One of the joys of cruising is the pleasure of shipboard life, when you can be as busy, as relaxed or as pampered as you prefer knowing that your floating palace has been designed with your leisure in mind.
“Cruising can be one of the most relaxing vacations you could possibly experience, but most cruises also need to pop into ports at regular intervals.”
The reasons for this are twofold.
Firstly, they need to replenish their stocks of food, fuel and other necessities, and secondly, because the economies of many small ports strongly depend on the revenue generated by visiting ships to enable their economies to flourish.
Not only that, many places are definitely worth seeing.
“What is the point of cruising if you don’t actually go anywhere?”
The quality of shore excursions also depends on many factors, but let’s assume that a port has many attractions that are worth seeing? The cruise lines will all have preferred shore excursions that you can purchase on board, and because they are run in conjunction with the cruise line, if there is a problem which holds up the tour, the ship will wait until all passengers have embarked.
These tours are highly regulated and well organised, and they do give passengers peace of mind because they are official so are well-planned and usually make the most of the time on shore.
They are usually also the most expensive way to visit a port because the cruise line is taking a fair percentage of the sale price.
For those who are more independently minded, or who have visited the port before, there are many other options.
Every port will have its local tour guides or cab drivers who will offer their own tour itineraries. The price for these is usually negotiable, and if you are unused to bartering, these tours may actually cost you more than the official tours.
One danger in taking these tours is that if you get back to the wharf late, the ship will not wait for you. One benefit is that you will often visit places that are quieter than the main attractions, so you aren’t hassling with crowds too much, and you can enjoy a much more local experience.
Depending on the size and location of the port, many places these days have hop on hop off buses which offer good value and which allow you to visit attractions at your pace.
Using local public transport is another great option. It is often the cheapest way to get around a place, and you do get much more of a local perspective.
Of course, many passengers opt to stay on board when visiting a port. Generally speaking, these passengers have the run of the ship, and get the pool and restaurants almost to themselves whilst everyone else is off ship gallivanting about.
“The most important think about shore excursions is that, like most on-board activities, you have a choice to do exactly what you want to do.”
That is why cruising, even though there may be thousands of passengers on board, is a truly individual experience and unique for all who do cruise.