(74) Ship Excursions Versus Independent Explorations
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Cruise lovers face the dilemma of how to get the most out of brief visits to exotic ports of call. With six to 12 hours (occasionally overnight) in port, is it best to take an organized ship excursion or explore on your own? In part, the answer depends on your personal travel interests, experience and comfort level in distant and unfamiliar surroundings. You may be able to hire a private guide in some ports, or you can often trek around solo. In other ports, a ship excursion is an economical, practical and safe way to see the city or countryside. Use these guidelines from port savvy cruisers to decide whether to book cruise ship excursions or explore independently:
- Are the attractions you want to see located nearby? If what you want to see is a couple of hours away, it pays to book a ship excursion. If you book a ship tour and are delayed by traffic or a breakdown, the ship waits for you. If you roam off on your own and are delayed, the ship may sail without you. It will be your responsibility and expense to “catch up with it” in the next port.
- There are wonderful private port guides and woe-some private port guides. Do your homework rather than taking “potluck” and grabbing any guide in port. Research ports of call in advance. Use the Internet to look for tours that have a track record and offer references. Book tours that don't require advance payment. Cruise itineraries may change or a port of call may cancel and you must change or cancel your private tour. Ship-to-shore telephone calls are expensive! Get the tour company Email address so you can confirm, change or cancel a tour via onboard Email. Also, when using local transportation, agree on taxi rates before hopping in for a ride.
- Consider safety and security in ports of call. Research local laws and customs. A good Website for destination safety and security information is http://www.state.gov/travel.
- Attend the ship port talk that highlights attractions and shopping for each port. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Crew members and fellow passengers who have visited the port are good sources for recommendations for shopping, sightseeing and safety.
Overall, when traveling to a destination you visited in the past, you know the ropes. When you visit a port for the first time in a developing country or if the port is several hours from the city, it pays to book a ship excursion.