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Cruise excursions offer convenience, flexibility and security when booked through the same operator you are travelling with, but you can expect to pay a premium price for these benefits. If you want to save some money, there are other ways to ensure you can explore the ports during your holiday. A guest has shared their advice for “cheaper” and “easier” trips off the ship.
Posting on the CruiseCritic forum, a passenger who used the name GlamorousGirl wrote: “I found what appears to be the same excursion the cruise line is offering for $99 on another (reputable) site for $16.
“I really want to take it, but I am nervous that the excursion time is “estimated” at five hours, and if they returned us right on schedule, it would only give us a one-hour “buffer” to make the time to board deadline.
“I have always booked excursions through the cruise ship in the past because I”m nervous about missing the ship, but this has turned into a really expensive cruise (21 days from Rome to Dubai), and I need to save every penny I can. The port is at Safaga, Egypt.”
In response to the concerned cruise-goer, another user wrote that on their nine sails, they had always booked their own excursions to avoid “overpriced” and “overcrowded” shore tours.
Another experienced guest added that they also prefer third-party trips and can make the timings work accordingly to fit the port stop timings.
The CruiseCritic member named SimplyMarvie said: “Generally, I am 100 percent all for independent excursions – they’re usually cheaper, easier and don’t involve giant tour buses or shopping trips to places you don’t want to go.
“We rarely take cruise line excursions and only in situations that involve dodgy travel times.”
They explained that on their own trip to Egypt, they found that trips to Luxor are far enough away from the port to require a boat ride or trip through heavy traffic, though it can work if you find a “reputable” private touring company where you can call the shots on timings.
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Coordinating timings with third-party providers is easier than you may think according to other holidaymakers.
In fact, some excursion companies have guarantees that mean you can definitely fit the trip around your cruise line’s schedule.
One forum user commented that simply checking with the tour operator is all you need to do to ensure a timely visit on-shore.
She wrote: “I have taken independent tours through local operators and have never had a problem. Most operators know the ship schedule and may even monitor traffic patterns while you’re on your excursion to make sure they can get you back in time.”
Another easy way to access cheaper excursions at the best times is to check any online reviews for the operator to get a sense of whether ship schedules have been a problem in the past for others.
When it comes to looking for the best deals, a cruisegoer who used the name SargassoPirater recommended using “the big box warehouse club” travel department’s website – if you are a member.
They wrote: “They offer tours with a return-to-the-ship guarantee. The prices are better than the cruise lines.”
Other travellers noted that they had “saved hundreds” by booking excursions outside of those offered by ship lines.
A forum member named Lin77 said: “On our last transatlantic, for the first time ever we booked private tours (not from a cruise line) with other cruisers on here and saved hundreds of dollars and had a great time at five different ports!
“Other companies were great, but if in doubt look up reviews on google or trip advisor and that should give you an indication of how reputable they are.”
Experienced cruiser Sue added: “As for getting back on time… any of them advertising cruise pick-up/return know the shipping schedule and it’s a good idea to agree to your return time before loading up.
“That is if you need 90 minutes grace or 30 minutes grace, or you are okay being a pier runner… let the guide know upfront so that they adjust your time at each stop accordingly.”
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