Caribbean Cruise Shore Excursion Travel Tips

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Caribbean Cruise Shore Excursion Travel Tips

How to Select Cruise Excursions to Have More Fun and Save Some Money!

By Jeannette and Dan Dudek

A typical Caribbean cruise ship may sponsor as many as 100 shore excursions each week; plus locals provide numerous additional opportunities to allow you to explore their island. Excursions range from the strenuous, physically demanding – to the calm relaxing ride via bus, train or taxi. Given the choices available, we encourage you to get off the ship and explore the many beautiful islands and lands in the Caribbean.

This article provides some useful information on shore excursions in general; and gives a few examples of what to expect on typical tours.

Caribbean Cruise Shore Excursion Travel Tips

Caribbean Cruise Shore Excursion Travel Tips

Shore Excursions in General
Most cruisers will want to take advantage of the port-of-call’s exciting, adventurous and interesting shore excursions all the cruise lines provide. These excursions all cost money, most ranging from about $30 to $150 per person. While you can make a reservation (and sometimes at a slight discount) on-line for any shore excursion from the time you book your cruise to the cutoff date (a few days before departure), most people wait until on board the ship to make their reservations.

We have found it advantageous to wait until you are on-board the ship and have time to talk to other passengers before making shore excursions. You will most likely find that a number of your fellow passengers have a lot of experience as cruise travelers; and some may have already been to your next port-of-call. They might be able to advise you as to the “special” excursions; and whether a shore excursion provided by the ship is a good deal, or if you should consider just renting a cab to see and do the things you want. In some cases, you can save a 1/3 or more if you take the independent approach; and save time as you do not have to wait for 50 or so people to get on and off the tour bus.

Note: your dinner waiter may be another good source for suggested port excursions

Caribbean Shore Excursions
Many of the islands in the Caribbean cater to the cruise tourists by having locals provide fixed and custom tours. Depending on the location, you can rent a cab for about $30 to $50 per hour. This may well be a good deal if you have 2 to 4 persons per cab; you avoid the ship sponsored excursion lines; go to the places you want to visit; spend as much time at each location as you wish; and get back to the ship when you desire. By the way, if you wish to sleep in or do some shopping first, you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate with the driver if you rent a cab in the afternoon. They would rather do a tour for less money than to not have a tour for the day. One way to be sure you are paying fair value is to inquire at the island’s Tourist Office how much per hour a taxi should cost, and the approximate number of hours required to take you to the places on your list.

Ship Sponsored Shore Excursions
The above does not mean we do not take excursions offered by the ship; we take a number of them on each voyage. However we do our research, know what excursions the ship offers, how much they cost, and the duration of each. With our “short list” printed out in our Summary Cruise Notes document; we refer to it when talking to experienced passengers (and our dinner waiter), make notes, and then decide if we should make a reservation for a ship sponsored excursion, or do the independent travel approach.

General Information
Like most things in which you put in the effort, you will get rewards. By doing the research as described above, we feel much better prepared for our cruise; and know a lot more about a location before we arrive. In addition, it gives us information to make an informed decision as to what we want to see and do in a port; and if we should take a ship excursion or do the excursion independently.

Before departing the ship, use the restroom; facilities on the excursion may be limited. Drink some water and take on all excursions at least one bottle of water; and some disinfectant wipes for each person. Be sure you know the time that you must return to the ship.

Port Safety
When on shore, be aware of pickpockets. Keep tight reigns on your handbags; and keep your wallets in either your front pocket or inside your vest or jacket. Wear a fanny-pack to carry your valuables, and a money belt (under your shirt or pants) to carry your important papers, extra dollars, and either your Passport, or a copy of the first page of your Passport. (Be aware that some countries may require you carry your Passport. Also, some countries prohibit wearing camouflage articles of clothing.)

Note: Your ship will most likely make it known that if for any reason a ship provided excursion is late, the ship will extend boarding until the excursion returns. They will also mention that if you opt to book your own tour with an on-shore operator, the ship will not wait for you. This raises “doubt” in some minds. Thus for fear of “missing the boat”, many book a cruise provided excursion. In reality, rarely does a guest miss the departure, maybe once every few years per ship. If this very unlikely event does occur to you, find the cruise’s shore agent and he/she will help you make arrangements to rejoin your ship at the next port. In our experience, while rare to miss your ship while taking non-cruise sponsored tours in the various Caribbean islands, you do need to be concerned about such tours in Europe. For the most part, if you want to visit a location that requires more than a two hour drive one-way, you might be better served to take a ship sponsored tour.

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Jeannette and Dan Dudek travel extensively domestically and internationally; visited 34 countries; and have been to most U.S. states and Canadian provinces.


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