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Airwavey

Shore excursion prices ūüėĪ

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Hi all

First timers here, booked for the Crown Princess Norwegian Fjords cruise next June. 

First time cruisers, but seriously experienced travellers, especially since our retirement 3 years ago since when we have spent up to 6 months a year abroad.

We understand there will be inclusions and items that will cost extra.  And a whole new etiquette to get our heads around -  Tipping.... drinks packages... dress codes.

But - the shore excursion prices on this trip are, in our minds, extortionate,  and we say that with our extensive first hand knowledge of location/city/district trips we have booked and taken during our travels.

Bottom line - how feasible is it for us to book our own trips with local operators in our ports of call?

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Welcome to Cruise Critic!

 

MANY people, including ourselves, do ports on our own. And use private tours. You are not forced to use ship's excursions except in a pretty small number of ports. 

 

Start with some research on the Ports boards, here:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/8-europe/

 

You will see private tour vendors recommended, and do it yourself activities mentioned.

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+1. Unless it's the cruiseline private island (pretty much just Caribbean itineraries), you should be able to find private excursions pretty easily except in tiny ports. Often you can book the exact same tour that's being sold by the line, direct from the local provider, for less money, unless the entire capacity of that local company has been bought out by the line - if there's only one boat tour operator for example and the line has prebooked their boat, this is when you may have to decide between 'overpriced tour or no tour at all' unfortunately.

 

Many if not most private tours are quantifiably superior (smaller groups, more flexible routes) as well as cheaper too. Despite an awful lot of misinformation, even on these boards, taking a cruiseline tour has zero guarantee of getting you back to the ship so there is simply no reason to pay extra for the same tour just because it's sold by the line - unless you have OBC that will go to waste and nothing else to spend it on.

 

You do find some cruiseline tours that are fairly priced though - with minimal extra charge and perhaps even a slight convenience enhancement, e.g. a pickup right at the pier instead of having to walk/taxi/shuttle to where private tours pick up - so it's always worth checking just in case. An example is whalewatching in AK ports - you can book both small and large boats, and the price per person is usually almost identical to the indy tours.

 

 

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In addition to looking at the POC forum, have a look at the Roll Call for your specific ship and dates. You will likely find fellow cruisers who are doing private tours that you can join. Or form one of your own and invite others to join in. Here's a link to the Princess roll call board:.   https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/63-princess-roll-calls/

Edited by mom says

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15 hours ago, Airwavey said:

But - the shore excursion prices on this trip are, in our minds, extortionate,  and we say that with our extensive first hand knowledge of location/city/district trips we have booked and taken during our travels.

Bottom line - how feasible is it for us to book our own trips with local operators in our ports of call?

We always book private tours (getting groups together on our roll call) or we DIY. The private experience has always been superior to the ship tours. Many ports are very easy to DIY.

Which ports are you visiting on your cruise?

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The issue of high priced shore excursions has been around from when we started cruising over forty years ago.  Many cruisers (including me) seldom to ever take any of those overpriced shore excursions...preferring to either do things on our own (using our feet, rental cars, trains, buses, etc) or joining with a few others on a small group private tour.  Many private tours are arranged via the CC Roll Call boards (a great place to hook up with others for tours).

 

At least one mass market cruise line (Princess) now has implemented a "price guarantee" for their excursions which essentially says that if you can find the same private tour for less they will match the price.  Or course that is unlikely since it can be difficult to find the same exact tour (especially in ports where the cruise line (and their reps) prohibit tour providers from selling directly to cruisers.

 

Despite the oft ridiculous pricing of some cruise excursions there are always plenty of cruisers willing to pay the high prices.  Why?  Some of these folks are simply afraid to do anything on their own and others are willing to pay the high prices in order to avoid the so-called hassles of arranging their own tours or doing their own thing.

 

Hank

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We prefer book excursions through the cruise ship.Some spend money on cruises buying jewelry we prefer booking more expensive shore excursions.

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Hi all

Thank you each for your replies and the confirmation that we can 'go solo' if we want to work it - which with our experience we are well used to.

There are clearly 'hidden depths' to this website - we have now found the roll call board for our cruise. It's been going for months, with some private trips already arranged and fully booked!¬† ūüėä

Somewhat peeved to hear that some cruises tie up ports/tours with restrictions on selling to cruisers. But, how do they know?

 

dogs4fun - it's the Norwegian Fjords cruise from/to Southampton, doing Stavanger, Flam, Olden, Trondheim, Honningsvaag, Tromso  (which we've already visited on a northern lights break), Gravdal/Lofoten, Andalsnes, Bergen  

 

Thanks again all

 

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28 minutes ago, Airwavey said:

Somewhat peeved to hear that some cruises tie up ports/tours with restrictions on selling to cruisers. But, how do they know?

 

 

The vendor is the one who usually closes off their seats to non cruise ship bookings. This is usually in areas where there is no other significant tourist business besides the cruise pax, so when  a person shows up asking for a tour, they are most likely a ship passenger seeking an independent tour. This does happen, but I don't think it is universal, or really common.

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You are not obliged to book the ship's excursions. We opt for local tour agencies sometimes too. Not only do they have better deals sometimes, but it's better organized and less crowd.

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If you haven't read it elsewhere, it deserves mentioning that while it's a low risk, you MAY be left behind by the ship if your tour runs late (traffic, poor planning, breakdown, etc). If you're on a Ship-organized tour the ship WILL wait for your group to get aboard. 

Many tours have you back at the port WELL in advance of all aboard, some can cut it a little close. 

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On 11/19/2019 at 4:06 PM, Airwavey said:

Hi all

First timers here, booked for the Crown Princess Norwegian Fjords cruise next June. 

First time cruisers, but seriously experienced travellers, especially since our retirement 3 years ago since when we have spent up to 6 months a year abroad.

We understand there will be inclusions and items that will cost extra.  And a whole new etiquette to get our heads around -  Tipping.... drinks packages... dress codes.

But - the shore excursion prices on this trip are, in our minds, extortionate,  and we say that with our extensive first hand knowledge of location/city/district trips we have booked and taken during our travels.

Bottom line - how feasible is it for us to book our own trips with local operators in our ports of call?

 

As experienced travelers there is no reason in the world for you to book ship's excursions. The only time I do ship tours is when I travel solo, especially on NCL, because I get a couple of credits.

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Actually, the ship will leave even (late) ship's tours if the harbor master tells the captain he must.

 

The difference is if this were to happen, on a ship's tour the cruiseline would be obliged to get you to the next port. 

 

Private tour companies survive by their reputations.

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3 minutes ago, crystalspin said:

Actually, the ship will leave even (late) ship's tours if the harbor master tells the captain he must.

 

The difference is if this were to happen, on a ship's tour the cruiseline would be obliged to get you to the next port. 

 

Private tour companies survive by their reputations.

Some private companies also offer a guarantee to get you to your next port (at their expense) should you miss the ship. Our independent Baltic tours with Alla Tours provide such a guarantee.

Edited by dogs4fun

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2 hours ago, zqvol said:

 

As experienced travelers there is no reason in the world for you to book ship's excursions. The only time I do ship tours is when I travel solo, especially on NCL, because I get a couple of credits.

 

And just because the ship excursion is more expensive, don't assume it is better.

We did the Fjords last May.  I'm not big on port stuff, but Flaam has a scenic train ride that I found very easy to do and very worthwhile.  I bought my tickets online, and the boarding spot was within easy walking distance - even for 2 mildly mobility challenged people like my wife and I.

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7 hours ago, dogs4fun said:

Some private companies also offer a guarantee to get you to your next port (at their expense) should you miss the ship. Our independent Baltic tours with Alla Tours provide such a guarantee.

As did SPB- Tours whom we used at Florence for Siena and San Gimignano.

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13 hours ago, Toofarfromthesea said:

 

And just because the ship excursion is more expensive, don't assume it is better.

We did the Fjords last May.  I'm not big on port stuff, but Flaam has a scenic train ride that I found very easy to do and very worthwhile.  I bought my tickets online, and the boarding spot was within easy walking distance - even for 2 mildly mobility challenged people like my wife and I.

 

We have done the same on the Flam railway as we much prefer to DIY. The scenery is spectacular!

 

19 hours ago, Airwavey said:

dogs4fun - it's the Norwegian Fjords cruise from/to Southampton, doing Stavanger, Flam, Olden, Trondheim, Honningsvaag, Tromso  (which we've already visited on a northern lights break), Gravdal/Lofoten, Andalsnes, Bergen  

 

If you are interested in DIY for Flam, I have included the link for the Flam railway. Enjoy your cruise!

https://www.visitflam.com/activities/flamsbana---the-flam-railway/

Edited by dogs4fun

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You've already got the general drift from other posts, but here's a few comments from me.

 

Yes, ships' tours are overpriced.

They play on the fact that they're responsible for getting you back to the ship in time. An advantage, but grossly over-played.

Most private tour operators give similar guarantees, and all rely on getting you back in time to maintain their reputations. 

I've never heard - first-hand or second-hand or hundredth-hand - of anyone on a private tour missing their sailing. No doubt there's the rare occasion when it's happened but the risk is infinitesimal.

I've seen plenty of posts about "we got back late, but because we were on as ships tour the ship waited for us". Don't translate that into a similar number of private tours getting back late & missing the ship - ships' tours often get back late because they know that they can. 

If you DIY rather than taking any sort of tour the risk is higher - but only if you're scatter-brained or don't build in wiggle-time for delays. Or if you over-indulge in the demon drink :classic_rolleyes: Plenty such folk cruise the Caribbean :classic_biggrin:

 

There are a few circumstances when we consider a ship's tour.

If the sights are distant from the port and the roads crowded or isolated or local transportation is unreliable, especially if port time is limited.

Also where no "Plan B" is possible if arrangements go belly-up. An example would be where the only transportation is a local ferry. 

And there are some excursions only possible by ship's tour - sometimes because the ship has block-booked the attraction

 

Yes, check that a tour operator provides guarantees of a return on-time.

 

But also check their cancellation terms.

Sometimes a ship can't make port. Might be mechanical or other issues, but usually because of the weather - especially at tender ports. At most ports the ship ties-up at the quayside, but some ports don't have the facilities to berth a large ship, so it anchors off-shore & you're ferried to the shore by boats. If it's windy or there's a big swell it's too dangerous to off-load passengers  Tender ports are usually identified on the cruise itinerary as "ashore by tender" or similar. Some tender ports are well-sheltered & rarely problematic, others are missed very frequently.

Most tours that are geared to cruisers offer a full or almost-full refund if the ship fails to make port. 

If here's no such refund guarantee at ports with an unreliable reputation I suggest you book a ship's tour (tour fees automatically canceled) or plan to DIY.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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As with anything, shop around.

 

I have found at times, the ship's tour to be the same price (or even cheaper by a few dollars).  Not often, but it does happen.

 

 

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3 hours ago, John Bull said:

If you DIY rather than taking any sort of tour the risk is higher - but only if you're scatter-brained or don't build in wiggle-time for delays. Or if you over-indulge in the demon drink :classic_rolleyes: Plenty such folk cruise the Caribbean :classic_biggrin:

Yep 

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This is a generalization but it is almost always true

 

1) Private tours are less expensive

 

2) Private tours are flexible.  You can modify a private tour to suit your needs.

 

3) If there is a meal, it will be better and will be at a local restaurant instead of a tourist trap restaurant when you take a private tour

 

4) Private tours will have smaller group sizes.  I set up a lot of private tours and I usually limit my group size to 6 people or occasionally 8 people.  That means less time wasted for 40 people to get off the bus and then time wasted for them to re-board.

 

5) Bathroom stops are shorter on private tours as you don't have to wait for 40 people to take their turn for the loo.  If you really really have to go, you don't have to wait until you get to a public restroom.  If you go into a bar or a coffee shop and order a drink or a snack, they'll be happy to let you use their loo.  They won't let 40 people of a bus use their loo.

 

6) You will not have to waste time stopping at a shop where the cruise line gets paid for sending people there unless you want to.  Also, if you do stop at a shop, it is probably one where the guide has a personal relationship to the shop owner.

 

7) Private tours are less likely to have people who are always late getting back to the vehicle.

 

8) When the guide is describing a site, it will be easier for you to hear them since you will standing next to them.

 

9) It is easier for you to ask a guide questions on a private tour.

 

10) If you walk past a shop that has great looking pastries, you can stop there on a private tour. 

 

11) If you go to a site on a private tour and the group of 6 decides that it is not interesting, you can tell the guide that you have had enough and go on to another more interesting place.

 

Need I go on.  The only possible advantages that I can see for ship tours are

 

1) You don't have to look for tours since the cruise company just sends you a take-it-or-leave-it list of tours

 

2) Yes, if you get back to the ship late, it will leave without you.  But seriously, the chances of this happening are close to zero.  However, the only reason that most returns are late is because of road construction or an accident which will also delay the ship tour so this will not impact you.

 

DON

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I only book tours with cruise lines as I stated previously. due to disabilities I cannot be in a van or a taxi with a high step.I must be in a bus .I have booked tours with the cruise line and when a bus was not available they always have a way of finding one.

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We almost always book our own tours via local operators. I like how they can be a little more flexible and of course the prices are also better in most cases.

For the cruise leaving without you? I have been on board several times where we waited for those last 2 passengers that were late. I guess if the captain can wait a little he/she will do that. Worse case scenario, the  ship leaves and the port agents is waiting at the pier to get you to the next destination. (never saw that happening though)

 

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We also almost always either DIY or book independent tours--in fact our upcoming cruise in December is the first time in over 10 years that we are doing a ship excursion.  And that's because, due to the partial transit of the Panama Canal, a private tour isn't feasible.

 

Why do we?  Price, size of group, quality of tour, flexibility, etc.  

 

I will say that last year in St. Kitt's we came within an inch of missing the ship--they were pulling up the stairs behind us.  Totally the fault of the tour operator, as well as our ignorance of just how far we were from the port as the time evaporated.  

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Again, thanks all for your advice.

 

Have just booked our first trip - the Flam Railway, at half the price of Princess Cruises rate¬† ūüėÄ

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