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Sandra1616

Non Cruise Line Shore Excursions

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Hello,  I expect to take most of my cruise's shore excursions.  However, if I am on a cruise and desire to go on excursions not offered through the cruise, how easy is it to find and hire people at the port to take me to these sites?

Are there people waiting at ports  (perhaps wearing a sign, "I will take you to the world famous garden") to take cruisers places, or do you hire a taxi?  Any advice?

Sandra

 

 

 

 

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Some places, like the Caribbean, it is very easy, and common. Other places, like Europe, it is less common, and therefore, not as easy.

 

Some research on the Ports board, here:

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/2-ports-of-call/

 

will help you with the various ways you can tour the Ports you stop at. There may be other choices, like simply walking, or taking public transit, or booking private tours in advance.

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9 hours ago, Sandra1616 said:

Hello,  I expect to take most of my cruise's shore excursions.  However, if I am on a cruise and desire to go on excursions not offered through the cruise, how easy is it to find and hire people at the port to take me to these sites?

Are there people waiting at ports  (perhaps wearing a sign, "I will take you to the world famous garden") to take cruisers places, or do you hire a taxi?  Any advice?

Sandra

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, there are.  We do mostly DIY.

It would help if you tell us where you are going. 😊

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Alternatively, there are some travel agents that will post YouTube videos of their experiences and make suggestions. When I was planning my last cruise I found one that had done the same itinerary several times and had several suggestions for each port.  We took one of their suggestions in 2 of the 3 ports, one was a paid guided tour (not booked through the cruise line) and one was self-guided walk of the city.

Edited by hallux

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On 2/14/2020 at 3:47 AM, Sandra1616 said:

Hello,  I expect to take most of my cruise's shore excursions.  However, if I am on a cruise and desire to go on excursions not offered through the cruise, how easy is it to find and hire people at the port to take me to these sites?

Are there people waiting at ports  (perhaps wearing a sign, "I will take you to the world famous garden") to take cruisers places, or do you hire a taxi?  Any advice?

Sandra

 

 

 

 

We have done about 99% of our tours via private tours.  There are many options out there.  We have used shoretrips.com many times and been very pleased.  I have started to also use Tours by Locals (toursbylocals.com), though I cannot yet report on how well they work out.  Another thing I have done is to spend a fair amount of time on the Ports of Call section for ports that we were going to visit, and after reading a lot of the postings, you will get a feel for who is a good guide and who is not.  Do not go by a single posting, but rather by the overall tenor of lots of postings.

 

The Ports of Call section is also a good source of things you might want to do in some ports.  Remember, if you are on a private tour, you can add and subtract things as you and others in your group wish. 

 

While you can find a guide when you get there, it is hard to know who or what you are getting.  I think some extra pre-planning will make for a much better experience.

 

You did not say where you are going, and islands in the Caribbean are not as involved, but elsewhere, I would make arrangements in advance, and then if you need to find others to reduce the cost --- private tours get cheaper with anywhere from four to eight people --- join your cruise's Roll Call in the Roll Call section, and tell others what you have and see if anyone wants to join you.  You might also find people who have already posted some opening for some tours.

 

Private tours offer much more interaction with the tour guide, a much more nimble vehicle in traffic, and ability to do much more in the same amount of time.

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I have never tried to book a tour just by disembarking my ship and linking with someone near the pier.  Just too chancy, in my opinion.

 

There are travel websites that help travelers to book tours in advance of their cruise.  I have experienced two such tours that were 100% successful and were "as advertised".

 

I joined a group of people whom I knew for two more private tours that one member of our group arranged.  One tour went well; one didn't go at all because the vendor did not live up to his "commitment" for our group.  We did eventually get a refund of our money (this was a tour in Guam), but it took months for all in our group to be made whole.

 

If I am visiting a port for the first time and do not know the "lay of the land" well, I will always take a ship's shore excursion.  If I have some familiarity with the port, I am much more comfortable in doing whatever I want to do in that port on my own.

 



 

Edited by rkacruiser

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A bit of research on each port will really help you know if you actually NEED a guide to take you to the places you'd like to go.  In most places, with proper info, you can easily do things on your own.  Research is key.

 

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 Thanks.  For non-cruise shore excursions, I should look at ports of call, travel agents experiences on youtube videos, shoretrips.com, toursbylocals.com and travel websites.  I should take 4 to 8 people to lessen the expense of the trip.  Right now I probably will go to the Caribbean, but other people are involved so it is not firm yet.  Thanks, Sandra

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Tours from local tour operators are way cheaper compared to booking the ship's excursion. It's nice to research and book the tours before you arrive at your destination to get the best rates and for you to be able to customize the tours. Good luck! 

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Flowslow, How did you do your research to find local tours -by that I mean where did you look for local tours?

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1 hour ago, Sandra1616 said:

Flowslow, How did you do your research to find local tours -by that I mean where did you look for local tours?

Tours by Locals have tours in most cruise port, and Shoretrips also has people in almost every port.  These are all local people.  Tours by Locals is obvious on that score, and Shoretrips checks out tour operators in each port, and then has working arrangements with them, so they are all local as well.

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Sandra, just to be clear, Tours by Locals and Shoretrips, like Viator, are not actually tour companies. They are international 3rd party aggregators or consolidators who, like Expedia for hotels, sell the services of the actual tour operators in the location you are focused on. Nothing wrong with using them, as long as you know that this is just one more later between you and the people you'll actually be dealing with on site, should anything go wrong. I usually prefer to deal directly with the operator, having first checked recommendations and reviews here, on Trip Advisor, and other tourism websites. But that's an individual choice.

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3 hours ago, Sandra1616 said:

Flowslow, How did you do your research to find local tours -by that I mean where did you look for local tours?

 

Also, make sure you check out the Ports of Call forums on here, especially if it is a popular port.  You will gain some very valuable insights into the ports as well as the tour operators there.  

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On 2/19/2020 at 10:14 AM, mom says said:

Tours by Locals and Shoretrips, like Viator, are not actually tour companies. They are international 3rd party aggregators or consolidators who, like Expedia for hotels, sell the services of the actual tour operators in the location you are focused on. Nothing wrong with using them, as long as you know that this is just one more later between you and the people you'll actually be dealing with on site, should anything go wrong. I usually prefer to deal directly with the operator, having first checked recommendations and reviews here, on Trip Advisor, and other tourism websites.

We also book directly through the tour company rather than through a consolidator. We don't book ship tours - we much prefer DIY or private tours.

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I strongly recommend doing research before you go. There are some great options for Roatan and Mazatlan but I wouldn't do third party for Freeport as they have a real problem with gypsy cabs, just as a few examples

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I used to do only ships excursions, but then I discovered Cruise Critic and booked my first independent excursion and was hooked.  It was so much more personable and we always were "one step ahead" of the big cruise buses so we got to see/do more at each stop.  Wish I had had more courage to book all independent on that cruise as 2 of our 3 cruise excursions were canceled and we ended up just walking around the cruise ports.  Nice and relaxing, but didn't give us a great look at the islands.

 

Now, I book nothing but independent.  As others have said, sign up for your Roll Call as you can get ideas there and possibly get on with others who are doing a tour that interests you.  Check out the Ports of Call section here on Cruise Critic for more ideas and some reviews.  Also, check out Trip Advisor for ideas and reviews of vendors.  I often start in the library or book store and get a travel book on the places I will be going.  While many of them are typically for land based vacations, you can still get some ideas for excursions as well as places to eat or even where to rent a car and explore on your own if nothing else appeals to you (my mom and I just did this in Halifax, NS last Sept.).  The biggest thing you have to be careful of is making sure you get back to the ship before sailing and I always try to make sure that I'm back within walking distance of the ship about 2 hours before the "all aboard time".  My sister was a little nervous that last time she sailed with me that we would miss the ship, but once she saw that I had planned accordingly, she totally relaxed.

 

Enjoy!

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I don't know if this is so for the Caribbean, but in Europe there's often a Tourist Information centre, run by the city/local council which can help- In Cartagena, Spain, there was one office right at the dock gate, who suggested a local taxi with an English translation CD which covered all the important sites, such as the Roman ruins. They're usually on line.

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Viator is a tour broker. They don't provide the tours themselves. What does that mean to you? It means great prices, but it also means difficulties if you need to contact someone or change things....we have had this problem. Viator made mistakes in scheduling some transfers, and we couldn't contact them to correct their errors.  If you look at the Ports boards, you will see a number of other issues with Viator, and other tour brokers. Poor English skills, private transfers that suddenly morph into shared shuttles, with delays and waits, and no-shows. As a result, you will frequently see the recommendation to use recommended local vendors, not Viator, which will be seeking local, low bid providers.

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I would never just go off with anyone right off the dock. You don’t have time to research whether they actually have a legitimate excursion company or if they are some kind of criminal (you never know these days). If you want to do a non-cruise line excursion book it in advance after doing the research and reading reviews. 

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Posted (edited)
On 2/18/2020 at 7:04 PM, Sandra1616 said:

 Thanks.  For non-cruise shore excursions, I should look at ports of call, travel agents experiences on youtube videos, shoretrips.com, toursbylocals.com and travel websites.  I should take 4 to 8 people to lessen the expense of the trip.  Right now I probably will go to the Caribbean, but other people are involved so it is not firm yet.  Thanks, Sandra

 

If you are doing the Caribbean, there will be tons of people at the port offering tours.  At one port, I had a guy actually follow me down the street trying to get me to take his tour.  The only question is about the quality of the tours.  There will be no way to check them out before you go w them.  Just make sure that you bargain w them and agree in advance how long the tour will be and where you are going.  We do almost only private tours but we always arrange them in advance.  The Cruise Critic Roll Calls are an excellent resource for arranging shared private tours.

 

DON

Edited by donaldsc

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On our first cruise, over 12:years ago, we did every shore trip through the ship. 

 

Now we never do. I study the offerings from the cruise line then start researching independent operators doing much the same thing as the ship.

 

Some of our best shore trips have been with a guide stood on the quayside approaching people as they get off the ship - most memorably in Costa Rica.

 

Yes, I get that it's a risk - but so is stepping off the sidewalk.

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We do almost exclusively independent tours rather than ship tours. I say independent tours rather than private tours because many are independently owned and operated group tours. I prefer those to true private tours and then trying to recruit fellow cruisers to accompany us. Don't want to get caught up with payment issues or people disagreeing on what to do and where to go. We like to use tripadvisor to find independent operators. I agree with the other statements that personally I never have and probably never will hook up with someone I find at the dock. Yes, there are plenty and I'm sure it usually works out fine. But I like knowing that we are booked with a reputable operator.

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