Shore Excursions vs. Independent Exploration

Shore ExcursionsThere are two types of cruisers. Those that want to relax and lounge by the pool with a piña colada and those that seek adventure — the wind in their hair as they slide down a zip line, locking eyes with exotic fish at 130 feet below ground, or exploring ancient ruins. Luckily, there are excursions that cater to both types of travelers.

Cruise guests have an abundance of choices when it comes to entertainment. Do they go to the casino, take in a show, or soak in the hot tub? And the same can be said for activities and excursions when they arrive in port. You can choose to sign up for an excursion that's promoted through the cruise line or you can go out on your own. Here is some information about the difference between the two.

Shore Excursions

While a cruise line excursion is typically more expensive, it offers a safer experience for guests. Cruise lines verify their tour operators and hold them responsible for quality control as well as making sure that all necessities such as liability insurance, registration and other areas of compliance are complete.

Even though one of the biggest advantages of booking a ship-sponsored tour is that your trip will be insured, there are many more reasons that shore excursions might be your best bet. With limited onshore time, you can skip the lines and hassles of arranging your own activities, you'll also know the tour provider is licensed, reputable, and perhaps most importantly, the ship won't leave until all of its tour buses are accounted for — yes, even the late ones. You may also become acquainted with other shipmates whose company you can continue enjoying back on the ship.

Independent Exploration

Booking an excursion comes down to budget and inclination. Using an independent operator often allows you to save money by eliminating the middleman, or customize the trip to your interests. However, don’t forget that, while the cruise ship will absolutely wait for any late ship-sponsored tours, you run the risk of getting stranded in port if your independent tour is tardy returning to the pier. Moreover, many times independent excursions don’t offer things like liability insurance so — buyer beware.

There are many factors to weigh when choosing what type of excursion you should book. Below we’ve outlined when you should consider shore excursions over independent excursions:

  • You’re a first time cruiser

  • The port is exotic

  • Distance between port and excursion

  • Cruise lines specialize in particular areas of excursions

  • The trip is high risk

Making an educated decision will allow you the luxury of relaxing and enjoying your vacation — worry free. Whatever you end up with, the most important thing is that you return to the ship safe and in a timely manner.