Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
matj1986

Excursions - Through Celebrity or privately?

Recommended Posts

Hi,

 

Is there a difference in booking excursions through Celebrity or privately?  I've read some reviews of a few excursions (booked privately) where people have complained about being put together with other tours and groups for certain parts and its not quite what they were expecting. There looks like a sight difference in cost but not a huge amount.  My wife and I are on an 11 night ultimate Caribbean cruise to Grand Cayman, Cartagena and the ABC's.  We are trying to decide on some of the best things to do in these locations and how best to book them.

 

Previously we cruised in the med for 7 nights and didn't book anything as we had our own plans so excursions are a new thing for us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have completed that itinerary in the past and did mostly private tours with others off our roll call - much better in smaller groups than with coach loads from the ship. However, if we have lots of OBC to use, then we book ship tours too. Also take into consideration tender ports if you don’t get any priority through loyalty status or cabin level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When we book private tours we make sure we do read the ‘fine print’ carefully. Usually we have had no issues as we have done our homework on here or on trip advisor. Over many years we have had very few issues. Things to ensure when booking private tours are size of bus, language on tour (nothing worse than a commentary repeated in multiple languages), noting exactly what you have paid for (lunch included or a lunch stop where you may then need to pay for food), agreed and confirmed itinerary (no extra shopping stops replacing sights). If you do your research well, and as Villauk suggested, perhaps liaise with others on your roll call you will be fine.

 

We also use ship excursions when we have OBC. Generally they are of a very good standard although usually on full sized coaches. We also always use ship excursions if a tour is ‘cutting fine’ the time to return to the ship. For example, we booked an X Panama Canal trip and we were late returning owing to a road issue.  The ship did wait for us but we were aware some guests on a private tour missed the ship. Also, as  Villauk said, if tendering is involved booking an early morning ship excursion can leave you with more time to enjoy the rest of the day. We found this useful at Bay of Islands and on one visit to Santorini when there were multiple ships tendering resulting in large queues for the cable cars which we obviously missed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For a long excursion or in a tight schedule, it may be safer to go with the cruise. Otherwise, they are way over priced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While we have done both, you take a chance with a private tour unless you have a long stay in port.  If you take a ship sponsored tour, and for example the van gets a flat you can miss the ship- no guarantees.  However, we had an overnight in Aruba and the first day did a private excursion and it was fine.

 

However, we hate the tour lines, and crowds and sometimes best to take a chance and leave early.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I think the fear of missing the ship when booking private tours is over-rated. Yes it happens but so do so many other things rarely. Of the millions of people who book private tours annually around the world, I imagine the number of people who miss the ship is very insignificant. Unfortunately bad things happen to cruise sponsored tours also. 

 

The advantage of booking private tours is often cost (no commission to cruise line ) but also you have the ability to shop around on major review sites to find popular tours which people rave about.

 

Also, don’t be afraid to venture out alone without a tour (in relatively safe ports). Ive lived near NYC my whole life. I’ve never taken a NYC tour but I’ve been everywhere and have seen everything I’ve wanted to see walking, in a car, or via ferry. 

 

Cruise lines will use fear tactics to encourage you to book with them. Fears are propagated in message boards such as this one. 

 

I will say: Try to avoid private tours which make you pay in full in advance. Cruise ships do miss ports due to unforeseen circumstances. You’ll get refunded if you book through the cruise line but you may lose your money if you book privately so keep that in mind. 

Edited by mfs2k

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For many cruises we always took ship tours , now almost never , cruise line just take a cut from third party, they also tend to be over crowded. Need to research trips before hand, many times we do them with fellow roll call members .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We booked two excursions with local tour companies over the Internet. Both have full refund (minus credit card processing fee) if the ship changes schedule and could not make it for the tours. I found this to be a rather common practice when I was shopping for excursions. The one I got actually is refundable if cancelled 7 days or earlier before the tour. There is also a small fee if you want to have full cancellation protecrion on the tour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We do both, especially when we have an abundance of OBC to use. Grand Cayman is a tendered port, so a ship excursion will get you off and on more quickly. I'd also recommend a ship tour in Cartagena, Colombia, as parts of that city can be dicey to travel on your own. We did a ship excursion there which did a city tour, the Inquisition Museum and the fort that was one of the best excursions we've done on Celebrity. I've seen and heard many recommend tours by Dora  there, but we've never used her.  Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire are pretty easy to get around and we do our own thing there. The last time we visited Bonaire (December 2017) most of the ship's excursions were on yellow school busses that were not air conditioned, so beware if that's an issue for you. Bonaire has some wonderful scuba and snorkeling opportunities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We've done both....

Celebrity excursions are more costly and shorter duration....we hated paying so much for a 3.5 hour excursion that only got us 2 hours or so of excursion time.

We've booked several excursions on our own and they have been incredible!  Just research on Trip Advisor or other internet sights for reviews!!! Super helpful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Luvcrusn said:

We do both, especially when we have an abundance of OBC to use. Grand Cayman is a tendered port, so a ship excursion will get you off and on more quickly. I'd also recommend a ship tour in Cartagena, Colombia, as parts of that city can be dicey to travel on your own. We did a ship excursion there which did a city tour, the Inquisition Museum and the fort that was one of the best excursions we've done on Celebrity. I've seen and heard many recommend tours by Dora  there, but we've never used her.  Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire are pretty easy to get around and we do our own thing there. The last time we visited Bonaire (December 2017) most of the ship's excursions were on yellow school busses that were not air conditioned, so beware if that's an issue for you. Bonaire has some wonderful scuba and snorkeling opportunities.

 

Dora’s tour is fabulous - we did that independently with a group off our roll call.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We always do private tours and have never had a problem.  The difference in group size is the main reason.  After a few X tours that involved big buses and a lot of wasted time for a jillion people to stop for the restroom, we decided no more.  And all has gone well.  We like groups of 4-6 or max 8.  The one exception recently has been in Australia, for snorkeling.  Much better to give in and do ships tours...local operators can’t compete with the tender issues.  But only for Down Under.  On private tours just be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway...and many private tours we’ve done guarantee that if you miss the ship THEY will pay to get you to the next port....therefore, they are very careful to be timely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, matj1986 said:

Hi,

 

Is there a difference in booking excursions through Celebrity or privately?

You should join the roll call for your cruise.  Usually there is someone who books a tour and asks for others to join.  That way you will only be with people from your ship.  The tour will be smaller and less costly.  You can also tailor them sometimes to what the group wants to see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the past few years, we have done almost all tours with independent providers. Our most recent cruise was in Jan (Azamara Journey) to Cuba. We stopped in 3 cities and, prior to the cruise, I booked a tour with an independent tour operator in each city. Each was excellent, included only my wife and me and all were much, much cheaper than the large-group, ship-sponsored excursions.

 

We do 3-4 cruises per year and, unless there is no alternative or we have more on-board credits than we can spend on the ship, we always book tours independently. We have never been disappointed. Alll tours have included only my wife and me and, as a previous poster mentioned, the risk of missing the shipping is highly unlikely and (in my opinion) something the cruise lines say to get you to book their excursions. Excursions and the spa are huge moneymakers for the cruise lines.

 

Finding a good and reputable tour provider takes a little work but is not hard and can be fun. Beside the chats on this website, you can get a lot of good info about various providers on TripAdvisor. I use both resources to help me choose who I will use.

 

Since you are going to Cartagena, let me recommend Martin Rosales, who runs Cartagena Tour Guides (http://cartagenatourguides.com/). We used him for a cruise we took a couple of years ago and he was outstanding. Good friends of ours, on my recommendation, hired Martin last year and were also very happy with him. He is worth looking into for your visit to Cartagena.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also very rarely book cruise line excursions. While there are exceptions, in general they tend to be overpriced, overcrowded and often lower quality than what is available privately. Of course it does take some extra work to research and book private excursions - but that is time well spent IMHO. The Ports of Call section of Cruise Critic, your Roll Call and Trip Advisor are all good areas to do a little research (on Roll Calls people often organize group excursions there). With a little common sense the chances of missing the ship are minuscule; in fact on all my time on Cruise Critic I can't think of a single thread about somebody missing the ship because of being on a private excursion (though I do recall occasional threads where people missed the ship who were on Celebrity excursions and where people were just off doing their own thing). The cruise line wants you to think private excursions are scary and risky because they mark up the prices so much on their excursions - so they want you to book with them! Then you have some posters who are a bit anxious, and feed into the hysteria of private excursions being risky. I am sure some people have missed the ship because of a private excursion, but it is such a remote chance of happening - whereas better prices, smaller groups, better quality and more opportunity to personalize the tour is a 90%+ chance with private excursions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We almost exclusively do private tours.   The main thing that turns me off about Cruise Line tours is the number of people on the tours and the disrespectful guest that don't show up when supposed to and having to wait for them to arrive back to the bus 15-30 minutes late.  

 

I've found that we can often book a private tour for just the two of us at about the same price as the Cruise Line tour and have full control over our day.   Every private tour I have taken the first thing the guide re-confirms is when we need to be back.  Their reputation dictates that they can not have a guest miss the ship.

 

Another thing we enjoy about private tour is we can speed up, slow down or substitute a stop that doesn't interest us.   We often enjoy having the guide take us to places off the beaten paths. 

 

As others day -  do your research and read the T&C's and their refund policy if the ship doesn't dock.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Totally agree with everyone, make sure you do your reasearch we use it obc for excursions if we have any. We have used independent companies and also cruising excursions website. 

I feel better fivinv to independents as they actually get the money rather than the big cruise ship ones and they charge a ridiculous amount! 

On 2/12/2019 at 9:25 PM, richstowe said:

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • SAIL-AWAY GIVEAWAY - Enter for a chance to win a $3,000 Norwegian Cruise Line Gift Card
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...