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Viator vs. Princess excursuions

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Hi there. I will be taking a July 2020 Mediterranean cruise on Princess, Athens to Barcelona.  I’ve never cruised before and would be more comfortable booking tours as opposed to setting out on my own.  Viator seems to have a great selection of tours.  Is this a reliable option or would you recommend sticking with the options that the cruise line is offering?  

 

Thank you

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We have used Viator many times...most recently on our Italy/Greece cruise earlier this summer.  They are reliable and offer a great product.  You just have to be aware that if there is any type of delay and you are late getting back to the ship, it is your responsibility to get to the next port.  Excursions booked through Princess are guaranteed to get you back in time...the ship will wait for passengers on their sponsored excursions.

That said, we are very careful to book tours that will get us back with a minimum of 90 minutes before the time we're due back (which is usually 30 minutes before the ship sails.)

Edited by lola2013

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some our best excursions were from Viator (and one of our worst).  We have used them mostly on land-travel.  Like lola2013, we only book outside excursions that return early.  

 

You are going to have so much fun!

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Viator may be convenient but it does NOT run any tours at all!

It is a 3rd party seller that sells tours that other local companies actually run.

Viator has absolutely no control over anything that happens on the tour.

You'd be much bettter off booking directly with the local company which you can find by either going to the local city forum on Trip  Advisor or probably just using Google to find them.

Why add another layer between yourselves and the tour itself.

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riffatsea said it best.  They sell tours for local companies.  They do not run tours.  I used to use them and had some great tours and some real lemons.  Now only book directly with the tour operators or take ship excursions.

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1.  Booking through a non-Princess vendor is definitely something to look into.  Princess' prices are actually quite competitive, but you can rest assured that your Princess excursion will have three times more people than you are comfortable with.  Independent tour operators almost always have less crowded tours and have the timing down pat.  They know exactly when each ship arrives, where it will arrive, and when your "back on-board" time is. (Though you ALWAYS want to triple-check this with any independent operator you book with.)  We have never had a problem.  

 

2.  As mentioned above, Viator is a consolidator.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that you will always pay top dollar.  Do your research through Viator, and when you find something you like, do an internet search on that very tour and odds are you will find the exact same one offered direct with the actual provider for less money.  And then do a fair amount of research investigating that excursion provider through sites such as this one, or other internet travel sites that give "advice" on "trips".   Reputable operators will always have many, many reviews that are current, and the good research sites use metrics to weed out fake reviews. 

 

3.  Another outfit we have used is "Tours By Locals".  Same consolidator concept.  You find a guide who fits your needs, and then research their name on the web and you will likely find half a dozen consolidators who they partner with.  And the cost difference from one site to the next is often remarkable, even for the exact same tour.  Once you find the price that is best for you, book through that site (or even directly with the guide him/herself.

 

4.  And all of this applies to Princess Tours as well.  Remember that Princess rarely employs their own excursion operators.  They are simply partnering with local operators who can be booked direct as well.  For example,  Princess might use "Wally's Whale Watching" for its excursion and Wally assigns its 100 person boat for the exclusive use of Princess that day.  But Wally probably also operates a 40 person boat as well.  Book direct with Wally and you can end up on the smaller boat for the same price.  It isn't hard to figure out who Princess uses.  Princess often post stock photos of its excursions on the booking website and those stock photos likely come from the vendor.  Just research that excursion and when you find a vendor who has the same photo on its website, you have found the vendor.  Or do an "image search" for the particular photo and you might get a lucky hit in 2 seconds.  That is how we found our zip-line excursion in Roatan.  We were curious to know who Princess uses, and it didn't take much sleuthing to figure it out, and we paid a third less booking direct and got in with a smaller group.  Good luck.

Edited by JimmyVWine

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Last night I was reading a thread on TripAdvisor Travel Forums complaining about Viator.    The problem the poster defined was the 'no refunds' policy; others pointed out that the policy is clearly stated in their ads.   Make sure to look for and read all T&C's - both Viator's and the tour operator's.    Various answers on the thread pointed out that you can usually book the same tour directly with the tour operators, so why go through Viator?  

 

Princess tours can typically be cancelled and refunded up until 48 hours before the tour.       

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On my last cruise, most of my tours were booked through Viatour.  I know that Viatour is a consolidator but here, that was good.  I had booked one tour with the local operator, and they told me "not enough people signed up for the tour, so we are cancelling that tour.  Do you want to book it as a private tour for many hundreds of euros more?"  I immediately booked the same tour through Viatour, and there was no problem.  Maybe Viatour was able to consolidate enough tourists that the tour was able to run, but on at least one of my Viatour tours, there were only four of us in the mini-van.

 

For me, I normally take the cruise line's tour if I am going somewhere off the beaten path.  However, for example, on a land tour on a Caribbean island, I can always call a taxi to fetch me if there is a breakdown of the an or tour bus, and I will still get back to the ship on time.

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14 minutes ago, JimmyVWine said:

1.  Booking through a non-Princess vendor is definitely something to look into.  Princess' prices are actually quite competitive, but you can rest assured that your Princess excursion will have three times more people than you are comfortable with.  Independent tour operators almost always have less crowded tours and have the timing down pat.  They know exactly when each ship arrives, where it will arrive, and when your "back on-board" time is. (Though you ALWAYS want to triple-check this with any independent operator you book with.)  We have never had a problem.  

 

2.  As mentioned above, Viator is a consolidator.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that you will always pay top dollar.  Do your research through Viator, and when you find something you like, do an internet search on that very tour and odds are you will find the exact same one offered direct with the actual provider for less money.  And then do a fair amount of research investigating that excursion provider through sites such as this one, or other internet travel sites that give "advice" on "trips".   Reputable operators will always have many, many reviews that are current, and the good research sites use metrics to weed out fake reviews. 

 

3.  Another outfit we have used is "Tours By Locals".  Same consolidator concept.  You find a guide who fits your needs, and then research their name on the web and you will likely find half a dozen consolidators who they partner with.  And the cost difference from one site to the next is often remarkable, even for the exact same tour.  Once you find the price that is best for you, book through that site (or even directly with the guide him/herself.

 

Several thoughts

 

1) Totally agree w your comments on Viator.  

 

2) Do not totally agree w you on Tours by Locals although I also like them very much.  I have done many tours w TourbyLocals but I do not regard them as a consolidator in the same way that Viator is a consolidator.  ToursbyLocals puts you in direct contact with the people who are actually doing the tour and encourages you to discuss the details of the tour which is something that Viator does not.  Often the people who do ToursbyLocals also have an independent tour agency in addition to their ToursbyLocals work and they give me their card for the independent agency at the end of the tour.  I am reasonably certain that Viator would not encourage their participating partners to do that.  

 

3) I do agree that with some exceptions, you will always get a better tour if you book independently and not with the cruise company.

 

DON

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6 minutes ago, donaldsc said:

2) Do not totally agree w you on Tours by Locals although I also like them very much.  I have done many tours w TourbyLocals but I do not regard them as a consolidator in the same way that Viator is a consolidator.  ToursbyLocals puts you in direct contact with the people who are actually doing the tour and encourages you to discuss the details of the tour which is something that Viator does not.  Often the people who do ToursbyLocals also have an independent tour agency in addition to their ToursbyLocals work and they give me their card for the independent agency at the end of the tour.  I am reasonably certain that Viator would not encourage their participating partners to do that. 

 

I see what you are saying.  However, I have frequently found that if want to do a tour with "Alexandra P."  who I found on Tours By Locals and her price is $300 for a group of 4 people, I might also find her on Viator and the fee is $400.  And she might also be found on See_Barcelona.com and the fee is $375.  Or, you might be able to email her directly and see if she can take your group for $275.  The point being that the people you find on Tours By Locals are not exclusive to that site.  So while Tours By Locals may not be a tour agency consolidator, they are a consolidator of a collection of individuals.  Sort of the same way that an Uber driver might also drive for Lyft, and might even have his own limo service with a fancy business card.

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I have booked with Viator on a few occasions. As others have mentioned, they are just a middleman. However, if you can figure out who the actual tour operator is (not always possible) and have good feedback, it can be a good choice. Advantages might be a more flexible cancellation/reschedule policy or even the ability to use a discount code or go through a cashback portal. On my last cruise, I was able to book the hop on hop off buses at a cheaper price through Viator than via the company itself, thanks to a code floating around. 

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Look up the tour on TripAdvisor.  First, you will get some reviews.  Second, there will be a link to the tour operator's web site.  You can also book Viator through TripAdvisor.  In my experience the pricing is similar, if not identical.

 

There is always a risk when booking on your own.  On our last cruise we showed up for a  tour and the local operator could not find our reservation.  It all got worked out quickly enough, however.  Which turned out to be a bad thing as the tour was awful.

 

I try to avoid booking through Princess, but I have had some good experiences.  On our Alaskan cruise we did a whale watching excursion through Princess and it was the highlight of the whole trip.  There were only 12 people on our small boat and the guide was excellent.

Edited by Oak City Man

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1 hour ago, Oak City Man said:

Look up the tour on TripAdvisor.  First, you will get some reviews.  Second, there will be a link to the tour operator's web site.  You can also book Viator through TripAdvisor.  In my experience the pricing is similar, if not identical.

 

There is always a risk when booking on your own.  On our last cruise we showed up for a  tour and the local operator could not find our reservation.  It all got worked out quickly enough, however.  Which turned out to be a bad thing as the tour was awful.

 

I try to avoid booking through Princess, but I have had some good experiences.  On our Alaskan cruise we did a whale watching excursion through Princess and it was the highlight of the whole trip.  There were only 12 people on our small boat and the guide was excellent.

 

I do have to agree w you on the Princess whale watching tour.  Small boat; small group; good guide; saw lots of whales; good tour.  However, you have to be care on which whale watching tour you pick.  They also do whale watching tours on larger boats.

 

DON

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5 hours ago, DEABILLINGDEPT said:

Hi there. I will be taking a July 2020 Mediterranean cruise on Princess, Athens to Barcelona.  I’ve never cruised before and would be more comfortable booking tours as opposed to setting out on my own.  Viator seems to have a great selection of tours.  Is this a reliable option or would you recommend sticking with the options that the cruise line is offering?  

 

Thank you

 

 

What Ports are you visiting ?  maybe we could give you some help

Edited by yamanid

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4 minutes ago, yamanid said:

 

 

What Ports are you visiting ?  maybe we could give you some help

 

You could always look on the Roll Call for your Cruise and see what Tours other fellow passengers are taking and you could perhaps join up with them?

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4 hours ago, JimmyVWine said:

Another outfit we have used is "Tours By Locals".

We have had great success and great guides with TBL.  I would recommend looking into them for sure.  We used them a lot in South America and once on our Baltic cruise.

 

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I'll chime in on the minority: while you can find the vendors that Princess uses and then book privately, and yes, they "have the timing down pat", they can't guarantee your coverage for the unforeseen like traffic, accidents, tire blowouts, etc. With Princess-booked tours, if those things happen, they'll either hold the ship or get you reunited with the ship on their dime, not yours. That peace of mind works for us...

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My traveling companion and I booked two tours in Amsterdam through Viator and we were pleased with the quality of these tours.  Both tours were during our stay in Amsterdam prior to embarking the Eurodam for her Baltic and Viking Passage cruises.  I usually look to see what Viator offers for the ports that I will be visiting.  Good to compare, I think.

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42 minutes ago, jwattle said:

I'll chime in on the minority: while you can find the vendors that Princess uses and then book privately, and yes, they "have the timing down pat", they can't guarantee your coverage for the unforeseen like traffic, accidents, tire blowouts, etc. With Princess-booked tours, if those things happen, they'll either hold the ship or get you reunited with the ship on their dime, not yours. That peace of mind works for us...

But if you are booked with the same tour operator that Princess uses and the ship is waiting for the Princess tour to arrive, then per force, the ship is waiting for your tour too. Not intentionally, but in parallel. We saw this happen in Cozumel. There were many excursions that headed to the mainland. On the way back, heavy winds and currents caused all the ferries to crawl back across the channel and were very late. The independent ferries were scheduled to arrive 15-30 minutes earlier than the Princess ferries. All were late, but since the ship waited for the Princess ferries, it naturally waited for the independent ones as well.  Sure, if an independent ferry had been the last one to arrive, the ship might have left without them. But that is why the independents plan to arrive beforehand. They understand how the system works. If and when a group of passengers gets left behind, it makes headlines here. But how often have you ever seen that reported here?  Frankly, I can’t recall it ever happening. The only time I can think of was a group of Princess excursion passengers getting left behind due to an excursion mishap, and of course Princess made sure it accommodated those folks. But if you do a search for “Excursion passengers get left behind”, you won’t find much. 

Edited by JimmyVWine

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We used Viator when we were in Sydney for our OZ-Fiji Cruise last year. We got to Sydney a few days before our cruise departed, to get over the jet lag and to see a few sights. We wanted to take a helicopter tour out to the Blue Mountains. I looked at a few tour operators direct and looked at Trip Advisor and Viator. We actually saved a few hundred AUD going through Viator, than booking with direct with the tour operator themselves. 

 

In truth, that tour was the highlight of the entire vacation. It was just myself, my wife and the pilot, so we had him throw the helicopter around a little* 😉

 

*not to be confused with our helicopter trip above Sedona a few years back. The pilot was ex military, so when we said no need to be gentle, he took that as an invitation to show us what the bird could do. I don’t think the 3rd passenger in the cabin appreciated it though! I was amazed at how maneuverable it was as he threw it down some of the canyons.  I’m pretty sure the pilot enjoyed the ride as much as we did. 

Edited by polmcs

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4 hours ago, yamanid said:

 

You could always look on the Roll Call for your Cruise and see what Tours other fellow passengers are taking and you could perhaps join up with them?

I agree wholeheartedly - when we did the Med last fall, we were able to book tours with other folks in the Roll Call. The biggest issue with Ship tours is usually it's ALOT of people getting schlepped around on a big tour bus. 

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I rarely will book a tour with the cruise company (unless I have a bunch of on board credit or limited time in port)  I will usually research and book independent tours and share them on my roll call, or join someone else's tour.  I do not like using consolidators as a rule because you have no idea who the tour company will be.  My one experience with a consolidator was Cruising Excursions where we had a couple good tours and several not so good.  We had booked a package for multiple ports. I would never use them again.  I highly recommend checking out tours on your roll call.

 

On the other hand, if you do decide to use Viator, don't forget to use the code SEPT9 for 10% off that is advertised here on CruiseCritic.

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14 hours ago, DEABILLINGDEPT said:

Hi there. I will be taking a July 2020 Mediterranean cruise on Princess, Athens to Barcelona.  I’ve never cruised before and would be more comfortable booking tours as opposed to setting out on my own.  Viator seems to have a great selection of tours.  Is this a reliable option or would you recommend sticking with the options that the cruise line is offering?  

 

Thank you

 

Being your first cruise I suggest you do the simplest options possible to reduce stress and anxiety.

 

A) As several others have suggested, join the Cruise Critic roll call for your cruise and see if there are any excursions available that have been set up on the roll call. Members of the roll call who have set up private excursions are likely experienced cruisers and have selected reliable and recommended tour providers.

 

B) Use Princess excursions.

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9 hours ago, yamanid said:

 

 

What Ports are you visiting ?  maybe we could give you some help

 

 

We have cruised Europe quite a lot and have done so many of the Ports on our own, using Public transport  -  trains, buses, ferries etc.  brilliant way to go

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Thank you all for the feedback.  It’s very helpful.  I like the security that Princess offers but I feel that viator’s selection seems more vast and appealing for my group that will be 4 ladies ages 63, 51, 43 and 18:)  I think I will start with Viator for tour ideas and then branch out to see if I can locate the tour groups directly and of course, sift through reviews before booking.  As with most things,  especially tours, there is no guarantee of 100% success but I think independent tours/viator is worth the extra effort and consideration on my end.  

 

I do have 2 subsequent questions.  If I book independently, what is the least amount of time that I should allow to get back on the ship?  I definitely to not want to cut it close and I would like to allow time for any hiccups that might occur. 

 

Can someone tell me what roll call is? 

 

For those that asked, we will be 3 days each pre/post Athens and Barcelona.  Cruise ports are Santorni, Sicily, Naples and Montenegro.

 

I adore this site!  Thanks again;!

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