ship excursions vs. independent-anyone ever been left?

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35 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
This is wonderful information--you guys are making me feel much better about looking into non-ship sponsored excursions.

Originally posted by John Bull
And they tend to be folk who explore independently and lose track of the time, or mis-judge journey time, or don't make a reasonable allowance for delays, or misunderstand back-on-board time, or foul-up ship's time vs port time. Alcohol is often involved. Even exploring independently, its exceptionally rare that a cruiser with a modicum of common sense misses a sailing.

And I've not read a single incidence on Cruise Critic of anyone on a private tour missing a sailing.

We are looking at highly rated tour operators in the Bahamas, with organized tours. We aren't drinkers, and are one of those families that is always on time or early whereever we go, so I think we will be fine.
It is very reassuring to see that no one on the boards has missed a sailing
35 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
Originally posted by maryred
The secret to a successful independent tour with out he worry of missing the ship is to make sure that the tour is scheduled to be back at the pick-up area at least 90 minutes prior to the ship leaving port. That will give you an hours worth of time for alternate transportation to get you back to the dock. Also make sure at least 1 time piece is set to the ship's time, mobile phones will default to the local time of the nearest tower.

Before meeting the tour group make sure you stop at the local tourist info booth or desk in port and get the phone # of a couple of cab companies that uses a dispatcher or the driver can be directly contacted. That way if the tour operator is running late for any reason & you feel uneasy about their back-up plan, you can take the prerogative of making your own way back. Now of course this only works if the tour is fairly local and not to an isolated place.
Originally posted by John Bull
........ in which case its up to the tardy cruisers to phone the ship or ship's land agent - always a contact number in ship's daily newspaper. I guess the ship is much more likely to wait, at least a few minutes, if it's known that a group - or even a solitary passenger - is ten minutes away, rather than simply "missing".
No promises though

Excellent suggestions-adding these to my ongoing list of cruise information and things-to-do.
Greenville, SC, USA
52,226 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Where possible, we start with the place furthist from the ship and work back to the ship. This often puts us within walking distance of the ship for the last site(s). If we were ever running late, we would just skip the last stop(s)
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Moon Township, Pa
23,173 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
OCruisers, I beg to differ with you on whether the ship will leave if ship sponsored tours don't get back on time. I've been on three cruises where the ship did leave passengers who were on ship tours. There are circumstances where the ship has no choice but to leave, and it doesn't matter if everyone is on the ship. Once we had to leave because the tide was going out and if they didn't leave the ship would be sanded. Another time, the ship left more than 500 on an island because a hurricane hit and they had to put out to sea. And finally, the port commissioner told a captain they had to leave on time because the dock was needed for cargo vessels and they would not allow the cruise ship to stay beyond their time, even though 4 tours were not back yet. There was an accident on one of the main roads that shut that road for more than 3 hours, hence the late tours.

So, you can't count on the ship staying even for their own tours. If they have to leave, they WILL leave.

JB, seeing that a tiny fraction of actual cruisers know and post on cruise critic, not reading that anyone has missed the ship is not all that impressive. Plus, there are quite a few incidents that can happen with private tours, like the one I referenced above, that will cause tours done by private contractors to miss the ship. Not saying that happens often, but it does happen.
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United States
134 Posts
Joined Dec 2012
Personally, I would rather play the premium on a cruise excursion where time is tight but a long stay at port and a short excursion, why not save the money?
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Romsey England
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JB, seeing that a tiny fraction of actual cruisers know and post on cruise critic, not reading that anyone has missed the ship is not all that impressive. quote]

Hi again. Kitty.
You're right of course, that CC members are only a fraction of the cruising public.

But bad news & schardenfreude are always worth a gossip, so I'm pretty sure we'd have seen reports on these forums.

And if you search You-Tube, it's the same dozen or so incidents over and over again of folk just catching / just missing the ship or hitching a lift with the pilot boat, all caught on a variety of cameras. Cos they're worthy of posting. Nearly all the latecomers in their twos & threes, & not a tour bus in sight.

Not saying it's never happened with a private tour group.
In fact it probably has.
But I think we all agree that risks need to be seen in perspective.

Alhough, as Hank's post, we have our views on the subject, others prefer the safety net of a ship's tour.
And what counts is what the individual is comfortable with.

Because of that safety net, ship's tours do often seem to cut it fine, presumably more at ports where a delayed departure is no big deal.
We were held up 30 mins at SPB due to a late-returning ship's tour - screwed up in traffic coming back from St Cath Palace. But (see Aquilegia's post) what sort of tour organiser puts such a location at the end of a tour
And ship's buses straggled into Safaga from Luxor after all-aboard time - with us in one of them . Yep, despite our dislike of ships' tours, a 3.5hr journey back to the ship in Egypt is way beyond our DIY limits.

4,491 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
In the case where a ship's tour doesn't make it back on time and the ship does have to leave, the cruise line will take care of you to get you to the next port. If you are on your own, you are on your own.
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Leaving on Wednesday for Singapore and 2 week cruise aboard Celebrity Millennium. At all seven ports of call we have, through CC roll call, scheduled private tours at a drastic savings in cost compared to the ship sponsored tours. That is basically the bottom line - one saves a tremendous amount of money by scheduling private tours. Most of our tours will be with only a total of 10-12 fellow travelers, and in each case, the tour companies have confirmed that we will be back at our ship no later than an hour before ship departure. Could something happen to cause a delay, yes, but as others have mentioned, the tour companies are very much aware of the internet, Cruise Critic, and how they would be put out of business with poor reviews.

We are cruised a few times and used private tours all over the world with no problems and end up with a lot of extra money in our pocket as a result.
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West Allis, WI
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Joined Jan 2012
In April, 2012 I DH and I went on a very port intensive week long cruise. We didn't take any ship sponsored excursions and had no problems. In St. Thomas we went to the aquarium and Coki beach, taking cabs both ways without a problem. In St. Marten we went to Saphire Beach, then shopping and a late lunch on the French side of the island, again using taxis and had no issues. On St Kitts we went to a plantation, shopping in the downtown area, and lunch, and again had no problems. In Barbados we went shopping in the downtown area, to a rum distillery, and to an wildlife preserve taking taxis and not a problem. In St Lucia we went downtown shopping, had lunch, and went to the beach again using local taxis without any issues. We will do more of the same on our next cruise.
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Southern California
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Joined Feb 2011
I choose independent tours about 90% of the time and only once came close to missing. We were on a catamaran snorkel and beach tour, the same one offered by the cruise line but at 40% less. The currents as we were sailing back north to Puerto Vallarta were much stronger than usual and the cat was having a heck of a time. Well, the Captain of the cat was concerned we would miss the cruise and he had his first mate pull up the power boat the had in tow to transfer guests from cat to beach. We hopped in and skipped across the ocean the last 30 mins back into PV. We walked onto the gangway about 3:55 for a 4:00 sail away. PHEW! As our ship cleared the PV harbor on our way out to sea, we saw the cat just entering the harbor. We were mentally prepared to taxi to PV airport and find a flight to Cabo. Fortunately we made it by a nose.
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Joined Jan 2011
Originally posted by svm8
I've been reading the boards obsessively and understand the pros/cons of ship sponsored excursions and independent excursions. The main risk that is mentioned is being left if the independent excursion is delayed and doesn't return in time to catch the ship.
I'm curious if anyone here (or someone you know personally) has actually experienced something like this. We are trying to decide on excursions and how much risk we want to take.
We were on a Holland America sponsored excursion in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. We were two passengers of the bus of approx. 50 - 60 people. On the way to our destination, the driver stopped to help fix the flat on another bus which help to add time to our excursion. After we left our tour, we had a long ride back and of course, the traffic was very, very heavy. We were all quite concerned and the tour guide assured us that she had been in contact with the ship and that it was waiting. We were about 55 minutes late and when we arrived, there was the ship,,,,waiting. They quickly got us aboard the ship and we went straight to our cabin, to the balcony and saw that the ship was already well away from the port.

We ALWAY take ship sponsored excursions and this experience has insured that we always will.
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I imagine it's the quality of private excursions that makes the difference. We've had wonderful experiences with private excursions arranged through our CC roll call groups. Always pays to check Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor before selecting a private excursion.
If DH and I are traveling alone and not with friends or CC group, we use the ship's excursions. I remember being in Belize on the ATV jungle tour when one of the ATVs lost its transmission in the three foot ruts we were driving through. Sat there and thought how glad I was we were on a ship's tour.
Same cruise the ship waited some time for its plane excursion to Honduras ruins to return. On our December cruise, our excursion was late returning from the Dead Sea (long drive to Haifa) and the last gangway was pulled up just after we got on.
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Greenville, SC, USA
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One thing to consider is personal comfort. If you are not comfortable with the chance a private tour cold miss the ship, then stick with the ship's excursion. You will pay extra, but your piece of mind may be worth the extra money.
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Shanghai, PRC / Sete, France
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Joined Jun 2002
Originally posted by svm8
This is wonderful information--you guys are making me feel much better about looking into non-ship sponsored excursions.

We are looking at highly rated tour operators in the Bahamas, with organized tours. We aren't drinkers, and are one of those families that is always on time or early whereever we go, so I think we will be fine.
It is very reassuring to see that no one on the boards has missed a sailing
Don't get too excited yet.
Total Cruisecritic Members represent only 1% or 2% of total cruisers.
The number of people who have responded to this post are not even 1% of that 1%.
You should be more shocked if someone who actually was left behind had read this post and responded to it.
Shanghai, PRC / Sete, France
3,895 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
One more consideration.

Many American cruisers do not have passports.
If you are traveling with a birth certificate and driving license, and your independent tour is late and you miss the ship, there is a very good chance that the country you are in will not allow you to board a plane to fly to the next port.
There is also a 100% chance that you will not be allowed to fly back to the USA (until you spend a lot of time and money getting an emergency passport).
Orlando, FL
435 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
I always book non sponsored tours right when we dock so we get it out of the way and if there's any issues the rest of the day is there to fix it Plus I swear I've seen on one or two sites that some even have guarantee's that you won't miss your ship, but I don't know how they back it up or if they really do. If I even did a super long far away tour I might be more inclined to do the ship one. But so far (knock on wood especially for our upcoming March cruise) we'll be just as safe as my past cruises!

If you've never cruised/done excursions before definitely do ship the first time or two til you see how it runs. Once you feel comfortable and you see something you wouldn't be able to do ship sponsored, try it out, just schedule your time, check reviews and ask as many questions as needed until you feel comfortable (for the most part anyways!).
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Romsey England
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Originally posted by BruceMuzz
Don't get too excited yet.
Total Cruisecritic Members represent only 1% or 2% of total cruisers.
The number of people who have responded to this post are not even 1% of that 1%.
You should be more shocked if someone who actually was left behind had read this post and responded to it.
Hi Bruce,

You & I & others have been on many many cruises, & mixed with others who've been on many many more cruises, & we've been on these boards for a very very long time
Any CC contributor who's missed a sailing while on a private tour is surely not going to keep quiet about it. So by your figures 1 or 2% of those occasions would appear on these boards.
Yet I've seen not one. Not one, out of thousands of posts by folks about their experiences.
Nor have you, with your long professional cruise ship background, mentioned one instance of cruisers on a private tour from your ship missing a sailing, or of your coming across such a thing on CC.
Nor have I even heard about such a thing elsewhere on my cruising travels, not first-hand, not second-hand, not even tenth-hand.

Not saying it's never happened, in fact as my earlier post I've no doubt it has.
But let's all please put the risks in perspective.
Especially on a board for "first time cruisers".

I cringe when I see long & sometimes frantic threads about what happens if the ship sinks, pickpockets in Barca or Rome, medical evacuations, re-patriations, pirates, physical dangers in Cairo or Athens or London, etc ad infinitum.
And I wonder how many potential cruisers, or those planning a land vacation overseas, or as in this thread those considering private tours, are put off because such dangers are blown waaaay out of proportion.

Several folk on this thread, including yours truly, have made the point that the choice will be the individual cruiser's comfort level.
But that comfort level needs to be based on realistic prospects of a problem, not over-hyped risks.
Otherwise none of us would dare walk out of our own front doors.

Guess we'll have to agree to differ, Bruce

Kind regards

35 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
Definitely food for thought. . .
In our case, we are not necessarily considering an independent excursion to save money (it is cheaper, but only by about $100) but the combination of activities available that aren't offered on any of the ship offered excursions. Specifically, we are looking at a kayak/snorkel excursion in Freeport using a highly rated tour provider. Our next port would be Nassau.
I know there is some risk involved, and it is helpful so get some perspective on how much risk that is.
I appreciate all the input and information that will help us make our decision as we approach our cruise date.
3,110 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
As others have said, it's a good idea to weigh the risks (usually pretty small, since the private companies have a reputation to uphold), have a good Plan B ready, and know your comfort zone. In 14 cruises, we have taken many private tours and never missed the ship, or even come close. The only time we've been late was on a ship's tour, and the ship waited for us.

The only people I've seen miss the ship, and I've seen a few over the years, and many near misses who were really cutting it fine, were individuals, couples, and a family or two. No groups who appeared to be independent tour groups.

We love to hang over the railings and watch for latecomers. Will they make it? Will they be left behind? We never jeer, but just enjoy the drama.
New Cumberland,PA, USA
27,660 Posts
Joined May 2000
Forty years do extensive travel have simply taught us that we do not like excursions! To us, being trapped on a bus with. Group of 50 fellow cruisers is akin to be part of a herd on a cattle drive. DW and I enjoy doing what we want, when we want, with whom we want. This means going off on our own (nearly anywhere in the world) unless a tour is the only possible alternative. On a recent 62 day cruise to 31 ports of 13 countries we did take 2 excursions....and did the other 29 ports on our own. We probably saved over $5000 on tours...saw many things not even available on excursions.....had time to relax and sample wine/cuisine in a dozen countries (and not at large restaurants that cater to bus tours) etc. It's all about choices. By the way,,,,if you hang around the tour desk or Guest Relations on most cruises....a majority of the whiners are complaining about their excursions. Independent travel is not for everyone.... But it's very rewarding for those of us with a spirit of adventure.