Many of my friends who havent cruised often ask why I generally choose a holiday at sea over one on dry land. All I can say is a cruise ship’s just a floating 5 star hotel that arrives at a new destination almost every day. Whats not to like?
One of the best things when youre aboard is pulling back the curtains each morning and watching the ship dock in yet another wonderful place. Each day brings somewhere new and exciting to explore but unlike a city break or a week by the sea you only ever get a taste of your destinations. At most passengers are given 8 – 10 hours in each port, sometimes less, so its impossible to see or do everything that a city, resort or island has to offer.
Excursions are a good way to maximise your time off ship and generally focus on the highlights of your ports of call. Almost all cruise lines charge in addition for their organised trips although some river and six star cruises do include them in the fare. Be warned, they can be expensive, particularly on American lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Carnival. For example, on our next cruise on RCI’s Adventure of the Seas a day trip to Paris with lunch from Le Havre is £130 per person and a trip to the beach in Vigo is £12 per person. Those prices can soon add up if you are a family and plan to do excursions in a number of ports.
If youre on a budget or a more adventurous traveller you don’t need to take the cruise line excursions. The majority of ports can be done on a DIY basis where you simply leave the ship and take public transport or a taxi to your chosen destination. Theres lots of advice on the internet and I love reading the cruisecritic.co.uk and cruise.co.uk port guides with their tips on things to do and how to make the most of your time at a fraction of the cost of an organised trip. Theres a huge sense of achievement when you do it yourself, have a memorable time and save a small fortune too! We had a fantastic day in Rome a few years ago where we took an hour long train ride from Civitavecchia for just a few euros each and used the city’s underground Metro to get around the sights.
Note well if you do head off independently its your responsibility to ensure you’re back at the ship on time. If youre late and miss the final boarding time they may well sail without you and you’ll have to get yourself to the next port at your own expense to rejoin the ship. Saying that, I’ve never heard it happen but you probably don’t want to risk it! If you’re on a ship excursion and its running late they will never leave without you so sometimes paying a little extra may make sense. We tend to do ship excursions when we are in a port which may have safety issues or where the trip involves a long distance or maybe a boat ride to another island. This ensures we get back safely, on time and in one piece!
On our summer cruise around The Med on Independence of the Seas we did our own thing everywhere making the most of the hop on hop off buses that loop around the cities or just getting off and walking which you can do in many ports. I think a mix of a few ship organised excursions and some DIY adventures makes for a well balanced holiday that doesn’t have to break the bank.