Read these 10 Ports of Call Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Cruises tips and hundreds of other topics.
If time, interest, physical condition or budget does not make ship excursions a choice for a day in port, don't worry. There is usually a local market near cruise ship ports and cruise lines offer shuttle bus transportation to and from shopping areas that are not within walking distance.
Staying onboard the ship when it is berthed in port is another option. When the crowds disembark for tours and explorations, the ship is yours. Pricey spa and salon treatments suddenly become affordable with port specials. Meals are served as usual. There's never a competition for the best poolside lounge chair. The crew staff offers games and movies play in the theater.
Even if you disembark for a short time, many cruisers prefer half day tours and return to the ship to relax and watch the non-stop activity in the harbor.
Between must see and must do attractions, few travelers resist the lure of shops, bazaars and local markets. Grab your cash, credit cards and a shopping bag and test these savvy shopping tips from a veteran flight attendant who has shopped the world.
Research guidebooks and websites to learn about port of call shopping specialties. Make a list of things you want to buy and a gift list. Study prices so you don't pay more for items than they cost at home. Check prices on EBay or by searching items on Yahoo or Google for comparison.
Read Know Before You Go from U.S. Customs at www.customs.gov. When shopping abroad, it is easy to accidentally purchase prohibited items. Don't depend on what shopkeepers tell you. For instance, markets in
If shopping internationally, print a pocket-sized copy of the currency exchange cheatsheet for your destination at www.oanda.com and a common phrase language translation cheatsheet at www.travelang.com.
If you enjoy shopping in markets and bazaars, learn to bargain with best. Ask your travel agent or cruise director about local bargaining protocol. Compare prices at several local shops before buying. Begin bargaining at 50 percent off the asking price and expect to settle for about around 60 percent of the seller's original price. Decide what you are willing to pay and walk away if you can't agree on a reasonable price. Don't haggle over pennies. When negotiations reach that point, give in. Consider the economic conditions where you are and how much a few cents means in a poor economy. Expect to get “taken” occasionally. It's part of the experience and makes a good cruise travel story, if you admit it!
Pay for expensive purchases in ports (especially if they are to be shipped) with a credit card that offers buyer protection benefits. However, remember that the exchange rate you are charged is the rate the day the charge posts to your account, not the day of your purchase. If exchange rates are volatile, you could pay more than you thought for charged items.
Keep a log and receipts for all your purchases. Use your log to complete your customs form and verify purchases on your charge card statement.
Give as well as take. Pack a few small gifts. Inexpensive items such as sunglasses, bandannas and ballpoint pens are sought after in many countries. Use the gifts to barter or simply enjoy the pleasure and goodwill they bring.
Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where and how to shop. Shopping is an art. Hone your skills and buy some happiness.
Remember that tote bag or backpack you packed? Now is the time to stock it and take it along while exploring a port. Don't forget these daypack essentials:
Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are a convenient source of cash for shopping in ports of call. Take this advice from an international banking expert when using an ATM card in ports:
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A third option: grab a metropolitan transit bus or taxi and take in as many of the 85 attractions at Balboa Park as time permits. It's the home of the world famous San Diego Zoo and dozens of museums.
Heads Up: Purchase a Go San Diego Card in advance at www.gosandiego.com for big savings on local attractions.
If you choose to explore ports independently, research your destination thoroughly. Buy a destination guide book and highlight the must-see places. Read a fiction or non-fiction books that take place at your ports of call. Compare local tours, sights, attractions and private guides on the Internet. Online coupons and discounts are often available for local museums, monuments, hop-on/hop-off tours and other local port attractions. For instance, most major cities offer a “city card” that provides admission to museums and attractions for a set fee. Usually 30 percent to 50 percent off regular admission prices. Finally, ask friends and fellow cruisers who have traveled to the port before for recommendations for independent explorations.
Here are some tips for getting the most pleasure out of your cruise ship group excursion:
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:
One of the greatest advantages of cruising is visiting exotic ports of call around the world using the cruise ship as home base. Some critics of cruise travel say that a few hours or even a full day in ports is not enough time to explore a destination. True, you cannot see all of
Here's how it works. Prior to arriving at each port, a crew member will present a brief seminar about the port covering the available excursions, local transportation and shopping recommendations. This is the time to ask any questions you may have about the port. The shipboard television channel also features presentations about each port and ship excursions. And, the ship's daily newspaper lists information about ports, arrival and departure times and the name and telephone number of the cruise line's port agent.
In most ports your cruise ship will dock at the pier or drop anchor in the harbor in the early morning. Passengers who are booked on early cruise ship excursions disembark first according to tour schedules. Passengers who want to explore the port on their own are notified when they may go ashore. Sail away is typically late afternoon. (One exception is overnight stays in some ports like