Friday, February 15, 2013

Shore Excursions - through the cruise line or on your own?

Our fellow passengers who have sailed ten or more times on Disney Cruise Line were able to start booking their ship-sponsored shore excursions today.  We don't get to do that until March 2nd, but not being ones to leave things to the last minute, we've been looking at the excursions offered by the cruise line and deciding which ones we would like to do, and at which ports we will do something on our own.

When we first began sailing, we only scheduled ship-sponsored shore excursions, partly because of our inexperience, partly because the offerings were things we were interested in, and mostly to ease the anxiety of being left behind.  For most cruise lines, ship-sponsored excursions come with a guarantee that the ship will not leave you in port if your excursion is late returning to the port.  However, that's not always the case, but if you are on a ship-sponsored excursion that is late and the ship has to leave you, the cruise line will make the arrangements for you to catch up with the ship.  It is a rare occurrence for the ship to not wait for guests in this situation, but for those who are off the ship doing their own thing, well, let's just say we've seen a lot of pier runners in our day. Search YouTube for Cruise Ship Pier Runners and you'll find plenty of clips like the one below.

But sometimes the cruise line doesn't offer shore excursions that meet your interests, or perhaps, like in our case, you've been to the port before and have already seen and done what they offer.  What then?  Or perhaps you're more adventurous than we were in the beginning and want to plan your own time in port.

For this trip, we plan to use DCL's excursions for some of the ports, but for others we are going to make our own.  To do this and not worry about missing the ship, we have to carefully plan what we want to see and do, allow time for something to go wrong, and find qualified tour guides. 

Our two main resources for planning what to do on our own are Cruise Critic's Ports of Call forum and Tripadvisor.  Each of these have sub-forums that are dedicated to the specific ports that we'll be visiting.  These ports include:
  • Barcelona - we'll be here 1 1/2 days pre-cruise and another day post-cruise.
  • Venice - we will port here overnight, so we plan to do the first afternoon and evening on our own and then take a ship-sponsored excursion on the day we leave.
  • Cinque Terre - the cruiseline offers an excursion that is very much what we want to do, but we can explore this area on our own for so much less money, so we are opting to do this one on our own and save our excursion funds for another port.
  • Villefranche-sur-Mer - we stop here twice; the first visit we plan to use a ship-sponsored tour to visit Monaco, Monte Carlo and Eze.
  • Mykonos - we will be here after two busy days in Athens and Ephesus, so a nice quiet day in Mykonos sounds about right.
  • Valletta, Malta - we will be here twice as well; the first time we plan to hire a driver and guide arranged through the cruiseline, but we get to decide what we want to see and do during the time we're out.
  • Dubrovnik - this port seems like it will a wonderful place to explore on our own, but because we like to learn some things about what we're seeing, we are in contact already with someone to arrange a guided tour.

The more we travel, the more experienced we become in finding our way around new places, figuring out what we want to see and do before we get there, and making sure we're back on time!  As we get closer to departure, we'll share more details about each port.  And if you've ever been to any of these ports and have ideas or suggestions for what we should do, please leave them in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you.

1 comment:

  1. I love that Disney started offering the private driver tours.