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Excursions - official ones twice the price


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I guess with the official ones there is no chance of the boat leaving without you?

Whereas if you go it alone - its hard luck?

 

Just looking - its pretty much 2x the price.....

 

What do people do? Not sure if I could relax if I'm looking at my watch the whole time....

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we book private tours  & make sure we are bact at least 1 hr prior to  sailing

 Never missed the ship  yet

 Most good private guides  will get you back in plenty of  time

They keep intouch with the port agent should any problems like heavy traffic  happens

 

Those that get left behind are usually  still shopping  or in a bar

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Some private tours also offer the guarantee- Tours By Locals has this on their website:

 

NO ONE LEFT BEHIND GUARANTEE
We guarantee safe and on-time return to your cruise ship.
In the unlikely event that you miss your ship after a shore excursion, we will arrange overnight accommodation and transportation to the next feasible port-of-call.

 

Other things to do to be sure--triple check the sail away time, and be sure to be back to ship at least 90 minutes in advance. 

 

If my ship is in port for 8 hour, I book a 4 hour tour and spend a little time shopping on the way back. 

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On 5/2/2023 at 9:13 AM, paulfoel said:

I guess with the official ones there is no chance of the boat leaving without you?

Whereas if you go it alone - its hard luck?

 

Just looking - its pretty much 2x the price.....

 

What do people do? Not sure if I could relax if I'm looking at my watch the whole time....

By "official", do you mean ship-sponsored excursions?  A couple things to understand: 

- Be sure you understand what they're guaranteeing:  they promise they'll get you back to the ship on time to re-board.  A whole lot of people don't return to the ship immediately; instead, a lot of people shop or drink in the shadow of the ship ... and those are the people who tend to be left behind.  

- It's easy to watch You Tube videos and get the idea that being left behind is common ... that it happens to a couple people at every stop!  No, in reality the vast majority of cruisers make it back welllll within the time limit.  Pier runners aren't even common.  

- Private excursions are definitely better.  They tend to be small groups led by tour guides who are motivated to please you (and to earn tips).  They ask what you want and give your group choices, whereas ship-sponsored excursions tend to crawl at the speed of the slowest old lady ... they make you stop for an hour in a straw market that doesn't interest you, then they hurry you past a cute little bar (or bathroom!).  

- Having said that, there's a time and place for ship's excursions:  If you're going on a tour that's more than an hour from the port and/or requires multiple forms of transportation (especially in a country where you don't speak the language), it might be wise to go on the ship's excursion ... or make a different choice for that port.  

On 5/2/2023 at 1:15 PM, LHT28 said:

we book private tours  & make sure we are bact at least 1 hr prior to  sailing

Two hours is my personal comfort level.  If you aim to be back with at least two hours to spare, then you're safe if something happens (getting lost, twisting an ankle, bad traffic).  I also make a point to know where I'm going (not trusting blindly in other people) and to have cash for a taxi, if necessary.  And don't let your group break up.    

On 5/2/2023 at 1:15 PM, LHT28 said:

Most good private guides  will get you back in plenty of  time

Make that ALL private guides.  On these boards we hear people who are afraid of being left behind, but you won't read a whole lot about people to whom it's happened ... and I've never read a story about someone who was left behind by a tour guide.  

On 5/2/2023 at 5:57 PM, brzymom said:

If my ship is in port for 8 hour, I book a 4 hour tour and spend a little time shopping on the way back. 

I think this is what most people do ... and it's very easy to schedule your day this way.  Personally, we tend to be back on the ship for a late lunch, and I think we're in the majority.  I don't think a whole lot of people are pushing their limits.

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11 hours ago, Mum2Mercury said:

By "official", do you mean ship-sponsored excursions?  A couple things to understand: 

- Be sure you understand what they're guaranteeing:  they promise they'll get you back to the ship on time to re-board.  A whole lot of people don't return to the ship immediately; instead, a lot of people shop or drink in the shadow of the ship ... and those are the people who tend to be left behind.  

- It's easy to watch You Tube videos and get the idea that being left behind is common ... that it happens to a couple people at every stop!  No, in reality the vast majority of cruisers make it back welllll within the time limit.  Pier runners aren't even common.  

- Private excursions are definitely better.  They tend to be small groups led by tour guides who are motivated to please you (and to earn tips).  They ask what you want and give your group choices, whereas ship-sponsored excursions tend to crawl at the speed of the slowest old lady ... they make you stop for an hour in a straw market that doesn't interest you, then they hurry you past a cute little bar (or bathroom!).  

- Having said that, there's a time and place for ship's excursions:  If you're going on a tour that's more than an hour from the port and/or requires multiple forms of transportation (especially in a country where you don't speak the language), it might be wise to go on the ship's excursion ... or make a different choice for that port.  

Two hours is my personal comfort level.  If you aim to be back with at least two hours to spare, then you're safe if something happens (getting lost, twisting an ankle, bad traffic).  I also make a point to know where I'm going (not trusting blindly in other people) and to have cash for a taxi, if necessary.  And don't let your group break up.    

Make that ALL private guides.  On these boards we hear people who are afraid of being left behind, but you won't read a whole lot about people to whom it's happened ... and I've never read a story about someone who was left behind by a tour guide.  

I think this is what most people do ... and it's very easy to schedule your day this way.  Personally, we tend to be back on the ship for a late lunch, and I think we're in the majority.  I don't think a whole lot of people are pushing their limits.

 

Thanks. Well the trip in question with the official tour guide of the mayan ruins in question is half the price of the "boat sponsored" one. Apparently though they're not allowed inside the port.

 

I do wonder if you'd end up on the same bus anyway?

 

Its 60 mins away, 2 hours at the place, hour back - plan to be back at the boat 2 hours before it goes so there is slack there.

 

Thinking about it - and read somewhere else - if these tours ever did not get someone back, it'd be all over the internet, and they're business would fall apart overnight. I guess its in their interest of course to make sure nothing happens!

 

I did read about a story about a trip where there was a landslide or something and the road back was blocked. The boat even went without people on the "boat" trip. Thinking about it as well - if theres a major road incident, even the official "boat" trip bus is going to get stuck as well.

 

I think in this case the cruise company paid for hotels/onward travel (which would not happen on the private trip I guess) but I can imagine they made every effort to wait for everyone.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/5/2023 at 3:33 AM, paulfoel said:

I do wonder if you'd end up on the same bus anyway?

Probably not.  Most likely the private tour would be 15 minutes down the road while the ship's excursion was still waiting for those last couple participants to join the group.  

On 5/5/2023 at 3:33 AM, paulfoel said:

I did read about a story about a trip where there was a landslide or something and the road back was blocked. The boat even went without people on the "boat" trip. Thinking about it as well - if theres a major road incident, even the official "boat" trip bus is going to get stuck as well.

Now that you say it, I do remember that ... but that was a one-time emergency compared to literally millions of shore excursions that've returned on time.  Sure, such a thing could happen again, but the chances are very, very small.  You can never account for natural disasters like that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think this is going to be my biggest gripe in my first cruise experience this Summer. I want to explore on my own leisure, trying to jam everything all at once is not my idea of a fun vacation. This is why I am skipping Pompei / Vesuvious and the city of Naples entirely this trip. I am looking to Amalfi / Capri / Positano. 

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On 5/5/2023 at 2:33 AM, paulfoel said:

 

 

 

I did read about a story about a trip where there was a landslide or something and the road back was blocked. The boat even went without people on the "boat" trip. Thinking about it as well - if theres a major road incident, even the official "boat" trip bus is going to get stuck as well.

 

I think in this case the cruise company paid for hotels/onward travel (which would not happen on the private trip I guess) but I can imagine they made every effort to wait for everyone.

If the private company has a guarantee they will provide accommodation and transportation too. 
 

Just be careful and read lots of reviews. If there are a few with similar complaints and different dates, avoid that company. (Ask me how I learned that. 😉) But the general assumption is that only like one in 100 people with a positive experience will even write a review.  So if there are lots of them, it’s in all likelihood going to be fine. 
 

I totally get being nervous. I was the first time I booked outside the cruise line too. Now, I rarely do an excursion through the cruise. Except for Grand Cayman. Last two times I have been there, time in port was rather short and I wanted to be certain of an early tender and not getting stuck in traffic.

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  • 1 month later...

We've been on over 70 cruises. We almost always book private tours. We've never even come close to missing the ship departure time. As others have said, do your research. Sometimes cruises offer pre-cruise discounts on their excursions. I found on our upcoming Alaska cruise, the ship's offerings was actually less than the private company's excursion. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/30/2023 at 9:26 PM, momof3cruisers said:

...Now, I rarely do an excursion through the cruise. Except for Grand Cayman. Last two times I have been there, time in port was rather short and I wanted to be certain of an early tender and not getting stuck in traffic.

@momof3cruisers mentioned an important piece of booking through the ship - tenders. Most cruiselines allow pax booked on "their" excursions onto tenders before the other pax, so be sure to consider if you're looking to purchase "outside" the ship if it's a tender port. Then see what time that excursion is scheduled - if the start time is very close to ship arrival time, on a full ship at a tender port you run a risk of missing your excursion w/no refund. "Outside" excursion companies will wait for stragglers but eventually they have to leave to get the tour started.

This wasn't so much an issue at the restart, but recently we've seen longer waits for tenders. Something to consider.

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twice  as  much  is  not  always  true  and  you  need  to  look  at  different  factors,. Do  your  research  see  if  there  is  any  differences  in the  trips  . One  time  I  was  able  to  get  a  partial  price match  I only  tried once  so its  not  like  it  only  worked  the  one  time  kind of  thing . The  difference  in the  tours  was  the  Carnival  excursion  included  lunch  so  they  credited  me  65  dollars instead  of  80  for  3  people  total . We  were  on a  long excursion that  had  3  different  departure  times  and  we  were  on  first  trip  we  got  back to the  port  15  minutes  before  the last  tender . I  imagine  the  other  2  groups  were  glad  they  booked  with the  cruiseline . 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 5/23/2023 at 12:36 PM, Dutch Frost said:

I think this is going to be my biggest gripe in my first cruise experience this Summer. I want to explore on my own leisure, trying to jam everything all at once is not my idea of a fun vacation. This is why I am skipping Pompei / Vesuvious and the city of Naples entirely this trip. I am looking to Amalfi / Capri / Positano. 

Yeah, you're right about having a limited amount of time on shore, but that's just what a cruise is like.  The ship must move on towards the next port.  After you've completed this first cruise, you'll be able to say with certainty whether you like this style of vacation or not.  

On 5/30/2023 at 10:26 PM, momof3cruisers said:

... Just be careful and read lots of reviews. If there are a few with similar complaints and different dates, avoid that company ... 

Yes, read reviews.  Look for patterns.  

On 7/11/2023 at 9:27 AM, Envelope21 said:

We've been on over 70 cruises. We almost always book private tours. We've never even come close to missing the ship departure time ...

I can't claim 70, but my experiences have been the same.  

And consider your timing ... if you leave the ship early (like 8:00 or 9:00), complete your planned activities, and then head back to the ship after a bit of exploring around the port, you're likely to return mid-afternoon and still have a couple hours before sail-away. 

On 7/22/2023 at 2:55 PM, Haljo1935 said:

@momof3cruisers mentioned an important piece of booking through the ship - tenders. Most cruiselines allow pax booked on "their" excursions onto tenders before the other pax, so be sure to consider if you're looking to purchase "outside" the ship if it's a tender port ... 

Very good point, but few ports require tendering these days.  

On 7/23/2023 at 9:11 AM, sra12574 said:

... One  time  I  was  able  to  get  a  partial  price match  I only  tried once  so its  not  like  it  only  worked  the  one  time  kind of  thing ...

Thing is, the private excursions are almost always superior, so I wouldn't want a price match.  

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On 8/16/2023 at 3:31 PM, Mum2Mercury said:

Yeah, you're right about having a limited amount of time on shore, but that's just what a cruise is like.  The ship must move on towards the next port.  After you've completed this first cruise, you'll be able to say with certainty whether you like this style of vacation or not.  

Yes, read reviews.  Look for patterns.  

I can't claim 70, but my experiences have been the same.  

And consider your timing ... if you leave the ship early (like 8:00 or 9:00), complete your planned activities, and then head back to the ship after a bit of exploring around the port, you're likely to return mid-afternoon and still have a couple hours before sail-away. 

Very good point, but few ports require tendering these days.  

Thing is, the private excursions are almost always superior, so I wouldn't want a price match.  

On  the  excursion I  got  the  price  match  I  am  glad  I  did  the  ships  excursion . If  I  had  of taken  a private excursion  that  day I  most  likely  would  have  been  looking  for  alternative  transportation options  to get  home . It  was  a  tender  port  ,  ship  excursions  get  priority   getting off the  ship , we  were  the  first  excursion  offered  that  day  and  made  it  back to the pier 15  mins  before the  last  tender . My  wife  didnt  want to  go  on this  excursion and  said  it  was  the best one  she  ever   did  when  she  came  back. Some  places  a  private  excursion  works  for  some  people  ,  sometimes  it  wont  .  . 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Private tours or otherwise IMO depends on the port of call. I have visited Rome and booked a tour through the cruise line and IMO the trip we had could not be done privately. On the coach we had 2 couriers, one stayed with us and guided us to the sites, the other went ahead and bought all the entry tickets to the various sites. The queues at each venue was horrendous and no way could a private individual queue jump like we did. 

 

Visited Borabudur Temple in Indonesia, again we traveled to the temple, stop for coffee on the way, had lunch a full tour of the temple time for souvenir purchases and travelled back to the ship in plenty of time. 4 people on our dinner table did it themselves and just about had an hour at the temple, no other stops. 

 

Other sites on our cruises, would not entertain paying for a trip, sort my own usually through a local taxi.

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I think excursion costs and being able to score by going to an outside vendor varies by port. Very easy to do in the Caribbean where there are lots of ships, so vendors our available at the port. We were shocked in Alaska where the prices were all controlled.  However,  Alaska has a short window of opportunity for tourists.  

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