Answered: Do I Have to Book Excursions Through the Cruise Line?

If you’ve never taken a cruise before, then the idea of excursions can be a little confusing. However, they are actually pretty simple.

While your time on the ship can be thought of as all-inclusive — meaning nearly everything except for drinks are included with the cost of your cruise — any time you spend off the ship is up to you. That means while in port you are welcome to do anything you want to do, and it also means whatever you do will have to be paid for out of pocket.

Where things get a little tricky is that most people aren’t sure what to do in port. And with multiple ports visited on a trip, it can be a chore to research and find things to do for each stop.

Cruise Excursions Make It Easy to Know What to Do

That’s where cruise line excursions come in. After you book your cruise, you’ll have the ability book excursions as well. An excursion is simply a tour you book for the time you are in port. It can range from highly adventurous (things like parasailing) to the laid-back (walking tours of the port).

The cruise lines make it easy to book, offering several dozen excursion options for each port your visit. You can reserve these trips online ahead of time, or every ship will have an excursions desk you can visit on the cruise. If you decide to book your excursion while on the ship, they will have staff on hand that are familiar with the trips and can answer any questions you might have.

The excursions offered through the cruise lines have some big advantages. Not only are they easy to book, but if you book through the cruise line, there is usually a guarantee that you will make your return before the ship departs. As well, the cruise line has the ability to round up dozen of choices all at once — including tours you might not find anywhere else.

Of course, everything comes with a cost. The tours your book through the cruise can be pricey. It’s not unusual for most excursions to cost at least $50 per person for the cheapest options.

To recap, here’s the advantage of booking through the cruise line:

  • Convenient
  • Usually a guarantee of being back by ship’s departure time
  • Lots of options

And here are the disadvantages:

  • Can be expensive
  • Any tour booked will likely be crowded
  • May miss on cool activities if it’s not offered through the cruise line

The good news is that you don’t have to book an excursions through the cruise line, nor do you have to book an excursion at all.

In fact, you can often save money by finding excursions to do on your own. However, it can be a little intimidating if you aren’t familiar.

Booking Excursions Other Than What’s Offered by the Cruise Line

To book your own excursion, first you have to find one that sounds good to you.

If you want to do this online, there are several third-party websites out there, such as Viator and Shore Excursions Group that make it simple to find excursions for any port. You can book through these companies, just like booking through the cruise line. They also usually offer a guarantee that they will have you back to your ship on-time.

If you are headed to a port that’s a major cruise stop like Cozumel or Nassau, then you can also search for independent excursions on your own. For instance, while there are a number of tours that head to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, you can also just book yourself through the hotel’s website.

For smaller ports or excursions, it can be a little more difficult to find what you want to do. For these stops, you have a couple of options if you don’t want to book through the cruise line. First (and simplest) is to do a search for excursions through Google or TripAdvisor. This will give you a good idea of what’s available and give you more details on booking the tour.

In addition, you can also head into the port and search for tours or things to do. It’s definitely a little harder than having all the options delivered directly to you, but chances are you will save a lot of money booking directly with the tour company in person rather than through the cruise line. After all, there’s no middle man and some companies may we willing to negotiate pricing.

And remember, you don’t have to book an excursion at all. If you simply want to save the cash and explore on your own, lots of people do exactly that.

However, the most important thing is to know you don’t have to book your excursion through the cruise lines.

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