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How to Save Money on Your Cruise Shore Excursion

Aug 17, 2007
Visiting ports of call can be among the highlights of any cruise. But if you aren't careful, you could actually end up spending more for a cruise shore excursion than for the initial price of the cruise itself.

An organized cruise shore excursion purchased through your cruise line can vary in price from around $30 or $40 per person for a basic two- or three-hour bus tour to upwards of several hundred dollars for an adventure travel jaunt.

But you'll often find that you can put together your own cruise shore excursion for much less money -- and enjoy the experience more.

By doing it yourself, you can choose where you want to go, how you want to get there, who you want to go with, and how to spend your time -- as well as how to spend your money in port.

There are two different approaches to putting together a money-saving independent cruise shore excursion.

The first -- and generally least expensive -- is simply to explore the port on your own.

Cruise ships often dock within easy walking distance of a port's main sights and attractions. Taxis or various types of public transportation (such as buses, streetcars, and trains) are often readily available as well, for a fraction of what cruise lines charge for bus transport.

Not only are you likely to save money exploring on your own, you're likely to have a more authentic experience as well. Rather than being bused to touristy shops and restaurants, you can choose your own destinations at your own pace -- and maybe even meet the locals.

Keep in mind that you'll need to do some advance research on the port you're visiting, whether on the Internet or with the help of print books or articles. A good local map -- which you can purchase in port or pick up for free from a tourist office -- is always helpful. Most cruise ships also provide some port information in their newsletters and at passenger service desks, shipboard lectures, and libraries.

The alternative to exploring on your own is to arrange an independent guided tour.

You can often pick one of these up right at the dock, but if you don't want to take that chance, you can arrange one in advance online. Type keywords such as "Shore Excursions Skagway Alaska" into search engines and a number of independent tour operators will appear on your screen.

By working with independent operators, you may save 15 percent or more over the price of a shore excursion offered by your cruise line. For a family of four, that can add up to big bucks over the course of a week-long cruise.

Just remember to bring a watch (set to local time) on your do-it-yourself cruise shore excursion -- you don't want to miss the boat when it's time to leave port.
About the Author
Clark Norton is the publisher of SmarterCruising.com. You can read more of his tips on saving money on your cruise shore excursion by visiting Smarter Cruising
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