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chrismch

Is there a benefit to book a ship's tour pre-boarding

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We rarely book ship's tours and independenty book our excursions. However, I've been reading that on tender ports, ship's tours are given first priority and any indie people are put in the back of the line. Other than a guarantee of getting the excursion (unless the port is skipped due to weather) is there any other benefit of booking before we board? Does it cost more once we board?

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, chrismch said:

 ... Does it cost more once we board?

 

 

Unfortunately, pricing is not predictable.  With Royal, prices can change at any time,

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Tours can sell out. That would be a reason, if you wanted something in particular.

 

ETA: I am not a RCI expert like Bob! I was speaking of cruise excursions in general.

Edited by crystalspin

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The other benefit is that you might catch a sale in your cruise planner that they won't offer onboard if the excursion is selling well.

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1 hour ago, HOSKI said:

The other benefit is that you might catch a sale in your cruise planner that they won't offer onboard if the excursion is selling well.

 

This

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5 hours ago, chrismch said:

We rarely book ship's tours and independenty book our excursions. However, I've been reading that on tender ports, ship's tours are given first priority and any indie people are put in the back of the line. Other than a guarantee of getting the excursion (unless the port is skipped due to weather) is there any other benefit of booking before we board? Does it cost more once we board?

 

 

 

Yes, only if they are on sale.  On our upcoming Anthem NE/Canada sail, 3 of my tours went on sale from their original listed price by 15-20% discount.  Saved some $70 which I can use for the SR.

 

2 of them (Boston & Bar Harbor) disappeared and I thought that they were sold out.  I'd planned on booking on board.  However, a few weeks later they re-appeared in the cruise planner at the discounted amounts.

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I am not one who books an excursion through the cruise line. However we did book a tour in San Juan because it was on sale and after researching private tours I found that with the sale the price from Royal the cost  was about the same. Since it was a short day in port I decided to book through Royal Caribbean so that we would have priority getting off of the ship. I would also use this logic if it was a tender port in Europe  or on some other continent. As it turned out I was having a sciatica issue and since this was described as a moderately physical tour my wife encouraged me to cancel. Since I was in the 48 hour cut off period I had no issue canceling and getting a refund. I don't know if I would have been able to cancel a private excursion. The other option would be to do a private tour and maybe consider purchasing the Key for priority tender service. The Key also fluctuates in price. If you are planing on also purchasing the internet it my be financially beneficial.  

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Here's what I know in certain cases you are always better off with the ship bought excursion and reserving/buying them through whatever is comparable to Royal's Cruise Planner. BUT most of the time you will save by going with independent companies or 3rd party consolidators, with usually the biggest savings if you book or plan to visit an attraction directly on your own. This (savings) is especially true if you have earned or purchased priority port of call disembarkation privileges, and have some guarantee of being able to leave the ship as early as needed for the tour. But the key is in depth research to start with. 

To me here's when you are better off with a cruise line backed excursion: When the attraction or historical site is more than 90 minutes away from port, not that the tour itself is that long or longer but that you will be traveling on whatever transport for that amount of time to reach the primary point of the tour (use Google maps to estimate as some tours make "picture" stops that extend your travel time). When the tour company giving the experience needs to rely on publicly available modes of transport, an instance like this would be tours on the mainland from Cozumel to the ruins or resorts there since then everyone including the ship and independents need to use the ferry which is owned by a company outside of the control of any tour provider. And tender ports, in part because here is where you can run into very last minute port cancellations and sudden delays in reaching the actual dock (both usually sea condition related), or just long waits to get on the launch to get off the ship.

Of course as many things in life there are exceptions to almost everything and it depends on individual circumstances. Like with tender ports, if your heart is not set on a vacation make or break excursion, you can many times wait till you are on the dock or in town to grab a last minute tour or resort day pass. A good example is Stingray City in Grand Cayman, plenty of private boats offer a trip out to just there or with a little bit of snorkeling time for about 20-50% off any pre-purchased/reserved package once you get into port.  Or in cases of tours with long travel, if like in Bermuda, where the dock time is extended or overnight, as long as there is plenty of time to get back to the ship, private arrangements will usually get you a better tour at a lower price. Conversely there are times when not planning ahead is the better financial deal, but makes you do more leg work on your own, like for resort day passes. There are many resorts and tour consolidation websites that greatly undercut whatever the cruise line has or will charge, but the trade off there is you need to get your own transport to/from the port to the property. Or their cancelation policy might be lacking as in the case of at least 1 .com multi-island resort day pass seller that requires 11 full days to get a refund on your upfront cost if you change your mind or take months of back and forth emails (providing proof) to get a refund if the port is cancelled. Again doing your due diligence as a consumer and researching as if you were staying at an airBNB on the island is the key to having a tour or experience that is both enjoyable and on target for the cost.

 

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Shop around.

 

I have found virtually the same tour, booked directly was actually a few dollars MORE than the RCI price.

 

Not often, but it can happen.

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I also checked out Viatour and saw that they were $10 higher than what RCI listed for the specific tour I wanted in Grand Cayman.

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On 6/23/2019 at 6:16 PM, SRF said:

Shop around.

 

I have found virtually the same tour, booked directly was actually a few dollars MORE than the RCI price.

 

Not often, but it can happen.

That was my experience as well.

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Royal's excursions are for the most part very expensive and very crowded.   We have taken plenty of private excursions all over the world and never had any problem getting back to the ship on time. We also find with private excursions we are able to see so much more as we are not sitting around always waiting for others.   We prefer private excursions so much more than a Royal  excursion.

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