Shore Excursions

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Shore Excursions

Whether you reckon they’re the main course of your cruise or a tempting side dish, one thing is for shore (sorry…) – shore excursions are the perfect opportunity to try something new. And by that, we mean the kinds of things your bucket list is stacked with from top to bottom.

Scuba diving in the Bahamas. Exploring Mayan pyramids in Mexico. Indulging your inner foodie with an Italian cooking class. Jet-skiing, zip-lining, horse-riding, bird-watching – the amount of incredible, enriching experiences goes on and on.

And that’s just a brief taste of what you can expect. We’ll cover everything else you need to know ahead of these amazing adventures below with these commonly asked questions.

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What are shore excursions?

Shore excursions are the bookable activities and experiences that you engage in during your port visits. They’re designed to let cruise-goers who only have a limited time in each port an opportunity to see local sights, get to know the culture and do things that make their time abroad even more special. Some are serene, some are active, but they’re all a great way of seeing the best that each port has to offer.

They’re tailored towards individuals, couples, and families, so children can join in on the fun too. You’ll also find excursions suited to passengers with mobility issues or other disabilities.

Shore excursions might be sold by the cruise line you’re travelling with and organised by a partner provider. You can also buy them through independent operators or third-party tour sellers.

Different types of shore excursions

So, what type of excursions are usually available on your holiday? One of the best things about them is that there’s something for everyone. Broadly, they can be broken down into the following categories:

Active excursions

Built for adventurous types, the activities on these excursions aren’t exactly relaxing, but they’re definitely a great way to get your pulse racing. Think things like kayaking, scuba diving, horseback riding, helicopter rides and skiing. Sound like your idea of fun? These are for the shore excursions for you.


Prefer to dial things down? We don’t blame you. For those who like things a little more laid back, you can always go for something relaxing, like a day on the beach in your own private cabana. Some lines even have their own private islands, and we’d highly recommend taking them up on the offer of a visit!


Exploring new and exciting cultures, getting to know a city’s history, and expanding a horizon or two are all things we love about going away. You too? You’re in for a treat, then.

See the best of Rome’s ruins and museums. Go on an Alaskan expedition and watch whales up close and personal. Or sample la dolce vita at an Italian cooking class. There’s plenty to gorge on here.

Water excursions

Fancy making a splash instead? A dip in some of the world’s most amazing waters is, in our book, one of the best things about a shore excursion. Whichever way you’re taking the plunge – snorkelling, diving, surfing or even swimming with sting rays – it’s something you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Tentative toe-dippers need not apply.  

Eating and drinking excursions

Some might say we’ve saved the best type of shore excursion ‘til last here.

Sampling the best food and drink while someone who knows their stuff talks you through their flavours and history? Yes, please! And with the likes of Caribbean rum, New Orleans’ melting pot of dishes, and Mediterranean mezze to explore, who could say no?

Where can I book shore excursions?

When it comes to booking your shore excursions, you have a few different options available. Let’s take a look…

Through the cruise line

The most popular choice is, of course, through the cruise line itself. Whether you book ahead online or over the phone, or onboard your ship at the shore excursions desk, the choice is yours. The first two options are worth doing if you’ve got your heart set on a particular excursion.

Through an independent company in advance

Often cheaper than booking with the cruise line, you also have the option of booking through a third party. Fancy booking your shore excursions through us? Just let us know and we’ll whisk you away somewhere fun and fancy!

We’ve also teamed up with the lovely company Venture Ashore to make the booking process a whole lot easier. As shore excursion specialists, they know a thing or two about hand-picking the best experiences from the most gorgeous destinations around the world – all tailored to your ship’s itinerary, of course!

Once you’re in port

“Do I have to book cruise excursions in advance?”

Not at all. Feeling spontaneous? You can always take the last-minute approach and book after you’ve walked off the ship. There are plenty of tours waiting for you in port. Be warned, though, as there’s a risk to doing it this way – you never know whether the excursion will be reputable or safe until it’s over.

FAQs: Shore Excursions

Can you get off a cruise ship without an excursion?

Yep! For the most part, you can hop off your ship and explore your port of call without having to book a shore excursion.

There are a few exceptions, though. Certain destinations have complex visa requirements which make exploring without a shore excursion a bit of a challenge. Over in St. Petersburg, Russia, for instance, you can’t step on shore of your own accord unless you have a visa that lets you. And to do that you’ll need to fill in the paperwork and pay a fee!

Are shore excursions worth it?

That’s a good question. Shore excursions are awesome for getting to know and experience where you’re docked, especially if its attractions are a long distance from the port or special gear or equipment is needed – as with things like scuba diving. But there are a few things to factor in which might make your decision to book one easier, as we cover below…

What are the pros and cons of booking an excursion with the cruise line?

Let’s take a look at them below.


  • You’ll have a ready-made, tried and tested itinerary waiting for you
  • You won’t miss your ship since cruise lines guarantee they’ll wait for anyone who is on an organised shore excursion
  • There’s something for everyone, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a bit of a culture vulture
  • You’ll be refunded automatically should your excursion not go ahead
  • Shore excursions are vetted to ensure everyone stays safe
  • You’ll get priority disembarkation


  • They tend to be on the pricier side
  • You might be able to find a third-party excursion for less
  • However, if you’re on a third-party excursion, the ship won’t wait for you if you’re running late (more on this below)
  • They often get booked up quickly
  • You’ll likely be doing the shore excursion in a large group of other cruise-goers, sometimes as many as fifty, and that includes other ships too
  • Attractions in certain ports, such as in St. Thomas, Monte Carlo, and Hawaii, are often close enough to your ship you may not need a shore excursion

What do I do if I’m late back from an excursion and the ship has left?

For the most part, your ship will wait for you if you’ve booked a shore excursion through the line. Even so, it’s still worth finding out through the daily newsletter when you need to be back onboard before you disembark. And remember: ship time and local time aren’t always the same.

If you’ve booked through an independent third party, then the ship could well leave without you. If this is the case, then you’ll have to meet it at the next port. Luckily, the line or your ship can help you with making travel arrangements. Additionally, many reputable independent sellers also offer their own “return to the ship” guarantee, so you won’t need to worry about making it back on time.

What can I expect to pay for excursions?

“How much do shore excursions cost?” It’s a question that tends to be at the back of the minds of many first-time cruisers.

Generally, it depends on the kind of excursions you’re going on, the activity, and the ship or cruise line. Since active excursions tend to be the longest, they’re usually the most expensive, usually costing you around £100-£150 per person.

A sightseeing excursion, on the other hand, can cost you anywhere from £25 to £80, while half-day excursions, which are far shorter than other varieties, may set you back around £15-£45.

What should I bring with me on an excursion?

There are a few essentials you should bring with you regardless of the kind of excursion you’re on.

First, you’ll need your cruise card to get on and off your ship, so be sure to keep it safe on you wherever you’re heading.

It’s worth leaving your passports locked in your cabin’s safe, but a photocopy of your passport is a good idea, just in case of an emergency. We’d also recommend bringing photo ID, a small amount of cash and one credit card with you too.

The number of your ship, your cruise line, the ship’s port agent, and the nearest UK embassy can also come in handy if you find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation.

As for what to wear, that depends on your chosen excursion. If you’re heading to a beach, then you’ll know the drill. But if it’s a walking tour, something comfortable, sturdy and well broken in will keep your feet blister-free.

And on any visits to religious sites, you may need to keep your shoulders and knees covered – it’s worth checking ahead of time. Of course, if you find yourself in Alaska or Northern Europe, then be sure to wrap up warm in the appropriate attire.

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