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Pros and cons of planning your own cruise shore excursions.
I’ve been on a lot of shore excursions on all gay cruises and mainstream cruises—some organized by the ship, and some organized on my own. Both have pros and cons.
Some pros and cons to excursions organized by the ship:
Pro: Someone else has already done the planning for you. Just pay and go.
- Pro: You are guaranteed to get back on the ship before it sails.
- Pro: If the excursion doesn’t live up to what is advertised by the ship, you may be able to negotiate for a refund or some other perk.
- Pro: You’ll likely be picked up immediately outside the ship, and dropped back off at the ship.
- Con: You’re likely paying a premium over what the actual tour cost would be if organized directly.
- Con: You’ll probably be part of a big, cumbersome group—perhaps with people who don’t move at the pace you like.
- Con: You’re fairly stuck with the itinerary.
Some pros and cons to organizing your own.
- Pro: You can totally customize your shore experience.
- Pro: If you’re traveling with several friends, you may be able to negotiate a group discount.
- Pro: You can set the pace.
- Pro: You can control who is on your tour–just you, or a group of friends. All gay travelers, or mixed. The choice is yours.
- Pro: The price will likely be lower than similar excursions organized by the ship.
- Con: If you don’t get back to the ship on time, it will sail without you.
- Con: There’s a slim possibility your guide won’t show up.
- Con: It will take a bit of time and research to find the right activity.
- Con: If doing something unguided, you run the risk of getting lost and wasting time.
- Con: If using a local guide or company and something goes wrong, you probably won’t have much recourse to get your money back or get things corrected.
All that said, here’s an example of my best-ever, self-organized shore excursion. It was a full day in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and included horse riding, a coffee plantation, zip lining (before they were ubiquitous), swimming in tropical pools under waterfalls, picnic lunch, and dinner.
At the time—2004
—the Royal Caribbean ship we were sailing didn’t offer a zip lining excursion, but I was aware of Costa Rica as the prime zipping destination in the world—really the place that pioneered the activity.
So, I started searching the Internet for zip line activities near Puntarenas. I found one particularly interesting, Finca Daniel. They specialize in tours for land-based visitors, and had experience in taking cruise ship employees for the day. So I contacted them and asked if they could take my partner and me—pick us up at the pier, and return us to the pier.
Then everything went crazy.
It was before MeetMeOnBoard.com existed, but through early social networking we got in contact with another gay couple who were on the same sailing. They were interested in the excursion. So I contacted Finca Daniel to ask if they could take two more people.
Well, long story short—once we were on the ship and started talking about our planned excursion, many people (gay and straight) wanted to go. So, I emailed Finca Daniel and they told me I could basically fill up their van—as many as 16 people.
So we filled up the van. Crazy, huh? From 2 people wanting a special experience…to 16 who wanted to share it.
Finca Daniel delivered an exceptional experience—they showed up on time, got us back on time (although with little time to spare), and everyone who went was 100% delighted and we were the envy of the ship. They gave me and my partner a small discount for arranging the group. Again, here’s the link to the experience.
Next time I’ll tell you about taking a minivan from the ship into Caracas, Venezuela…
Now: add your comments below about experiences planning your own shore experience. And did you know, MeetMeOnBoard.com can help you do it? Click for our Shore Excursions page.
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