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How to plan your own shore excursion

Tulum beach in Mexico

After you book a cruise vacation, you will likely want to take your family on a fun tour in the ports your visit.

Certainly your cruise line will offer a simple way to book a tour, but you also have the choice to do something on your own to help save money. Certainly a tour on your own can save money, and also offer something to see beyond what is offered by the line.

Research tours before the cruise

Gracia Park in Barcelona, Spain

The key to finding all the best tours available is to do your research before you leave for the cruise. 

The internet is a great resource for shore excursion options, and you can start with official local tourism agency sites that offer detailed information on activities and things to do. 

You should also look into the best means of transportation as well. Taxis, buses, vans and more are viable options in most ports. Depending on your budget, you may find different considerations.

Another important thing to do before you leave for the cruise is consider the best local cuisine. Depending on the place you visit, you may find compelling foods renown in the region.

Price shop

Shore excursion aggregators offer a wide variety of excursions to include.  Do not settle for the first one you find, as many other sites could have a lower price.

Some good private excursion companies include Viator, ShoreTrips, ResortforADay and Shore Excursions Group.

Not only can checking each of these sites offer an opportunity to find a lower price, you may find a tour not available on the other sites.

Book before you cruise

ATV Tour

It is very helpful to pre-book activities to lock in a price, so make reservations early. 

Whether parasailing, going kayaking or renting an ATV, you will want to find a good deal and reputable operator and book it early. Waiting to book a tour on your ship or once you get on shore runs the risk of the tour you want to do selling out.

Consider a resort day pass

A very popular choice for a fun day in most ports is to get a day pass to a resort.

Websites such as or offer passes to beach resorts that include access to resort facilities, the beach, pool, waterslides and even food and drinks.


Bermuda beach

A very simple DIY excursion is to head to the beach for a fun day splashing and enjoying being outdoors.

It is usually simple enough to research a good beach to visit, and then pack a bag with the essentials: beach towels, sunscreen, towels and sunglasses.

Plan to return on time

Ships docked in port

Perhaps the most important thing to consider with any tour you do on your own is to make very certain to return to the ship before the all aboard time.

Traffic, accidents, and other unforeseen circumstances can delay your return to the ship.

Unlike cruise line sponsored tours that promise to get you back to the ship even if there is a delay, if you are doing a tour on your own, you have no such option.  If you come back late, the ship may not be waiting for you.

The best strategy is to plan to return to the ship multiple hours earlier than necessary to provide ample time in case of a delay.

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