Organised sightseeing tours offered as part of the on -board programme, on all cruise ships, are ludicrously overpriced. We have cruised worldwide- the Med, the Caribbean, East Coast USA and Canada, West Coast USA and Mexico,Canaries, Far East, South America, Northern Europe and Alaska and always make our own arrangements on shore. Everywhere you will find reliable, local taxis and minibuses for hire. Use the on board tour guides to decide what you want to see; where you wish to stop and overall how long you want to be and use this to outline your requirements once onshore. Negotiate on the price and you will find that you end up paying a half or less than the cost of the organised tour. In all countries we have found the drivers to be thoroughly competent and informative. The ONLY exception we have found was the visit to St. Petersberg where the cost of individual visas made the on board excursions only marginally dearer. To visit Rome from Civitavecchia; Florence or Pisa from Livorno; or Athens from Pireaus local train services are quick, cheap and reliable - tho. allow plenty of time to get back to the port. Even Istanbul is a dream on your own!
However, on board, the tours staff will roll their eyes and "advise" you not to consider "taking a chance!!!!" Utter rubbish!
We have had absolutely superb taxi / minibus excursions on shore from the ship in places as far afield as Vietnam, South Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Colombia and the Caribbean as well as closer to home. Just check that your driver is licensed - usually by a badge pinned to his shirt or a sticker on the cab windscreen.
We booked tours, for two full days, with a local company in St Petersburg and they were fantastic! We disembarked quickly, and early, after arrival, and were met at the quay by a representative with a minibus. After booking our cruise, we teamed up with 2 other couples through a website forum, and arranged tours as a group (better discount). The tour guides were excellent and we had priority entrance to the 'attractions', ensuring queuing was minimal. One of the main benefits from being with a small group (we were 8 adults), is that you can hear easily what the guide is saying and you don't have to wait for stragglers to catch up.
Personally I would treat cruising as though you are having a shore holiday abroad. If you spend money on alcohol and meals out (remember it will only be the alcohol that you will be required to pay for as meals are fully provided including most snacks). Regarding tipping if your cruise operator has this I would read the FAQs most liners have and budget accordingly. Regarding land tours you are usually provided with details of these prior to departure and certainly prior to sailing into the relevant port so these can be budgeted for.
Of course most land based holidays tend to be in the main, for the vast majority of people, to stay by the pool during the day and drink and eat at night time. Well that option is also available on board a ship. If you really cant afford land tours or alcohol then you are not forced into purchasing these, cruising is about relaxation and no pressure in placed on people.
Enjoy your cruise I am sure you will adapt and love it.
But these days they have speciality restuarants where you pay an extra charge for - I always wonder then is the food not that great in the other restuarants that you do not have to pay for?
If you drink go to the cocktail parties that are offered for free, drink water during the day if it is hot and keep topping up your bottle/cup from the dispensers on board - do not forget to do this before you go ashore as the shops or the water that they sell you is a rip off. At breakfast take some fruit with you so that you can take it on your day out to snack on.
hope this helps in some way - sounds misey but does save pounds.
one last one that we do now - if you are in a port that is just a walk around the town then do this either in the morning after breakfast and then go back to the ship for lunch.Or have lunch and then go for the walk.
Thanks that was helpful.
P&O advise against topping up your own water containers from the drinks dispensers which is a health hazard as is re-using used cups/mugs/glasses for your second drinks etc.
I also complain to the people at work when I see them topping up water bottles from which they drink, direct from the water dispensers.
For gods sake, you are on holiday, if you cannot afford to buy drinks at the bar or tip the hard working staff then stay at home, nicking fruit from the buffet to save money ashore and risking the health and hugiene of everyone else on the ship by topping up your water bottles is downright criminal. Go mad and buy proper water when you go ashore from the supermarket, of course you will be about2 euros out of pocket, alternativley why not spend the whole cruise in your cabin, only coming out to eat, that should save you quite a bit.
Totally agree with this!Royal Caribbean are against refilling water bottles on health grounds and have notices about removing food,albeit fruit ,from dining areas."Smythe" are just the sort of people that makes us not to want to cruise from U K again.Although seniors ourselves,this "we've paid for it attitude" is ludricous,selfish,and if you don't want to spend money, stay at home and let us enjoy the cruises.
Yes it is possible. A lot of people don't realise this if you go on a cruise where gratuities are automatically put on your account (which can mount up to a lot), you don't actually have to pay them. If you go to the pursers desk at the end of your cruise and tell them you don't want to pay, they'll give you a form to fill out then take the gratuities off your account. If you then want to reward somebody directly (say, your cabin steward), you can give them an envelope with some money in instead.
This is exactly the kind of response to which I was alluding. To go onboard with this in your mind is reprehensible and typical of someone who considers they can get things on the cheap. I consider that way of thinking to be shoddy and cheapskate... Neil.