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HAL Shore Excursions vs. independent

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We have taken a few cruises in the past...none on HAL but have HAL booked for next year. I'm beginning to look at excursions. On other cruises, we have always booked elsewhere - through Shore Trips or through independent operators found by searching Trip Advisor and other places. We've been please with the smaller groups and usually cheaper prices. We might go to similar places but we'd be in a group of 10 while the huge tour bus from the ship would have 50. The price was usually cheaper and we never had a problem getting back to the ship in time.

 

What have others found with HAL? Do you go with the ship's excursions or book elsewhere?

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Here's a long discussion from just this week on the same topic:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2683033

 

On average I'd guess that most folks who go independent do so on whatever line they cruise with, as long as you're comfortable with doing it. There's nothing unique or different about HAL excursions versus those offered on other lines.

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Here's a long discussion from just this week on the same topic:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2683033

 

On average I'd guess that most folks who go independent do so on whatever line they cruise with, as long as you're comfortable with doing it. There's nothing unique or different about HAL excursions versus those offered on other lines.

 

Very well put. We do a mix of private vendors, ship's excursions and simply DIY. All depends on the options available.

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We do a mix, but only when booking the ship's tour is reasonable.

On tours that involve overnight stays it is way cheaper to go privately. Next March we will be overnighting in Bora Bora on the Eurodam. We have always wanted to experience the overwater bungalows. The ship anchors at 8:00 AM on Saturday and doesn't leave until 11:00 PM Sunday, so there is plenty of time for a DIY. HAL offers an overwater bungalow at the Pearl Resort, including transfers and dinner for $1299.95 PER PERSON.

I booked the same hotel, in a similar grade overwater bungalow for $765 for both of us. The hotel provides a free ferry service to their resort, and you get a free breakfast. Worst case, dinner for 2, including drinks, maybe $250, considering the high prices for everything in Bora Bora. So our out of pocket cost for this overnight will cost us $1015 for 2 people. Using HAL's shore excursion, we would spend $2600, for the same hotel, same quality room. Also, the HAL excursion forces you to leave the hotel at checkout time of 11:00 AM Sunday. With our privately arranged tour, we can stay at the hotel, using their facilities until the last ferry, which is around 5:30 PM. The ship doesn't leave anchor until 11:00 PM.

HAL has a guarantee that if you can find a duplicate private tour that is cheaper that the HAL tour, they will refund your money plus extra. I wonder if my Pearl Resort tour would qualify ? Has anyone actually cashed in on the HAL tour guarantee ?

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I’m also wondering about anyone’s success with the “Best Price Guarantee”? I’ve just submitted a request after finding a lower priced tour that appears to be identical to the HAL tour we booked at Prince Edward Island. We’ll see what happens. I suspect there will be some reason why it isn’t exactly the same. But we might be surprised....

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It is worth taking a look at the excursions offered. We found a couple on our last cruise that would have been hard to duplicate on our own.

 

One was out to a falconers place where we learned about the birds of prey, got to hold them and then went to the field to have them come land on our outstretched hand. It was a smaller group that went there as the program was held at the falconer's residence. Everyone agreed that the experience was fantastic. I doubt this would have been available as a private excursion as there just wasn't time or room for more people. I also suspect that Jamie only books with the companies working with the cruise lines.

 

Another was a small group boat trip out to the Bird Islands from Sydney. We did get to see the one Atlantic puffin that had not yet left the area along with eagles, seals and a host of other birds.

 

There was another one offered that, unfortunately, was cancelled as we were the only four that had signed up for it. It was a trip to the Bay of Fundy with a hike on the ocean floor and picnic lunch on the ocean floor. That would have been cool.

 

So, I will check to see what is offered, see if I can find it offered locally and if I can't, book through the ship if it is something I really want to do.

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We do a mix, but only when booking the ship's tour is reasonable.

On tours that involve overnight stays it is way cheaper to go privately. Next March we will be overnighting in Bora Bora on the Eurodam. We have always wanted to experience the overwater bungalows. The ship anchors at 8:00 AM on Saturday and doesn't leave until 11:00 PM Sunday, so there is plenty of time for a DIY. HAL offers an overwater bungalow at the Pearl Resort, including transfers and dinner for $1299.95 PER PERSON.

I booked the same hotel, in a similar grade overwater bungalow for $765 for both of us. The hotel provides a free ferry service to their resort, and you get a free breakfast. Worst case, dinner for 2, including drinks, maybe $250, considering the high prices for everything in Bora Bora. So our out of pocket cost for this overnight will cost us $1015 for 2 people. Using HAL's shore excursion, we would spend $2600, for the same hotel, same quality room. Also, the HAL excursion forces you to leave the hotel at checkout time of 11:00 AM Sunday. With our privately arranged tour, we can stay at the hotel, using their facilities until the last ferry, which is around 5:30 PM. The ship doesn't leave anchor until 11:00 PM.

HAL has a guarantee that if you can find a duplicate private tour that is cheaper that the HAL tour, they will refund your money plus extra. I wonder if my Pearl Resort tour would qualify ? Has anyone actually cashed in on the HAL tour guarantee ?

 

Sounds like a no-brainer! There was someone a few months ago who reported cashing in on HAL's tour guarantee, but with the deal you got (better hours etc. etc.) I wouldn't bother.

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If you do your research on ports (old or new!) there's seldom a need for a ship's excursion, and perhaps, you won't need ANY excursion to do what interests you! Research is key!

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Since the cost of HAL-sponsored excursions are counted by the Mariner Society, there is an advantage in booking through HAL to advance your Mariner Star level to the next "perks" level.

Of course, if you are not committed to HAL, the lower private excursion prices might be the better choice.

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Since the cost of HAL-sponsored excursions are counted by the Mariner Society, there is an advantage in booking through HAL to advance your Mariner Star level to the next "perks" level.

Of course, if you are not committed to HAL, the lower private excursion prices might be the better choice.

 

Bolding is mine and I call malarky. I'm a 5* mariner and just because I may not book HAL's tours because I don't want to be on a bus with 40-50 people and herded like cats doesn't mean I'm not loyal. there's lots of places to spend money besides the odd tour - Cellar Master dinner, specialty dinners, wine tastings, Master Chef (if you are lucky - price has gone up), just to name a few.

 

There's lots of places to spend your money onboard if you want. Just because you don't do a tour doesn't mean you don't spend money or are not "committed" (as you referenced it.)

 

P.s. We have booked some HAL tours. So far we are 50/50 on how well they were done. Those are pretty bad odds. Private tours - I'm at 90/100 - big difference in quality.

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