Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hip Getaways: Cruising 101 - Land Excursions

If you're thinking of cruising away on your next vacay make sure you tune in to Katie Schmeer's Cruising 101 series for The Hip & Urban Girl's Guide. Here's her fourth post on Cruise Land Excursions for your days in port.

Burano in Venice, Italy
Listen very closely now my friends, because here is where you can potentially save a LOT of money. You do NOT have to book shore excursions through the ship. If you do your research in advance, you can book with independent tour companies, which will meet you when you get off the ship and take you on your chosen tour.

Check reviews, use websites like Tripadvisor and don’t pay in advance. You are unlikely to get cheated by a tour company because this is their livelihood and their reputation is at stake. They will definitely show up, but sometimes bad weather will result in your ship not stopping at a particular port and if you’ve paid in full, you’re not getting that money back.

Ziplining in Costa Rica
If you are very new to cruising and do not feel comfortable or knowledgeable booking an outside tour company, you can book excursions with the cruise. You will need to book them once you are on board and you will likely have to line up and wait to book them through the “front desk”. Get there early because once they reach capacity, the trip is closed.

Another option is to simply get off the boat and look around. Ports cater to tourists, so there should be plenty close by to occupy you. If nothing else, most Caribbean cruise destinations have many nice beaches you can go to and European destinations are short taxi rides to major cities with lots to do. There will also be tour companies outside, with signs, so if you did not book something in advance, you can book through them.

Swimming with the Dolphins in Mexico
Tour companies, even these ones just hoping to catch tourists as they come off the boat, including taxis, usually have set prices, EVEN those in the Caribbean and Mexico. No matter who you go to, you will get the same price. Certainly double-check, but that is often the case. This is not the time to try bartering. However, in most Caribbean and South American and Mexican ports, vendors will be more than happy to bargain with you on the price of souvenirs. 

Items you can commonly expect to find in Caribbean port-area stores will be jewelry, both fine and silver, fake purses, arts and crafts, carved wooden sculptures and masks, souvenir t-shirts and shot glasses. Bigger cities will have more selections in terms of stores. If you are looking for something specific, or want more tips specific to where you are going, shopping talks are common on board cruises and they are often featured on the cruise TV. 

Swimming with stingrays in the Cayman Islands
When disembarking from a ship, one of two things will happen: If the ship can, they will pull right up to a gangway and you can simply step off the ship and onto the dock (which are cement, not wooden and wobbly). Otherwise, you may be anchored a ways out from shore and will have to take a boat into port. The boats go right up to the ship and are filled with many passengers before they go into shore. They continue throughout the day, both taking you into and out of the port.

Whenever you leave the ship, you will be required to take your ship card and a piece of photo ID with you. You obtain this ship card when you arrive for your cruise and it will act as your credit card and ID, as well as your room key, while you’re on board the ship. They will take your picture when you get on the ship and whenever you leave or come back on, they will be able to see your picture to confirm you are who you say you are.

You must make sure that you are back in time for the ship’s departure. I have heard of instances where people have missed the ship and had to arrange transportation at the next port, to meet with the ship again.

Trip excursions range hugely, depending on where you are going and what your budget looks like and what you want to do. Most tours on the ship have a rating for how physical the tour is and how much energy you’ll have to exert. In many cases you may be in an area where you’ll have an opportunity to try something you have never tried before and may never get to try again, so take advantage of some of the unique excursions that are offered. 

Let's all just pack up and go enjoy this view in Greece
Check back next week for Destinations & Cruise Lines Breakdown from our Cruising 101 series!  Read more from the series here.

No comments:

Post a Comment