Are Shore Excursions the Best Part of Cruise Vacations?

When you take a cruise, the ship itself is a huge part of the appeal. You get great food and an array of entertainment that ranges from rock climbing walls to swimming pools to casinos to movie theatres to huge choreographed night-time shows. You can relax in the sun on a deck chair or hit the gym for an interesting new fitness class.

With so much to do onboard a cruise ship, you might just forget about the cool things you can do in the ports you visit.

When you arrive in a new port, you can head off and explore on your own, but you may want to sign up for one of the shore excursions offered through the ship. These are guided tours that take you out to explore the area.

You can find excursions that are peaceful and relaxing or you can sign up for ones that are adventurous and challenging.

Perhaps you'd like to feed some sharks in the South Pacific? Or tramp across a glacier in cruise blog Alaska? See exotic wildlife in Antarctica? Hike through Mayan ruins in Mexico? Go kayaking in the Virgin Islands? Golf? Snorkel? Windsail? Hike? Mountain Bike?

There are so many exciting shore excursion options out there that you'll probably have trouble narrowing them down and deciding what you want to do.

Do be aware that some of the most popular ones will get filled up quickly, so you don't want to wait until the last moment to book a shore excursion. On some cruise ships, you can pre-book before you even get on board. On others, you can sign up the first day you arrive.

The best way to figure out what you want to do and get signed up in time is to start browsing for ideas ahead of time. Consider researching shore excursions on the internet. Some cruise blogs and websites have sections just for sharing information on the adventures available.

Also, you may want to check out the website of the cruise line you've signed up for. Frequently, they will list the shore excursions available at each port of call where your ship is stopping. Some of the descriptions will be on the short side, and if there's not a link to more information, just head out to the Internet. You can use Google or another search engine to seek out the actual company that gives the tour.

Cruise lines themselves do not give the shore excursions; rather they make deals with the local tour companies to give you predictable service and make it so you don't have to do any legwork yourself.

You may be wondering if you can have a good time (and save money) just signing up for a tour on your own. Yes, you can, and you may even get better rates signing up for a tour independent of the ship's shore excursion system, but this typically involves a little more work on your part. You will have to book the tour ahead of time and arrange transportation from the ship to the tour office. It's also important to point out that if you go off on your own and your tour is late to return, the ship will sail without you. However, if a shore excursion sponsored by the ship is late to return, the ship will wait.

Now that you have all sorts of information on shore excursions, isn't it time to get out there and do some browsing?

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