Picking Shore Excursions

magnolia cruises and travel logoBy Al Lunt, CTA, DS, Magnolia Cruises & Travel

So you’ve made the decision to take a cruise and now you can’t decide what to do when you get to your destinations? Just like your decision to take a cruise, doing the research ahead of time will help ease your anxiety and inform your decision. You basically have three choices:


1. Book a shore excursion through the cruise line


  • Reduces decision-making for first time cruisers.
  • Generally very well organized and they stick to a schedule that is synchronized with the ship’s itinerary; no danger of ship sailing without you.
  • Excursions are included in your cruise fare or final bill so they are easier to budget for in advance.
  • Reviews of cruise line shore excursions are plentiful on cruise review websites.  See my previous post.
  • Best option for exotic or higher risk areas where traveling alone is risky.
  • Some premium or luxury cruise lines include shore excursions in their fares.


  • Usually more expensive than independently booked excursions or solo exploring.
  • Groups tend to be larger.
  • Popular excursions can fill up quickly and may not be available unless you book well in advance.
  • If you don’t like your shipmates you may not want to tour with them ashore.

2. Book a shore excursion through an independent operator


  • Prices are generally cheaper than cruise line shore excursions.
  • Groups tend to be smaller.
  • When you want more personal attention or in-depth local information reputable independent tour operators are hard to beat.
  • They may go to areas that cruise line excursions don’t.


  • Caveat emptor (buyer beware); always do your research when selecting independent tour operators.  Cruise review sites offer many suggestions for local tour operators – use them.
  • Book ahead of time because popular local tour operators book up just as quickly as popular cruise line shore excursions.
  • No guarantee that the ship won’t sail if you are late returning.

3. Explore on your own


  • Depending on your transportation mode (rental car, scooter, buses or on foot), solo exploring is generally the cheapest way to see a destination.
  • Great option when the port is close to the downtown or scenic areas.
  • Tremendous flexibility.
  • More time to shop on your own; group tours generally offer limited time in shopping areas.


  • There is safety in numbers when touring with a group so touring on your own requires that you have your wits about it at all times.
  • Watch the clock because no one else is watching it for you; you can miss your ship if you are late returning.

Bottom Line – Do Your Homework

Regardless of what method you decide to use for exploring ashore – do your homework.  There really is no excuse for poor decisionmaking based on lack of information.  The internet, in general, and cruise review web sites, in particular, have lots of information to help you make an informed decision about shore excursions.  A good travel counselor is also a great asset because they can make suggestions based on your personal desires which adds the personal touch to your decision making process.  Good luck and happy cruising!


Magnolia Cruises and Travel is a home-based travel agency in Fayetteville, NC. We offer our customers personalized Destination Agent service built on a foundation of extensive personal travel and life abroad. Our travel destinations are too numerous to mention so suffice it to say we’re experienced travelers. No matter what your destination is, whether we’ve been there or not, we will treat your trip as if we were planning our own vacation. Please contact us at (910) 222-8230 or email and allow us the privilege of becoming your Personal Destination Agent.

Al Lunt of Magnolia Cruises & Travel is a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Caribbean Destination Specialist. The Certified Travel Associate and Destination Specialist designations are conferred by The Travel Institute upon travel professionals who complete a rigorous certification program, demonstrate essential industry knowledge and experience, and maintain high standards of professionalism.  As a cruise vacation specialist Al also holds product certifications with numerous cruise lines:

  • Celebrity Five Star Agent
  • Crystal Cruises Academy
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Freestyle Certified Agent
  • Oceania Cruises Expert
  • Princess Commodore
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises University
  • Royal Caribbean University of ‘WOW’ Cruise Expert Plus