Wether you are in your 20’s just realising how amazing cruising is or you are known as the cruising veteran with over 10 cruises under your belt, you need to know that one of the greatest highlights of being able to cruise is visiting brand new countries.

But how will you see these countries? Do you safely book with the cruise ship or take a risk with the locals?

We understand that a big part of cruising is the relaxation part, but if you know us then you know that relaxation should be for the days you are at sea, not the days you are in a new country.  You should be wanting to do as much as possible whilst on your vacation, wether it is zip lining in the Caribbean, undertaking a traditional ceremony in Fiji or even having a pirate party in Barbados, the activities you do can make a cruise that much more memorable.

You may of heard horror stories about tour guides not returning patrons to the boat on time which resulted in the cruise ship leaving them behind, or even locals attempting to scam you! But on both our cruise ship experiences we have had no issues with our tours.

For the record we have booked the majority of our shore excursions through locals. However, so we can report to you our thoughts, we decided to book a shore excursion through our cruise ship whilst in Fiji for pure comparison reasons.

A picture of a sail boat in cairns

Booking your shore excursions with locals

The biggest positive about booking your shore excursion through locals whether via email before hand or winging it on the wharf is that you will pay significantly less money than booking through your cruise ship. If you want to save money there is no doubt that you should book with locals.

We found that the tours organized with the ship will be changed slightly different to what is found online or on the wharf to make it seem like there is added value. It’s the same trick electronic stores do so you can’t price match that laptop you have been comparing. So don’t think you are missing out on anything too exciting by it being cheaper. We found that you can just ask the tour guide to do the exact same tour that is being offered on board.

The biggest negative would be the lack of organisation and the worry about not being returned to your ship on time. The moment upon walking on the wharf can almost be too much to handle as tour guides jump at you trying to bargain and get your money. It is almost worth just taking a dart and throwing it at a board to pick a guide, they are all the same.

Booking your shore excursion on board

The biggest plus about booking your shore excursion on board is the peace-of-mind knowing that you will get back to the boat on time and travel in an air-conditioned bus. Another plus abut booking with the boat is that you generally are provided with a better tour guide. The cream-of-the-crop is picked out for you and as it should be, you are paying a premium.

The biggest negative is price. I know it is like a coin flipped between the two comparisons, but when comparing a tour we found the boat to be 50%-75% more expensive than on the wharf. If you have the money to spend go for it, we loved our cruise-booked tour and if could afford it we would probably book more of them in the future. But being in our 20s and living off noodles I think it is a luxury we can’t afford.


Our Verdict

We feel tat booking with the locals is the way to go. If you are worried about being dropped off at the wrong time, we ask you to try and not worry too much as the locals understand the cruising industry and live off tourism – they want you to get back on time so you can tell your friends how amazing their island is.

If you have just booked a cruise worth $1800, a flight for $400 and accommodation either side of the cruise dates to explore your departure port then you probably want to save money on the excursions, like us.

Do you book through locals or through the boat?

Stephen and Jess signoff


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