Tips for Choosing the Best Cruise Excursions For Your Family
We often cruise just for a particular ship, but itinerary and excursions are also important. Not all cruise lines offer the same excursions in the same destinations and you'll want to consider that before deciding on your cruise. Of course, once you settle on where you are going, the fun is deciding what to do when you get there! Take the time before your cruise leaves to explore the excursions offered at each port. Not sure what to look for? Take a look at my favorite tips below for choosing the best cruise excursions for your family.
When you get to your cruise port, each family is different in how adventuresome they want their vacation to be. Cruise ships always offer a variety of activities and tours they sponsor and you can reserve and purchase these ahead of time or wait until once you are onboard the ship. It's important to choose your cruise excursions wisely so you'll have the best possible time on your cruise vacation. I've broken down for your why I recommend booking your excursions through the cruise line, what to keep in mind when picking an excursion, how to plan a walking tour on your own, and even included links to a few of my personal favorite cruise excursions in Alaska, Seattle, and Key West.
BEST Reasons to book Excursions Through the Cruise LIne
Everyone has different theories on this, but I personally recommend booking your excursions through the ship for a few reasons.
- You may pay slightly more, but plans change and this is the best way to ensure you'll get your money back if you need to cancel.
- It's much easier to keep track of all adults and kids in your group without having to also navigate your way in a foreign place to locate the independent tour you booked.
- Ship excursions are also a great way to meet new people from your cruise that have the same interests that you do.
- If you run into unexpected delays, the ship will only wait for you if you booked a ship sponsored excursion!
- Cruising Celebrity Cruises? They offer exclusive experiences you can book through the excursions to upscale your vacation. Take a look here!
Don't Forget! If your excursion runs late, the ship will hold up departure for ONLY ship sponsored excursions. If you decide to an an independent tour, don't venture too far from the ship. If you are late, it will not wait for you.
5 Best Tips to keep in mind when picking an excursion
When ready to book, first look at the length of time the excursions last. You know your family and how long it takes before they get tired, hungry, or bored. We typically like 3 to 4 hour excursions so that we can experience a bit of the destination, either through a tour or a highlighted activity, but then have time to explore on our own.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure everyone in your family or group is at the same comfort level for the excursion. You want everyone to have a great time! Read the fine print in the description, plus do your own research.
- For example, if you are expecting a family of four to double up on an ATV excursion, and when you arrive, they only seat one person or you have to be a certain age to drive your own, there could be some major disappointments.
- If it's bumpy terrain or a high speed water sport, the description will usually mention that (look for terms such as "strenuous") so you can make an informed decision before you go. In case you have any health related issues, they will often mention if guest with certain conditions should avoid this type of excursion.
- Also, review the description if the activity offers food and/or beverages - are they included in the price or will they cost extra?
Speaking of cost, reading the fine print of an excursion description is a MUST! When I was recently reviewing excursions for an upcoming cruise, in small print I saw they revealed that bathroom facilities along the route are available for an additional fee. What?!
Take a look at excursions on the day of embarkation and disembarkation. They are offered by the cruise line to make things easier for you and either start early or extend your vacation. For example, one excursion offered by Celebrity Cruises in Fort Lauderdale allows you to extend your time on the ship and not have to rush to the airport Or take advantage of extra time before your late flight to take a bus tour throughout the city while they store your luggage for you.
Excursions are typically not included in your cruise fare, so you may not want to schedule one every day for budget reasons. And that's okay! I personally make it a rule to not book more than one excursion per day. That's not saying if we are in port, we don't do multiple activities. We may do an excursion and make sure to leave time to explore the port as well. Definitely, take some time and research what is available within walking distance close to the port before you go.
Plan a walking tour or explore on your own
I try to get maps of ports ahead of time so that I can plan out our visit and get familiar with the area if we want to plan a walking tour. Here are a few that I've used:
Also, reach out ahead to the tourism board of the city you'll be visiting. This is especially helpful when planning activities for a pre or post-cruise stay.
My Virtual Vacations Favorite excursions
Each port I've highlighted throughout My Virtual Vacations destinations includes excursions and activities I recommend.
Here are a few of my favorite excursions in the following destinations:
Many cruise lines offer excursions in port cities that you can do before or after your cruise. If you are arriving early or heading home much later in the day, this is a great way to explore a new city. If booking an excursion through the cruise lines, they will hold your luggage for you. If you want to explore a pre or post-cruise city on your own, see if luggage valet service is offered.