After booking a cruise, the next step in the vacation planning process is often researching and booking amazing shore excursions around the world.
Too often, however, first-time cruisers or those new to a particular port can make rookie mistakes in the shore excursion planning process, which can lead to disappointment and additional expense later.
While everyone makes mistakes, it’s easy to be better prepared and have a stress-free day in port by avoiding these 10 common pitfalls when booking a shore excursion!
Reservation only through the cruise line
Royal Caribbean offers wonderful shore excursion opportunities, from whale watching in Alaska to sightseeing tours of Rome and catamaran excursions in Mexico.
However, don’t assume you need to book a shore excursion directly with Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean shore excursions are generally more expensive than tours you can find from independent tour operators, because the cruise line is the “middle man” between you and the travel agency.
Take a look at the local tour operators in your port of call to see what excursions are on offer and if they are available at a lower cost.
Related: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own
Recently I was browsing Royal Caribbean shore excursions for my upcoming Alaska cruise. I was interested in taking the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Trolley in Juneau and found that the cost for the same experience was $59.99 when offered by Royal Caribbean and $45 when booked directly on the website of the Goldbelt tram!
Of course, booking a tour directly through Royal Caribbean offers more protection if the tour runs late, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of booking independently in your planning process.
Related: Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?
Assuming you had to book an excursion in the first place
Many first-time cruisers may think they have to book an excursion in every port they visit, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy time ashore without spending extra on shore excursions!
Excursions can surely offer unique opportunities that you cannot do on your own, such as helicopter tours, guided ATV tours, etc., but you can have fun experiences in port without breaking the bank.
Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion
Do not search
Don’t book a shore excursion based on the title or pictures alone without researching what the excursion entails.
If an excursion is titled “Mexico Beach Break,” for example, that would likely mean you’ll get transportation to and from the beach with no guided tour in between. If you’re interested in a more in-depth sightseeing experience with a guide, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.
Likewise, don’t book the first tour you see. Research different tour operators and prices to see which best suits your preferences and budget.
You also want to check reviews before booking a tour. Although reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, if you notice any major red flags, it’s probably best to seek out another excursion.
Waiting too long to book an excursion
Once you’re sure you want to book a particular tour, it’s best to book the tour as soon as possible to secure the best price and ensure the tour doesn’t sell out.
One of the benefits of booking tours through Royal Caribbean is that you can change the tour price up to 48 hours before the cruise. If you book an Alaska whale watching tour for $160 and the price then drops to $130, you can cancel and rebook the tour at the lower price without penalty.
The main benefit of booking straight away, however, is to ensure that a visit doesn’t sell out.
Tours are more likely to sell out on cruises to “bucket list” destinations like Alaska or popular cities in the Mediterranean. Because passengers on these cruises typically travel longer to reach a destination — and likely chose to cruise purely for the ports themselves — they are more likely to book shore excursions.
Related: What to do if Royal Caribbean shore excursions are full
Book too many excursions
Some excursions only last 3 to 4 hours, which means that sometimes you can technically fit two excursions into one day if the timings line up properly.
Although on paper this might seem like a good idea as it gives you the chance to explore the harbor more, it is not always the best idea for several reasons.
If your first visit is late, you may miss the second visit. If both tours are booked through Royal Caribbean, you will receive a refund for the second tour, but this may not be the case with independent providers.
Another reason not to book multiple port excursions is that shore excursions can be tiring. Even if you’re just lying on a beach chair in the hot sun, it’s easy to be exhausted and ready to get back on board when the tour is over.
Instead of booking multiple tours, consider booking a tour in the morning and exploring the port freely in the afternoon. After the tour, feel free to grab some lunch, a few drinks, or some shopping before getting back on board.
Do not check transport logistics
One of the most important things to do before booking a shore excursion is to research the amount of transportation needed to reach the destination from the ship. Depending on the excursion, transport time can vary from around 5 minutes to over two hours!
On a cruise to Greece earlier this year, for example, I booked a 5-hour excursion to Shipwreck Beach, named one of the best beaches in the world. I booked the tour with a local operator when I arrived at the port, and the tour looked great from the brochure and photos available.
Related: Visiting Shipwreck Beach in Zakynthos, Greece
However, I didn’t ask about transport logistics before purchasing the tour, so you can imagine my surprise when we got on a bus instead of a boat! The tour required a one hour bus ride across the island to reach the boat.
Although I didn’t mind the bus ride as it allowed me to see more of the island of Zakynthos and the tour was fantastic overall, I realized the importance of doing more transportation research before to book a visit!
Not checking cancellation policies
Be sure to check your tour’s cancellation policy before booking, especially if you’re not quite sure you want to take the tour.
Most Royal Caribbean shore excursions can be canceled up to 48 hours prior to port arrival without penalty, and guests will be given a full refund. Royal Caribbean shore excursions involving flights, trains, overnight stays, special events and private trips must be canceled at least 30 days prior to departure date.
Independent tours, however, may have varying cancellation policies depending on the tour operator. Read the fine print when booking a tour independently to ensure you won’t be disappointed if you want to cancel the tour later.
Overestimating fitness level
When browsing shore excursions in the cruise planner, you can filter excursions by fitness level (light, moderate, intense). Some excursions may require hiking on steep trails, kayaking for longer periods of time, etc.
Be sure to consider your fitness level (and the fitness levels of other members of your group) before booking a tour to ensure that you will be able to complete the tour successfully and without too much difficulty .
Disregard other members of your group
A dream excursion for one passenger can become a nightmare for another. If you’re traveling with friends or family on a cruise, be sure to communicate your shore excursion interests before booking.
If your idea of an amazing day at the port is lounging on the beach with a drink in hand but other members of your group want to go ziplining, it can lead to tension during the planning process. cruise.
Be sure to communicate the types of excursions you are interested in with your group. If you can’t find something everyone wants to do, consider splitting up and meeting up after separate excursions for lunch or a drink before getting back on board!
Related: Guide to Choosing the Perfect Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion
Considering the other members of your group is very important if you are traveling with young children. While you might want to book a walking tour of historic harbor sites, it might not be the best option with energetic kids who just want to run around and have fun.
Browse shore excursions to determine which are best for your family before you book to avoid problems and tantrums along the way.
Related: 12 must-have Royal Caribbean tips and tricks for families
Don’t read the fine print
Our final mistake that many cruise lines make when booking a shore excursion is not read the fine print. If you read the fine print, you’ll find that many of these “errors” (shipping logistics, cancellation policies, etc.) are listed in the fine print.
Apart from these tips, be sure to read the fine print to check what is and isn’t included in a tour. Some tours may include lunch while others may not, so you may want to pack some snacks or plan to have lunch in port after the tour.
The fine print can also mention what to wear and what to bring on an excursion. You won’t want to show up to a hike in flip flops or a church visit in Rome in shorts and a tank top!
Reading the fine print is a surefire way to ensure you don’t run into any surprises on the excursion.