Whether you’ve already booked your cruise or are still in the discovery process, the tours and activities you choose to take during your travels will greatly impact your vacation experience. After all, a typical day in port gives you only about eight hours to explore each destination, so you want to make the most of it!
While in the past most people tended to book directly from the cruise lines, booking independent tours and activities from local guides is growing in popularity for several important reasons. We’d recommend that you consider booking from local guides for the following reasons in order to ensure your best day on shore:
The power of personal service
The average cruise line tour is in a coach bus or on a giant boat, and you can expect 50 to 75 fellow cruisers right there with you. That makes it difficult to ever get personal service from your guide — or to even ask a question on a sightseeing tour — as the guides have scripts and are primarily focused on keeping the group together.
On an independent shore excursion, you'll be greeted by a friendly guide who is looking forward to showing you around. The average group size is 12 people, which means that you can expect constant personal attention and a tour which is catered to your needs. And beyond the tour, you and your family and friends can make a real friend, which is what traveling and hospitality are all about.
Truly distinctive choices
Most cruise lines offer a standard variety of tours in each location to have “something for everyone.” But these days, we all know that there are more choices than ever to do amazing things and the truth is that the cruise lines simply can’t offer them all. Many of these unique experiences can only be done in small groups, and the cruise lines can’t compete with that.
Ever wanted to learn how to fish crab with real fishermen aboard “The Deadliest Catch” up in Alaska? Or learn to make paella under the guidance of a celebrity chef in Barcelona? How about riding a Harley Davidson around the island of Cozumel? When you book an independent shore excursion, you choose from hundreds of options that the cruise lines don’t offer.
Private means exceptional
Traveling with friends or family in a group? Cruising is a wonderful way to make new memories with those you love — and sometimes to do that you want to spend some quality time with them away from everyone else, without any stress involved. That’s where a private tour has a real advantage. For an affordable price per person, you can get your own guide and driver and craft your own day. From pickup to drop-off, it will be special.
Meet some independent local guides
So who are these thousands of independent local guides? Let’s check out a few of the best:
Meet Freddie from Nassau, Bahamas. He has been in the business for 16 years, delivering small group and private sightseeing tours to cruise travelers who give rave reviews for his personal service. Freddie drives a small van and has a permanent smile on his face. He loves taking families around his island and introducing the kids to fried conch. While he has a set itinerary for the tour, Freddie is no stranger to accommodating requests and he likes to keep in touch with his clients after they go home. Some have even traveled back to Nassau afterwards and met him for lunch at his favorite restaurant at the fish fry.
Another independent tour guide is Kerry in Grand Cayman. A native Caymanian (pronounced Cay-MAN-ian), Kerry and her small team run family-friendly boat tours over to Stingray City. After 20 years in operation, she still prefers to be the one to pick her clients up at the cruise terminal for a personal touch.
Updated from an earlier version.