What is a Shore Excursion?
Shore excursions are optional, guided tours in a cruise ship's port of call. They are offered in almost all cruise ports and cities and are a great way to enhance your cruise experience by allowing you seeing more of the places you visit. Shore excursions highlight the best local attractions and sight-seeing opportunities; the best places to shop; and, give the cruise passenger a chance to experience the local culture.
How can I learn about the Shore Excursions that are available to me?
Every cruise line sells shore excursions. As a convenience to their passengers, they provide a complete list of tours with descriptions and prices in advance of your cruise both on their websites and with your cruise documents. Select tours are also available on our website at Smart Booking Travel. You can them pre-book them prior to leaving home or wait until you board your ship. If you are selecting your cruise based on the different tours to take in port, your best bet is Smart Booking Travel or the Cruise Line's website.
Why should I book a Shore Excursion?
An organized shore excursion can maximize your time ashore and eliminate the need for making time-consuming arrangements while in port. Cruise Lines have tremendous experience in selecting those tours and attractions that they believe will best satisfy their passengers interests, whether its fun, enrichment, high adventure, sight-seeing or relaxation. The tours they select for you will highlight the most popular sites and activities in a particular port of call, so that you can get the most from your visit there. These tours are led by local residents, who's expertise and first-hand knowledge of the history and folklore of the local attraction not only educate you, but also provide colorful insights and anecdotes that you just cannot experience on your own with a city map and guide-book.
What's included with a Shore Excursion?
Shore excursions include transportation to the attraction or activity, the services of a local tour guide, equipment and gear (if applicable) and entrance fees if applicable. For example, if you are taking a scuba tour in Cozumel, your tour will include the transportation from the ship to local dive facility, all scuba gear and tanks, the trip to the dive spot; two dives, and return transportation to ship. In Alaska you may try a Glacier Trekking Helicopter Tour. Again, transportation from the ship to the helicopter, glacier trekking gear (boots, coats, gloves, ropes etc) would be provided, your helicopter ride, the glacier trekking and then transportation would all be included. Some tours may also include meals, drinks and refreshments depending on the tour.
How much do Shore Excursions cost?
The cost of a shore excursion varies by the tour and the cruise line. Walking and driving tours to local land attractions, beach escapes, or simple museum tours can be purchased for as little as $15 - $25 per person. More high adventure activities like snorkeling, wave runner tours, swimming with stingrays, jeep safaris, helicopter and flight-seeing tours, glacier trekking, dog-sledding, white-water rafting and salmon-fishing will cost more. You can review the costs of shore excursions prior to booking your cruise and you can actually pre-booking them prior to arriving at the ship. Fares for shore excursions are subject to change without notice.
Do I have to purchase my shore excursions through the cruise line?
You have choices. Booking your shore excursion with the cruise line has a number of benefits including variety and convenience. Cruise Lines typically offer a number of different shore tours to choose and for any budget and physical activity level. They also give you the opportunity to either pre-book your tours online on their websites or wait and book them once you get on the ship. If you book something online and then you change your mind, you can do cancel or rebook another tour onboard with 24 hours notice. Since the cruise line is offers these conveniences, you may find that some tours may be more pricey than if you had purchased them on your own. Seasoned cruise travelers know that there are convenient and affordable alternatives to booking your shore excursions directly through the cruise line. Smart Booking Travel is very proud to offer competitively-priced shore excursions on many of the Caribbean and Alaska's most popular attractions and activities. You can save over 20% off the cost of many of the same tours that the cruise lines offer onboard the ship. Click here for more details.
Can I pre-book my Shore Excursions?
Yes, after you make the final payment on your cruise, you can pre-book your shore excursions directly with the cruise line or online with Smart Booking Travel. Smart Booking Travel offers many of the same shore excursions offered by the cruise lines but a reduced prices. Click here for more details.
How physically challenging are Shore Excursions?
Most tours require some degree of walking; however, some excursions include extensive walking and hiking. Likewise, the grand entryways of local museums, castles, forts and attractions; sprawling gardens; hilly and icy Alaskan terrain; or Europe's cobblestone streets can all make walking and climbing even more difficult. Some tours can be very high energy. High adventure white water rafting in Alaska, climbing Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, bike tours in Hawaii, hiking the hill in Santorini (or riding the mules up for that matter) and kayaking may require you to be in good shape before hand. Whatever your fitness level, we highly recommend comfortable, low-heeled walking shoes. To assist guests in choosing their shore excursions, most cruise lines grade their tours according to the level of activity they entail.
Will I be able to see wildlife on my Alaska Shore Excursion?
Shore Excursions that offer wildlife viewing opportunities are available in many destinations including Alaska, Canada / New England, Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands. Depending on your destination, these excursions you'll may have the opportunity to see whales, seal, penguins, turtles, sharks, bears, moose, and caribou, among other animals. However, no cruise line or tour operator can guarantee sightings, as animals follow their own schedule and may not always be visible.
Can I book more than one Shore Excursion in a day?
This depends upon the shore excursions you select and their departure and arrival times. Cruise Lines and tour operators may offer certain tours in the morning and in the afternoon, so it is possible to take two tours on the same day. It is generally recommended that you allow one hour to get from one Shore Excursion to the next.
Can I take my camera and binoculars.
Sure you can. Most tours allow you to bring both a camera and binoculars; after all, you are there to see the sights and attractions of your cruise destinations. Some tours, however, may have special directions regarding safety and use of these items during the more physically, demanding activities and excursions. If you are taking a tour that includes a dinner show or entertainment, there may be restrictions regarding the use of flash photography and videotaping during the performance.
Will I have any free time to explore on my own?
This really depends upon the tour. Whenever possible, departure and return times are scheduled to give you time to shop or explore on your own. The local guides are considered top experts on local history and sights, offering you a chance to fully appreciate and experience their hometowns. Shore excursions are designed and organized in such a way as to maximize your time in each port and yet allow sufficient free time as well.
Are meals included on the tour?
Unless it is specifically mentioned in the tour description, meals are not included. Most tour departure times complement the ship's meal service hours, so you can enjoy your meal aboard then go ashore. However, on some full day tours, or if you take more than one tour in a day, your return on board may not coincide with meal hours. In that case, the cruise line may provide a box lunch or full meal at a local restaurant. Fortunately, regardless of when you return, there is always a buffet, snack, or room service is available at all times.
Will I need special clothing on my Shore Excursion?
You should plan to dress accordingly for the destination your are in and the tour you are taking. Certain tours like scuba diving, white-water rafting and glacier trekking will provide the appropriate equipment, gear and clothing as part of the tour. Additionally, your shore excursion description will provide more clothing recommendations as well.
Can I bring our kids on a Shore Excursion?
Cruising is a fabulous, unforgettable vacation full of cool activities. Shore excursions can provide fun, educational and high adventure experiences for the kids and a lifetime of "Remember when we ..." moments for Mom and Dad. When appropriate, you should bring your children along on your shore excursions. Most cruise lines have age guidelines for their shore excursions, depending upon the age of the children. Additionally, some cruise lines like Holland America have shore excursions specifically for the kids. The kids program on your ship and the shore excursions desk onboard will help you choose the best tour to suit your family.
Can I leave my children on the ship while we take a tour?
Having small children should not prevent you from enjoying all the activities available to you on your cruise vacation. Some cruise lines do offer their kids programs while you are in port, giving you the opportunity to enjoy Shore Excursions, independent sight-seeing tours, or shopping off the ship.
Do the transportation vehicles have child seats and restraints?
Local tour operators and cab drivers do not provide child car seats or child restraints. Most vehicles do have seat belts, but you should check your individual vehicle when you board. If a child seat is important, it is your responsibility to bring it and properly fit it in the vehicle.
Should I tip my tour guide or driver?
Extending a gratuity to your guide or driver is strictly optional; however, in some countries, these personnel may anticipate that if you were pleased with their services, you will reward them in a monetary way. A commonly accepted guideline is $1 per person for a half-day and $2 per person for a full day
What if my tour is cancelled?
The Cruise Line will provide a full refund for any tour cancelled by the operators due to inclement weather conditions or the unlikely event the ship does not visit a port of call.