Whether you take ship sponsored excursions or plan your own time in port depends on a number of variables:

Dependability - you can almost always depend on the ship having excursions where the guides speak acceptable English; you will see and do what is advertised; the transportation will be the best available; you will either get back to the dock on time or the ship will probably hold departure for you (if you are late back to the dock on an independent excursion, you will have to pay for transportation to the next port to reboard the ship.)

Safety - I travel alone so I take ship sponsored trips. I know that there will be other people from my cruise on the excursion, some of whom I may already be acquainted with. For me, booking a private excursion has a higher element of risk than I want to take.

Now ship sponsored excursions are almost always higher priced than independent trips so keep that in mind. There are many people who swear buy one vendor or another at every port and they would be able to give you more details. Have a super cruise!
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HAL Westerdam, 10/21/07, Eastern Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale, Grand Turk, St. Marten, Tortola, Half Moon Cay)
Star Princess, 10/7/04, Transatlantic (Venice, Naples, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, Azores, Ft. Lauderdale)
Grand Princess, 2/8/04, Western Caribbean
Star Princess, 8/30/03, Alaska (Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchican, Victoria)