If the port location is fairly remote or maybe the country still developing then shore excursions are the best decision. If you do a little research before your trip you can usually work out which ports of call are best to view as part of a group excursion. If you are a lone traveller, a shore excursion can be a perfect opportunity to socialise and meet other travel companions.
If you want to splash out, some high-end cruise lines offer excursions you simply couldnt arrange on your own - for example, Crystal Cruises' Signature Collection Excursions include the opportunity to participate in a private cooking lesson at chef Roger Verge's Le Moulin de Mougins restaurant in France or a helicopter flight along the Amalfi coast, with a landing on Capri for lunch and a trip through the Blue Grotto). Seabourn offers an evening of fine dining and vintage wines at Chateau Smith Huat-Lafitte in Graves, France and a hot air balloon trip over Stockholm.
Example Excursions (taken from P&O website) :
Venice - Introduction to Venice
Doges Palace The sight of the Gothic arches and delicate marble façade of the Doges Palace encapsulates Venice. You’ll see the vast golden staircase with gilded stucco and the Doges' private apartments, containing exquisitely decorated ceilings and Venetian masterpieces. You’ll also have a glimpse into the Palace prisons by way of the famous Bridge of Sighs.
St. Mark's Square The piazza ‘par excellence’ with its stately public buildings and elegant cafés is wonderfully animated by people, music and pigeons. The clock tower is topped by two bronze Moors who hammer out the time, and opposite is the 300-foot-tall Campanile looking out over the city.
St. Mark's Cathedral One of the most beautiful and moving buildings in the world. The Basilica’s façade consists of intricate gold mosaic arches, which rise above the carved Romanesque entrance. The five dramatic domes are reminiscent of Constantinople’s architecture. Your guide will offer commentary on this beautiful Basilica from the outside, as narration is not permitted within.
Time permitting, you’ll have a chance to indulge in a spot of shopping or to relax in a nearby café before retuning to the ship.
Sights and scenery
During your motor-launch ride you’ll be given brief commentary before splitting into smaller groups for your walking tour of Venice.
Barcelona - Panoramic Barcelona
For those who prefer touring at a more leisurely pace, this panoramic drive through Barcelona is ideal. Relax in the comfort of the coach as your guide introduces you to its main attractions.
Your tour starts off with a drive towards the Gothic area passing by the Citadel Park, the Arch of Triumph, Roman and Medieval walls and Catalunya Square. Your informative guide will point out all highlights and give explanations along the way.
The tour continues along Passeig de Gracia, a wide boulevard which connects the Gothic Quarter to the village of Gracia and is lined with lovely Art Nouveau buildings. This orientation will also take you past highlights such as the Spanish Village, Olympic Stadium, the Miro Foundation and the Congress Palace.
Church of La Sagrada Familia Despite being under construction for more than 100 years, the church still lacks complete walls and a roof. Gaudi’s magnificent nativity façade - complete with flamboyant spires, stained glass windows and sculpted figures - is an architectural masterpiece to behold. There will also be a short time available for souvenir shopping.
Mirador del Alcalde Viewpoint A short stop at the panoramic viewpoint of Mirador del Alcalde will be made, from where there are splendid views over Barcelona.
Acapulco - Shotover Jet Boat
Prepare yourself for the thrill of a jet boat ride!
Jet boat highlights
You’ll take an hour long panoramic drive across Acapulco to the southern bay of Puerto Marques. After a short safety orientation you’ll board your jet boat for a breathtaking ride. The mangroves of the Puerto Marques tropical lagoon are claimed to be the highest in the world with the tallest being around 10m (over 30ft tall). In these areas the soil is always made up of a high concentration of organic materials and it is this mixture of soils that give mangrove areas their characteristic sulphur smell.
Your jet boat driver is highly trained and skillfully pilots the boat through areas you would never have imagined possible. The boat will fly past reeds and under canopies performing complete 360° spins that are guaranteed to thrill. Shotover Jet is an eco-friendly company who has made important efforts to avoid damaging the local environment and to operate in complete harmony with nature.
For further information on P&O excursions please click here to visit their website
An excellent alternative to a group excursion is a private car with a driver/guide. Many lines can provide a car and driver. For example, Royal Caribbean offers an "As You Please" program in some ports where local taxis may not be safe or properly insured or where there may be language difficulties for independent travelers. In Bali, for example, RCI's program offers a group of four a van, personal driver and guide for nine hours for just over $50 per person (price correct at time of press).
All excusions have to be booked directly with your cruise operator rather than your travel agent as finalised tour options are usually sent directly to you nearer to your departure date.
If you are a first time cruiser and fancy arranging your own days out, there are many independant tour companies or simply type the name of each port of your itinerary into Google and see what comes up!