Included Shore Excursions on Cruises: The Pros and Cons
The shore excursion debate… is it better to have shore excursions included or not included? After all, the whole reason for cruising (aside from enjoying fantastic food and the luxury of being waited on hand and foot!) is to see and experience new destinations. So, of course, shore excursions play a big part in your overall cruising experience.
Some cruise lines include your shore excursions and some don’t. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both scenarios.
Excursions Not Included
The benefits of not having your shore excursions included are that it gives you more flexibility while in port. Your cruise line will give you options that you can choose from and you can choose your excursions to match your interests. Or, if you don’t want to do any of the excursions on offer, you can go and explore at your leisure or organise your own day trip once you’re in port. Just be aware though, that if you organise your own tour through a company other than the ship’s contracted tour companies, the ship won’t wait for you if you’re late back. If one of the ship’s own excursions runs late, the ship will delay departure – not so if you’re doing your own thing.
It gets expensive. Shore excursion prices can rack up quite quickly especially if you’re looking at several stops and then multiplying that by two or more in your party. Your initial cruise fare can suddenly increase quite substantially. You also have to make sure you get organised and book early (sometimes weeks before your cruise actually departs) to ensure you secure a space on your preferred tours.
Your excursions are all included in your one-off cruise fare so there are no hidden costs. You know what you’re paying right from the start. You also don’t have to worry about sorting through the numerous trips on offer and deciding which ones you really want to do, and weighing up the costs involved. It’s already decided and included. Less to worry about, just sit back and enjoy! On some voyages (for example in Antarctica where visitor landings are restricted) you get to go out on the zodiacs in the morning and then do a landing in the afternoon or vice versa so you get to do two different types of excursions, all included in the price.
The excursions are often pre-set with just one option so there aren't as many choices. This works well in places like Antarctica where there's not an array of options. Some cruise lines offer a selection of included excursions in each port - so you may get a choice of three tours, for example, that you can choose from without paying extra. But if you would prefer to do another excursion instead, you pay for that separately without any reduction in price for not doing the included excursion ... if that makes sense.
Our advice? Do your research first. Ask yourself what you want to see and experience on the voyage and ensure the cruise you’re looking at covers what you want. Also do the price comparisons – some voyages seem cheaper but once you add in the additional excursions and gratuities, you may find you end up paying more in the long run. So it pays to do your research first. And chat to our Ultimate Cruising team. They have cruised extensively with many different cruise lines so they can give you fantastic inside knowledge on the excursions and what to expect, so feel free to make use of their experience!