Exploring ancient ruins, swimming with dolphins or sharks, hiking in the rainforest, shopping at local markets – – all are great activities and part of your cruise experience.  The main reason people cruise is to see many destinations, exotic countries, and tropical paradise islands.

Cruise lines offer port visits on all ships for addition costs.  Some of the river cruises will have these activities included.

The benefits of booking ship tours are many.  They are hassle free; the ship won’t leave until all their tour buses are back even if they are late.  Ship tours are more expensive than booking with a provider.  Generally, the bus is large meaning a large group of at least 45 people are all going to the same locations.  Another thing to keep in mind is several other bus tours maybe going to those same location making that activity over crowded.  Getting on & off the bus will take longer as well as bathroom breaks in these larger groups.

Cruise lines offer an array of tours from scuba diving in Belize, private island in the Bahamas, to visiting the Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

Sightseeing or Active Tours

The levels of activity vary for each tour.  Some are rated from 1-5 others from easy to difficult.  The lower or easier the rating the less physical activities you will be required to do.   Tours also vary in interests.  Active tours can include zip lining, white water rafting, kayaking or biking.  Sightseeing usually includes a bus to see the highlights of a particular region and may include shopping.  You’ll find the tours differ in different countries such as the Caribbean vs Europe.

Half Day or Full Day Tours

Half day tours will usually focus on just one activity giving you time to explore the port itself either before or after the tour.  Full day tours take you outside of the main port city.  These types of tours give the best opportunity to explore the region, possibly interact with the locals, sample different foods, and see the flora & fauna.

Highlights or In-Depth Experience

Day tours will take you to many places packing in multiple highlights giving you a more overview of the region.  In-depth experiences will take you to more concentrated areas to focus on activities such as coffee growing or cooking with locals.

Exploring Shore Excursions

In some cities which are far from port it makes sense to book a shore tour, but if your interests are local shopping or beach time they may be within walking distance.

Booking your own tour through a local operator has its benefits which often saves money and sometimes you can customize the tour to your interests.  Keep in mind to book with a reputable company so you are not stranded and miss your cruise leaving without you.

Planning Ahead

Our advice is to learn a little about each port you will be visiting then you can decide which ones are for you.  Not every port may have something that interests you.

The book ahead or wait til I’m on board question.  Sometimes tours availability is limited to a certain number of people and these types are always best to book in advance.  The must do or sees also get booked quickly so those sitting on the fence of should I or shouldn’t I will miss out on a great opportunity.

Some cruise line will charge a penalty for cancelling within 24-28 hours or onboard.  You might also want to wait to see how the weather is going to be.  Come prepared for your destination will help make your tours more enjoyable even if the weather is colder or raining.  Perhaps you’re not sure of how you will be feeling if you have been a little under the weather.  These are all good reasons to book last minute.

Take time to read all the tour descriptions so you carefully understand everything that is included or excluded.  Make sure to check how much time it takes to travel to the destination and how much time you will spend doing that activity.

Strenuous hikes, hot & humid weather or mobility issues will help you determine which tour best suits your needs.

Tours can become a big expensive if you plan to participate at every port.  Make sure to budget accordingly.  Sometimes spending too much in one port will cut into your budget causing you to miss out on some sought after activities.

Check with the Purser’s office on the ship for some helpful tips on best restaurants and shopping locations on land.

If you’ve pre-planned your cruise & shore excursions well in advance with your travel agent, cruise line, and tour operator than everything should go smoothly without any hiccups.

We hope you found this information useful in planning your next shore excursion.

Do you enjoy shore excursions?  Share your favorite shore tours in the comments below!