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DEABILLINGDEPT

Viator vs. Princess excursuions

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16 hours ago, lola2013 said:

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.)

 

So basically, you allow 2hrs? I feel that is something I will definitely be sure to do.    For example, we will be in Santorini 7am-7pm and Montenegro 7am -3pm.  How soon are you required to be back on the boat? I thought I read somewhere that is was like 2 hrs ahead of time but I can’t remember. 

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1 hour ago, DEABILLINGDEPT said:

 

So basically, you allow 2hrs? I feel that is something I will definitely be sure to do.    For example, we will be in Santorini 7am-7pm and Montenegro 7am -3pm.  How soon are you required to be back on the boat? I thought I read somewhere that is was like 2 hrs ahead of time but I can’t remember. 

lola2013 is pretty cautious.  ALL ABOARD is 99% of the time 30 minutes prior to sailing.  Never two hours.  It will be announced in the Patter.  It is announced on PA system in the morning when gangplank or tenders are open for heading ashore.  It is posted on a sign on the dock. 

 

We usually look to arrive back one hour ahead which gives 30 minutes (actually a bit more) margin.  Do not count on this, but my observation is that most of the time there are one or more Princess tour buses that arrive late - either around the 30 minute mark or later.  They can still get a bunch of people on board and be ready to go more-or-less on time.  If you are on the dock towards the end of the day, you will notice that all of the extra paraphernalia is gone and back on the ship and pretty much down to a single gangplank and three or so crew members.

 

If you are using your own tour arrangement, believe me these organizations/operators know what they are doing and the ship times.  Also, when you book with them, you let them know your ship and port times.  If anything changes, just make sure they are aware.  Often I have had guide or in-charge person double-check that morning with the passengers when the all-aboard is.  They know the local scene and the traffic patterns and know where they need to be to get you back to the ship on time.  Never had a problem with private tours.  We check into their reputation both for tour quality and if there have been any issues missing a ship departure.  These businesses depend on cruisers for livelihood and they would be out of business quickly if they didn't get folks back to their ships in time.

 

 

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3 hours ago, DEABILLINGDEPT said:

 

Can someone tell me what roll call is? 

I adore this site!  Thanks again;!

Just look at the top of the Princess Board for “Find my Roll Call” (you can also find it other places in the “Boards area). Click on “Princess” then “your ship” then “sailing date.” You’ll then be connected with others that are on your exact cruise. Often they’re looking for people to join them on private tours they are putting together.

 

Also, look on the “Port” area of the boards. There you’ll also find recommendations for tour operators in various ports. Look for guides that are being recommended by several former users!!

Edited by BigGuy25

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Roll Call is another forum on this site where people who are on the same cruise as you can meet before the cruise, arrange tours together, and arrange a place to meet on the ship on the first day (if you want to meet others). 

To find your roll call, go back to Cruise Critic boards home page, you will see the topic Roll Call, then go to Princess Roll Calls and then find your specific cruise.   

We often join the roll calls to find people who may be interested in sharing private tours,  We went to Australia and New Zealand several years ago and were able to put together private tours with people we met on the roll call.  Best thing we did.   

 

For both our Med cruise several years ago and on a recent cruise to the Baltic I went on the ports board (another one on CC) and found lots of recommendations for private tours.  Trip Advisor was a great source as well.   To us, Viator provides no added value.  You can book with the tour operators directly.   We always ask for the tour guides to get us back to the ship an hour before it is setting sail to give up plenty of time.  

 

Planning is part of the fun!   

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17 hours ago, JimmyVWine said:

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. 

Scenario where that logic "might" fail: Passenger A books through the cruise ship, and passenger B books same excursion direct. I'd be much more relaxed if I'm passenger A and my tour bus breaks down. If I'm passenger B and my bus breaks down, I would not be so assured of the potential outcome. Case in point: Alaska cruise with a golf excursion through the ship. There were two ships in port, both Celebrity. There were passengers from both ships on the excursion. Due to an issue we missed the ferry back to the ships. Due to being on a ship excursion, one of the ships DID wait, 45 minutes past their DEPARTURE time, not all aboard time. Our cohorts who were on that ship got onboard and we watched as everything got closed up and they departed. We just made our all aboard. If it hadn't been a ship's excursion...

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9 hours ago, DEABILLINGDEPT said:

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? 

Too many variables to give you a number for independent or on your own. Maybe look at your question a different way.  Wouldn't it be nice to get back onboard, get cleaned up, have a refreshing drink and look forward to a fun evening rather than be rushed and stressed about it?  I once saw people arrive late to the dock after the ship has cast off and making way.  The ship doesn't come back. As far as roll call, anytime you board or leave the ship, a crew member scans your card.  There is no boarding "roll call," but you are counted at each port. If you mean a Cruise Critic roll call, then find your cruise from the menu above and start posting with your upcoming fellow passengers.  Welcome to cruising. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Edited by mtnesterz

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I am usually comfortable with booking on my own. However I always consider how far the port is from the tour location/activities.  If it’s more than an hour I seriously consider the ship tour.  I also consider how rugged the terrain may be.  As an example in Costa Rica we did a ships tour to the rainforest park and I am glad we did.  At least an hour by bus each way, and the road to the park was one lane and rough.if the bus had broken down we would have been in trouble on an independent tour.   As a contrast in Cartagena, Columbia I booked a private drive/guide which was more expensive. It was much more worth the additional cost, as it was only our group of 4. We were never more than a 20 minute taxi ride from the ship. I heard complaints that evening from other cruisers that the ship tour was crowded, too short and they really didn’t see anything. Several felt it was a wasted stop, while it was one of my favorite stops on all of our trips and my group agreed.

 

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I am usually comfortable with booking on my own. However I always consider how far the port is from the tour location/activities.  If it’s more than an hour I seriously consider the ship tour.  I also consider how rugged the terrain may be.  As an example in Costa Rica we did a ships tour to the rainforest park and I am glad we did.  At least an hour by bus each way, and the road to the park was one lane and rough.if the bus had broken down we would have been in trouble on an independent tour.   As a contrast in Cartagena, Columbia I booked a private drive/guide which was more expensive. It was much more worth the additional cost, as it was only our group of 4. We were never more than a 20 minute taxi ride from the ship. I heard complaints that evening from other cruisers that the ship tour was crowded, too short and they really didn’t see anything. Several felt it was a wasted stop, while it was one of my favorite stops on all of our trips and my group agreed.

 

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I am usually comfortable with booking on my own. However I always consider how far the port is from the tour location/activities.  If it’s more than an hour I seriously consider the ship tour.  I also consider how rugged the terrain may be.  As an example in Costa Rica we did a ships tour to the rainforest park and I am glad we did.  At least an hour by bus each way, and the road to the park was one lane and rough.if the bus had broken down we would have been in trouble on an independent tour.   As a contrast in Cartagena, Columbia I booked a private drive/guide which was more expensive. It was much more worth the additional cost, as it was only our group of 4. We were never more than a 20 minute taxi ride from the ship. I heard complaints that evening from other cruisers that the ship tour was crowded, too short and they really didn’t see anything. Several felt it was a wasted stop, while it was one of my favorite stops on all of our trips and my group agreed.

 

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I can highly recommend the following independent tours based on a fall 2017 cruise with a group of 6:

 

  • Barcelona - Barcelona Day Tours (https://barcelonadaytours.com/) - they offer a variety of small van tours.  We were only there a day so we did the half day tour and bought our own tickets to La Sagrada Familia.
  • Sicily (Messina, not Palermo) - Sicily with Mario (http://www.sicilywithmario.com/):  private driver/guide who took us to Mt. Etna, Taormina, and through Messina.
  • Naples - APTours (https://www.aptours.it/ private driver who took us to Pompeii (where we had an excellent private guide for the site), Positano, and Sorrento.  He also purchased our ferry tickets for the ride back to the ship across the Bay of Naples.
  • Kotor - Kotor Bay Tours (http://www.kotorbaytours.com/tour-de-bay-with-bike): This is a specialized tour that wouldn't appeal to all but the 5 members of our group (50s and 60s;  I was recuperating from 2 hip replacements 3 months earlier so didn't go) who did it loved it:  a bike ride around the absolutely gorgeous (and on a flat road) Bay of Kotor.

 

My DH and I lived in Italy for 5 years and were probably more picky (and knowledgeable, having been to all the places we visited multiple times) than the average tourist in Italy and we were impressed with all the Italian tours.  Barcelona was a first visit for us and we wish we could have stayed - we would have taken some of Barcelona Day Tours full day excursion.  Kotor was also a first visit.  It is a beautiful walled city and I enjoyed exploring it while everyone else biked.  The scenery is gorgeous - make sure you are out on deck for the sail in and/or sail away.

 

Almost all the excursions we book are independent or private with reputable companies.  They are not going to risk returning you to the ship late.  We have felt comfortable returning 1 hour before final boarding.

 

Edited by capriccio

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