Small Private Customized Local Tours Vs. Ship’s or Resort’s Shore Excursions

#ShoreExcursions #LocalTours  #PrivateTourOperators


In addition to planning your valued lifetime memories adventure, we at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel stand ready to assist in preparation of your shore excursions, whether booked through a cruise line, resort or through a private tour operator.  In general, booking an independent tour (which we will do for you) through a reputable tour operator is more cost-effective and generally the excursions are for individual small  groups (4-20). Smaller groups provide a more personal experience with an educated local guide, and frequently the tour allows for some variance of the itinerary, if not totally building the agenda per your request. Many times, private vans or small buses are used as opposed to a coach which may handle 40 passengers for the cruise line excursion.

Here are our suggested criteria when looking for small individualized shore excursions:

1. Research. The process starts way before you board the cruise ship or reach your resort. Head to websites like Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor, Viator, the book store or even your local public library to find out about the destinations and tour companies.

2. Third party companies. Use companies with a worry-free guarantee, allowing you to be covered if you miss the ship because of a flat tire or a local strike. Book with a reputable company and always ask the questions “but what if I don’t return to the ship?”.

3. Call companies directly. Pick up the phone and call the company directly. Talking to someone will make you feel much more confident than email correspondence. Viator and Trip Advisor also provide reviews from past guests, along with ratings.

4. Book the tour early in the day. Take the earliest tour you can to give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. For instance, you can usually get to Rome for 10 euro round trip, find the earliest train schedule possible and consider heading back earlier. You’ll beat the crowds and still give yourself some extra time.

5. Get cancellation policies. Make sure you get the cancellation policy with the company you book with in writing. During hurricane season, ships tend to change ports up or sometimes skip a port all together. You want to make sure that you’re protected if the port of call is canceled.

6. Print paperwork. When everything is said and done, make sure you print the paperwork out. Yes, with everyone using cell phones these days it’s easier to show them the confirmation but do you really want to hand your cellphone over to a stranger? Also, consider the fact that you could rack up data charges if you have to retrieve your email.

7. Stay on ships time. Always, always, always stay on ships time. The ships are great about staying onto the local port time, however, your cell phones and watches aren’t. Make sure you keep track of time and know what the time zone is.

We are the first ones to recommend booking a private shore excursion versus a ship’s excursion – it costs much less and is fit to your specifications.  Most people don’t want to feel like they are being herded around. Even if you are not interested in a “tour of a city/port” but wish for a lazy easygoing day at the beach, there are alternatives available to ship’s excursions.  In Cozumel you can go to the El Cid resort for $20, with all the amenities of a ship’s pricey shore excursion offered.

Use common sense and have fun! There should be as much research in booking your shore excursions as booking your cruise to achieve the lifetime memories experience you desire.


Small local tour bus in the Caribbean – credit Mimi Auchter

You may wish to view related blog posts as follows:

Should You Book Shore Excursions with the Cruise Line?

Things to Consider about Shore Excursions

Favorite Unspoiled (Rarely Visited) Laid Back Caribbean Islands/Ports

Tips for Hassle-free International Travel


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