Who doesn’t want to swim with dolphins or be on a secluded island? The reality is that although those things sound amazing they can be overwhelming and your expectations might be disappointed. After doing a few cruise line excursion and private/independent excursions we have come to this conclusion.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly with Cruise Line Excursions
THE GOOD – These are all planned through the cruise line and with tour companies that the cruise line considers reputable. This also means the ship knows where you are and won’t leave without you if there is a delay with your group, so less likely that you could be left behind. So you don’t have to worry or do a thing, just show up at the right time and they do the rest. Usually, you get a priority tender if needed or the tour may bring their own boat right up to the ship to get you.
THE BAD – many excursions have transportation that seems to take forever. For instance, you want to go kayaking in Cozumel, well it could be a 45-minute bus ride to the ocean, 30 minutes of training, an hour of kayaking, and 10 minutes to take photos, grab a bag an of chips if that’s an option, and 45-minute bus ride back. So your $100 excursion was for 1 hour of kayaking plus a taxi with 40 other people. This was the case on our shore excursion on Royal Caribbean.
THE UGLY – Sometimes when you buy your excursion from your cruise line if not enough people buy the excursion they may cancel the trip. That sucks. We had an excursion cancel and we packed specifically for it and by the time they told us it was canceled all the other excursions we wanted were full. So, yes it’s great because if you want to complain you more than likely will get a credit of some sort on the cruise but your entire day is ruined. Another issue is the restrictions: watch the type of the activity, is there an age limit, weight limit, or handicap accessible. This can quickly take 50 options of excursions down to only 10.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly with Independent Excursions
THE GOOD – Always cheaper and you can pick the times you want to go. These tours often have fewer people which means more room in the taxi/bus and time to enjoy with your family. Better instructors because they are one-on-one versus 45 other people with you and you can get shore excursions at a group rate.
THE BAD – You are in another country, that simple. Your life is in someone else’s hands. Some of the ports that you will dock in look clean and fancy while others look like a 3rd world country. Once you disembark, finding the excursion guy might be difficult, and what if they don’t come? In our case it was chaotic, we were surrounded by sharks and we were fish bait, constant pushing of their excursions they wanted you to buy and it felt uneasy.
THE UGLY – Most of these countries are in poverty and don’t understand your timeline. The lack of communication and understanding can be the reason you miss your boat. You read stories of people missing boats or watch youtube videos of moms’ leaving their children – just sad. Majority of these people are on independent excursions. Just imagine if the bus you are riding in for that 45-minute beach trip breaks down. Now what? Do you know that company? Are they going to come swoop you up and take you back to the cruise ship? We don’t recommend doing any excursions unless you feel confident that you can handle the worst case scenario.
Yes, the price is higher with your cruise line but you get a sense of security. You also have the option to cancel or even schedule last minute to join your new friends you met on the ship. Our fellow cruisers like to adventure into these different countries to get closer to the people. We have seen men patrolling with machine guns and taxi drivers offering to sell us drugs. So if you are ok with those things may be bad outcomes won’t happen to you, but if they did would you be ok with it? First-time cruisers, we recommend cruise line excursions. Don’t be afraid to read other cruise excursion reviews and go with your gut. We have heard many people that cruise with Disney and Carnival prefer independent shore excursions.