Cruise Excursion Tips: Which Should You Take, And Which Avoid?

Which cruise line excursions should you take, and which to avoid?
Cruise excursion tips

When choosing an excursion, many focus on what their cruise line offers as it’s just easier. But in my many years of cruising experience, I’d advise to be a little pickier about the excursions you should and shouldn’t take.

What are the cruise line shore excursions you should avoid, and which are the ones you should absolutely take?

I want to share with you some ideas around shore excursions, the ones that I always recommend people take and the ones that I recommend you should avoid and why, and what the options are.

Cruise Line Excursions To Avoid

  1. Panoramic Bus Tours. This is basically sitting on a bus, driving around. It depends which side of the bus you’re on, as to whether you’re going to get the pictures. What I prefer to do instead is use the hop on hop off bus. Hop on, hop off buses will take you to all of the key sites in a port and you can choose when you want to get off, when you want to stay when you want to get back on and often, they will start and end in the cruise port, so you can easily manage your time!
  2. Excursions with meals. I never do excursions which have meals included, because what I’ve found is the meal just dominates the excursion. I’ve done it in Shanghai, I’ve done it in Hong Kong and I’ve regretted it, because we had these so called traditional meals, but they took up two or more hours of the excursion and that was two or more hours that I could’ve been out taking in the sights.
  3. Beach breaks. I also never do excursions that include beach breaks or entrances to resorts. If there’s beaches nearby and there’s great beaches, you’ll find in the port, there are always cab drivers that will know the ports, take you there, they’ll arrange to come and collect you again or there will just be a ferry service, you know buses ferrying you to and back or bus services. Resorts. The same with resorts – I don’t pay for an excursion, because you’re just basically paying a premium. You can often buy resort passes online anyway. So, if you’re going to a beach break, you’re paying a huge premium and you don’t really need it.
  4. Museums. I also tend not to go to museums or key historical sites on a cruise line excursion. The reason for that is, again you’re in a big group, you’re walking around, and it can be quite slow. Parts of it just may really be dull and you want to move on and look at other things. I’ll look at the museums, you can look on sites, for example Google, it will tell you the busy times and quiet times and I’ll then pre book tickets and go when it’s less busy And often it’s less busy when the tour groups aren’t in. You often find that going in the afternoon to the museums and historical sites, you’re going to have a much better time and you’re not going to be rushed through by the cruise line, or having to look at things that you are not interested in.
  5. Shopping. The other type of excursion that I would never take with a cruise line are ones that involve shopping. Because, bear in mind that they’re likely to be getting kickbacks, they go to take you to certain places. If you do want to go shopping and exploring, simply ask onboard, ask the shore excursion desk,
    ask the crew and get some tips and advice on the best place to go shopping. Don’t go with the cruise line, because they’re going to steer you in certain ways.
  6. Cycling tours. The sixth excursion that I wouldn’t normally do through a cruise line is cycling tours, Segway tours You’ll find that those are not run by the cruise line, they’re run by independent providers
    and there are loads of them that you can find either near the port. It’s just much more efficient to do your own.

Cruise Line Excursions To Take

What are the six cruise line excursions that I would normally take, if they’re offered by the cruise line?

  1. Places far from the port. First of all, if the ship is a long way from the place of interest, like Osaka, or Rome. Personally, I would take the cruise line and if they don’t have the simple one to take you there, I would go on an excursion with them. This is because the hassle and the stress of going really far distances and probably the cost, it often ends up being much more efficient.
  2. Culinary tours. The second one that I would normally do if they have a proper focused food and wine culinary tour, particularly if it’s going to a local home and learning how to cook the food! I find that those are quite hard to organise online, and they’ve found really great little places you can go, whether it’s to vineyards or to specific home visits. Cruise lines are getting better and better at offering those, and those I would often look at to take, if it’s a particular culinary activity I want to do in a particular destination.
  3. Complex/multiple sites. Iceland is quite a complex place! On a cruise, it’s an eight-hour trip around multiple sites and getting around there is quite difficult, it’s quite remote. You can do it independently, but it’s just much easier with an excursion, because you find the cost saving is not always that great. You’ve also got the reassurance, particularly when you’re going long distances, of knowing that that the ship will wait for you.
  4. High value excursions. The other excursion I take is if I am looking at a very high value excursion, so the dog sleighing one that I did in Alaska was a good example. These are quite expensive excursions and they are often the cruise lines can get you a really good deal, because there’s often not a lot of capacity.
  5. Exclusive or unique. The fifth type of excursion that I would do through cruise line is when they’re offering
    special access or unique access. Once, I was on a Silversea cruise in Saint Petersburg and they had the opportunity to get into the Hermitage Museum an hour and a half, maybe two hours before it opened and that was magical, because before the thousands of people arrived, we got to tour the museum, and that was really special. Those sort of things for me are kind of priceless, because you could only do
    those through the cruise line, so I would always do those through the cruise line.
  6. Special events or activities. The other one that I would do is if there are very special events or activities that the cruise line does. For example, some cruise lines have very special tours with partnerships on UNESCO sites, where you get some behind the scenes stuff that you don’t get elsewhere. I was on a Seabourn cruise once around the Greek islands and they had some evening concerts in some beautiful ruins, which again was exclusive and different. So those the sort of things that I would do if you can’t do them anywhere else.

cruise excursion

There’s a lot of good reasons why you should do an excursion with a cruise line, but don’t fall into the easy trap (just because it seems more effortless and you’re worried about the ship waiting for you!)

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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