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MillerWRHS

Ease my mind, old pros...

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So I have been on a few cruises (2 through Carnival, 1 thru Disney) in the past. We have our cruise on the Pearl coming up March 17-24. I'm a planner and a "rule follower" (I'm a teacher...lol), so I have ALWAYS booked excursions through the cruise line. This go around, with 5 of us cruising, I have taken a different approach, mostly from seeing it as an option - book through the companies themselves. As we get closer to our date, I am starting to panic about getting left in port.

 

Someone or someones who cruise and use non-line excursions reassure me. I booked through shore excursioneer for a beach day in Costa Maya, Cozumel excursions for a snorkel trop in Cozumel, and Daniel Johnson for the sloth/monkey hangout in Roatan.

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We have used Shore Excursioneer in the past and will do so in the future.  By the way, we almost exclusively book our shore excursions thru private vendors.  Suggest you take a look at the Ports of Call board for the specific ports you will be visiting.  There is a lot of good information there about who or who not to book thru.

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Viator.com has a guarantee that if you miss the ship, they will get you to the next port of call.  Also chances are pretty good that at least 1 person who purchased their excursion through NCL will be present on the excursion you purchased through a 3rd party.  The ship won't wait for you, but it will wait for them.  One of the best excursions I have ever taken was booked through a 3rd party company.  It was a catamaran sail from Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas, and NCL did not offer it.

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1 minute ago, vince_g said:

Viator.com has a guarantee that if you miss the ship, they will get you to the next port of call.  Also chances are pretty good that at least 1 person who purchased their excursion through NCL will be present on the excursion you purchased through a 3rd party.  The ship won't wait for you, but it will wait for them.  One of the best excursions I have ever taken was booked through a 3rd party company.  It was a catamaran sail from Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas, and NCL did not offer it.

yeah i was going to suggest viator, used them for a cambodian temple tour, this viator really helps, you used to do a lot of research on ports, now if you want excursions just go to viator

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Personally, I would not book a non ship excursion that cut it too close for comfort...what is too close is your call...1-2 hours before final all aboard is plenty close enough for me. 

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I would look at these considerations. Is the timeline tight? If the excursion will end at least a couple hours before all aboard time even if something goes wrong I have a window to work with. And can I uber or cab from wherever I’m going to be? In a worse case scenario how hard would it be for me to get back to the ship on my own? Like the beach day...absolutely. Even in a worse case scenario and if the bus breaks down you could easily still get back to port. 

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I'm a teacher AND an only child...yet TOO CHEAP to pay ship prices for excursions! If you have plenty of time for the "what if" scenarios, then go directly to the source. Viator and Shore Excursioneer are still third parties. Dig through reviews here and on Tripadvisor until you find the tour operator. Usually this cuts your price by 1/3 to 1/2!

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I tend to book 3rd party excursions, based on recommendations from this board. I have booked mostly in the Caribbean/Mexican Riveria. So far I have had no issues.  Have done well over 10 cruises and multiple 3rd party excursions.

 

We also tend to book excursions while we are in port day of. No planning what so ever. These sometimes tend to be the best excursions we have ever done.   We did a half price excursion to the Chaccobhen ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Great company and an awesome tour guide (we were able to get it half price because the bus needed 4 more passengers in order to leave). We tipped the driver and tour guide the difference, and it was still significantly cheaper than booking with the cruise ship,

 

I would not hesitate to book 3rd party excursions with reputable vendors recommended on this board.

 

Good luck and enjoy your cruise! 

 

p.s. I am also a manic planner, i plan everything to the T but some days i leave them as "OPEN" and just go with the flow.

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1 minute ago, alexgtp said:

I tend to book 3rd party excursions, based on recommendations from this board. I have booked mostly in the Caribbean/Mexican Riveria. So far I have had no issues.  Have done well over 10 cruises and multiple 3rd party excursions.

 

We also tend to book excursions while we are in port day of. No planning what so ever. These sometimes tend to be the best excursions we have ever done.   We did a half price excursion to the Chaccobhen ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Great company and an awesome tour guide (we were able to get it half price because the bus needed 4 more passengers in order to leave). We tipped the driver and tour guide the difference, and it was still significantly cheaper than booking with the cruise ship,

 

I would not hesitate to book 3rd party excursions with reputable vendors recommended on this board.

 

Good luck and enjoy your cruise! 

 

p.s. I am also a manic planner, i plan everything to the T but some days i leave them as "OPEN" and just go with the flow.

We have one day open on our cruise. I figure if we see something that interests us, we can always book something. That makes me kinda nervous though... not checking them out and such before hand. Again, I am a super worrier. The kids will be on the ship for 2 of the days... so I REALLY hope we make it back for those. lol otherwise - party in suite 11006!

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My wife and I have completed 8 cruises.  Probably close to 30 excursion days in that time.  We have only booked through the cruise line one time.  (We have also just done some ports entirely on our own.)  So, off the top of my head, we've done 15 - 18 private excursions all over the world.  NEVER had a close call.  The guides are very, VERY aware of the need to get you back on time.  I believe we have seen so much more on our private excursions and learned so much more and had much more fun.  (And usually for a better price.)

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First, Miller, we are on the same cruise. Be sure to join the roll call if you haven't already. Second I'm 16 cruises in to the habit mostly (13) with NCL with sailings in many different parts of the world. I have only booked 3-4 official NCL excursions in all that time and never had any issues. Read roll calls and the various port boards to see what others have done and recommend.

 

There is no rule that says you must overpay for ship excursions so you will not be a rule-breaker. I get that everyone has different "risk" tolerances but in my experience there is very little risk in using local operators and they don't have to be the big ones mentioned here like Viatours. With a little research and common sense you can get better experiences for substantially less cost by using smaller, local operators.

 

The "fear" you are feeling is carefully cultivated with the constant reminder that you can't miss the ship if you pay NCL's high rates for excursions but, in practice, very few people ever miss the ship and - if you use common sense - you won't either. Nothing in this life is 100% but, again, in my very deep and broad experience using local operators you don't have anything to worry about if you're smart about it.

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We almost always do our own thing in port, either booking a private tour or just winging it on our own. The exception being on our Baltics cruise. We booked through NCL and the tour bus almost left one of the passengers behind because she was 15 minutes late to the bus.

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3 hours ago, vince_g said:

Viator.com has a guarantee that if you miss the ship, they will get you to the next port of call.  Also chances are pretty good that at least 1 person who purchased their excursion through NCL will be present on the excursion you purchased through a 3rd party.  The ship won't wait for you, but it will wait for them.  One of the best excursions I have ever taken was booked through a 3rd party company.  It was a catamaran sail from Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas, and NCL did not offer it.

Miller, where available we use shoreecxcursioner and viator rather than cruise line excursions.  Every where you go with a 3rd party you will see NCL passengers at the same stops.  Both above 3rd parties have on time guarantees.  The way I see it that with the accessibility of social media if these 3rd parties were continually late getting guests back to their ships they won’t be in business long.  I feel secure with them.  Have a great cruise, enjoy the Pearl she’s great.   

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27 minutes ago, cdnsteelman said:

First, Miller, we are on the same cruise. Be sure to join the roll call if you haven't already. Second I'm 16 cruises in to the habit mostly (13) with NCL with sailings in many different parts of the world. I have only booked 3-4 official NCL excursions in all that time and never had any issues. Read roll calls and the various port boards to see what others have done and recommend.

 

There is no rule that says you must overpay for ship excursions so you will not be a rule-breaker. I get that everyone has different "risk" tolerances but in my experience there is very little risk in using local operators and they don't have to be the big ones mentioned here like Viatours. With a little research and common sense you can get better experiences for substantially less cost by using smaller, local operators.

 

The "fear" you are feeling is carefully cultivated with the constant reminder that you can't miss the ship if you pay NCL's high rates for excursions but, in practice, very few people ever miss the ship and - if you use common sense - you won't either. Nothing in this life is 100% but, again, in my very deep and broad experience using local operators you don't have anything to worry about if you're smart about it.

i have only used viator once,  the tour was run by a small mom and pop local operator, viator was just the conduit to connect individuals with actual operators.  at least that was my experience, 

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17 minutes ago, Envelope21 said:

We almost always do our own thing in port, either booking a private tour or just winging it on our own. The exception being on our Baltics cruise. We booked through NCL and the tour bus almost left one of the passengers behind because she was 15 minutes late to the bus.

we would like to party with you guys, we also do it on our own with few exceptions, Egypt and Israel were done through the ship paid almost double but could not take the chance if something went wrong.

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1 minute ago, Newleno said:

i have only used viator once,  the tour was run by a small mom and pop local operator, viator was just the conduit to connect individuals with actual operators.  at least that was my experience, 

Indeed, viator is a middle-man (like NCL is in the excursion game). They are owned by Trip Advisor. As such what mom and pop get paid by viator is substantially less than what the traveler pays viator. The savvy traveler can find mom and pop, pay them directly (less than what viator would charge) and mom and pop keep more of their hard-earned money too.

 

I have no issue with viator nor do I have an issue with the NCL excursion game, I just think there's another way that should be fear free.

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very much a private tour fan-smaller groups and much less than ships excursions especially if can get a small group together via roll call

never come close to missing ship-in fact we are usually back in loads of time and up on pool deck watching ship excursions big buses arriving back and watching for "pier runners"

as long as you do your homework and book with a well recommended company no worries

we have done a couple of ships excursions which remind us never to repeat the experience

herded along with 50 plus others and somehow there are always late stragglers at each stop which delays the rest and cuts down time for the next stop-urgh

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2 hours ago, fabnfortysomething said:

very much a private tour fan-smaller groups and much less than ships excursions especially if can get a small group together via roll call

never come close to missing ship-in fact we are usually back in loads of time and up on pool deck watching ship excursions big buses arriving back and watching for "pier runners"

as long as you do your homework and book with a well recommended company no worries

we have done a couple of ships excursions which remind us never to repeat the experience

herded along with 50 plus others and somehow there are always late stragglers at each stop which delays the rest and cuts down time for the next stop-urgh

I have found that small or even private (just my wife and I) tours are also great for getting ahead of the buses.  I remember being in Izmir and taking a private tour to Mary's House and then to Ephesus.  We arrived, in our nice car, to find we had Mary's House almost completely to ourselves for at least half of our visit.  THEN, as we were wrapping up, the buses arrived and the place was suddenly packed and the lines were long.  Same experience in Ephesus.  And we also had time to do more other stops in the exact same time it took the buses to just do two stops.  On the same cruise, we had  a private driver take us from Katakolon to Olympia and we were there nearly an hour before the buses arrived.   Sometimes a fully private tour is more expensive than the ship's group...but if I get 40% more sights seen or activities done, at MY pace...it's worth it.  

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18 hours ago, cdnsteelman said:

First, Miller, we are on the same cruise. Be sure to join the roll call if you haven't already. Second I'm 16 cruises in to the habit mostly (13) with NCL with sailings in many different parts of the world. I have only booked 3-4 official NCL excursions in all that time and never had any issues. Read roll calls and the various port boards to see what others have done and recommend.

 

There is no rule that says you must overpay for ship excursions so you will not be a rule-breaker. I get that everyone has different "risk" tolerances but in my experience there is very little risk in using local operators and they don't have to be the big ones mentioned here like Viatours. With a little research and common sense you can get better experiences for substantially less cost by using smaller, local operators.

 

The "fear" you are feeling is carefully cultivated with the constant reminder that you can't miss the ship if you pay NCL's high rates for excursions but, in practice, very few people ever miss the ship and - if you use common sense - you won't either. Nothing in this life is 100% but, again, in my very deep and broad experience using local operators you don't have anything to worry about if you're smart about it.

Awesome! I am on the FB group and here on CC.

 

Thanks!

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