So, today you paid your cruise in full and you are overjoyed! You think, what can I do next to ensure I have a fantastic vacation? As you review your emails, you see at least one from the cruise line about shore excursions. There are so many options. How do you know which to choose? How do you know what’s safe and do you assume the company taking you on tours, etc is reputable just because you book directly on the ship or via the cruise line?
Never assume anything. When researching this topic, I came across articles from both sides of the spectrum. There are people who claim that shore excursions booked on-board are safer because cruise lines have researched the providers, their insurance coverage, safety, etc.
“So, when your cruise line suggests you avoid independent tour operators, it’s not just because they’re trying to earn an extra buck; it’s because they know for certain their operators are legit. That’s not to say accidents don’t happen on cruise-sponsored excursions. But you at least gain more peace of mind knowing an official authority did its due diligence on your behalf. ” —Elissa Leibowitz Poma, Cruise Critic Contributor [Follow Cruise Critic on Twitter]
While others have a different take….
“…cruise lines contract with local operators who run the excursions. The cruise lines have to add on something to make money. Duh. So basically, its the same people, running the same excursions, but you pay more if you get it through the ship. If that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy then buy through the ship. Most people do. If you want to save 20% to 50%, do some research first. There might be a better value out there.” by Chris Owen on Jan 15th 2011 [Follow Him on Twitter]
I will provide you with some facts and you can make your own decision.
Fact: There are multiple options for booking shore excursions.
Fact: There have been unfortunate situations involving crime and tragedy on cruise line sponsored and non-sponsored excursions.
Fact: Potentially dangerous activities, like zip line or ATV tours, are just as dangerous on vacation as they are at home.
Fact: Booking an excursion through your cruise line is more expensive than with several other companies.
Fact: Shore excursions can enhance your cruise vacation, but aren’t absolutely necessary.
Now that you have some facts, what should you do with the information? This is where your travel agent comes in, because they’ve done your research for you. Ask who they use. Ask who they recommend. Ask which companies guarantee your return to the ship. Then, you can book with confidence knowing you’ve done your best to protect yourself.
What happens if you need help? How should you prepare?
1) Travel insurance is a must. Check out insuremytrip for options or ask your travel agent.
2) Passports or passport ID cards are recommended. (Ask me why)
3) When traveling abroad, register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so the US Dept. of State can assist you quickly in the event of an emergency.
4) Check out the latest US travel advisories here.
In the event of an emergency:
CONTACT OVERSEAS CITIZENS SERVICES:
From within the U.S. 1-888-407-4747
From outside the U.S. 1-202-501-4444
Finally, my recommendation to you is to follow your gut. Your travel agent is your ally and has your best interests in mind. Listen to them, do some quick research on reviews, save some money by booking ahead, and have fun!
VERONICA WOLD IS A CLIA ACCREDITED CRUISE COUNSELOR, A LICENSED FLORIDA SELLER OF TRAVEL, AND A DISNEY DESTINATIONS SPECIALIST. SHE HAS TRAVELED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AND IS THE CONSUMMATE PROFESSIONAL. CONTACT HER AT 850-321-5477 OR VERONICA@MAKINGTRAVELEFFORTLESS.COM.