“Ok, lets sync our watches and all agree to be back on the bus at exactly 10:35 am.”
How many times have you joined a cruise line sponsored tour and been packed onto a tour bus to see the sights only to spend a significant amount of your time waiting for others who do not know how to read a watch.
Or how many times have you been told:
“here is the British Museum, you have 90 minutes to see it on your own and then return to the bus at exactly 2:00 pm.”
You paid a lot of money expecting to to be guided around the museum and now you are on your own.
Delays, delays, delays…
Disappointments, disappointments, disappointments…
What can you do?
The alternative is to do the research and hire your own private guide for the most important ports you visit and for lesser ports just get off the ship and start walking. I do both and and I see a lot more…
Let me talk first about just getting off the ship and walking. Many ports are small and it is easy to find you way around by yourself. When I am going to one of these ports I do a little research before my trip on the web and find a walking guide and map to the city. Or many times I look for a audio walking tour for my iPhone (or other smart phones) on the web.
Many audio tours are free but sometimes I have to pay a few dollars to download the tour but the cost is nothing compared to hiring a guide. When I download an audio tour in almost every case the audio downland also includes a pdf file map of where the audio tour will be taking me.
If the port is bigger but I do not want to pay for a private guide, I will do one of two things:
1. Look for a “Hop on Hop off” bus and buy a day long ticket (you can do your homework first on the web to determine if they have these tours and where to meet the bus). The beauty of this option is I get to most of the major sights in the city and I can hop on and off as necessary to visit them. Plus the tours always give me a good map. The tours include earphones and have multi-language channels to explain what I am seeing and what is coming next. I always take the top deck of the bus so I can shoot photos as we move (be careful though because standing up to take a photo is a bit risky).
2. If there is no “Hop On Hop Off ” bus available I look for a local tour option as I leave the port area (there are almost always tours available at booths near the port area or in the center of the town and they are always cheaper than the cruise tours) or I hire a taxi for a few hours (be sure to settle on a fixed price before you get in the taxi). I have done this many places including places you might think are risky like Tunisia and Alexandr1a, Egypt and have had a great time.
When it is an important port, or if I am going to be in a port for a few days, I always do the research ahead of time and hire a private guide to meet me at the port. How do I find one? My best resources are Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. Web searches using the port name “+tour guide” also works for me. Before I hire them I look for reviews of the tour guides I find by putting their name into a web search and adding “+review” to the search.
I find that private tour guides are not that much more expensive for my wife (often less expensive) and I than ship sponsored tours and they are certainly a lot more personal and comprehensive. To cut the cost of the tour, one thing I often do is share the guide with one or two other couples.
How do you find people to share with? You go up the Board Section on Cruise Critic and scroll down to the Roll Call sub-heading and then click on the name of your cruise line and then when it comes up to the name of Your ship.
As you read down the Roll Call you will see your cruise listed if a Roll Call for it has already been started. The Roll Call consists of people sharing tips who have registered with Cruise Critic and are already on your ship. You can view your ship and the information sharing without belonging to Cruise Critic but I would suggest you might want to be a member so you can communicate on the Roll Call.
To do this join Cruise Critic, choose a log on name you want to use and make up a password. Then start communicating with others who will be on your ship. Some will have already booked private tours and are looking for others to share