Cruise excursions are the perfect way to get to know the places you’re stopping at just that little bit better. After all, cruising isn’t all about the comforts of the cruise ship itself, as superb as they may be. It’s also a chance to experience destinations through a range of activities, guided tours and exciting adventures.

What is a cruise excursion?

A cruise excursion is any trip that is organised on land, away from the cruise ship, at one of the destinations your cruise package includes. For that reason, you’ll also occasionally see them called shore excursions, although the names are pretty much interchangeable. Cruise excursions are there to give you the opportunity to make the most of the destinations that you visit.

When should I book my cruise excursions?

Booking your cruise excursions in advance is always a good idea, either before you go or while you’re onboard. Cruise lines such as Marella Cruises allow you to book at least four months before sailing. Arranging them at the same time as your cruise guarantees a place on popular excursions and means that when you get on the ship, you can just focus on getting unpacked and settling in.

How much will my cruise excursion cost?

Prices of cruise excursions vary significantly depending on the cruise line and length of excursion. Half day excursions can cost anywhere in the region of £20 to £60 per person, whereas full day excursions are usually within the range of £50 to £150 per person. Private tours, overnight stays and excursions including refreshments will have respectively higher prices.

Can I book excursions independently?

You can save a little spending money if you choose to form your own plans. This gives you the chance to enjoy discount cruise excursions entirely of your own design, which is superb if you want to cycle the nature trails of St Kitts or enjoy some beach time in Barbados.

However, taking matters into your own hands means that you’ve more responsibilities to keep in mind during your time off the cruise ship, so be certain to plan ahead. Booking through your cruise line ensures the quality control of tour operators, as well as high levels of insurance. It also guarantees that the ship won’t leave until you’re back from your trip onshore, which is one matter you’d have to take into consideration on an independent cruise excursion.

What types of cruise excursions are there?

There are almost as many kinds of cruise excursion as there are ways to take a holiday. Onboard cruise experts are there to make your life easy, so go and speak to them about what cruising are available and which would suit you best from the extensive choice that each cruise line has.

Sightseeing

Perhaps the most well-known cruise excursion is the classic sightseeing tour. This is when your cruise operator gathers you and your fellow guests, then heads to a city like Amsterdam for a whistlestop tour of the highlights. Classic sightseeing excursions let you experience all the major points of interest of your chosen destination, and many such cruises factor in numerous beautiful and engaging locations.

Marella Cruises is a specialist in cruises of this kind, with itineraries that encompass Dubrovnik, Marseille, Reykjavik and more. Rome has so much to see that you might want to take advantage of a full day tour, so you can visit the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Colosseum, Vatican City and beyond across 10 hours. Or to spend part of the day sightseeing and the rest relaxing or shopping, try an excursion like the panoramic coach tour of Aruba. In 3.5 hours you’ll travel across the island to take in sights including Schooner Harbour, the Casibari Rock formation and the California Lighthouse, all from the comfort of your seat.

Activity

The other broadest category of cruise excursions is what you might call activity cruise excursions. These can be as energetic as the name suggests, including activitis such as kayaking up a river or cycling through the countryside. More laid-back options include language lessons, basket weaving or cooking local recipes. Diving and snorkelling are also massively appealing on cruise excursions of this sort, which has proven a speciality of Cruise & Maritime. The cruise line helps you to explore beneath the waves in exotic destinations, through activities such as snorkelling off the east coast of Tahiti in a lagoon full of colourful fish. Alternatively, go clear bottom kayaking for three hours in Granada, with time at the end to relax at a restaurant or swim in the bay.

Freeform

We’ve talked about some of the fun activities that cruise ship operators put together to make sure you get the most out of your destinations. Yet quite often, you’re going to be given complete free reign over your experience onshore. Luckily you’ll still get information regarding when you need to be back to the ship, but beyond that, the adventure is yours. The best cruises for this kind of experience are those that incorporate many diverse destinations. A cruise line like Cunard has plenty of talent in that regard, with itineraries that let you freely explore storied cities like Cape Town, as well as sunbathe in Tenerife and kayak with seals in Namibia.

Special interest tours

A very broad range of people choose to cruise, and cruise lines have used that to reflect the activities on offer. Artistic types can enjoy painting classes across the world, while foodies can get up close and personal with culinary arts passed from one generation to the next. Sometimes a cruise will focus entirely on those special interests, too. For example, P&O Cruises has a popular bargain cruise for Belgian beer lovers. Its cruise excursion visits the beer museum of Bruges, giving an inside glimpse into how Belgian beer has developed from olden times into the tipples we treasure today.

Private tours

A number of premier cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, even offer private vehicles with drivers from which to explore the local area. Either create your own itinerary or use a guide to take you on a private tour across a half or full day. Perfect for a special occasion if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra, you can design the trip of your dreams – from bespoke chauffeur-driven shopping sprees to cooking with chefs in exclusive restaurants across the globe.

What to pack for your cruise excursions

It’s always a good idea to take sensible shoes. Even if there’s transport to and from your excursion, there’s likely to be some walking involved, particularly on a guided tour. You should also think about dressing for the weather and taking an extra layer if you’re coming back after nightfall. It can get cool quickly after dark, even in hot places, and of course a re-fillable water bottle and sunscreen are essential for the daytime.

It’s smart to read ahead about your destination before your excursion in a given location, particularly to help you decide what to wear. Some destinations require you to be modest and cover your arms and legs, especially near religious monuments and buildings. Cruise experts on the ship can help you out with details on the language and currency of where you’re visiting and you can exchange your money on the ship before you set off.

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