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Old November 12th, 2011, 09:04 PM
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Default Shore excursions

How far in advance does one usually book excursions ?

On my next cruise there are 6 ports .My plan is to book as many as possible .
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Old November 12th, 2011, 09:29 PM
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For me, I book as soon as I know what I want to do and what operator I want to go with. Many tour operators have large followings and book early. I don't see any reason to wait to book so I just go ahead and get that off my list.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 09:52 PM
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Depends on what ports and desired excursions..so many options, do not need to be booked via the ship.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 10:07 PM
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I only book with the cruise line .It may cost more but I feel secure .
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Old November 13th, 2011, 01:39 AM
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I have only booked through the cruise lines in the past, and they didn't allow booking (as far as I know) before 90 days. I wish they did!

I would book through private companies if they were well known and actually saved money. Kuki suggested one group on another post that looked great, and we may be using for our upcoming cruise to Alaska. I'll post the name if I find it again. and
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Old November 13th, 2011, 04:57 AM
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If you are only booking throught the cruiseline, go ahead and book as soon as they allow, just make sure those are the ones you want.
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Old November 13th, 2011, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KDGodwin View Post
I'll post the name if I find it again.
Found it!! It was portpromotions.com
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Old November 13th, 2011, 08:04 AM
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I have used Port Promotions as well.They have been around for years,and very reputable .
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Old November 13th, 2011, 09:56 AM
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Exclamation Shore excursions

We usually begin researching our shore excursions up to a year in advance, or as soon as we book the trip.

The first thing we do is check the ship's excursions. Although booking may not be open for your cruise until 120 or 90 days before, you can see the typical list of excursions for your particular ports. This gives you a very good idea of the most common tourist attractions at that port.

Then we will check the major consolidators, such as portpromotions.com, shoretrips.com, and toursbylocals.com. Frequently they will have some interesting suggestions for private tours going places that the big ship's tours cannot go, although in other ports they just repeat the ship's list, occasionally for a few dollars less.

Then we go to the boards. This one is excellent, of course, and Frommer's and TripAdvisor also offer great suggestions for attractions and operators.

Finally we google <port> day trips or <port> shore excursions and will often get some off the beaten track ideas.

So, with a pretty good idea of what is offered in the port and usually a list of recommended operators and guides, we start to figure out what we will do in each one.

The ship's excursions are often very good, and the ship frequently has the best guides, the best transportation, and the best reservations all tied up. Taking the ships trip, such as whale watching in Alaska or wildlife in Australia can be an excellent idea, convenient, easy, and safe.

In many cases, we don't want to be crowded onto one of six buses from the ship all going to the same cathedral or museum, or we have places we want to go not offered by the ship, or we want to concentrate on one particular place for longer than the ship offers, or we want to be sure that our slight mobility limitations are accomodated, or we just feel like being independent! Then we will book with a private guide from one of the sources listed above. This worked wonderful for us in St. Petersburg, Egypt and Borobodur Java for example!

When you book privately you do have to be aware that YOU are solely responsible for getting back to the ship on time, and for assuring that your tour stays in safe tourist areas. Most reputable operators are very well aware of this.

Having made up our minds, we will book the things we really want to do (like helicopter flights or the Hermitage) as far in advance as possible -- 90 to 120 days for the ship, and as much as 9 months in advance for popular tour operators like Orca Enterprises in Alaska, Captain Marvin in the Caribbean, or DenRus in Russia because they book up fast. In some cases we have boarded the ship and the shore excursion office was already posting that half the tours were sold out.

For good examples of how we like to mix ship's excursions with private guides, check out http://www.bully4.us/alaska2010.html, http://www.bully4.us/baltic.html, or http://users.elite.net/thehalls/maasdam.html

Have a GREAT cruise!
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Last edited by MercedMike; November 13th, 2011 at 10:01 AM.
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Old December 29th, 2011, 02:31 PM
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We booked ours from the cruiseline as we always do.
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Old March 4th, 2012, 03:28 PM
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I always book with independent tour operators, that way you get your own space to enjoy and do the things you want to do, as long they're fully regestered and certified with the local tourist boards. There are protocals that they must follow when they pick you up.

It doesn't make you any safer when you book with the cruise line, it's only a perception.
First of all the cruise lines do not sail around with their own cabbies on board, so what makes you think that the pre-book drivers are any safer than the qualified/certified independent tour operators?
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Old March 4th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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It's just a little added protection when booking through the cruiseline. They know you are on one of their tours and if it is running a little late, will wait for you. When you go independant, you are on your own...

In many ports it is prefectly fine to book on your own, there are some, however, I would just go with the ship tour.
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Old March 4th, 2012, 07:55 PM
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We always do excursions in the morning, this way, if by chance something goes awry, we have the entire day ahead of us to figure it out. BTW, this has never happened. After all these years, there is not much I would book through the ship, that I couldn't do less expensively by the pier, or a private tour set up in advance, especially in the Caribbean.
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Old March 4th, 2012, 08:00 PM
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I have booked some 6 mos in advance and then there have been times that I got off the ship and just decided to sign up for something street-side with a tour group and go right then (on the fly)...Many many other times, I've just hopped into a taxi and asked the driver where the locals go and I'll often just go to those places (locals beaches, restaurants, markets, etc)..
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Old March 5th, 2012, 09:53 AM
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Exclamation Independent operators

Quote:
Originally Posted by vacvet View Post
I always book with independent tour operators, that way you get your own space to enjoy and do the things you want to do, as long they're fully regestered and certified with the local tourist boards. There are protocals that they must follow when they pick you up.

It doesn't make you any safer when you book with the cruise line, it's only a perception.
First of all the cruise lines do not sail around with their own cabbies on board, so what makes you think that the pre-book drivers are any safer than the qualified/certified independent tour operators?
We frequently book with independent operators. But the notion that they are registered and certified with local tourist boards varies widely from country to country. A Green Badge guide in Scotland has extensive training and is closely monitored and licensed. Egyptian guides pass a tough examination. Many other countries also license guides. But there are also many countries in which all you need to be a guide is a vehicle and a microphone. (The US, of course, being one of them!)

In general the guides used by the cruise lines are among the best and most reputable in the business. When you book with an independent guide, YOU assume the responsibility of deciding how reliable they are. We have had excellent guides all over the world booking independently. We have also had a few close calls where we got up the gangplank 10 minutes before the ship sailed.

Sticking with ship's tours is easy, convenient, safe and simple. Finding and touring with independent guides can have big advantages, allow you to do exactly what you want, move at your pace, and see things that the ships tours might not cover. BUT you have to do a lot of research and it is hard work!

Both ways work well if they are right for you.
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Old March 25th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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Hello to everyone who shared opinions regarding independent tour operators. My husband and I found your ideas on this subject to be interesting and informative. We ourselves are independent tour operators operating out of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and we are committed to totally satisfying our guests. To us, it's more than just what they pay us, for there's much gratification when we listen to their enthusiastic feedback regarding their experiences with us. We know not everyone has the same "mission" in the tourist industry, but we know there are lots more tour operators who want to make our visitors happy. It's like any other business/vocation--you have those really into excelling at what they do and those who are somewhat mediocre. (We excel--wouldn't have it any other way.) I know for a fact that it's the same for the tour operators that the cruise ships arrange for--you don't have to look far to find lots of negative feedback on some of those.

We have a fb page where we post feedback from many of our guests, as well as photos showing them having the time of their lives on their visit to our beautiful island--all with us--independent tour operators. Check it out--O'Neil Lawrence in Montego Bay! And if you are coming to Jamaica any time soon (or later!), consider giving us a chance to show you what we're talking about! We don't settle for less than excellent!

Marty and O'Neil
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Old April 9th, 2012, 03:19 PM
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You can book as soon as you know what you want to do. You can search island travel agents to get great ideas of what you might like to do. They also are very helpful fitting in more than one excursion.

this blog is very helpful understand how to save $ with excursion. Planning a Cruise (?Way to Save?) TropicalREZ.com Blog
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Old April 9th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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I disagree with you about your post. Travel agents on the island are their to help you. They will do more to help you then the cruise ship and you can save money and get to enjoy more things on the island. Cruise ship is all about making money.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tropicalrez View Post
I disagree with you about your post. Travel agents on the island are their to help you. They will do more to help you then the cruise ship and you can save money and get to enjoy more things on the island.
True, sometimes. A good independent tour with a reputable company or provider can do all those things. A poor independent tour with a flaky local operator who just rents a car with a microphone can be a huge disappointment. An independent tour can sometimes save money, but to do it right can frequently cost more than the ship's tour. You may get to enjoy more things, and you may not. An independent driver has been known to "hijack" his clients to a particular shopping area, and sometimes the passengers are not knowledgable enough to just refuse to go. Using an independent operator can work for those willing to do their research and comfortable with taking responsibility.

Quote:
Cruise ship is all about making money.
Of course, just as independent operators are. Both make money by pleasing their passengers. Cruise lines very carefully monitor feedback on the tours they offer and the ones they have are usually very popular and go to the most demanded places. They are an easy, convenient and safe way of touring. Their prices range from competitive to outrageous. Simply going down the list of ship's excursions and choosing from their recommendations works very well. Novice cruisers, those visiting a port for the first time, and those who do not have the time or inclination for extensive research can use them and enjoy them.

The argument goes on and on, with most people seeming to favor exclusive use of one or the other. After many cruises we have fallen into a pattern of surveying the ship's excursions first, and usually choosing several of them. Then we will research independent excursions, and when there is a good reason to go independent, such as attractions not on the ship's tours, desire to arrange our itinerary a certain way, or my slight mobility limitations, we will book the independent tour.

But I certainly do NOT advise excluding either option. The mix works well for us and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

For an example of a cruise where mixing ship's and independent worked well for us, check out our trip report and pictures at "Black Sea Cruise 2009" and compare our ship's tour from Katakolon to Olympia with our private tour from Nafplion to Mycenae. Both were very good experiences for us.
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