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One of the simple pleasures of cruise travel is that after booking the ticket, your trip is practically set. Your accommodation, entertainment and even meals have been paid for — but there’s just one thing missing. Shore excursions.
While shore excursions can usually be purchased on board, booking independently lets you handpick unique experiences, secure your spot and better track how much you’re spending.
These tour companies offer an exciting range of landlocked adventures.
Owned by TripAdvisor, Viator is a one-stop shop for tours, excursions and entry passes in over 2000 locations worldwide. Browse cruise excursions in popular destinations such as Monaco, Hanoi, the Bahamas, Miami and more.
Discover exciting activities and tours, then book swiftly on this easy-to-use platform. Get tickets to shows and live events, plus browse tourist attractions, sightseeing experiences and more.
Shop handpicked, carefully curated excursions from a company that puts you first — customer service is available 24/7 around the world, whether you’re beaching in the Bahamas or skirting around New Zealand’s coast.
As one of the world’s largest travel websites, TripAdvisor offers a wide range of activities to do wherever the anchor drops. Before you book, read reviews and see pictures posted by its active travel community. Browse by category to target your interests.
Dedicated to on-shore excursions, Cruising Excursions offers tours for a fraction of the price that cruise lines offer. All excursions are timed for your exact cruise’s docking and sailing times, so you can enjoy a stress-free and budget-friendly experience.
I’ve cruised on four occasions, across three different cruise lines. I mainly selected excursions with the cruise line, since third-party excursions offer passengers no security. That means the ship sets sail without you if you miss departure — and you’re responsible to catch up at the next port.
On two occasions, I went out on my own excursions — the first time, I rented a jeep and followed a map to tour the entire coast of St. Maarten, stopping at key points of interest along the way. The second time I rented a golf cart and took my son for a sight-seeing tour of Key West. While local providers assisted us in establishing a self-serve itinerary, there was no assurance if we needed help with setbacks encountered along the way.
I loved both independent experiences, but when you’re out on your own — or even with a third-party provider — you’re constantly mapping your route and watching the time, keeping you from truly relaxing and enjoying the journey. In the future, I’ll likely stick to excursions from the cruise line.
Not necessarily. While shore excursions purchased on the ship can be discounted because you are a passenger, tour companies on the ground are still quite competitive and usually offer price match guarantees.
Be aware, however, that excursions can vary in terms of quality, the attractions visited and the time spent at each location, so it’s worth comparing to see which suits your needs best.
Most large cruise liners, including Princess Cruises and Carnival, will allow you to book or reserve a cruise excursion either while booking your cruise or after it’s been confirmed.
If you’re unsure about whether or not your cruise ship lets you book excursions in advance, visit the experiences section of its website, where you can usually find excursion details.
Some cruise lines that offer all-inclusive packages are:
Booking shore excursions independently can open your eyes to experiences you might otherwise miss. But be sure to triple-check your itinerary, because making it back to the boat in time will be entirely up to you.
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