A dilemma! Should one book excursions at home, in front of the computer, after reading brochures of what is offered through the cruise line? This is very convenient but rather expensive. Since we are new to this kind of travel we used this for all of our trips once the ship came into port. We totally relied on the ship's way of running the cruise. If we booked more than seven trips, we were allowed a 25% discount on each leg. This added up to a substantial savings. Or should we have booked our own tours as soon as we stepped off the gangway. This would still have been a cheaper way to see the same attractions. Or should we, like some people we met, have spent time on the computer at home and booked independent tours at substantial savings with tour operators that are not connected to the cruise line. Or should we have just hired a driver or a taxi and let the taxi driver be the guide. Even hiring a taxi, in many cases, was cheaper than what we paid for each excursion. However, booking a private tour requires local currency so an excursion booked through the cruise line eliminated the hassle and cost of changing money. Naturally, the cruise company needs to make money, and from what I saw, the ship hires the reliable local tour operators and then adds the ship's profit margin on top of it. We, the passengers, pay for security and peace of mind. Peace in knowing that the ship will not leave without us if we are on a ship booked tour. The ship will leave one behind, should one miss the all aboard call if on a private tour.
So, the dilemma is not the tour itself, but how to take the tour. With a cruise booked tour we had the security of knowing we could not miss the ship. With some ports, the docking time was only a few hours. Not enough time to gamble should something go wrong. (the taxi has a flat and no spare and no way to call for help because the cell line is out of reach and the spare also has a flat) for example. Stranger things have happened in strange countries. I know of one couple that was within sight of the cruise ship but could not walk to it because no foot traffic was allowed among the containers on the pier. They literally made it to the ship with just seconds to spare. Not a good way to save money on excursions when one trades a possible heart attack for some money saved.
Excursions are expensive. I do not travel to a place and then just look at it from the pier. I do want to see some of what the country has to offer, besides what can be seen from the ship. So excursions are a must do when traveling on a cruise ship even though we only had a limited time on shore to experience some of the culture of the places we visited. I am totally aware that we received just a glimpse of life in the places we were shown. At least, though, we now know what areas might be worth some deeper or longer visits. I look at it as window shopping. You never know what is in the store until you visit it. If something was found that I like, I can always come back to 'buy' it later.
So the dilemma is now between cost of excursions with the security of not missing the ship and not being able to see all of what is being offered in each respective port. Adventure only goes so far. Foolishness is very close to Adventure. If something foolish turns out ok after all, we call it an Adventure. Planning is important, so is the cost of things. To play it safe and not take any chances is also not my cup of tea.
I guess there are no real answers to the questions I pose here for myself. I just have to live with this dilemma and make my choice whenever I am faced with options.
Hubert Kriegel (ten years on the road) proclaims we should take a chance each day. Should I listen to him?