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kdrkmoore

Shore Excursions Group - anyone ever use them?

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I am getting all confused :confused: and worried with the number of excursion companies out there. The tours from the ship are too expensive and I would like to try a few but I am trying to find a reputable company to book with.

 

We will be cruising the Mexican Riviera next month - any suggestions would be great.:D

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As I see it, there are two schools of thought on this.

 

 

Ship excursions are quite often more expensive, but (and you knew that the "but" was coming, didn't you?)

  • Ship excursions are guaranteed. If the ship is late, or the port is missed, you pay nothing.
  • If you decide that you really don't want to make the excursion, the ship is much more forgiving than the locals might be. You probably will not be charged.
  • Ship excursions are well managed, in that they will escort you to the excursion, and back.
  • If the contractor of an excursion has too many complaints, you can bet that the ship will no longer use them.
  • If there should be a break down, or delay, the ship will wait for you.
  • Your ship card is charged. That means that no one, but your shipline, gets your credit card number.
  • With a ship's excursion, you are normally afforded transportation to, and from, the excursion.
  • If the excursion went horribly wrong, your odds of recovering your money from the ship might be better than from the locals.
  • Wtih a ship's excursion, you are quite often given "extras" in the form of lunch, or snacks.

The benefits of private excursions:

  • cheaper.
  • you are often not "herded" like cattle.
  • you may be less likely to stop at some odd location to "shop" simply because the small shop paid the ship for that opportunity to sell you more junk that you do not need.
  • more of your hard earned dollars go directly into the local economy, rather into the ship lines purse.

We typically use the ship's excursions for our first trip, and then after we gain a feel for the area, we venture on our own, or with a local.

We, however, are not often adventurers, and like the comfort of a ship's tour.

 

All that being said. There are many, very many, great local outfits that offer excursions for a lesser price than the ship. Watch this board, or Travel Advisors. If you see a local that is highly rated, then consider it.

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You don't say which ports you are visiting.

IF you look further down this page you will see lots of discussions on tours/activities in each port.

You can put the name of the port into the search facility on this page and find them.

You can also go to the PORT section(not a forum) on this web site. Look at the top of the page to see it.Click on it. Then click on Mexican Riviera and you will find names of all the individual port. If you click on each one you will get info and a list of local tour providers.

We don't usually use the ship's tour unless we cannot find a similar one on our own.

Another thing that we have done is just get off the ship and find a taxi driver (check if you need them to speak English) ask them to "show you the town" and AGREE before you get into the taxi on a price!!!!!

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As I see it, there are two schools of thought on this.

 

 

 

Ship excursions are quite often more expensive, but (and you knew that the "but" was coming, didn't you?)

  • Ship excursions are guaranteed. If the ship is late, or the port is missed, you pay nothing.
  • If you decide that you really don't want to make the excursion, the ship is much more forgiving than the locals might be. You probably will not be charged.
  • Ship excursions are well managed, in that they will escort you to the excursion, and back.
  • If the contractor of an excursion has too many complaints, you can bet that the ship will no longer use them.
  • If there should be a break down, or delay, the ship will wait for you.
  • Your ship card is charged. That means that no one, but your shipline, gets your credit card number.
  • With a ship's excursion, you are normally afforded transportation to, and from, the excursion.
  • If the excursion went horribly wrong, your odds of recovering your money from the ship might be better than from the locals.
  • Wtih a ship's excursion, you are quite often given "extras" in the form of lunch, or snacks.

The benefits of private excursions:

  • cheaper.
  • you are often not "herded" like cattle.
  • you may be less likely to stop at some odd location to "shop" simply because the small shop paid the ship for that opportunity to sell you more junk that you do not need.
  • more of your hard earned dollars go directly into the local economy, rather into the ship lines purse.

We typically use the ship's excursions for our first trip, and then after we gain a feel for the area, we venture on our own, or with a local.

We, however, are not often adventurers, and like the comfort of a ship's tour.

 

All that being said. There are many, very many, great local outfits that offer excursions for a lesser price than the ship. Watch this board, or Travel Advisors. If you see a local that is highly rated, then consider it.

 

I like the one about the ship will wait for you if you break down LOL..but that's about it...Most of the others do not really apply for certain private guides.

 

Many do not even ask you for a credit card so being charged should the ship not port is out of the question.

 

In answer to your question I would go to trip advisor and the specific city you have questions about and do a bit of research. On the main forum page on the left hand column click on Travel Guide and a field will come up on transportation..Or simple type tour guide in the search box and read some past threads and you can get a pretty good idea..Also feel free to ask people on the forum but be prepared for a wide variety of opinions.

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Correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the ship may not wait for you if on a ship excursion, but the cruise company would be responsible for your accomodations and getting you to the next port. I'm sure the ship waiting is the logical and easiest option, but they do have the option.

 

I have been on excursions (both private and ship) that have had transportation issues. I must say I was sweating much less on the ship excursion in Roatan with a smoking bus than on the private tour in Belize with the driver under the hood!!!

Edited by sunquest76

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If it our first time to a port or we want to go to an area that is more than 1/2 hour away from the ship, then we will go thru the ship. If we want to go to an area that is not too far away, then we will find a private tour once we are at the port.

 

If the tour company has an exclusive with the ship for a particular tour (i.e. dolphin swims in some of the ports) that you are interested in, then you can only book thru the ship.

 

I have found (for some excursions) the ship's prices are not that much more expensive than going thru a private company. You need to compare apples to apples.

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Okay, so I'm going to be the guy who encourages you to book off ship.

 

I have been on five cruises now, and am leaving for my sixth in a little less than three weeks. I have never booked through the ship save for once, and it was the worst experience of all of them.

 

Some people say that the ship will get rid of bad excursions and will guarantee the trips, but I find that generally not to be the case. I have seen on more than one occasion a ships excursion miss a boat. In reality, the ship rarely leaves when it's scheduled. They always schedule way more time than is needed to get to the next port. I've even seen a harbor master run a group of stranded passengers out to a boat an hour after it cast off. So I would probably worry less about that. These people have been doing this for a really long time in most cases.

 

They know what is at stake if they don't get you back in time. They know with the age of the internet they would lose their livelihood if they messed up like that. Frankly the closest I've ever been is 30 minutes before setting sail. We went halfway across an island by car and were taking a boat back. They guy kept on futzing around. He stopped at a couple of docks to pick up a small boat and some friends. We kept on worrying about getting back on time and he said not to. All of the sudden six cats come racing around a point behind us. He sees them and steps on it. He told us that those were the ships boats and he just made sure to beat them.

 

That all being said. There are lots of reliable tour operators in the Mexican Riviera. One of the most prolific is Johann and Sandra. Google them. They have a web page for every port they run tours in. They do a good job at a reasonable price. If you want boat tours in Cabo, I go with Pez Gato. They have anything from whale watching to booze cruises. In Mazatlan, I like Randi's Happy Horses. I first used her a decade ago.... wow tomorrow. She does a good horse back ride at a good price. I'm hopefully getting in with her in a few weeks. Mazatlan Frank is good as well. He has a good organized tour. Vallarta Adventures is a big group out of Puerto Vallarta. I've heard people booking the day of, but it's always a risk. They are american owned if I remember correctly. They all speak good English.

 

If you want a tour around the city, you can usually find something outside the port. I generally am not afraid of any of this as I have always spoken the language. If you know Spanish, you're in luck. Also, for any Caribbean cruises in the future, French is way useful. When I do that, if I'm in a small group, I get with some people, usually the people at the dinning table with me, and we agree to do something together. Then you can go and negotiate a price for them over the whole day, and not per person. Usually saves everyone about %25.

 

Trip Adviser will also give you a lot of suggestions.

 

Have fun. Don't hurt yourself. Local food is usually safe. Don't be afraid, as long as you don't go looking for trouble, it usually won't come looking for you. Also, for the love of all that is Holy. Don't buy anything at Diamonds International or anything like that. They are scam artists. Junk is fine, just remember to negotiate.

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We booked three different excursions in Europe using this group thru Costco. The 1st excursion to ancient pompeii was very inadequate. We were picked up at the port by 730am with another couple. The other couple were on a different excursion doing Naples and Amalfi. Our driver spoke very little English and we were left at the site to enter Pompeii without a guide and an hour before it even opened. The guide who we eventually found only because her hat had the name of the company. She had to call to verify we were even part of her group. If we had not found her she would not have been looking for us and we would have been left on our own and worried about getting back to the ship in Salerno. At the end of our tour the driver was waiting wanting to leave immediately even though we were making one quick purchase. This was not only scary being left with no contact but the rudest driver I have encountered. The other two excursions were adequate but not any better or cheaper than those the ship was offering. I would not use this group in Europe again.

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Interesting you managed to find a 7 year old thread to comment on....but....

 

Your experience jives very well with this very recent thread from the Italy board:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2634964

 

which, while about Viator, is very relevant. As commonly discussed, these are brokers, not tour providers. They take your booking and money, and contract out to local vendors. Their prices are usually great, but when there comes to be problems, they are hard to resolve, and hard to contact the local vendor.

 

This is why there is a growing chorus of people here saying we would rather deal directly with recommended local vendors.

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Following.

You're following a 7 year old thread?? And you should know you can just subscribe to it from the "thread tools" link rather than announcing your presence as a way to subscribe.

 

Since I'm here, I will add to the discussion. We used SEG and they were fine. In general, if you Google the title or one of the key phrases in the tour description you can find the company actually providing the excursion. Usually it will be cheaper to book directly and cut out the middleman, but not always.

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This company scammed my family in Croatia

 

The tour we purchased for Split, Croatia was guided tour, however, we were put on the local hop-on hop-off bus tour which costs 1/3 of what we've paid. Yes, we've paid 3 times more and were put on the exact same bus!!! I was scammed by American company 8,000 miles away and it was worst feeling ever and ruined the whole day. I complained and they don't even apologize. Not an honest company and I would not recommend using their service.

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