Save Money on Cruise Excursions by booking independent cruise activities, hiring a cab or guide, exploring on your own, or just skipping cruise excursions altogether. This article includes 8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions, so that you can have more money to buy souvenirs, drinks, or spa treatments.
A cruise vacation can be a great travel value because all of the mandatory costs are included and known up front. On the other hand, there is hardly a cruiser that does not pay any extra money above that amount. Optional trips in each port can be a major extra cost.
Add-on fees can add a significant amount to a cruise vacation. Examples of extras include beverages (alcohol and soft drinks), photos, souvenirs, gratuities, spa services, gambling, and port excursions.
Cruise excursions are one area where you enjoy the experiences at a reduced rate.
8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions
1. Skip Cruise Excursions
Yes, let’s get this one out of the way. Excursions are optional. You do not have to do them. While others are exploring an Alaska glacier, touring ruins, or snorkeling / diving / sailing / etc., you can remain on the ship. The ship will be relatively empty and calm so you can read, eat, sunbathe, exercise, or do laundry in peace. I have spoken with many veteran cruisers who enjoy the ship the most during excursions.
2. Explore On Your Own
You can also skip the offered packaged excursions and simply wander the port area(s) on your own. I know someone who takes long runs when cruise ships dock and has done so all over the world.
McCool Travel tip: attend the onboard information sessions so that you can learn highlights, things to do, tips, warnings for any port. Also ask crew members for suggestions as they typically know some great places to eat, shop, drink, and play.
3. Take a Bus
Nearly every place that a cruise ship docks will be served by public buses. You will save lots of money and have more fun by riding local buses. I learned that Pauline Frommer likes to and encourages others to use public transportation at ports.
4. Hire a Private Guide
You can arrange in advance to have a private guide take your group on a customized or established itinerary. The rate will likely by less than that offered by the cruise line; after all, excursions are a big profit center for cruise lines.
5. Hire a Taxi Driver
Taxi drivers in most popular ports of call are accustomed to acting as tour guides for visitors. They may have a standard rate for a definite time range or set itinerary—or negotiate BEFORE starting out.
6. Book An Independent Cruise Excursion
Rather than booking one of the cruise line’s packaged excursions, save money by using a third party supplier. They provide the same experience at a fraction of the price. A couple of independent excursion companies are Shore Trip and Port Promotions. On our Viking cruise in the Mediterranean Sea we had an amazing Rome tour with LivItaly.
7. Check Email
When you stop in posts, visit the local library for free internet access. Because internet rates onboard cruise ships can be expensive. Local public libraries are also fantastic places to buy used paperback books and magazines. Sometimes they are even FREE. Either way, when you are finished, leave them in the ship’s library or take to another public library for someone else to read.
8. Be Flexible and See What Happens
Or do a combination of these other seven cruise excursion tips, depending on your mood, the weather, the port, and so on. Once you book an excursion, you cannot cancel for a refund. When you first board the ship, a scuba diving excursion sound great but perhaps not on the fifth day.
McCool Travel tip: There is never any one right or wrong answer. Do what makes sense for you.
Although we have taken many cruises, perhaps our 14 day Carnival Journeys cruise provides a good strategy. We hired taxis to go to Margaritaville Montego Bay and Divi Aruba and downtown Cartegena, walked around Curacao and other ports, booked excursions through Carnival for Tulum and Costa Rica, and stayed on the ship (to catch up on laundry and relaxation).
Some other resources about cruise excursions:
- Rick Steves cheat sheet for European cruise excursions
- Cruise Critic’s analysis of cruise excursions
- Cruise Diva’s discussion about going ashore