Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (2023)

After booking a cruise, the next step in the vacation planning process often involves researching and booking amazing shore excursions around the world.

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (1)

All too often, however, first-time cruisers or those who are new to a particular port can make rookie mistakes in the shore excursion planning process, which can lead to disappointment and extra money spent later on.

While everyone makes mistakes, it’s easy to be better prepared and have a stress-free day in port by avoiding these 10 common pitfalls when booking a shore excursion!

Booking only through the cruise line

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (2)

Royal Caribbean offers wonderful shore excursion opportunities, from whale watching in Alaska to guided tours of Rome and catamaran excursions in Mexico.

However, don’t assume you have to book a shore excursion directly through Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean shore excursions are typically priced higher than tours you can find through independent tour operators due to the cruise line being the “middleman” between you and the tour company.

Take a look at local tour companies in your port of call to see which excursions are offered and if they’re available at a lower cost.

Related: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (3)

Recently I was browsing Royal Caribbean shore excursions for my upcoming Alaska cruise. I was interested in taking the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, and found that the cost for the exact same experience was $59.99 when offered by Royal Caribbean and $45 to book directly on the Goldbelt Tram’s website!

Of course, booking an excursion directly through Royal Caribbean comes with more protection if the tour runs late, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of booking independently in your planning process.

Related: Is it better to book excursions through the cruise ship?

(Video) 10 Shore Excursion Mistakes Cruisers (Almost) Always Regret

Assuming you have to book an excursion in the first place

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (4)

Many first-time cruisers may think they have to book an excursion in every port they visit, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy time on shore without spending extra on shore excursions!

Excursions can surely offer unique opportunities you can’t do on your own, such as helicopter tours, guided ATV tours, etc., but you can have comparably fun experiences in port without breaking the bank.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

Not doing research

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (5)

Don’t book a shore excursion based solely on the title or pictures without researching what the excursion entails.

If an excursion is titled "Mexico Beach Break," for example, it will likely mean you'll be provided transport to and from the beach with no guided tour in between. If you're interested in a more in-depth sightseeing experience with a guide, this is probably not the best choice for you.

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (6)

Similarly, don't book the first tour you see. Research different tour operators and prices to see which works best for your preferences and budget.

You also want to check reviews before booking a tour. While reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, if you notice any major red flags, it’s probably best to search for another excursion.

Waiting too long to book an excursion

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (7)

Once you’re sure you want to book a particular excursion, it’s best to book the tour as soon as possible to lock in the best price and ensure the tour does not sell out.

One benefit of booking tours through Royal Caribbean is that you can reprice the tour until 48 hours before the cruise. If you book a whale watching tour in Alaska for $160 and later see the price dropped to $130, you’re able to cancel and rebook the excursion at the lower price without penalty.

(Video) 10 Cruise Port MISTAKES All Cruisers Must Avoid *tourist scams & watch outs*

The main benefit of booking right away, though, is to ensure a tour doesn’t sell out.

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (8)

Tours are more prone to sell out on cruises to “bucket-list” destinations like Alaska or popular cities in the Mediterranean. Because passengers on these cruises are typically traveling longer to reach a destination–and likely picked the cruise solely for the ports themselves–they’re more likely to book shore excursions.

Related: What to do if Royal Caribbean’s shore excursions are sold out

Booking too many excursions

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (9)

Some excursions are only 3-4 hours long, meaning that sometimes you can technically fit two excursions in one day if the times line up correctly.

While on paper this may seem like a good idea as it gives you the chance to explore more of port, it’s not always the best idea for a few reasons.

If your first tour runs late, you’ll risk missing the second tour. If both tours are booked through Royal Caribbean you’ll receive a refund for the second tour, but this may not be the case with independent tour providers.

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (10)

Another reason not to book multiple excursions in one port is that shore excursions can be tiring. Even if you’re just laying in a beach chair in the hot sun, it’s easy to be exhausted and ready to get back onboard after the tour is over.

Instead of booking multiple tours, consider booking a tour in the morning and exploring the port freely in the afternoon. After the tour, feel free to grab lunch, have a few drinks, or shop before getting back onboard.

Not checking transportation logistics

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (11)

One of the most important things to do before booking a shore excursion is to research how much transportation is required to reach the destination from the ship. Depending on the excursion, transportation time can vary from ~5 minutes to over two hours!

While on a cruise to Greece earlier this year, for example, I booked a 5 hour tour to Shipwreck Beach, named one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. I booked the tour from a local operator when I arrived in port, and the tour looked awesome from the brochure and photos available.

(Video) 10 CRUISE EXCURSION MISTAKES YOU MUST AVOID *practical & uncommon advice*

Related: Visiting Shipwreck Beach in Zakynthos, Greece

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (12)

I did not ask any questions about transportation logistics before purchasing the tour, though, so you can imagine my surprise when we boarded a bus instead of a boat! The tour required a 1-hour bus journey across the island to reach the boat.

While I did not mind the bus ride as it allowed me to see more of the island of Zakynthos and the tour was fantastic overall, I realized the importance of doing more research on transportation before booking a tour!

Not checking cancellation policies

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (13)

Be sure to check cancellation policies for your tour before booking, especially if you’re not entirely sure you plan to do the excursion.

Most Royal Caribbean shore excursions can be cancelled up to 48 hours before arrival in port without penalty, and full refunds will be provided to guests. Royal Caribbean shore excursions involving flights, trains, overnight stays, special events, and Private Journeys must be cancelled at least 30 days prior to sail date.

Independent tours, however, can have varying cancellation policies depending on the tour operator. Read through the fine print when booking a tour independently to ensure you don’t end up disappointed if you want to cancel the tour later on.

Overestimating fitness level

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (14)

When browsing shore excursions in the Cruise Planner, you can filter tours by fitness level (mild, moderate, strenuous). Some excursions may require hiking on steep trails, kayaking for longer periods of time, etc.

Be sure to consider your fitness level (and the fitness levels of others in your group) before booking an excursion to ensure you will be able to complete the tour successfully and without too much struggle.

Not considering others in your group

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (15)

A dream excursion for one passenger can be a nightmare to another. If you’re traveling with friends or family on a cruise, be sure to communicate your shore excursion interests with each other before booking.

If your idea of an amazing day in port is lounging by the beach with a drink in hand but others in your group want to go zip lining, it can lead to tension during the cruise planning process.

(Video) CRUISE EXCURSIONS: Pros & Cons of Cruise VS Private Excursions (my exact planning process)

Be sure to communicate which types of excursions you’re interested in with your group. If you cannot find something everyone wants to do, consider splitting up and meeting after separate excursions for lunch or a drink before getting back onboard!

Related: Guide to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean shore excursion

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (16)

Considering others in your group is extra important if you’re traveling with young kids. While you may want to book a walking tour of historic sites in port, this might not be the best option with energetic kids who want to simply run around and have fun.

Look through shore excursions to determine which work best for your family before booking to avoid problems–and tantrums–along the way.


Not reading the fine print

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (17)

Our last mistake many cruisers make when booking a shore excursion is not reading the fine print. If you read the fine print, you’ll find that many of these “mistakes” (transportation logistics, cancellation policies, etc.) are listed in the fine print.

Outside of these tips, make sure you read the fine print to check what is and is not included on a tour. Some excursions may include lunch while others may not, so you might want to pack snacks or plan to enjoy lunch in port after the tour.

Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid (18)

The fine print may also mention what to wear and what to bring on an excursion. You won’t want to show up to a hike with flip flops or a tour of a church in Rome with shorts and a tank top!

Reading the fine print is a surefire way to ensure you won’t encounter any surprises on the excursion.

More shore excursion tips & tricks:

  • Alaska cruise excursions
  • Best travel clothes for women on shore excursions
  • When should I book my Alaska shore excursion?
  • 7 things worth checking again on a Royal Caribbean cruise
  • How to save money on cruise excursions


How do you save on shore excursions? ›

Here are some tips to help you save money on shore excursions while still having a great time exploring ports of call.
  1. Skip Shore Excursions. ...
  2. Compare Activities Offered At Different Ports. ...
  3. Plan Your Own Shore Excursions. ...
  4. Negotiate With Local Tour Operators Once You Get Off The Ship. ...
  5. Get on the Internet And Do Some Research.
Dec 8, 2019

Do you take your passport on shore excursions? ›

Should you take your passport with you on shore excursions? No, you shouldn't bring your passport, unless your tour requires it. We recommend bringing your driver's license as a form of ID instead.

Can you get off a cruise ship without an excursion? ›

You absolutely do not have to do shore excursions on a cruise. You are free to come and go at will from most cruise ships while they are in ports of call. Shore excursions are simply one means to explore the areas visited by the ship and to participate in available activities off the ship.

Do shore excursions sell out? ›

Yes. Though we recommend you pre-book your Shore Excursions prior to your sailing as some of our most popular tours do sell out.

How much do you have to gamble to get a free cruise on Carnival? ›

On Carnival Cruise Line, you need about $200 in the machines. Right now, they are very keen to get people playing and seem to be sending out casino offers to most passengers who have ever played in one of their casinos.

Can only one person get the refreshment package on Royal Caribbean? ›

All packages are for single guest use and cannot be shared by multiple people. Any guest wishing to purchase an alcohol... Are gratuities included in the Royal Caribbean beverage package cost?

Does everyone have to buy the soda package on Royal Caribbean? ›

Does everyone in my stateroom need to buy the Deluxe Beverage Package? The Deluxe Beverage Package policy requires all guests wishing to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package to do so for ALL guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom.

Do I need cash on cruise excursions? ›

So for drinks at the bar, souvenirs in the cruise ship gift shop, or excursions booked while on the ship, you'll charge them to your room and pay later. There is no need for cash. The same goes for most gratuities. Cruise lines now offer prepaid options for gratuities to your room steward and dining room waiters.

How do you keep cash safe on a cruise? ›

Use the ship's safe, or bring your own.

When not in use, your jewelry and cash should be kept in a safe. Every cruise ship cabin comes with a safe; there also are portable safes you can purchase for added security. (Crewmembers, like any hotel staff, have the ability to open your safe in the event you're locked out.)

How to get cheap excursions on a cruise? ›

Cruise excursions are one area where you enjoy the experiences at a reduced rate.
  1. 8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions. ...
  2. Skip Cruise Excursions. ...
  3. Explore On Your Own. ...
  4. Take a Public Bus. ...
  5. Hire a Private Guide. ...
  6. Book Independent Cruise Excursions. ...
  7. Check Email. ...
  8. Be Flexible and See What Happens.

Do excursions get cheaper closer to the date? ›

Many operators offer prices from 10% to 30% cheaper than the highest price they will reach in the weeks before the tour departs. The best part is, once your dates are locked in, you have the freedom to decide when you book your flights, and so the hunt for a great deal begins again.

Is it cheaper to buy shore excursions on the ship? ›

Is it cheaper to book shore excursions on the ship? No. Most cruise lines either charge the same prices for shore excursions booked online and on board or offer a discount for tours purchased in advance.

Do cruise ships wait if you are late from an excursion? ›

Since the excursion is supposed to only take place within the allotted port time, the ship will wait for passengers coming from a cruise line excursion that's running late. However, if you've spent the day independently on your own, there are certain steps you must take to make sure you're not left stranded.

What do they do with abandoned cruise ships? ›

Decommissioned ships are almost always sent to one of two scrapyards. The largest is Alang, located in India's Gulf of Khambhat, which recycles more than half of the world's decommissioned cruise ships. The second largest is Aliaga in Turkey.

What happens if you miss your stop on a cruise? ›

If you miss the ship, you'll have to either meet it in a subsequent port of call or call it a wash and head home. Your cruise line, travel agent or travel insurance provider might be able to help you make the plans; otherwise, you'll have to make arrangements on your own.

Do travel agents get commission on shore excursions? ›

Clients book on your agency branded shore excursions website and you receive commission!

What are bubble shore excursions? ›

They are essentially small-group tours, but the group you're traveling with consists of only the people you've chosen—such as friends and family members. This type of trip has always been an option, but now the exclusivity of that small group is even more important.

Can you book excursions while on the ship? ›

The most popular and obvious avenue for purchasing a shore excursion is through the cruise line itself. You can either book ahead of time on the lines' website or over the phone, or onboard the ship at the shore excursions desk.

Do cruise ship casinos pay out? ›

Most cruise ship casino games operate under the same rules and payout percentages you would find in a land-based casino; therefore, the answer is yes, you can win money in a cruise ship casino.

Are drinks free on cruise ship casinos? ›

Casinos. Booze doesn't flow as freely in a cruise ship casino as it does in Las Vegas, but if you're a frequent player or a high-roller, you may earn free drinks while you're playing on your current or a future cruise. Check with your casino host for the offerings.

What happens if you don t buy a drink package on Royal Caribbean? ›

If you decide not to buy a Royal Caribbean drink package, then you will buy drinks individually. Plus, each time you order a drink, there will be an 18% gratuity on the bill. What is this? This can make drinks pricey, but it might be a better option than buying the deluxe package if you don't drink much.

Can I bring a 12 pack of soda on Royal Caribbean? ›

Guests may also bring non-alcoholic beverages as carry-on items on boarding day. Non-alcoholic beverages may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz.) cans, bottles or cartons per stateroom. Milk and distilled water brought on for infant, medical, or dietary use are permitted.

Can two people use one drink package on a cruise? ›

Can You Share a Drinks Package on a Cruise? Cruise ship drinks packages cannot be shared. The drinks package must only be used by the person who bought the package and any guests found to be sharing the package may have their package cancelled without any form of a refund.

How many drinks a day can you have with Royal Caribbean drink package? ›

There is no limit on a Royal Caribbean drink package in terms of how many drinks a guest may consume in a day or throughout the cruise. The only limit on a drink package is that you may only order one drink per order, per drink package.

How do they know you have a drink package on Royal Caribbean? ›

How am I identified as having purchased a beverage package? Your SeaPass® will have either a sticker or a printed verification of your package. The bar staff will request to see your SeaPass for verification prior to service, so keep it handy.

Does Royal Caribbean do happy hour? ›

Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Members can enjoy beverages from this happy hour menu at any bar or lounge onboard*. *Select bar locations are excluded from Happy Hour. Menu items are subject to change at any time. Happy Hour times vary by ship.

What do I turn off on my phone on a cruise? ›

Data use onboard a cruise ship is ridiculously expensive, especially because it tends to add up quickly. Always remember to put your phone in airplane mode or turn off data roaming before you head out to sea and don't want to be smacked with a hefty bill upon returning home. Even in port, the rates get pretty high.

How can I text for free on a cruise? ›

Can You Still Text for Free in the Cruise Line's App if you Bring Your own HotSpot? Yes, of course! As long as you have the app downloaded on your phone and you're on their free wifi, you can use the app to text on a cruise ship for free.

Why do you need a lanyard on a cruise? ›

Pack A Lanyard

Even if you don't have a lanyard at home, they sell them on board in the gift shop. Everything from sporty ones to blingy ones. It's useful for carrying your Sail & Sign card when you're walking around the ship.

How much money should I bring on a $5 day cruise? ›

As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips. Fifty to a hundred dollars a day should be enough to cover small purchases, tips and snacks at each port.

Where should I keep my passport on a cruise? ›

If you don't need to take your passport ashore, then don't! Leave it locked securely in your safe within your stateroom. There is no point risking loss or theft.

What is the best currency to take on a Caribbean cruise? ›

As US Dollars are so widely used across the Caribbean, a secure currency card can be really handy for your holiday spends. Simply load it with dollars before you go and you can top up while you're travelling, withdraw money from cash machines and make contactless payments.

Why not to use a debit card on a cruise? ›

The problem with debit cards

While hold amounts can easily be taken off credit cards, it takes longer with debit cards, often leaving the account holder without access to their money for up to 10 days - and sometimes much longer.

Do cruises check your purse? ›

When you arrive at the Port Authority Security in the cruise terminal, you will pass a security checkpoint where all carry-on luggage goes through X-rays and other baggage is checked in. All checked bags on cruise ships are scanned.

Do cruises check your pockets? ›

No “Body Scanner”

Know those scanners that you step into and put your hands up? They aren't at cruise terminals. You just walk through a metal detector. That also means you don't have to take everything out of your pockets.

What should I take on an excursion? ›

The 10 Excursion Essentials I Always Pack
  • Pocketknife. What's a mango without a knife? ...
  • A Full-To-The-Brim Reusable Water Bottle. Or four! ...
  • Really Good Walking Shoes. ...
  • A Sensible Backpack That Puts Weight On The Waist. ...
  • Food And Snacks. ...
  • Sun Protection. ...
  • Medical Kit. ...
  • Headlamp Or Source Of Light.

What are the characteristics of excursion? ›

An excursion is a trip by a group of people, usually made for leisure, education, or physical purposes. It is often an adjunct to a longer journey or visit to a place, sometimes for other (typically work-related) purposes.

What does an excursion include? ›

a short trip or outing to some place, usually for a special purpose and with the intention of a prompt return: a pleasure excursion; a scientific excursion. a trip on a train, ship, etc., at a reduced rate: weekend excursions to mountain resorts.

What is passenger excursion? ›

Term: Cruise passenger excursion. Definition: A short visit by a cruise passenger to a tourist attraction associated with a port while retaining a cabin on board.

Is excursion a one day trip? ›

In brief, the term tour refers to a period of travel where you see a defined area, whereas an excursion is a day outing made usually by a group of people to have fun.

What is the difference between excursion and day trip? ›

Trip is a journey for some purpose, usually including the return. Excursion is a day trip made for pleasure, usually by a group of people. Journey may indicate a long distance or a short one travelled regularly (daily journey to work, for example).

Why do people go for excursion? ›

Excursions allow the kids to have new experiences and observe new things that are not available at school - things like rare and exotic wildlife and plants, different cultures and the stories of our history. This personal involvement and the memories created leads to a deeper understanding of the learning subject.

What is a special excursion? ›

Special excursions are those that do not occur on a regular basis and/or may require additional safety. precautions.

What factors that learners should know before they go on an excursion? ›

The perfect school field trip, remember to check student interest, important preparation and learning expectations.
  • Student Interest. Before you begin choosing transportation, it is vital to know for which trip students are more interested. ...
  • Required Preparations. ...
  • Learning Expectations.
Aug 16, 2018

What is the difference between a field trip and an excursion? ›

STUDENT TRAVEL – FIELD TRIPS AND EXCURSIONS Excursion is defined as overnight stay either in-state or out-of-state. CO-CURRICULAR FIELD TRIP - Classroom oriented learning experiences outside of the school campus that is no longer than one day and does not meet the definition of an excursion.

What are the 9 books of excursion? ›

Arrangement of the poem

The poem is arranged into nine books: "The Wanderer"; "The Solitary"; "Despondency"; "Despondency Corrected"; "The Pastor"; "The Churchyard Among the Mountains"; "The Churchyard Among the Mountains, continued"; "The Parsonage"; "Discourse of the Wanderer, &c.".

What is an example of a shore excursion? ›

A shore excursion could be a sightseeing bus tour, a guided visit to a museum or historic site, an athletic activity (like a hike, bike ride or snorkel outing), a day at the beach or a cooking or dance class. Shore excursions typically highlight the marquee attractions or culture of the destination you're visiting.

What does ex mean in excursion? ›

In Latin, the prefix ex- means "out of" and the verb currere means "to run." When the two are put together, they form the verb excurrere, literally "to run out" or "to extend." Excurrere gave rise not only to excursion but also to excurrent (an adjective for things having channels or currents that run outward) and ...

What is excursion air fare? ›

A fare for travel by land, air, or water which is less expensive than the regular fare, and which usually depends on special conditions, such as round-trip travel, payment in advance , or restrictions in duration of stay.

What is the capacity of an excursion? ›

The Excursion has a nine-passenger capacity, plus 48 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seat.

What is passenger Princess? ›

A passenger princess is someone whose significant other always drives when they are together, even they're in the passenger's car. Many users are uploading videos of themselves to TikTok from the passenger seat of their car, with videos of their boyfriends driving them.


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