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  #1  
Old January 21st, 2014, 05:53 PM
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Default Tips for organizing private shore tours

I've only ever used the cruise lines shore excursions. I see that many of you are veterans when it comes to using private tour operators instead. There are some names which keep popping up as reliable tour operators and I'm game to try.

When it comes to booking something and looking for other cruisers to share the tour, what are some tips to keep in mind? I understand about sharing the info on a roll call, but am wondering more about making sure that folks enjoy the shared time together on a private tour.

Care to share your tips?
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  #2  
Old January 21st, 2014, 06:44 PM
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Some things I have found helpful:

1. Be honest and upfront in your description of the tour and what it entails. If you want to have "no shopping stops", or if it's a strenuous tour with lots of walking, be sure that everyone knows it. Point them in the direction of the guide/agency website and also to any good reviews for that particular guide or tour.

2. Once people sign up, make sure they understand that they need to let you personally know by email if their plans change and they no longer want to be on your tour.

3. Set a cut-off date after which anyone still signed up for the tour agrees to be responsible for their portion. It's unpleasant and difficult when people back out at the last minute and you may not be able to fill their spots. (It's up to you to decide what that cut-off point should be.)

4. Check in pleasantly with your fellow tour goers every so often. Maybe forward them an email with links to more information about where you are going on the tour.

5. Make sure everyone on the tour knows where to meet on the day of the tour. Reconfirm it onboard ship if you can with everyone. (People are excited; they forget...)

6. Decide how to handle the guide's tip (if any) -- will everyone tip on their own, etc? This may seem too detailed but trust me, people will ask you.

7. Don't try to make a profit on a tour. Split the costs evenly with everyone. (Believe it or not, some do this.)

Aside from these things, which should set a pleasant stage where everyone knows what to expect, you really shouldn't need to do much on the tour itself.

Oh and if something goes wrong, despite your doing all your due diligence, cultivate the ability to shrug it off. It helps.
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  #3  
Old January 21st, 2014, 07:06 PM
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Thank you so much cruisemom42. Those are exactly the kinds of tips I was looking for! And, it sounds very much like the voice of experience talking. I can do that!
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  #4  
Old January 21st, 2014, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldBoot View Post
I've only ever used the cruise lines shore excursions. I see that many of you are veterans when it comes to using private tour operators instead. There are some names which keep popping up as reliable tour operators and I'm game to try.

When it comes to booking something and looking for other cruisers to share the tour, what are some tips to keep in mind? I understand about sharing the info on a roll call, but am wondering more about making sure that folks enjoy the shared time together on a private tour.

Care to share your tips?
Hi,

I have done lots of private tours for just the two of us. I have arranged a few in which I advertised on the roll call for folks to join in on semi private tours. However, I only used tour companies where the individuals interested needed to contact the tour company directly, Provide their information and agree to payment. That way you and the others who show up are not responsible for the no shows. (Barcelona Day Tours was a great company to work with. Private Greece Tours is also excellent)

Also, do not use a company that requires you to pay in advance.

Most important, if there is free time, make sure everyone knows the exact meeting time and place. Be politely firm on this.

It is a lot of fun to join a small group. You will find people very happy to go with you and you will see so much more than the ship tours.

Where are you going?
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  #5  
Old January 21st, 2014, 09:16 PM
MrsPete MrsPete is offline
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- Be CRYSTAL CLEAR in all your communications: Where, when, what to bring, etc. People get nervous about transportation, so share the details of your plan. As someone else said, be clear on whether you're including shopping stops, lunch, or whatever else.

- If appropriate, differentiate between island time and ship's time.

- Avoid meeting places that are easily confused; for example, the pool bar and the sky bar and the solarium bar are ALL near enough the pool that someone could legitimately go to the wrong place . . . but there's only one Johnny Rockets and only one rock wall; therefore, those make better meeting places. They're also not likely to be crowded on port mornings. YOU, as the group's coordinator, should be early to meet the participants.

- Avoid handling the money yourself. Instead, recruit people through your roll call and tell them how to make their own reservations. This means it's clear that you're not trying to pay for your own excursion by recruiting others, nor are you going to get stuck paying for a no-show.

- Collect phone numbers ahead of time so you can call a late-arrival, but make it clear (nicely) that the group will not sacrifice its excursion for someone who just couldn't manage to be on time.
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  #6  
Old January 21st, 2014, 10:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thepoint View Post
Hi,

I have done lots of private tours for just the two of us. I have arranged a few in which I advertised on the roll call for folks to join in on semi private tours. However, I only used tour companies where the individuals interested needed to contact the tour company directly, Provide their information and agree to payment. That way you and the others who show up are not responsible for the no shows. (Barcelona Day Tours was a great company to work with. Private Greece Tours is also excellent)

Also, do not use a company that requires you to pay in advance.

Most important, if there is free time, make sure everyone knows the exact meeting time and place. Be politely firm on this.

It is a lot of fun to join a small group. You will find people very happy to go with you and you will see so much more than the ship tours.

Where are you going?
Sounds do-able. I am starting to get a bit of a headache contemplating rounding up potential strays though. We're sailing HAL's Rotterdam from Athens to London.

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  #7  
Old January 21st, 2014, 10:30 PM
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Oh, MrsPete, things are getting a bit like being on the job. I'm having second thoughts about the extra bother!

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  #8  
Old January 21st, 2014, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
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Sounds do-able. I am starting to get a bit of a headache contemplating rounding up potential strays though. We're sailing HAL's Rotterdam from Athens to London.

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Keep your group(s) small. Less chance of someone being a no-show. I wouldn't put together a group of more than 8, personally. Otherwise it loses a lot of the benefit of being a small tour.

As a side note, good luck putting together private tours on Rotterdam. I have found HAL cruisers the least inclined to take private tours of any line I've cruised (and generally have less active roll calls as well).
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  #9  
Old January 22nd, 2014, 01:05 AM
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I can see a small group would be manageable. I was beginning to have visions of travel agent 101. Lol. Sorry to hear you've had bad luck trying to get HAL cruisers interested in private tours. I wonder if I'll have the same experience.

On another note, how do you select your tour's departure time? If the ship is in port at 8 am, for example, and you want to get an early start, is a tour time of 8:15am do-able? (Tour operators give leeway for disembarking time?)

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  #10  
Old January 22nd, 2014, 09:20 AM
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Just as an aside, if you arrange a tour at a tender port, you'll have to wait in line behind the ship's tours and elites before your group can get on a tender.

We try to meet in an area near bathrooms/coffee and all walk out together. I agree with cruisemom. Max your tours at 8. Call or leave a note for everyone the night before in their cabins to remind of cost, meeting place and time, what-if anything- they need to bring.

When I arrange a tour, the cost is evenly split between the participants and everyone knows up front that they are responsible for tipping based on their degree of satisfaction. I may think a tour is great, that you don't like. Also, different cultures/nationalities have differing opinions and customs regarding tipping. I don't want to impose my tipping customs on anyone else. Make sure to clearly state what currency the payment is to be made.

We usually pay our shares individually with the tip, but one time (not on a tour I arranged, but participated in), someone shorted the guide about 50% of the cost. When the guide counted it out, there wasn't enough even with peoples tips included. Everyone said how much they gave and it was obvious who didn't pay correctly, although they denied it. We all chipped in more, but the guide was shafted and all we could do was remember the names of the member and never include them again. BAD FORM!!! (BTW, this was one of the best tours we've ever been on anywhere!!!)

In spite of a few mishaps, it is definitely worth it to do small tours with an experienced, reputable guide. You'll get to the attraction before the 40+ passenger bus is even loaded. If you're lucky, you'll stay ahead of the buses the whole day. The driver may be able to drop you and your guide at a site and go somewhere to park, rather than parking far away and walking. Small vehicles have def advantages.
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  #11  
Old January 22nd, 2014, 10:24 AM
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maryann ns maryann ns is offline
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If you can find me on Trip Advisor (check the Nova Scotia forum) send me a PM with your email and I'll send the the letter I sent to those taking tours with me. I had groups of up to 15 and all went well.
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  #12  
Old January 22nd, 2014, 10:34 AM
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Thank you so much Maryann. I'll be tracking you down.

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  #13  
Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:31 PM
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So I took the plunge and am organizing a private tour. I just ran into a small snag...I'd like to communicate with my tour participants via email. It appears the Cruise Critic message board does not allow private messages? What am I missing?
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  #14  
Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldBoot View Post
So I took the plunge and am organizing a private tour. I just ran into a small snag...I'd like to communicate with my tour participants via email. It appears the Cruise Critic message board does not allow private messages? What am I missing?

Nothing. I've only joined private tours and had to send my email to the person organizing. And they have always been on HAL so don't let that throw you off. And I second the watch the timing in tender ports, we waited 90 minutes to get off the ship. not happy.
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  #15  
Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:49 PM
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So I took the plunge and am organizing a private tour. I just ran into a small snag...I'd like to communicate with my tour participants via email. It appears the Cruise Critic message board does not allow private messages? What am I missing?
set up an email address that you can use specifically to post on your roll call for tour partners to contact you
that way you minimise junk mail or if your usual email contains your real name you don't lose your cruisecritic anonymity
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  #16  
Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:55 PM
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Also, once you are onboard, be discreet about your private tour plans. For instance, collecting money at your ship-sponsored meet-n-mingle is a big no-no. Some cruise lines take a very dim view of privately organized tours. Makes sense when you think about it -- cuts into their profit margin.
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  #17  
Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:56 PM
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set up an email address that you can use specifically to post on your roll call for tour partners to contact you
that way you minimise junk mail or if your usual email contains your real name you don't lose your cruisecritic anonymity
I can do that. Silly follow-up question then....I would post my email address in my roll call message board post, right?
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Old January 23rd, 2014, 01:56 PM
Sue Do-Over Sue Do-Over is offline
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We like groups of 8. Fits in one van, easy to control, easy for everyone to hear the guide and stick together in crowds.

What worked for us:
Clearly say things like "minimal shopping", "lots of photo stops" or "lots of walking, will be moving quickly" to be sure that like-minded people join your group.

Yet, our most fun day was in Marseilles, France. Our group of 8 included two couples whom we'd never met before. Our guide (booked in advance) offered us any combination of olive grove, citrus grove, winery, castles, art exhibits, shopping, churches, flea market/city center, ice cream and scenery.

We ended up with churches, a walk through the city center to a market where we bought cheese, bread, fruit, wine, ham and olives. We drove to an olive press where we tasted (and bought) olive oil. Next to a ruined castle on top of a hill where we had a picnic lunch. Next past an art gallery, but we opted to keep driving when we saw school groups lined up. Last in another city center with a church, merry-go-round and ferris wheel and ice cream.

We saw France. Not Paris, but France... and loved every minute.
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Old January 24th, 2014, 08:20 AM
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I can do that. Silly follow-up question then....I would post my email address in my roll call message board post, right?
yes and it's a good idea to spell it out eg joebloggs at aol dot com rather than joebloggs@aol.com as spammers could pick up the latter
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  #20  
Old January 24th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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Thanks. I did check in with Cruise Critic help and their suggestion was to have tour participants check in with the tour operator, which of course doesn't really work out.

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