8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions

Some of my favorite ways to save money on cruise excursions include booking independent cruise activities, hiring a cab or guide, exploring on my own, or even 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 (aka cruise excursions) 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.

8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions

picture of large Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean
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 while most passengers are exploring the port.

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, etc., 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 Public Bus

Nearly every port where a cruise ship docks will be served by public buses. By riding local buses, you will save lots of money and have more fun and memorable experiences.

I learned that travel guru Pauline Frommer likes to and encourages others to use public transportation at ports.

4. Hire a Private Guide

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.

view of Carnival cruise ship from a hammock
create your own cruise excursion to have more fun and save money

6. Book Independent Cruise Excursions

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.

For independent excursions try Port Promotions. On my Viking cruise in the Mediterranean Sea I 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 I have taken many cruises, perhaps my 14 day Carnival Journeys cruise provides a good strategy. I 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:

Are you a cruise veteran? Let me know other ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions.

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8 thoughts on “8 Great Ways to Save Money on Cruise Excursions”

  1. When we went to Alaska, there were vendors at the port who were offering the same shore excursions that we paid for at a far cheaper rate. They were simply holding up cardboard signs and you got on they got on the same bus as those of us who had paid much higher fees. One couple I talked to said that they had talked to the vendor’s rep and got an even lower rate.

  2. You are correct. We have taken many cruises and the best fun I remember is just getting off the boat and exploring. We pulled into Bermuda on a Saturday night, only to find everything , and I mean everything was closed until Monday. We split a cab with another couple nd the driver, Mr. Lloyd, took us on a super informative exploration of the island. It saved the day for us. Especially since the ship was sailing on Monday morning.
    The taxi idea works great.

  3. I’ve done a couple of cruises in my life and there is no way I’d pay extra. Luckily with Viking, a lot of good guided tours were included in the price and I took advantage of those.

  4. I’m not big on cruising for a variety of reasons, and the excursions are part of what have scared me off. It’s nice to know there are ways to save on those expenses.

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