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LindaMG

Non Cruise Line Excursions. Too Risky?

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We have always booked our excursions through the cruise line.  We felt the extra money is worth it to have the security of the ship waiting for us if late back.  We are sailing the inside passage next month and have booked an excursion in Skagway that we will do togeather then 2 in other ports just for my husband.   I would like to do something I would enjoy but nothing Princess has to offer is grabbing me.  However I have found one run by Alaska Sore excursions I would be keen to go on.  But is it too risky to book through an independent company.

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We have done scores of independent tours. The tour companies are well aware that you have to get back to the ship on time or their reputation suffers. Always note the time that you are required to be back on board. As a safeguard, we usually plan on being back one hour ahead of the deadline. We usually tell the tour operator that our all-aboard time is half an hour earlier than it really is. If we are planning the independent tour ourselves, we start off the day with the part of the tour that is furthest from the ship, then work our way back closer as the day goes on.

 

Often the people we have seen on videos running towards the ship, or missing it, have been shopping, not on a tour.

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Most of the reputable tour companies rely on cruisers for the bulk, if not all, of their business.  If they don't take care of their customers by getting you back on time their business will go away.  Try checking in on the roll call for your cruise and hook up with fellow travellers to find the reputable companies.

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Our big box warehouse club's travel department has an online section where you can shop for independent tours by inserting your ship's name and cruise dates.  Best of all, they offer a guaranteed return to the ship.  They are generally 10-25% cheaper than the cruise line price.  Best of all, you just walk off the ship and meet your tour.  We have used them successfully all over the world and often they are the same local operators that the ships use.

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I can't begin to count the number of non-ship tours we have taken and we've always been back in plenty of time. Once, in Monaco, there was a huge traffic jam but we had Princess buses behind us so we weren't worried. I only really worry when we go off to explore on our own. The operators of the independent tours have too much to lose if they get you back late so they will plan the day well. Be sure to check the Ports of Call boards to see if there are any comments about the operator you're considering. Also check Trip Advisor.

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We have done 150 or so independent tours an never had a problem.

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6 hours ago, LindaMG said:

We have always booked our excursions through the cruise line.  We felt the extra money is worth it to have the security of the ship waiting for us if late back.  We are sailing the inside passage next month and have booked an excursion in Skagway that we will do togeather then 2 in other ports just for my husband.   I would like to do something I would enjoy but nothing Princess has to offer is grabbing me.  However I have found one run by Alaska Sore excursions I would be keen to go on.  But is it too risky to book through an independent company.

 We very rarely book through  the cruise line. Independent tours are very trustworthy, they know what time the ship leaves and we have never had an issue. 

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I usually book independently.

 

Alaska shore excursions is purely a booking company. I would not book with them. If you go over to the Alaska boards and post which excursions you are interested in, we can get you in contact with the actual tour operator. I only book directly with the tour operator.

 

 

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We always book independent tours. The experience you get traveling the country, away from the large tour busses, can be extraordinary!  As others have said, in this day of social media, all a tour operator needs to do is miss a ship and they’ll be out of business overnight! 

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Posted (edited)

The only time I book ship's excursions are if the time in port is very short.  Otherwise, we can almost always find some more personal and less expensive.

 

I will say that I have had a couple of scares, though.  Once in Belize on a snorkel excursion the boat had engine trouble, and I was quite worried we wouldn't make it back.  Luckily the operators were able to do a quick fix (took about 45 minutes to an hour) and we made it in time for the last tender.  Still made me very nervous and a drink was in order the minute we got back onboard!  Another time we were on a Segway tour in Nassau and our Jeep got stuck in the sand.  We had to wait for another vehicle to pick us up, and we were "those people" running to the ship at the last minute.  So, stuff can happen.

Edited by dznymom

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I very seldom book through the cruise line any more. I feel like I have had better quality excellent experiences in smaller groups for a more reasonable price! I’ve never had any worry about missing a ship...all the private tour operators I have used have been professional and prompt. Their livelihood depends on it!

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DW prefers to use the Princess tours mainly because when we used local operators DW kept looking at the time and would become anxious that we would miss the boat.  Local tour companies are just not for DW so we spend the extra money.  I do have suggestions though from when I would research local tours for us.  Only book with a vendor that guarantees return to ship and be sure of the guarantee's terms.  See if the tour is reviewed on TripAdvisor.  Go on your roll call and ask others if they are using it and if any have prior experience with that vendor.

 

Enjoy Alaska!

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I've been cruising longer than many (since the early 1970s) and have watched shore excursions morph from being a small added extra that cruise lines arranged at port to a major business and profit center for the lines. In the process, there has been a huge increase in the amount of fearmongering from the cruise lines themselves about "missing the ship" if you don't book a shorex through them.

 

My consideration of what to do in port revolves more around having a great experience than reducing cost (I know the latter reason is why some book outsider vendors; it is not mine).  Whenever possible I do things independently -- figure out what I want to see, how to get around, etc. If that isn't possible, I will look for a good local tour provider or guide. Only if both of these options cannot be located will I book a ship tour. Why? Because I find the quality of the guides I've experienced to be extremely variable and generally middling at best. Also, I am not a shopper and I despise the "forced shopping" stops that many mainstream cruise lines impose on their tours. If people want to shop, let them shop on their own time....

 

Finally, let me say that in the last 20 years or so since I started doing ports on my own, I have never once come close to missing the ship. The closest I EVER came was way way back when -- on a ship excursion with my parents in St. Lucia when our transport ran out of gas in a relatively remote location (heading back from the "drive-in" volcano. He tried backing down the steeply sloping road (my heart in my mouth) to get the last ounce of gas out of the tank but eventually we were sidelined for quite a while until someone else came along and offered to take the driver to get more gas. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a guarantee that the ship would wait for you on a tour, so we would have been quite, quite worried were it not for the fact that one of the ship's headline entertainers was with us. We were pretty sure that would work in our favor and it did, even though we were definitely VERY late returning.

 

 

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10 hours ago, LindaMG said:

We have always booked our excursions through the cruise line.  We felt the extra money is worth it to have the security of the ship waiting for us if late back.  We are sailing the inside passage next month and have booked an excursion in Skagway that we will do togeather then 2 in other ports just for my husband.   I would like to do something I would enjoy but nothing Princess has to offer is grabbing me.  However I have found one run by Alaska Sore excursions I would be keen to go on.  But is it too risky to book through an independent company.

 

 

Do it.  These companies know you need to get back to the ship and they are excellent at getting you back in time.  I almost always book private excursions and I can't say enough how much better they are.  And no, I've never had a problem.  Not even a close call.  

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Posted (edited)

Over 20 plus cruises I think that we have only done one ships cruise.  And it was overpriced and overcrowded.   

 

So no, we do independent tours-usually in small groups with well recommended local tour operators.  We have never even come close to missing a cruise.  We go as early as possible and like to return within two hours or so of sailing.

Edited by iancal

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10 hours ago, LindaMG said:

We have always booked our excursions through the cruise line.  We felt the extra money is worth it to have the security of the ship waiting for us if late back.  We are sailing the inside passage next month and have booked an excursion in Skagway that we will do togeather then 2 in other ports just for my husband.   I would like to do something I would enjoy but nothing Princess has to offer is grabbing me.  However I have found one run by Alaska Sore excursions I would be keen to go on.  But is it too risky to book through an independent company.

We almost always book through the cruise line.On one cruise decided not to and went off on our own. I checked my watch and saw that the ship was due to leave in 45 minutes.We were more than an hour from the port. We decided to hitch hike ,something we would never do at home. The guy who picked us up got us to the ship just as they were untying the ropes. They were not waiting for us. Since then we always book with the ship.

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1 hour ago, lenquixote66 said:

We almost always book through the cruise line.On one cruise decided not to and went off on our own. I checked my watch and saw that the ship was due to leave in 45 minutes.We were more than an hour from the port. We decided to hitch hike ,something we would never do at home. The guy who picked us up got us to the ship just as they were untying the ropes. They were not waiting for us. Since then we always book with the ship.

or maybe it would be better if you checked your watch more often  so you would not be  late getting back to the ship

or set your watch 90 mins ahead 😎

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We left four people behind in Juneau on my southbound Princess cruise this summer. They caught up to the ship in Ketchikan the next day. I don't know why they missed the ship. I only booked one excursion through Princess--but that was one that I could use the best price guarantee.

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18 hours ago, Aus Traveller said:

 

snip

 

Often the people we have seen on videos running towards the ship, or missing it, have been shopping, not on a tour.

 

Or at Senor Frogs or similar boozatorium.

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18 hours ago, LindaMG said:

We have always booked our excursions through the cruise line.  We felt the extra money is worth it to have the security of the ship waiting for us if late back.  We are sailing the inside passage next month and have booked an excursion in Skagway that we will do togeather then 2 in other ports just for my husband.   I would like to do something I would enjoy but nothing Princess has to offer is grabbing me.  However I have found one run by Alaska Sore excursions I would be keen to go on.  But is it too risky to book through an independent company.

You do know the cruise line does not guarantee that the ship will wait for a late ship’s excursion, I hope. 

The cruise line guarantees they will get you to the next port at its expense if a ship sponsored shire excursion arrives after the ship sails. 

Many times cruise ships cannot wait more than a short time. 

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uh beware ; Alaska is a different type of animal. Most excursion involve some sort  of water transportation, that can be an issue getting from point A and back again. 2012 on a ship sponsored excursion from Skagway to Haines via ferry, we were delayed and missed the return ferry.  Stunned by this sudden turn of events but not down for the count. The ship sponsored tour guide made some calls and long story short a private plane arrived at Haines airport and whisked us away  to runway 2 in Skagway. All in time to make a thirty minute window. I bet that was a one in twenty event.

 

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10 hours ago, jagsfan said:

You do know the cruise line does not guarantee that the ship will wait for a late ship’s excursion, I hope. 

The cruise line guarantees they will get you to the next port at its expense if a ship sponsored shire excursion arrives after the ship sails. 

Many times cruise ships cannot wait more than a short time. 

This is from Princess Web Site Excursions FAQs One very important feature of taking an excursion organized by Princess is that we closely monitor the departures and returns of all excursions. Therefore, our ships do not sail until all of our organized excursion transportation has returned, so you can be assured that you won't miss the ship.
 

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20 hours ago, lenquixote66 said:

We almost always book through the cruise line.On one cruise decided not to and went off on our own. I checked my watch and saw that the ship was due to leave in 45 minutes.We were more than an hour from the port. We decided to hitch hike ,something we would never do at home. The guy who picked us up got us to the ship just as they were untying the ropes. They were not waiting for us. Since then we always book with the ship.

 

Well, that was your fault, not the fault of any private excursion company. 

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2 hours ago, Daniel A said:

This is from Princess Web Site Excursions FAQs One very important feature of taking an excursion organized by Princess is that we closely monitor the departures and returns of all excursions. Therefore, our ships do not sail until all of our organized excursion transportation has returned, so you can be assured that you won't miss the ship.
 

They will wait if they can. Sometimes they can’t. 

 

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My next cruise I'm not taking a single shore excursion from the ship or a private provider.  Unless something drastically changes, we're DIYing the entire thing--including renting a car and driving well over an hour away twice.  


Just plan to be back plenty early.  We are stopping in Honfleur, and will rent a car and drive to Normandy.  We depart that evening at 7:00 pm, so we'll plan on having the car returned and being back on board by around 4:00.  It gives us a solid buffer in case of traffic or other unexpected delay.

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