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Whether this is your first cruise or you are a seasoned cruise veteran, you will want to do some pre-planning before your vacation begins. The type of cruise (ocean, river, expedition) will factor into the amount of planning that you do as well as your overall vacation budget.
We'll start with the trip that requires the least amount of planning ahead of time. River cruises usually include most of the excursions in the price of the cruise. There might be some optional tours, which could be complementary or available for extra cost, available for each port of call. It is advisable to review the list ahead of time and book the ones that interest you the most, if that option is available to you.
For the most part, you'll be docked near the center of activity in your port of call. There may be times where you'll need to be shuttled, typically by bus, to your tour starting point.
Whether you are walking, on another vessel (like a canal boat), or a bus, you'll be accompanied by a local guide who will provide you with information about what you are seeing as well as background information including food, culture, and history. You may have some free time to explore after the guided portion of the tour.
Your Cruise Director will explain the tour options, usually the night before arrival in port. Typically there are different difficulty levels which you'll select by picking the audio phone color of choice.
Similar to river cruises, there will be a list of shore excursions published on the cruise line's website and brochures. You can browse the list ahead of time and select / pay for the ones that interest you the most. Booking shore excursions requires the least amount of planning on your part since the tours include the most popular attractions in each port of call. Once again, you can select difficult levels by reading the descriptions and selecting accordingly.
Level of Comfort
New cruisers tend to use cruise line shore excursions because it is the simplest and there is no worry about finding your way around town or making your way back to the ship on time. Another option is to use a tour company like Shore Excursions Group, who we work with on a regular basis, to find similar tours to those offered by the cruise line. Those tours are usually cheaper and the groups tend to be smaller than the ones with the ship. They will guarantee return to the ship on time or they'll get you to the next port of call at their expense. That takes the worry out of missing the ship departure.
Private Tour Guides
Your vacation specialist can provide local guide contacts should you decide to book one or more tours with a local guide. The internet is another source for finding local guides. This is a great option if you are traveling with a group (even a small one). The tour price is divided by the number of guests, and this option gives you a customized experience at a reasonable price.
On Your Own
If you are looking to blaze your own trail, you can explore completely on your own. You will want to be sure to have the ship contact information with you and pay close attention to when you must be back on board the ship. There usually is about a 30 minute window between the time to be back and the actual ship departure, but you don't want to cut things close and be left behind.
The least expensive option will be to head out on foot, perhaps getting some local cuisine or do some shopping (OK, that might not be cheap). You will want to do some research before your cruise to see if there are attractions within walking distance or a short cab ride away. For the sun worshipers, catching a taxi to a local beach is a great way to spend the day in port. Most taxi drivers will be glad to come back to pick you up at a set time.
Another option we offer is Resort for a Day. Instead of selecting a beach at random, you can play at some of the most magnificent resorts while your ship is in port.
Click on the Infographic above for some more details. Browse our blog and website as well to learn more about our adventures.
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Where have you explored?
Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about options you have when on your cruise vacation. We'd love to hear from you about your best experiences. Feel free to contact us via social media or our contact information if you have questions.