The variety of excursions available on a cruise ship holiday


When it comes to modern cruise holidays, the ships are just the start. Holiday makers have much more to choose from than just the on-board pool decks and entertainment lounges. Most cruise lines now offer a whole host of shore excursions, too, meaning your holiday is so much more than just a cruise. From hot air ballooning to cultural sight-seeing trips, excursions are just another reason why cruising is becoming a top choice for so many travellers.

Depending on where you choose to cruise, and how long you spend at each port, there are usually several activities suitable for individual travellers, couples or families. All these excursions are designed to add increased value to your cruise experience and give you a taste of the destinations along the way.
The key with on shore excursions is to be prepared. Research the destinations you’re calling at, explore the range of activities on offer and plan ahead, especially if a tour is particularly popular.
While some cruises may include a few on-shore excursions such as a walking tour or on-water activities in the case of some arctic tours, most come at an additional cost giving you a choice as to whether or not you want to participate.
The range of excursions and activities available varies greatly depending on your destination ports, the time of year and which cruise line you select for your holiday. Regardless of your options, excursions give you memorable experiences, add value to your time away and can provide you with an increased understanding of local customs and cultures.
Just make sure you’re covered with the right cruise travel insurance that includes your on-shore activities, too.

Why should you book a shore excursion?

Booking a shore excursion on your cruise holiday allows you to make the most of the destinations you visit. There’s no doubt you’ve picked a particular part of the world to cruise because the ports you call at hold special appeal for you.
While you can choose to explore the destinations you stop at independently, there are a few key reasons why you should book your adventures through your cruise company. Some for practicality, others because it allows you to better engage with the places you visit.
While you may prefer to explore your surroundings on your own, you need to ensure you are back on board before the ship is due to depart. If not, it will rasie the anchor and leave whether you’re back or not (cruises have strict schedules they must adhere to). This means you will need to find your own way to the next port, which can be both stressful and costly.
If you choose to book a shore excursion through the cruise line and there are any delays in the group returning to the ship, they will wait for the excursion group to return.
Another brilliant reason to book shore excursions is to immerse yourself in the local culture and the best activities to undertake at your destination. Whether it’s exploring local rainforests, a wildlife safari or learning about the historical importance of a city, there’s no better way to connect with the places you visit than by participating in on shore activities.
Booking through your cruise line isn’t only convenient, it also gives you priority to be the first one off the ship when you dock to ensure you can maximise your time. In many cases, you’ll also have a guide on your tour, who can point out areas of interest to ensure you get the most out of the experience.

The variety of excursions available on cruise holidays

You know you want to head on land or splash around the local waters, but not sure which shore excursions are the right fit for you? Are you after something romantic or action-packed? Perhaps you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained or maybe you want to get to know the city you’re docked in a little better. Whatever you’re searching for, there’s bound to be an excursion or activity that suits your needs.

Full-day or half-day excursion?

How much time do you want to spend on your excursion? Half-day trips might be ideal for short excursions where an entire day out isn’t required or if you fancy spending some of your time enjoying the facilities on board, but still want to get off the ship for a few hours.
Wine tours or local ATV (all-terrain vehicle) explorations are great examples of how you can enjoy a half-day tour.
Full-day trips are better suited to exploring further afield or making the most of your time to see as much as possible while you’re in port.

Guided or independent?

Do you fancy someone giving you all the insight into your destination, showing you the best viewpoints on a hiking trail or travelling with a larger group? Then there are plenty of opportunities for these types of activities.
If you prefer to explore on your own terms, there are usually excursions that enable you to be dropped at a location with the ability to explore to your heart's content and then meet everyone later to jump back on the bus that will return you to your ship.

Active or sightseeing?

This may probably have the biggest influence on your decision for selecting a particular excursion. Are you looking for a thrill-seeking adventure that gets your pulse racing, or do you want to connect with your destination and discover a place a little more intimately?
Adrenaline junkies can find themselves zip-lining through jungle canopies, rafting through rapids or scuba diving in exotic locations. Those looking for something a little more relaxing might prefer a foodie tour in European locales, a trip to the ballet or a visit to the local museums. Whichever it is you’re looking for, there’s such a diverse range of excursions on offer, there’s bound to be one that takes your fancy.
Excursions will also vary by the region you’re travelling in. The Mediterranean and Caribbean itineraries often include a wide range of family-friendly water activities, as well as on land options like trips to local markets.
European destinations often mix culture with adventure and arctic tours usually offer some sort of wildlife expedition to spot whales or polar bears.
A shore excursion group walking along a ridge overlooking the sea

Are excursions included?

Excursions are generally an add-on experience, and therefore need to be budgeted for accordingly when planning your holiday.
You need to consider the type of activities you might want to participate in, how many people are in your party and how long you are travelling for.
If you are on board for a month, breaking things up every week or every few destinations will be ideal, as well as mixing in time to enjoy the facilities on board, too.

Do you have to book excursions separately?

You have the option with most cruises to pre-book excursions before you depart, as well as once you are on board. You can also choose to arrange your excursions independently if you’d prefer.
The best way to decide which option is best for you is to evaluate what you hope to get out of the experience. Do you want it to be hassle-free, convenient and have everything arranged for you so you can simply step off the ship and be whisked away to your activity? Or would you prefer to spend time researching and planning, and then making sure you build in buffers to ensure you meet the ship schedules?
You might want to wait until you know what the weather conditions will be like for certain outdoor activities, and therefore wait to book until you’re on board, and others you may want to lock in as soon as you’ve booked your cabin. Regardless of which option you choose, you should do your research before jumping straight into booking to ensure you’ve made the best decision for you and your travel companions.

Do cruise excursions sell out?

The most popular tours and excursions can sell out in advance of the cruise departure date, so if you have your heart set on a particular activity like a wildlife safari, helicopter sightseeing in Alaska or swimming in a turquoise Mexican cenote, then it’s worth booking these early to avoid disappointment.
Whilst some excursions do sell out due to popularity, those that are less restricted by capacity, such as walking tours or hiking trips, may remain available right up until the day before you’re due to reach the port.
The important thing to take away here is that if you have been dreaming of joining a whale watching experience in Canada, zip-lining through the jungle in Costa Rica or horse riding along the beaches of Aruba, book as soon as you can. Popular excursions can fly off the shelves quickly, so be sure to secure your spot early and make your dreams come true.
Having the right cruise travel insurance in place will help you relax and enjoy your on-shore activities even more.

How much do the excursions cost when you’re on a cruise?

The price of excursions can vary greatly depending on the type of activity, length of time spent on the excursion and the region where you are travelling. Some activities with some cruise lines start from as low as around £50 for wine tasting tours and snorkelling, while multi-day overland adventures can cost upwards of £400. Most activities fall between the £100-£250 range and cover everything from kayaking and sailing tours to scenic flights, jungle trekking, golf days and cultural expeditions.
Some cruise lines offer reduced rates for children within certain age ranges for some activities, however, this varies acording to which cruise company you are travelling with, and which activities you’re taking part in. There can also be seasonal variation in the prices quoted on websites or in catalogues, so it’s worth noting a lot of prices are advertised as ‘starting from’.
While the prices above are a general expectation of what excursions cost when booking through the cruise line, they can vary if you choose to take your excursions independently. Generally, it will be cheaper to book your tours and excursions independently, however, you need to consider if the savings are worthwhile for you. If you enjoy researching and planning and don’t mind mapping everything out well in advance to ensure you have plenty of time, then booking your own excursions might be the right choice for you. But if you’re after convenience and a stress-free tour, the small savings you will make may not be a trade-off you’re willing to make.
A cruise ship travelling between small islands with a mountain in the distance

Which cruise line includes excursions?

You will find that most cruise lines offer excursions as an add-on feature for your holiday. The exception to this tends to be the more expensive cruises that offer all-inclusive options for their guests. Naturally, this means having a hefty price tag for your booking initially but removes the shock of a nasty bill that has blown the budget at the end of your trip.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive option, there are a few lines that offer this luxury including, Regent Seven Seas, Hebridean Island Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea. Another option for cruises that include shore excursions are European river cruises with lines such as APT, and Scenic, and Viking including one free shore excursion at each port.

Protecting your trip with cruise travel insurance

Spending your holiday on board a ship comes with a few differences to spending it on land. So, choosing specialised cruise travel insurance should be a key consideration when booking, too. Not only does it cover you similarly to regular travel insurance, but it also includes additional coverage for cruise-specific occasions that are only associated with seafaring travel.
As much as we’d like everything to run smoothly on our holidays, sometimes this just isn’t the case. There are extra circumstances to be considered when cruising that don’t need to be taken into account with other methods of travel. Whether unfavourable weather means you have to miss a port, or you find you’re stuck in your cabin due to illness, these are all situations you can make claims for. It’s exactly in these situations that cruise travel insurance really proves itself a more suitable option than a standard travel insurance policy.
Covering you for everything from damage or loss of personal belongings and medical cover in case you need it, to delayed departures and cancellations or curtailments, it’s specialised for a reason.
That’s why Insurance Choice offers a range of cruise travel insurance policies that can be tailored to suit the needs of you and your fellow companions. That way, you can relax knowing that everything will be taken care of should things not quite go as planned.
When the seas get rough, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Insurance Choice today to get a quote for specialised cruise travel insurance.