ship excursions vs. independent-anyone ever been left?

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#41
Near Orlando but California Dreaming
14,047 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
We have sailed on both large and small ships. We've found that the ship excursions on the large ships are like cattle calls, and with very few exceptions would never take one again.

We took a few ships excursions on our small ship cruise this past summer, we were generally a group of 10-20, so very manageable and quite enjoyable. We did the majority of the ports on our own, either just walking to what we wanted to see, or taking public transportation.
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#42
104,706 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
We have never been left behind in a port. But we have been on several ship excursions that got back to the ship late -- and our ship was waiting for us.

I have read quite a reports where people have been left behind -- some people just don't keep track of time.

You have decide for yourself if you feel secure taking non-ship excursions.
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#43
Greenville, SC, USA
51,193 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I have heard of two couples that took a ship excursion. It returned them to the ship. They walked over to the nearby shops and forgot about the ship as it sailed away without them
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Paul
#44
Near Orlando but California Dreaming
14,047 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
We always plan on being back on the ship an hour before it leaves--although in a port like Kotor where you are only a five minute walk back to the pier at any given point we might push it to 30 minutes. We always make sure we have a watch set to ships time before we get off.
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Past Cruises...
August 2002--Disney Magic Eastern Caribbean
October 2005--RCCL Mariner Western Caribbean
October 2011--Disney Dream Bahamas
June 2012--Windstar Wind Surf Back-To-Back, Rome to Venice to Athens
April 2014--Paul Gauguin to French Polynesia

Three weeks in Europe (two on a ship) with a 20" roll aboard and a tote bag--packing list here.

My all in a 20" wheeled bag for a warm weather cruise packing list here

20" rolling bag packing list for two weeks in a cool/cold climate here.
#45
Pittsburgh, PA
1,806 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
With few exceptions, we have always done private tours. I check out the tour companies on CC first to get a pretty clear idea of who is good and who is not. We have also used shoretrips.com in ports all over the place, and they always use highly reputable providers wherever they operate. Yes people miss ships, but I will agree with many posters that these are (I would be exclusively) people who are off on their own, and lose track of the time. Private tour operators know the ships' schedules as well as the cruise lines, and most of them guarantee that if they are late, and you would miss the ship, they will get you to the next port. I have never heard of anyone cashing in on that guarantee. One screw up, the company would be out of business.

While CC'ers are a distinct minority, the private operators not only protect their own reputations, but they monitor CC as well, in most cases. They know what would happen if they ever missed a ship.

I agree that there are myths about people being left from tours, but I have never heard of a single documented case of a private tour being too late getting back.

A small tour in a small van or car can generally get around traffic better than a big bus.

The advantages of a small, private tour are many: getting more time to converse with the guide; being able to do things not on a fixed itinerary; being comfortable; getting much more done due to the small party size; going places big groups cannot, etc. For us, there has rarely been a question.
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Previous cruises:
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#46
Romsey England
10,845 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Originally posted by paul929207
I have heard of two couples that took a ship excursion. It returned them to the ship. They walked over to the nearby shops and forgot about the ship as it sailed away without them
Oh dear, Paul, some folk shouldn't be roaming loose without their nurse.

JB
#47
Hoschton, Georgia
446 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
we were on a private tour in St. thomas. Actually, we had just hopped a private taxi at the pier. the driver was great-took us all around the island. We were heading back to the ship when---------- oops----- engine overheated!!! We were in an isolated area. Driver called for help from his company. Took over an hour in the boriling heat until another taxi finally rescued us. We literally had to run up the gangway. We were "chided" by the crew letting us on about 'cutting it so close".

When you are with the ships tours they are responsible for getting you back to the ship on time. It's a long story but on one shore excursion through the ship in Sweden, there were 5 busses going to the same place. On the way back to the ship, there was an accident on the road. We sat for 2 hrs with the drivers frantically talking to eachother and the ship. the ship could only wait until 6PM because the tides would change and the ship would be grounded if it didn't leave. The tour guide assured us if the worst case scenario happened and we missed the ship, they would put us on an overnight ferry to the next port and pay for all our expenses. The police finally cleared a path for the buses and we raced with the clock ticking to the ship. It was 5:55 PM. The ship lowered both gangways and we were told to "run as fast as we could" up the gangways. When the last passenger made it onboard, the gangways came up and the ship pulled away. All the passengers on the ship were watching and cheering as we raced against the clock. The captain announced our arrival on the PA and dinner was delayed 30 minutes. Had we been on our own, we would have been "SOL".

I have never felt like cattle on the tours and find while they are somewhat overpriced, they are the safest way to go
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#48
Greenville, SC, USA
51,193 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I noticed something above that probably needs to be emphasized and that is time zones.

Many (most?) ships go into a different time zone. Sometimes the ship will change its clocks and be on the same time as the port. Usually, the time in port is referred to as Local Time, while on the ship it is called Ship Time. If the two are different, the ship will arrive and sail based on Ship Time. Always be sure your watch is on Ship Time when you leaave the ship. Do not depend on a cell phone for the time. They will automatically update when you change time zones.
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Paul
#49
1,867 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
On my last cruise about 20 of us from the roll call booked a private excursion up the coast by powerboat. The captain was under the impression we had to be back AT 3:30. I said, no, BY 3:30.

At 3:25 we were roaring across the bay at some ridiculous speed and then running down the pier (or sauntering, in some cases) to get back to the ship in time for the 4:00 departure. I was the first person off the powerboat, and the youngest aboard, and I thought briefly about doing a bit of shopping at the little welcome center while the others got off the powerboat. But I didn't want to be THAT passenger.

And after I and most of the people rushed down the pier to get back on the ship, quite a few of the others stopped to shop for 10-15 minutes!

We had several copies of the ship's paper with us, with the port agent's phone numbers, and I suppose being on a powerboat we could have always tried to catch the ship had it left without us! But we cut it way too close.
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BeagleOne

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#50
Silver Spring, MD
3,414 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
I decide based on the port and how long we're there. On a short stay I'm more likely to do a ship's tour if I'm venturing away from the ship. On longer stays I'm more adventurous, especially if I'm with a group from my roll call. As a solo I'm not inclined to get into a cab by myself.
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It's just one adventure after another. Some good, some not so good, but all adventures nonetheless.

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#51
Camillus, NY
1,752 Posts
Joined May 2005
Been on 42 cruises , 5 continents, and 9 cruise lines. Have rarely used ship tours. I am going to Russia and the Baltics in June and have made all my tour arrangements with off ship vendors. You just need to check them out on cruise critic, trip adviser and other such sites where people who have actually toured with these companies rate them. Never been close to missing a ship. Too much counts on it for the tour guides to risk their reputation and future business.
#52
1,586 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
For your basic question- If for whatever reason, costs, itinerary, etc. you choose a private excursion: if it is with a reputable company- which tripadvisor and cruise critic can be of a great help- you really need not worry. These operators are very vigilant in making sure that you will be returned to your ship in time. That being said, please don't automatically not go on a ship excursion. For all the cruises I have been on, there have been times when it just was easier, and either the same money or even a little less, then if we DIY or used a private company. Example, on an Alaska cruise we did 2 excursions through the cruiseline- They were priced well and did exactly what we wanted. The return times would not have worked if we used an outside agency for us and it would have been a bit more. The other excursions we did, were through private operators that were highly recommended- and much cheaper than cruise line. They were wonderful as well.
#53
USA
320 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
We just finished a 34 day circumnavigation tour of Australia with two stops in Indonesia. We did all are own touring including renting cars in the non city Australian ports. The only HAL excursion we took was in Lombok Indonesia where we felt the HAL excursion would be safer. Well, after eight hours on a bus with grumpy people who wouldn't drink the provided bottled water despite + 90 degree muggy temperature because of not wanting to use the bathrooms in Indonesia, I was ready to scream. They just got grumpier and grumpier. There was eight buses and each bus did a lot of driving around so the buses wouldn't hit the same sites all at once so when we got to a sight we were rushed through with not enough time to see the sight. The ship sponsored excursion reconfirmed to me why we like to go out on our own with maybe another couple.
#54
Ontario, Canada
5,181 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
We do nothing but independent tours for the most part. The key rules to follow are:
1/ start your tour asap after docking. Do not wait for later or until after lunch. Give yourself the most time possible.
2/ know what you want to do and where you want to go. Do not leave it to chance.
3/ If at all possible start your tour the furthest from the pier you intend to go. Then work your way back throughout the day. In this way you eliminate the stress of being miles away late in the day and then finding out there is a traffic problem.
4/ insist with your private guide or taxi driver that you MUST be back to the ship at least 30-60 minutes before All Aboard. Some guides and taxis like to cut it close. Keep checking with them as the day goes on as a reminder.

We have done a 100 or more DIYs and never a problem
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#55
Westwood,N.J.U.S.A.
928 Posts
Joined Mar 2002
My family and I were on a Royal Caribbean's Explorer Of The Seas seven day Eastern Caribbean cruise that stopped the last day in Nassau in 2003. We did a beach break type excursion where two cruise passengers were involved in a jet ski accident. While sitting on the beach black storm clouds approached us and everyone was told to get off of the beach and seek shelter in the building across from the beach. My wife told me that my son left his sandals on the beach. I walked over to the beach and observed one of the independent jetski owners riding in circles in the channel. We later learned that a young couple rented a jetski and were riding in the channel. A speedboat didn't see them and crashed into them. The nineteen year old male was killed and the twenty year old female was critically injured and had to be airlifted back to Miami. The ship left Nassau two hours late for the return to Miami. They held up the ship for the excursion guests to return and for the family of the people involved in the incident to get their belongings for their flight back to Miami.
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Corby114http://boards.cruisecritic.com/usercp.php
#56
19,654 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by lisiamc
The only time we've been late was on a ship's tour, and the ship waited for us.
Originally posted by Krazy Kruizers
We have never been left behind in a port. But we have been on several ship excursions that got back to the ship late -- and our ship was waiting for us.


The above comments highlight a point most people probably don't consider: ships tours are occasionally back late to the ship because THEY KNOW THE SHIP WILL (in most cases) WAIT.

I've been cruising for 40 years and have taken many private tours, as well as doing many ports completely on my own. I can't tell you how many times I've been back on board the ship, showered, and enjoying a cocktail in the lounge before dinner when I see the buses from ship tours turning up 1 or even 2 hours late....

I've probably read more posts here on CC than any other posters to this thread with the exceptions of Hank and Paul. I can only recall one instance of someone arriving back late to the ship on a private tour -- and their circumstances were extremely irregular.

Personally, I take responsibility for myself when I travel (often as a solo). I will DIY in just about any port, including Europe, Turkey Israel, and Egypt in the past -- sometimes with no one else but myself. I've also taken private tours as a solo.

I am fully prepared with a plan should I miss the ship. Guess what -- I've yet to come close. It helps to be a compulsive planner.
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Wherever the wind takes me I travel as a visitor. (Horace)
#57
NH
175 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
you have made my decision for me. going on our 1st cruise on disney dream 2/24 and was teetering abt the bahamas...on our own on ship excursion to atlantis...think ill go w ship!
#58
Greenville, SC, USA
51,193 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
The important thing is your piece of mind. If you or someone with you is going to be real worked up about getting back to the ship, then it is probably better to pay the extra for the ship tour.
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Paul
#59
Romsey England
10,845 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Originally posted by Musclengrace
you have made my decision for me. going on our 1st cruise on disney dream 2/24 and was teetering abt the bahamas...on our own on ship excursion to atlantis...think ill go w ship!
Ahh, another victim of over-hyped risks.
But .................

Originally posted by paul929207
The important thing is your piece of mind. If you or someone with you is going to be real worked up about getting back to the ship, then it is probably better to pay the extra for the ship tour.
............ yep, if you're gonna sleep easier, it's worth the cost & other downsides. Especially for a first cruise. You can then see for yourselves & use the experience make your mind up what to do on your next cruise.

JB
#60
Oklahoma City, OK
11,258 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
In 9 cruises, we've never taken a ship excursion. I will add that we've not cruised in Europe yet. We have thoroughly researched our ports each time, found what interested us and found independent tour operators. Not only did we research here, but also on Trip Advisor. We've always booked with a company/individual who had a long history of great tours, great customer service and completely understands the need for their guests to get back to their ship well before the latest time. Our personal deadline is usually 90 minutes before the "all aboard". Their livelihood depends on this. Repeat business and recommendations depend on it. Yes, things can happen, but the operators we've gone with have contingency plans in place to take care of just about anything.

I like the personalized tours and not feeling like I'm in the middle of a cattle drive. Never once have we come remotely close to missing our ship!
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