After the deadly accident that took place in Chile, while passengers from the Celebrity Cruise Lines were touring independently, I thought I would share an excerpt from our book, How to Make “Your First Cruise the Best Vacation” of Your Life. After reading our advice from this excerpt, please see my comments on the piece and the accident at the bottom.
What About Touring? (Excerpt from the eBook)
Tours can be purchased from the cruise line, done on your own, or can combine two. Booking it through the lines has some advantages. Some of them are obvious. The cruise line has thoroughly examined the places they will take you and will rate them according to their difficulty so you know ahead of time if this is the right tour for you. They are always run by local tour companies and these companies want to keep that business.
Their equipment is A-one and they always have English-speaking tour directors. (They also supply other language guides.) You never have to wait in line to get into museums or other attractions- a big time saver. And of course, all of the work is done for you by the tour companies and the cruise line. And it is safe. The cruise lines would never put you in a dangerous situation. There are always a couple of cruise line employees on the tour to make sure no one gets lost and that the bus leaves with the same amount of people that it started with.
When going to a new or exotic port I would recommend the cruise lines excursions. Some of the most wonderful excursions we have taken were cruise line tours. Imagine flying the Spruce Goose over the mail route to outlying salmon fisheries in Alaska or hitting all the highlights of Rome in one day, or going to China Beach in Vietnam. These are things we never could have arranged on our own.
Every country has an embassy or a tourism web page to give you information on destinations, festivals, feast days, or the days of Carnival in Buenos Aires.
The shore excursion booklet will also provide you with information on how difficult or easy the tour is. This is especially important for people with any sort of disability. The duration of the trip and any stops along the way are included and on many, lunch is part of the tour. When traveling in foreign ports such as Russia you will dine on regional food.
Really, for a first-time visit, this is the way to go. And if you chose this option, when the tour guide tells you to be back at the bus at a certain time, be there. By being late you are inconveniencing all the others on the tour and jeopardizing the remaining stops that are scheduled. The tour company has an appointed time to get you back to the bus and they always honor that. When you get back to the ship look all around your seat for your belongings and don’t forget the rack overhead.
A little etiquette while touring on a bus: Leave the front and second seats for people who are on canes or have difficulty walking. It’s hard to get down bus aisles when you have a disadvantage.
On the flip side of cruise excursions, you will be traveling in buses with lots of people. Here you will encounter lost time loading and unloading lots of people. It will always be more expensive than doing it on your own. You’re paying for the work that has gone into the sites visited and the expertise of the guide. Then there is the problem of the people who want to shop and those who just want to see the cultural sights. And although this has never happened to me in over 50 cruises, you might get a guide that is difficult to understand.
When touring on your own, make sure you have the name and number of the port agent in case of an emergency. (This is quite handy if you miss the ship).
The cruise lines in most cases will let you know what a typical taxi ride will cost if you are only going into town. Always negotiate the cost of the tour before the taxi ride. Be sure to speak to the tour desk to find out if any areas are unsafe to visit.
There have been a couple of times when we toured independently but used the cruise lines excursion list as a guide to what to see in that area of the world. If you meet some fun people on the cruise buddy up with them on the cab ride to reduce the price. If you are going to book excursions through the cruise lines do it early or better still do it before the cruise. Most lines will let you do this.
Comments after the Accident.
Though all of the above is solid advice, I would add a word of caution. In the poorer areas of the world, I believe it is much safer to go with the cruise excursion tour options. The cruise lines only hire companies that have been thoroughly screened and have superior equipment. In third-world countries, by using local companies you do not have this guarantee.
I am not saying that the tour company involved in this accident was substandard, since accidents do happen, but I question the route they were taking. A local Chilean official said that the road was very dangerous, curvy, and narrow. I do not believe a cruise company tour group would have taken such a route.
You must use common sense when booking excursions. Of course, it will be safer to tour with the cruise lines in places like Viet Nam or China, or even Africa. On the other hand, you could feel perfectly safe taking an independent tour in the Caribbean or Alaska. For more information on the eBook, “First Cruise Best Cruise” see the website below.
Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.
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