You've seen the promotions "book now and save 25% on all shore excursions". Are these "book now savings" a good value? Are there any safety concerns regarding shore excursions? You've probably also been encouraged to "book your shore excursions early before they sell out". Do shore excursions actually sell out?
Is is better to buy Shore Excursions once on the ship, or, before you arrive on the ship?
Buy shore excursions once onboard the ship, and, buy them from the cruise line's shore excursions desk. Cruise lines will try to sell shore excursions online when you fill out your pre-departure paperwork and retrieve your eDocs (tickets printed at home). You may be told that shore excursions "sell-out" and you should "book now". Generally, shore excursions don't sell-out very often – there is little reason to book prior to getting onboard the ship.
Finding the Best Shore Excursions
To find the best shore excursions, talk to the team at the shore excursions desk -- their advice will be invaluable. But, a big reason to book during the sailing is so that you can check to see if the weather is going to be good for your chosen shore excursion. If the ship can't make the port call due to weather or some unforeseen circumstance, the cruise line will refund your money if the shore excursion doesn't happen. However, the cruise line will not refund your money if the weather during your shore excursions is not perfect, or, if you decide not to go after you have made the booking. The best advice is to wait until the last minute to make your buying decision.
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Should you buy third party shore excursions?
Third party shore excursions are sold by companies (usually local ground operators) other than the cruise line. Often, these shore excursions are sold over the internet, or, you buy them somebody at the port once you arrive. Keep in mind the following why it is safer to buy your shore excursions only from the cruise line:
- Cruise lines will not leave the pier when their guests are late returning guest from a shore excursion that was furnished by the cruise line. The same cannot be said for vendors with cardboard signs pleading for your business when you get of the ship.
- Cruise lines have reputations to up-hold, including providing a safe environment for their guests. As such, they certify their shore excursions to be insured, bonded and regulated by local governing bodies. Reputable outfitters will seek to do business with cruise lines and strive to provide a pleasurable experience.
- If the cruise line cancels the port call (due to weather, or, some other unforeseen circumstance), you will get a refund on your shore excursion. If you buy in advance from a local ground operator, that may not be the case.
The best advice is to wait until you are on the ship to book your shore excursion. You may find other passengers with a great recommendation, or that on a particular day you might feel like getting a spa treatment rather than hitting white-water rapids.
Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises