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dublindoll

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hi all we will be going on our first cruise next july 2019 on the ncl epic, can people give me a rough idea how to the excursions without having to book through the ship and do it on a cheaper basis. thanks again 

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As first time cruisers and especially first time visitors to the ports that you visit , NCL shore tours , although pricier than independent tours, may be the way to go.

If things go wrong on the tour (and it could happen) , NCL knows where you are and will wait for your tour to return .

Also if you chose the $50 cabin Shore Tour Credit , that helps .

If you some cruise experience under your belt ,then try things on your own.

Edited by MCC retired

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Dublin,

We went on our First Cruise to the Med out of Barcelona in Feb 2016 and we used Viator in all our ports.  Very dependable, met outside entrance at our ports and had a sign with our names on it for identification.  Pre notification from the gave very specific instructions on where to meet the guide.  We did not get to port in Rome due to weather and they refunded us in total before I had a chance to contact them.  

Their guides were very knowledgeable, spoke good English, vehicle we nice, and they have a guarantee on time arrival

Hope this helps you and have a great experience 

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We hae

12 minutes ago, mjkacmom said:

Check out the ports of call boards on Cc and trip advisor.

 

Great advice. We have used non NCL tour operators a few times but on long tours that travel far from the port we use NCL because we don't want to miss the ship if things go wrong.

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Me too.  If the tour is going to be fairly close to the port and scheduled to get back in plenty of time for the ship's scheduled departure, we may use a private tour.  I want to have an alternate means of transportation easily available back to the ship if something goes wrong.  We have had buses break down twice many miles from the port, but both were NCL tours and I didn't worry.   Otherwise, I will use an NCL tour.  As another said, maybe a bit pricier, but worth the lack of worry that the ship won't wait for you if you are late returning.  However, most private tour operators are very reliable.  They have to be to stay in business.  For a first cruise though, until you see how it all works, I'd just stick with NCL.  The ship will provide you with your tour tickets and lots of information and guidance as to how to meet the tour after docking.  

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Totally agree that for first timers, booking through ship eliminates many concerns and is best way to learn how things work!

 

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Here's what I just advised a first time cruiser asking much the same question on our roll call for an upcoming cruise:

 

You will actually save money and possibly have more options by booking privately and directly through the shore excursion providers. However, here's what I generally tell 1st time cruises about that:

 

Since it's your first cruise, book through the ship. Yes, you'll spend a little more, but you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that the ship will wait for you if your shore excursion is late. Once you've taken your first cruise, and learned how everything works, you'll be more comfortable doing your own excursions on your next cruise.

 

With that being said, you should also realize that if you book privately through any reputable shore excursion provider, you'll likely be in a group with people who have booked through the ship anyway. And the shore excursion provider depends almost entirely on the cruise lines for the bulk of their revenue...they cannot afford to get a bad reputation by being late back to the ship...if they do, the cruise line will stop using them as a shore excursion vendor. So in general, if you do your research and pick carefully, you really should not have any problem booking privately. 

 

If you chose to book privately, make sure you tell the shore excursion vendor what ship you're on, and give them the times the ship is in port. They will tell you if you can do the excursion you're interested in or not. Remember that "all aboard" time is typically 30 minutes before the ship is schedule to depart. You will check that information carefully in each port - it's posted in the cruise daily newsletter and prominently at the exit of the ship as you leave.

 

Finally, remember that traffic on most Caribbean islands is awful...particularly in the late afternoon at "rush" hour. Roads are narrow and twisty and there are a LOT of cars. So if you elect to jump in a cab and head to a beach (which is fine, and easy to do), just make sure and allow plenty of time for the return to the ship.

 

Best sources for researching your own excursions are Google, Trip Advisor and the individual ports of call pages on Cruise Critic. If you haven't looked at those pages, you should...there's tons of great information there.

 

 

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VideoTech nailed it. 

 

A couple years ago the weather was not very pleasant in St Thomas.  We had booked an excursion through NCL for a catamaran ride to St John.  They offered us choice to take the excursion or get a full refund.  I was duly impressed. I don't think a privately booked tour would have offered a full refund.  My first excursion at my first port of call I ever visited was booked through cruise line and I loved it (mountain bobsled ride in Ocho Rios). 

 

That said, my favorite excursion I've ever taken I found on my own via Trip Advisor and booked.  (Cosol Tours in St Lucia)  Our 2nd and 3rd favorites were found online also (Little French Key, Roatan and Marina Cay, Tortola). 

 

 

We look for the most unique things to do everywhere we go.  Sometimes the boat offers something very comparable.  Sometimes they don't. 

 

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Since it's July 2019 on the EPIC,  I assume you're doing a W Med cruise.  I'll be on that cruise in September !

NCL cruises are way overpriced so I looked for independent vendors and DIY options.  I found lots of useful info by looking at old posts in the Italy, Spain and France PORTS OF CALL forums, and I used the search tool to pull up past trip reports/reviews.  Do a search on 'Western Med reports"  (and reviews) , doesn't matter which cruiseline. The port is what counts.  I ended up with a list of about 20 private vendors recommended by past travellers and detailed info on how to use the train for Rome and Florence.    I also bought Rick Steves Mediterranean cruise  book.

I find this NCL forum to be pretty useless..... too much chatter about straws, what to bid,  menu changes, etc.

Good luck with your research !

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6 hours ago, VideoTech said:

…...

With that being said, you should also realize that if you book privately through any reputable shore excursion provider, you'll likely be in a group with people who have booked through the ship anyway. …..

 

 

 

Almost without exception We book privately and have never been co-mingled with a group who booked through the ship.  Advantages of booking privately is that there are usually 12 people or less in your group, you get to a venue faster than the ship sponsored excursions, once you meet your guide you have a better chance of tailoring what you what to do and see, you minimize (if not eliminate) getting stuck waiting for a shop until you drop shipmate to return to the bus, etc. 

 

Visit the Ports of Call forum to get relative information and recommendations from those who have booked privately at the respective Port(s) you are visiting.

 

 

Edited by Traveling Fools
Posted by mistake,

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On 12/5/2018 at 5:44 AM, dublindoll said:

hi all we will be going on our first cruise next july 2019 on the ncl epic, can people give me a rough idea how to the excursions without having to book through the ship and do it on a cheaper basis. thanks again 

There are a couple of ways: go to ports a call and read what others recommend or just google the port; you can simply asked for tour suggests and get a lot of ideas. Then you book, often you do not have to pay up front, but this isn't always true. You will nearly always get a much better price and a more personal tour. We do it both ways, but as we get older we are depending on the ship more. I don't want to miss the ship because some tour company screwed up the time. It actually did almost happen to us once. 

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On 12/8/2018 at 12:59 AM, Traveling Fools said:

 

Almost without exception We book privately and have never been co-mingled with a group who booked through the ship.  Advantages of booking privately is that there are usually 12 people or less in your group, you get to a venue faster than the ship sponsored excursions, once you meet your guide you have a better chance of tailoring what you what to do and see, you minimize (if not eliminate) getting stuck waiting for a shop until you drop shipmate to return to the bus, etc. 

 

Visit the Ports of Call forum to get relative information and recommendations from those who have booked privately at the respective Port(s) you are visiting.

 

 

 

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On 12/7/2018 at 9:08 PM, mapleleaves said:

Since it's July 2019 on the EPIC,  I assume you're doing a W Med cruise.  I'll be on that cruise in September !

NCL cruises are way overpriced so I looked for independent vendors and DIY options.  I found lots of useful info by looking at old posts in the Italy, Spain and France PORTS OF CALL forums, and I used the search tool to pull up past trip reports/reviews.  Do a search on 'Western Med reports"  (and reviews) , doesn't matter which cruiseline. The port is what counts.  I ended up with a list of about 20 private vendors recommended by past travellers and detailed info on how to use the train for Rome and Florence.    I also bought Rick Steves Mediterranean cruise  book.

I find this NCL forum to be pretty useless..... too much chatter about straws, what to bid,  menu changes, etc.

Good luck with your research !

 

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On 12/7/2018 at 4:08 PM, mapleleaves said:

Since it's July 2019 on the EPIC,  I assume you're doing a W Med cruise.  I'll be on that cruise in September !

NCL cruises are way overpriced so I looked for independent vendors and DIY options.  I found lots of useful info by looking at old posts in the Italy, Spain and France PORTS OF CALL forums, and I used the search tool to pull up past trip reports/reviews.  Do a search on 'Western Med reports"  (and reviews) , doesn't matter which cruiseline. The port is what counts.  I ended up with a list of about 20 private vendors recommended by past travellers and detailed info on how to use the train for Rome and Florence.    I also bought Rick Steves Mediterranean cruise  book.

I find this NCL forum to be pretty useless..... too much chatter about straws, what to bid,  menu changes, etc.

Good luck with your research !

This post is excellent advice for a first time cruiser on a Western Mediterranean itinerary.  Before digital books, Rick Steves Guides might have been a difficult find for someone based in Ireland, but should be easy now. Many of the ports are easy DIY with his guidebooks.  

 

OP, also try a google search for Tom’s port guides.  These guides are excellent for logistics of getting from port to various sites. One Caveat, regarding Tom’s guides....they are a labor of love by an individual, so they are not updated yearly like Rick Steves’ cruise port guides. But, Tom Port guides do have GPS walking routes and links to public transportation web sites so that you can get the most up to date schedules. 

Edited by buggins0402

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Lots of good advice about using private excursions. The only times I booked an acceptable ship excursion was 1. when we were in Maui and our next stop was a week later in Fiji. and 2. when we did "Paris in a Day." There was really no good alternative to the ship's excursion. I've been on about two other ship excursions which were totally inferior to any private ones we have ever done. 

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I responded to a similar thread in the ITALY forum and listed several of the vendors I've found in my search. 

The typical price for a driver is about 400-500e for an 8hr day.  Some of the vendors provide the ability to share the tour with others which enables you to divide the cost between 4 people 6 people or even 14,  OR,  you can find people on your ROLL CALL who will be happy to share the cost with you.  

You have to look closely at the details of each tour to see if they meet your needs. ie some Amalfi Coast tours sound like they're going to spend some in Positano but really it's just a photo opp at the top of the hill.   Same thing with Rome ... do you want 5 minutes outside the Colliseum for a photo or would you rather get dropped off so you can do a tour inside?  

Good luck with your research !

 

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For the Med. I would get into your roll call and arrange some private tours. There was one Epic tour I booked last year (my second time doing this cruise) If you don't want to go Rome do the Hilltop towns.  It was an amazing and done through NCL! 

 

All other excursions that I did over my two trips on the Epic I booked privately.  I have lots of other recommendations of things to do if you are looking for them...

 

In the Med almost all tour providers promise  your return to your ship on time or they will provide transportation to the next port. You will often find the same guides in multiple cities following the ships. 

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13 hours ago, mapleleaves said:

OR,  you can find people on your ROLL CALL who will be happy to share the cost with you.  

 

 

As you are a first timer I would take great care with this, people have be badly burnt when others on the role call cancel or simply don't turn up and end up having to pick up the extra cost and/or possibly have an a very awkward conversation with those who have turned up, why they now have to pay more than expected.

Paypal deposits or full payment up front would be my advice.

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On 12/12/2018 at 5:54 AM, Nelsj099 said:

For the Med. I would get into your roll call and arrange some private tours. There was one Epic tour I booked last year (my second time doing this cruise) If you don't want to go Rome do the Hilltop towns.  It was an amazing and done through NCL! 

 

All other excursions that I did over my two trips on the Epic I booked privately.  I have lots of other recommendations of things to do if you are looking for them...

 

In the Med almost all tour providers promise  your return to your ship on time or they will provide transportation to the next port. You will often find the same guides in multiple cities following the ships. 

please send all your recomendations 

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On 12/12/2018 at 5:54 AM, Nelsj099 said:

For the Med. I would get into your roll call and arrange some private tours. There was one Epic tour I booked last year (my second time doing this cruise) If you don't want to go Rome do the Hilltop towns.  It was an amazing and done through NCL! 

 

All other excursions that I did over my two trips on the Epic I booked privately.  I have lots of other recommendations of things to do if you are looking for them...

 

In the Med almost all tour providers promise  your return to your ship on time or they will provide transportation to the next port. You will often find the same guides in multiple cities following the ships. 

would love all your info on the excursions youdid, how much, and where thanks

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