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Is is better to book excursions on your own or through Carnival


blnorman
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Cruising to the Bahamas in October on the Fascination. We all want to say a dollar here or there, but I don't want to save a dollar if it puts me in an unsafe situation or risk me being left behind by the ship.

 

Has anyone ever booked excursions directly through the locals? I have read on the internet where you can save money by walking off the ship and booking directly through the locals. I am a first time cruiser so I have a few questions for the people who has done this before.

 

1) How much money do you save by booking through the locals. I understand this can vary by choice of excursion, but I am just concerned if booking through the locals saves you 10 or 15 bucks a person or is it saving you from 30% to 50% off the total excursion. I just don't want to risk my personal security, my wife's security, or the assurance of being left behind because I opted to save 10 or 15 bucks.

 

2)Here are the excursions I am more interested in participating in

- Off Road ATV Tropical Garden and Beach Break (1st Choice)

- Bahamas Jeep Adventure Tour (2nd Choice)

- Dune Buggy Tour ( 3rd choice but not really thrilled about it)

- Atlantis (only if people say it's worth the money)

 

3) I know it's a vacation and I am not trying to be an extreme money watcher, but the fact is ......sometimes you just have to watch your dollars. If that weren't the case I would do them all.

 

4) Is it possible to find someone on the ship who might have booked the excursion and walk with them to see if there is more availability once we dock? I feel like if I do this I may can get a cheaper rate, and I am less likely to get left behind if i am with others who booked through the cruise.

 

Just need help or tips that you helped you on your trips that will provide me with more insight with booking excursions.

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So this is just MY personal opinion, but I prefer to book excursions through Carnival. On our last cruise we booked an excursion online through another company, and although everything was great and we had no issues, I do like the comfort of knowing that if an excursion runs late we are safe as Carnival will wait. We are doing a 7-8 hour excursion in Cozumel our next cruise and with it being so long it's nice to know if anything happens we will be able to make our way back to the ship one way or another without the worry of being late.

It generally does cost a little more to book through Carnival, but you get that comfort of knowing you won't be left to purchase your own plane tickets to the next port/home if the excursion runs late.

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As far as going with someone who booked through the cruise line I dint think its possible. Every ship excursion I have been on they wouldn't let you on the bus or van without a ticket and most of the time they are just transporting and have nothing to do with ticket sales

 

 

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You will certainly save money by booking privately and 99% of the time will have no problems as long as it with a reputable company. HOWEVER on one cruise our tablemates were left behind because their bus had a flat tire coming back from Dunn's river falls and had to find transportation to our next port, Grand Cayman. Not trying to scare you as this is EXTREMELY rare, but it can happen. We always book through the ship just for peace of mind. I figure if I am spending a couple thousand dollars on a cruise, another hundred dollars is not that much. HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT CRUISE.

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Regarding going to Atlantis, there's a water taxi (plus a little bit of a walk) that's infinitely cheaper than the ship excursion. There are also taxis and public transportation, so getting stuck there isn't a problem, as long as you watch your time. Therefore, to go to Atlantis, I wouldn't bother with the ship's excursion.

Personally, for the other excursions mentioned, I would be more inclined to do the ship's excursion, since the cruise line checks the tour operators for safety and, even more importantly, you get the peace of mind knowing that the ship will wait if the ship-sponsored excursion is late. For the types of excursions you mentioned, aside from the option of going to Atlantis, when I've researched on my own, I haven't found the prices to be SO different that I would give up the peace of mind.

 

Regarding #4, no, you can't do that. What you can do is try to figure out what tour company the cruise line is using (sometimes it's sort of obvious in the description and can be found using Google) and compare the price for booking independently, but you won't be on a ship's excursion, and the times available may be completely different.

Edited by srlafleur
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Since you are a first time cruiser, I would recommend that you book excursions through the cruiseline. After you experience the process, you will then be in a better position to judge for yourself how to book excursions.

 

Since you mention safety (even though a Nassau RCCL Segway tour was robbed a few years ago) and peace of mind as major concerns, go with the cruiseline.

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For a first time cruiser, I would book through the cruise line. It will get you used to cruising, excursions, and keeping on time with the ship's schedule.

 

Now that we have multiple cruises under our belts, we're more comfortable with booking private excursions. We do still book Carnival excursions on occasion. It really depends on the port and what is available.

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For me, it depends on the port and excursion. In Belize, I will only book through the cruiseline because the tours are often full day and you risk missing the ship.

 

In Grand Cayman, I book private stingray tours because it's a much better value.

 

I did book a tour through Carnival in St. Thomas because I couldn't book it privately and I really wanted to do it.

 

Most ports, I don't even plan an excursion at all and just do my own thing.

 

 

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If your cruise happens to skip the port for some reason what happens to your deposit if you booked outside Carnival? If you booked thru Carnival everything is just refunded to your S&S. I've also seen the sequence of port arrivals modified. It that happens you are on your own to shuffle the excursion schedule. If you go thru Carnival it's taken care of for you.

 

Unless the few bucks saved is real important I can't see any reason to not book thru Carnival.

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If your cruise happens to skip the port for some reason what happens to your deposit if you booked outside Carnival? If you booked thru Carnival everything is just refunded to your S&S. I've also seen the sequence of port arrivals modified. It that happens you are on your own to shuffle the excursion schedule. If you go thru Carnival it's taken care of for you.

 

 

 

Unless the few bucks saved is real important I can't see any reason to not book thru Carnival.

 

 

I only book private excursions that are fully refundable if the ship can't stop or don't require deposits. Most are used to dealing with cruise passengers and have such a policy.

 

 

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For excursions far from the ship would suggest book thru cruise lines. Otherwise we will go to port of call and find tour guides there.

 

Private tours are cheaper, better and not as crowded.

Same for us. Save some $ and a better tour without the restrictions of a large group.

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If I were ever to cruise solo I would save a few bucks by booking private excursions. Since I always have had family members with me I either book no excursion, do our own thing, and round up cabin mates early to be back on the ship, OR I book through Carnival.

 

While rare, pier runners are a reality; being left behind in a foreign port is a reality. I don't gamble with my family's safety.

 

Neither do I judge those who choose different options.

 

Enjoy!

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There are too many factors to consider to give an absolute answer.

1. Distance and time -- We booked through Carnival when we were going to be a hours away from the port for an all-day excursion in Belize. I would have been too stressed about the small possibility of missing the boat. But usually we time things to be back at the boat with a couple hours to spare, so no stress.

2. Price -- I've seen private excursions for comparable prices and some that were MUCH cheaper. It depends on what you want to do. You'll have to research and compare prices. If Carnival is basically just driving you somewhere like a beach or Atlantis, you might be better with a taxi. It should be easy to find a private tour that lets you pay when you get there or, at the very least, get a refund if you have to cancel.

3. Private excursions give you smaller groups, often private tours for just your family. They can offer unique experiences you can't get with the ship excursions. We like customized tours that let us see real life and take us places to drop off school donations. This is the main reason we usually book privately, although we also save money, especially since we're a large family.

4. On the other hand, there's always the risk of problems with the tour company -- lost reservation, unexpected delays, unscrupulous companies, etc. Do research on multiple sites to make sure people are happy with the company and make sure you're not confusing companies with similar names.

 

Because you're feeling unsure, I would just book through Carnival this time, unless there's a unique tour that you can only get through a private company.

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Booked through Carnival on first cruise. After that we've booked through private tours, yet we are doing a Carnival one on upcoming cruise for one port. IF you find the same company who the cruise line uses you MAY be able to book through them, but it will not be in exact same group. More and more the cruise lines are tying up a tour company with the provision that if cruise line uses them they don't book private on same day.

 

Go to the Port of Calls forums and you will find a host of information. Also join the Roll Call for your cruise as there usually are postings concerning excursions.

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If you REALLY want to do something and want almost no chance of getting cancelled or sold out, book early thru the cruise-line (at least at first until you get more familiar with the process as others have pointed out). Tours that take you far from the ship are best done thru the cruise line.

The Bahamas, in particular, are very easy to book on your own after you get off the ship...they speak English, it's a popular port with established tours, distances are short, etc. Atlantis to us is overpriced, but it is the no. 1 attraction for a reason. There is plenty of history to see by walking off the ship and doing a city tour; there is a beach nearby and also a zoo within walking distance. Tours using ATVs, scuba, kayaks, horses, etc may sell out first due to limited availability.

 

 

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For excursions far from the ship would suggest book thru cruise lines. Otherwise we will go to port of call and find tour guides there. Private tours are cheaper, better and not as crowded.

 

ditto... I'd book a cruiseline excursion ONLY if it was something like an 8 hour excursion to the ruins out of Cozumel or similar. Otherwise, I never take cruise offerings. Too expensive, too crowded, trumped up...

 

Local service providers are well aware of departure times and that you need to be back at the ship on time. And they want your business the next time you come to the island as well. I generally book online prior to departure. There is a lot of info, reviews, etc., on several sites so you can be sure of the integrity of whoever you go with. I've signed up for things where it was me and 3 or 4 other people (or less) - and we get to where we're going, and the cruise group is there and it's like hundreds of people packed in... Just not the same experience at all. That said, everyone has their own comfort level...

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Personally, I like knowing a huge US corporation has vetted the operators thoroughly, knowing their licenses, their equipment, and most importantly, their insurance is up to date and at correct levels.

To pay a bit more for that peace of mind is well worth it... for my family's well being.

 

And now that Carnival is offering price matching, it's a no brainer... Win Win!! :D

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The answer is it depends.

 

IF you book on your own, you assume ALL risk, including if you don't make it back to the ship on time. Most of the time there won't be a problem, but if there is, don't try to hold the cruise line responsible - it's on you.

 

You can often save money booking on your own, but also often not as much as people claim. You have to compare apples to apples. Some of these same people will complain that Carnival won't price match when the tours are almost the same. Well duh.

 

If your first cruise and/or your first time in a port, you might want to stick with ship tours until you know how things work.

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Personally, I like knowing a huge US corporation has vetted the operators thoroughly, knowing their licenses, their equipment, and most importantly, their insurance is up to date and at correct levels.

To pay a bit more for that peace of mind is well worth it... for my family's well being.

 

And now that Carnival is offering price matching, it's a no brainer... Win Win!! :D

 

And I like knowing that my money is going to a local company versus a huge US corporation, so to each their own. :) I do a lot of research to make sure I'm comfortable with the company. Mostly, I like private tours for the unique personalized experiences. When we're going to just one place, we take local transportation. It probably depends a lot on whether you're used to traveling to other countries on your own.

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With ship tours, the money goes to a corporation but it also goes to a local operator that has been vetted by Carnival. They do the work for you. Of course, it depends on how much your time is worth and whether or not you will put in the time necessary to do the proper research. If you don't, you might get lucky or not.

 

BTW, in addition to the ship, don't expect anyone on CC to indemnify you if you take their advice and go out on your own.

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And I like knowing that my money is going to a local company versus a huge US corporation, so to each their own. :) I do a lot of research to make sure I'm comfortable with the company. Mostly, I like private tours for the unique personalized experiences. When we're going to just one place, we take local transportation. It probably depends a lot on whether you're used to traveling to other countries on your own.

 

Remember, all tour operators are local companies, ship tours or not. I do have friends in the industry in Cozumel & Calica/PDC. I know many (and probably most) tend to want the opportunity to work with cruise ships.

Bottom line, they are all businesses... all hoping to be as successful as possible. Let's see, to take random handfuls, or prebooked, steady, regular groups? Hmm...

 

Does a novelist prefer to sell on their own? Or, hoping for Barnes & Noble and Amazon picks them up? Even if they get a piece of their pie?

 

No brainer. A person would be a naive dreamer to think otherwise.

 

(maybe I gotta cut down on the Shark Tank :) )

Edited by Smart Arsenal Fan
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DH occasionally books diving with outside vendors if it's not offered by the ship which sometimes it's not. He's had very positive experiences. Other than that we stick with the ship excursions so we don't have to worry about a bus breaking down or any other delays that might cause us to miss the ship.

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