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Cruise shore excursions: go with a group or on your own?


You might find a cute tabby like this one on the Isle of Skye

You might find a cute tabby like this one on the Isle of Skye

By Eileen Ogintz

AT SEA ABOARD THE WINDSTAR STAR LEGEND — Are you ready to take a vacation risk?

Michelle and Lance Teschmacher certainly are—not a big risk. They are, after all, sailing on Windstar’s Star Legend around the Scottish Isles where there are 146 crew Ot take care of 205 guests. But rather than rely on the ship’s expensive shore excursions, Michelle Teschmacher explained, “We are happy to wing it.”

Her advice: Ask the local tourism officials for the top sites and find a place to rent a car—she’s confident driving on “the wrong” side of the road,” she explained. The San Diego couple was also lucky to find other like minded cruisers so the two couples could explore and share expenses. “It helps us to make the most of the day,” she explained.

Other cruisers I met went off to find a local golf course. Ninety one year old grandmother Beverly Unger and her grandson Wyatt, 18, were happier when they relied on local cab drivers rather than the ship’s tours which often required long bus rides.

Karen Clarkson, here with her husband Doug Anderson and their grandson Charlie Anderson said they had the best time just wandering on their own in the small towns.

Or you might see a cute border collie as we did on the Isle of Mull

Or you might see a cute border collie as we did on the Isle of Mull

The ship’s executive Chef Danilo Trugello lamented that he couldn’t find local farmers markets to take guests to as he has in France or Italy. But he compensated by bringing local Scottish salmon and cheeses on board.

Others on board added they wished there had been more experts on board to offer commentary. The staff is great, said Mike Gomez, from Virginia Beach VA,  who as a former travel agency owner has cruised many lines. “But there is no knowledgeable person on board about the destination.”

All the more reason to do your homework ahead of time. But even if you choose shore excursions operated by the ship, there is no guarantee they will go as scheduled. Two we had signed up for were cancelled, for example.

I’ve found companies like Tours by Locals that can hook you up with a local tour guide at less money than a shore excursion would cost for three or four people. We’ve mostly had great experiences, but not always. That’s the case on shore excursions too.

In fact, if I heard any criticism of this cruise, it was about the shore excursions and lack of information on board about the sites. This is a very destination-driven cruise. “No one chose it for the weather,” joked Karen Clarkson, here with her husband Doug Anderson and their grandson Charlie Anderson who has just graduated from high school.

She lamented there weren’t talks on board about the sites and local history and culture. “This is the only ship we’ve been on that hasn’t done that. They wasted an opportunity on board,” she said.


Cruises & All-Inclusive, Families & Groups, Travel Diary | , , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to Cruise shore excursions: go with a group or on your own?

  1. monica taylor says:

    Nice article.We went on a small ship cruise with blount small ship adventures last year. We loved their excursion plans.We explored the localities. They provided us the must visit spots beforehand so that we wont miss anything. We went for snorkeling, bike rides etc. We had so much fun.

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