Posted by admin in Cruises
A complete guide to cruise ship excursions:
The cruise ship and the ports covered are only one part of the entire cruise experience.
A very important piece towards getting the entire travel experience right are the right selection of excursions.
When planning cruise excursions from the ship, it is essential to ask 4 key questions:
- How far is the City / Town from the actual port?
- Is it possible to do the Sightseeing on a do it yourself basis or by using an outside agency?
- How does the cost for the various excursion options compare?
- If you have already visited the main ports earlier, what are the options you have (read: Non Regular / Unique Options)
A) Distance from Port to City
Some Ports are very very far away from the city advertised. So much so that it’s a stretch to call them the same place
For illustration, cruises for Rome land in Cittavechia which is 85 Kms away and takes 1.5 Hours by Train or Car
Cruises to Florence land in Livorno, which is 90 Kms away from Florence.
A big distance between the Port and City basically means one thing. The cruise company is going to charge you a bomb for any organized excursion. Unless you are willing to pay your hand and leg (ex; USD 250 per person for a Rome shared coach excursion), you have to either do a Private Trip or figure out the best do it yourself option.
A Private trip makes great sense if the number of people is 4 or more. In fact for more than 6 people, it will always be more economical to take a private car/ taxi. In Europe, private car hire would cost between EUR 350-550 per day/trip. Some companies even give a per person rate
B) Is it possible to do the excursion from an outside agency / do it yourself?
The other option is to take the excursion from an outside agency. Not only is the experience same or better but also the rates are 15-30% cheaper. (sometimes you will use the same end service provider, without the cruise company markup).
Cruise ship excursions suffer from the same problems as that of a monopoly, high price / no real incentive to improve the product!
A do it yourself is also a very sensible option, if the port is near the town or a short taxi drive away. A lot of major ports are also located near the center of the city (ex: Barcelona – 10 mins drive, Athens – 25 mins drive). You can either take a cab into the city or take a public transportation option from Port itself.
A lot of tendering ports (where a small boat collects you from cruise ship and drops you at Port) Ex: Cannes / Maine / Quebec etc. drop you right where the town / sightseeing starts
In cases where the Port is far from the city, the decision is more complicated. You have to balance the cost with convenience.
Distance aside, sometimes the Ports don’t have public transportation (ex: Lots of places in Alaska), the ports are not so popular or you want to go in for non-regular excursion options
In these cases, sometimes the ONLY options are the cruise ship excursions or a Private Taxi.
C) How does the cost for the various excursion options compare?
Cost-wise, the cheapest alternative, would be the do it yourself options. For example you can visit Rome and back using the train network for under 15Euros a person. You can add a ROME hop on hop off ticket for around 20E more. For groups, private cars are strongly recommended and can turn out be quite economical (45-60 Euros per person).
Cost wise, you should try to avoid ship excursions as much as possible. For shared excursions, an excursion procured from a reliable outside agency would score better in nearly all cases.
D) If you have already visited the main ports earlier, what are the options you have?
For more non-regular options, you have to either take a private cab or be more inventive in terms of travel. In my subsequent blogs, I have Detailed Do it your self tours from popular ports