Cruise Line Excursion or DIY?

When you’re on a cruise, is it better to take the cruise line’s sponsored excursions or arrange your own? Well, that depends.

That’s not the kind of definitive answer you’d expect from somebody as opinionated as me. But I’ve done it both ways, and in the future I’ll probably do some of each.

Certainly, more often than not, my husband and I arrange our own on-shore activities.  (So does our offspring.) It’s usually cheaper. And for me, less orchestrated usually means more fun. But one consideration that can stop me is certainly any question of safety.

In the United States we assume that activities with some degree of risk are subject to some degree of regulation. The Coast Guard inspects boats, the FAA regulates air traffic, taxi drivers must be licensed and so on. Furthermore, no matter what you think of American litigiousness, it does tend to keep Americans from exposing each other to unnecessary risks.

Some other countries have less stringent regulations, less effective institutions for enforcement and legal traditions more in line with caveat emptor than any concepts of willful negligence.

So let’s say you want to go parasailing at a cruise port. I’d shop around for an independent tour operator in a U.S. port if it will cost less than the official cruise line excursion. (Did that on Catalina island off the California coast. For my daughter. I’m afraid of heights) In a foreign port, I’d probably skip it or go with the cruise line’s pick.

There are lots of other considerations. Sometimes there’s a lot of equipment involved – bicycles, diving gear, etc – and it’s just a lot more convenient to take the cruise line’s shore excursions.

I should add that the best shore excursion I ever went on was an official cruise line trip. The husband and I went bicycling and snorkeling in Cozumel. We were the only tourists to sign up. We quickly made friends with the charming tour guide and the next time we were on the island we hired him again. Privately.


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