You would like to book a shore excursion on your next cruise. 

How do I choose an excursion? What are the pitfalls to avoid? How does an excursion go? Here’s a quick guide to the abc of shore excursions.

Selecting your shore excursion

After considering the benefits of taking a tour with your cruise line, it’s time to plan your excursions. You can select them in advance by visiting the cruise line’s website. So you can research which tours are most interesting for you. You can book the excursions directly on the cruise line’s website. Some companies offer discounts on pre-departure online purchases. You will find your tour tickets in your cabin when you board the ship.

During your cruise, you can book your excursion in person at the excursion counter. The staff will be able to answer your questions. Conferences are also organised to present the available excursions.

In some ships, you can also use interactive TV systems, mobile apps and touch screens in public spaces to book your excursions. Tickets will be delivered to your cabin.

How do I choose a shore excursion?

When selecting an excursion, you have to pay attention to a few things.

The departure time of the excursion should be right for you. Some excursions start early in the morning, which may put off the late risers.

The duration of excursions can vary greatly. If you want time to walk in the harbour or go shopping when you return to the port, it is important to plan an excursion that will give you time before the ship leaves.

Also, take care to carefully study how much time you will spend at each attraction, not to be disappointed if you spend too little time in one place or too much at another. Some excursions give you free time to discover a place on your own or to shop.

Lunch is usually offered on full-day excursions. The description of the excursion will mention it. You’ll stop at a restaurant for group dinner. Otherwise, a lunch box can also be provided if the activity is more active or in nature (walks in the forest…).

The required level of physical activity is different depending on the excursion chosen. Bus tours require less physical activity than walking tours. When the description mention a panoramic tour of the city, the majority of the tour will most likely be by bus. If you are the more active type, you should read and interpret the descriptions to avoid taking a 3-hour bus ride.

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Cancellation of a shore excursion

Validate the tour cancellation policy. Some airlines allow you to cancel up to 48 hours before the tour. Other invoices for cancellation fees representing a percentage of the value of the tour. It is usually possible to change excursions without incurring a penalty. Some more “exotic” excursions cannot be cancelled.

How a cruise tour unfolds

The location and time of the departure will be indicated on your tour ticket. It is best to arrive at least ten minutes before the time indicated on the ticket. The meeting point can be the theatre or another room in the ship or on the dock.

When the meeting point is onboard the ship, ther shore excursion staff will validate your tickets and given a sticker with a number. It will be your group number that will indicate which bus to take or which guide to follow. It is important that all members of your family show up at the same time to receive the sticker with the same number (or one representative of the group can go get the sticker with all the tickets in hand).

Afterwards, you will sit down until the number is announced at the microphone. The crew will tell you how to get out of the ship to reach the guide or bus. A guide with a sign with the number or a sign in the window of the bus will allow you to clearly identify where to go when the ship leaves. The guide will then pick up the tour tickets before you take a seat on the bus.  Upon entering the bus, you can check whether the tour title displayed on the sheet in the front window corresponds well to the chosen excursion.

If the meeting point is on the pier, a representative of the tour company will wait with a sign with the name of the excursion on it. Introduce yourself to that person and they will tell you where to wait and take care of you from that moment on.

Tour team members are always on the dock to answer your questions or help you if you have lost your group.

Some excursions are very popular requiring the formation of several groups. Make sure you always know where your guide is so you don’t mix with another group. The guide will usually hold the sign with the group number in the air so that it can be easily spotted.

Tips for a enjoyable excursion

What should you bring on an excursion? It is important to bring adequate footwear. Whether it’s comfortable sneakers for walking or water shoes for water activities. Some activities require closed shoes and you will be refused the activity if you wear sandals.

Depending on the tour or the weather of the day, you will want to bring different clothes. If your excursion is at altitude, it could be colder. Then bring a jacket or windbreaker. If there is a risk of rain, a poncho-type raincoat is always handy and gives you freedom of movement unlike an umbrella.

If it’s hot and sunny, don’t forget to bring water, sunscreen and your sunglasses.

For nature excursions, it is best to bring mosquito repellent.

Shore excursions are a simple, enjoyable and safe way to discover the areas you will visit. Enjoy it to the fullest and don’t forget your camera!