has opened the door (literally) to many of those frustrating sites in Italy where you have to make a call to the man with the "chiave" (key) and persuade him to let you in.

 

But in other places it is necessary to have a guide (or at least a guided tour) to reach those inner sanctums.

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For our February getaways, I'd be willing to take only a ship's excursion. We don't always get off the ship even though permitted. We take them mainly to do nothing.

 

DH isn't that interested in visiting other locales, so I doubt we'll ever go to places where an independent tour would be my preference. We do have an Alaskan cruise booked with family. I could also agree to a ship's excursion there if need be. The scenery is the main reason for excursions and it can be viewed/enjoyed whether with 8 or 40 - even if less hassle with a small group.

 

If going somewhere other than Alaska or the Caribbean, I'm not sure how pleased I'd be with the requirement. I think it might depend on if an excursion was offered that met my interests.

 

I can certainly understand why others would be reluctant to cruise if limited to ship's excursions.

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Just a simple observation.  For as long as there has been CC (and previously on AOL, Genie, and Prodigy) there have been folks who tried to argue their position on cruise line excursions vs private tours, vs independent.   But this is not an issue of right or wrong, better or worse  It is simply an issue of personal choice!  One size does not fit all and there are folks who love cruise line excursions, those who love small private tours, and those of us who love doing our own thing.  Cruising around the world gives folks the ability to choose what works for them just like we get to choose which cruise line, size of ship, itinerary, etc.  That is all a good thing.  

 

But now, the cruise lines might embrace less personal choice.   COVID is a very unfortunate event, but we can already see signs, around the world, of politicians and businesses finding ways to exploit the virus as an opportunity.  In most cases there is a trend of taking away personal liberties and choice (in the name of COVID) but the evidence (if one opens their eyes) is that COVID is only part of the story.  I have spent my lifetime taking advantage of personal liberty and personal choices.  Now, I see a society that seems willing to follow the leaders over a cliff and give up lots of freedoms. Tis very sad.

 

Hank

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1 hour ago, Hlitner said:

But now, the cruise lines might embrace less personal choice.   COVID is a very unfortunate event, but we can already see signs, around the world, of politicians and businesses finding ways to exploit the virus as an opportunity.  In most cases there is a trend of taking away personal liberties and choice (in the name of COVID) but the evidence (if one opens their eyes) is that COVID is only part of the story.  I have spent my lifetime taking advantage of personal liberty and personal choices.  Now, I see a society that seems willing to follow the leaders over a cliff and give up lots of freedoms. Tis very sad.

 

Hank

Oivay

 

 

Edited by wearesiamese
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14 hours ago, kazu said:

 

Absolutely correct.  We have been to St. Petersburg twice (and it's worthy to visit twice)

 

the first time was on a HAL tour as we got all the "stuff" about needing a visa so we signed up (a long time ago).  I remember lines and lines for everything.

 

the second time I was wiser and we booked with a licensed guide (in our case, Alla tours but there a number of them) and they arranged the visas for us all

We had NO lines, pre-entrance and everything was figured out to a T.  

Our guide was great and although cost doesn't come into it (I prefer quality), even though it was pricey, it was still cheaper than HAL's.  It was worth every dollar even if it was U.S. 😉 

Totally agree, Mrs Banjo and I did the same......Since I hate to stand in line, we were VERY happy with our decision to go private in St Petersburg.  They did everything, including visa waivers.  Best decision and tour on that cruise.

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We've always taken ships tours for the peace of mind.  We got back several hours late one time and the ship was still waiting.  We've seen people left on the pier because their independent tour didn't return on time.  As others have said, it's a matter of personal choice.

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2 hours ago, summer slope said:

We've always taken ships tours for the peace of mind.  We got back several hours late one time and the ship was still waiting.  We've seen people left on the pier because their independent tour didn't return on time.  As others have said, it's a matter of personal choice.

Mrs Banjo and I take many private tours and have never been late.  Part of that, I think, is because we are always conscious of the time and always insist on being back at the dock 1 hour before all aboard time.  That has been a big benefit on occasion when traffic was difficult...... just what we do, others might see things differently.

 

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2 hours ago, summer slope said:

We've always taken ships tours for the peace of mind.  We got back several hours late one time and the ship was still waiting.  We've seen people left on the pier because their independent tour didn't return on time.  As others have said, it's a matter of personal choice.

 

I guess our experience differs.  The only tours I have ever seen coming back late are the ships’ tours.  I know as I sit on my balcony and watch as we are back with time to spare 😉

 

Totally agree - its personal choice and as long as everyone is happy life is good 😄 

 

12 minutes ago, crusinbanjo said:

Mrs Banjo and I take many private tours and have never been late.  Part of that, I think, is because we are always conscious of the time and always insist on being back at the dock 1 hour before all aboard time.  That has been a big benefit on occasion when traffic was difficult...... just what we do, others might see things differently.

 

 

Ditto.  We’ve never been late nor run for the ship.

I do have my eye on my watch but so does the guide.  They take pride in getting you back in time.  

I have to go back a decade or so when a highly reputed company (Rome in Limo) didn’t make the ship due to a multitude of accidents.  They put those private tour members in a hotel (at their cost) provided dinner, breakfast and drove them to the next port.  The ports are not far away in many Med stops.

I am pretty fussy on my guides and so far so good.  I’ve never had an issue.  And like you,, we plan to be back an hour before at the minimum.  You can do a lot on a private tour so it is a non issue.

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We have taken countless tours...private or by ourselves.

 

Never, ever have we been late.  Closest we come is 30 minutes prior to when we are supposed to be back.  And that because we have returned to the ship, picked up our ipads, and wandered off to a nearby by that has good internet!

 

We are very fussy when we arrange a private tour or join a group.  Our time is too valuable to waste on a poor tour, a crowded tour, or one that makes a stop or two at some cousin's shop that offers the best family discounts to the tour participants.  Don't need any fridge magnets or shot glasses.

 

Each of us just does what we feel most comfortable with.  We do exactly the same on our independent land travels.

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2 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

For some of us, our "forevers" are becoming fewer as the days pass.

Everyone has fewer days than they had yesterday.    And we all may have to set aside our fears and our prejudices and travel.  I visited my brother’s resort campground today, it is clear some have already moved on and now have a new pursuit.   They judged their tolerances, reviewed their options and are moving on.   

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23 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

Everyone has fewer days than they had yesterday.    And we all may have to set aside our fears and our prejudices and travel.  I visited my brother’s resort campground today, it is clear some have already moved on and now have a new pursuit.   They judged their tolerances, reviewed their options and are moving on.   

 

Thank you for your post.  

 

I have no "prejudices" regarding traveling once again as I think you were saying, but I do have fears.  I am in your category of those "who judged their tolerances, reviewed their options, reviewed their options,  but..."  I am not yet ready to move on.

 

  

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1 hour ago, kazu said:

Ditto.  We’ve never been late nor run for the ship.

We've only had 1 instance of some anxiety about missing the ship. We were in Antwerp and did a DIY tour to Ghent to see the Ghent Altar Pieces. We took off early in the morning by Train and did our touring in Ghent and were on our way back with plenty of time to spare, when the stupid train starts slowing down. The conductor comes on over the speaker, in Flemish, stating what was wrong. Fortunately a couple of locals near us were helpful and translated what was happening. The train was having engine problems and could only make 40kph instead of the 100+ it normally would. So we started to panic a bit, but were informed that we would be stopping at the next station, were another train would be along in 10-15 minutes to continue onto Antwerp. The next train arrived, we got to Antwerp and ended up going up the gangway at 17:25 for our 17:30 All-Aboard. Now that was close. Any future DIY trips will have a bit more time built in for the return trip!

 

If we had missed the ship it probably would have been at least several days before we could re-join as the next 2 stops were St. Peters Port and then the Isle of Scilly. We probably would have shot for re-boarding in Plymouth. 

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18 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Thank you for your post.  

 

I have no "prejudices" regarding traveling once again as I think you were saying, but I do have fears.  I am in your category of those "who judged their tolerances, reviewed their options, reviewed their options,  but..."  I am not yet ready to move on.

 

  

To be clear, the prejudice I was referring to are those about shore excursions.   I, personally, am not bothered by the shore excursion scenario adopted by some cruise lines.  I think that is going to be a very short lived phenomenon.  I also think the cruise lines will be challenged for such draconian punishments.  I also think many will not want to go on cruises because of the policy and the economics may cause that policy to be revised 

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3 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

I, personally, am not bothered by the shore excursion scenario adopted by some cruise lines.  I think that is going to be a very short lived phenomenon.  I also think the cruise lines will be challenged for such draconian punishments.  I also think many will not want to go on cruises because of the policy and the economics may cause that policy to be revised 

 

Neither am I bothered by such a shore excursion scenario in the Caribbean.  During my December/January, 2019-2020 cruises on the Volendam, MSC Meraviglia, and the Eurodam, I purchased no shore excursions and only ventured ashore on my own rarely with the longest period of time on MSC's Ocean Cay.  Venturing to other parts of the world, my opinion would differ.  Not being able to patronize a favorite restaurant in Juneau would not be appreciated.  Can't be able to wonder around the wonderful city of Auckland?  Or to take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and explore?  Cruising would then loose a significant amount of allure for me.  

 

But, the days at sea; the magnificent nights at sea when the sky is clear and one can witness the beauty of God's creation:  which scenario is more important to me?  

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On 8/24/2020 at 2:25 PM, kazu said:

 

I guess we are mutual cynics.  If that is the way of it for the future, I won't be cruising.  We'll fly and explore on our own. I take a lot of work to plan and it isn't a HAL tour except maybe once a cruise.  If they were better quality and smaller groups, we'd be on but not for what we have seen as of late.

We took a HAL cruise to Hawaii once and they did offer us small group excursions.  We loved those and they were only a few dollars more.  Often we just like to walk around small ports when we are in Norway, Alaska,  and on river cruises. I hope those won't be banned also.

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I have spent the entire time while reading this thread trying to imagine Bill and MaryAnne not being able to walk around the ports, have pizza & a cold beer, lounge around a beautiful resort with a day pass or take great pictures of gardens & resident wildlife on a World Cruise of 115 days.

 

Nope, I just can't picture them either staying on board the entire time or going on shore excursions.  :-))

 

I am definitely with the others on the private tours, if we can't hire a private guide then we won't go.  And I  definitely agree with Kazu, there is a better chance of COVID safety with 4-6 others in a min van than there is with a shore ex in a huge bus - even if they only half fill the bus.    (and watch for the price to sky rocket when they can only half fill it)

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Lynda S said:

I have spent the entire time while reading this thread trying to imagine Bill and MaryAnne not being able to walk around the ports, have pizza & a cold beer, lounge around a beautiful resort with a day pass or take great pictures of gardens & resident wildlife on a World Cruise of 115 days.

 

I share your thought about what they think and I have no idea of what that might be.  

 

Your comment could be extended to all of those regular world cruise guests who "have seen the sights, done the tours, etc.".  What must they be thinking?  

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2 hours ago, JeffElizabeth said:

We took a HAL cruise to Hawaii once and they did offer us small group excursions.  We loved those and they were only a few dollars more.  

 

I am really glad your small group excursion worked out in Hawaii.

We and several on our roll call booked a small group tour too  and we ended up on a 40 passenger van.

They didn’t have a vehicle for the smaller group and we were lumped in with the larger tour.

we made the best of it but it was disappointing for sure.  Had I known I would have done a private tour.

 

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On 8/26/2020 at 6:29 AM, crusinbanjo said:

Mrs Banjo and I take many private tours and have never been late.  Part of that, I think, is because we are always conscious of the time and always insist on being back at the dock 1 hour before all aboard time.  That has been a big benefit on occasion when traffic was difficult...... just what we do, others might see things differently.

 

Quite right. And, ships tours often get caught up in the same traffic which provides a buffer but no guarantee.

We usually do ship tours where there is no alternative. One example was off Volendam visiting Semarang. The tour was to the Borobudur temple Central Java. It was about a two hour + each way road trip however, due to horrendous traffic problems in that region, the ship arranged police escorts for the 6 or 7 coaches doing the tour. As it turned out the escorts were definitely needed. It also turned out to be one of the most memorable tours we have ever done, not only for the temple destination but the trip there and back. At speed with the police cars lit up and sirens going, priority right of way through intersections and traffic lights, overtaking slower vehicles and seeing oncoming traffic taking evasive action and many many towns' folk lining the road smiling and waving to us. A private tour would never have made in time.

Oops, that almost turned into a review.

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