Breaking Away While Cruising
When Adventuring Off On Your Own Makes Sense
In my last article I focused on some very good reasons why there may be times when you want to book your cruise excursions through the cruise line rather than through a tour operator or going it alone. I promised that I would do the companion piece about when the opposite holds true, so here we go.
First of all, if you have a travel agent who is working with you on your trip, for Pete’s sake use their expertise. That is after all the point, right? So if you are going to new and exciting places, talk with your travel agent and make sure they know the kinds of things that interest you, and let them take it from there. At the very least they can provide recommendations, and at the most (and most fun) they can put together a curated adventure that really reflects the kind of experience you want to have. As an example, I had a client this spring that went to Italy and Greece for two weeks. They had never been to any of the places before, so after talking with them about it I put together a complete itinerary that included not just hotels and transfers but all of their tours and activities. We then went over it together, made a couple of adjustments, and voila — done! Yes, of course, they had a great time, and some of the things they loved the most were the off-the-beaten-path tours that they probably would not have picked on their own. So use your resources.
In that last example they had never been to those cities before, but venturing out is also a great idea if you have. So let’s say you’re on a cruise that stops in Cozumel. If you live in Texas as I do, you know that pretty much every cruise out of Galveston stops in Cozumel, so we have all been there ALOT. You are also usually there for a whole day, so just hanging out in the port area can get old — there are only so many times you can get the fish pedicure and pick up new t-shirts! So in these instances, there’s a good case to be made for venturing out and looking beyond what the ship offers. Not only might you find something new, but the pricing is likely to be much better than the ships pricing.
Somewhat related, whether you’ve been somewhere before or not, sometimes you just don’t want to spend a whole day on a bus, or be locked into having to do something specific. On most cruises we’ve been on there’s usually at least one day where we just play it by ear — we get off the ship and see what we want to do from there. Sometimes it ends up being just hanging around the port area, or taking a taxi to a local beach, or doing the tried and true Hop On Hop Off bus. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again — this is YOUR vacation. Don’t feel compelled to run yourself ragged, or drop serious change doing a big excursion in every port, unless you want to. If you decide you’ve overscheduled yourself, you can usually cancel a ship excursion at least 24 hours out and get your money back, but check your tickets and know your deadlines to be sure.
My last reason, for now, to break out beyond the ship excursions is when you are with a group. If you have 6, 8, 10, or more people, you can often book a private tour for just your little group and pay less than being on a bus of 40. It also gives you the freedom to decide exactly what you want to do, and usually, the drivers and guides are not only flexible but are great at doing things in the opposite order of the ship excursions so you avoid the crowds. Sometimes they will really hustle first thing to get to the first stop 20 minutes before they know the first big bus will arrive, and then you’re golden all day.
So whatever you decide, you now have at least my perspective on when you might want to book through the ship, and when it totally makes sense to branch out. Ultimately, it’s your vacation and you need to do what you’re comfortable with and what makes you happy. Just go!