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Hi, our first time cruising and first post here, so hope I am doing this correctly! My questions is do you need to pre-book shore excursions or can you do it when you are on board. Also wondering about not doing it through the cruise line, but have heard horror stories about missing the ship sailing. We are doing 7 night Alaska cruise with Holland America on the Neiuw Amsterdam.

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You can book tours online which will guarantee the price. If you book on the ship you pay the current price and get what is left. Booking tours outside of the cruise does not guarantee you will not miss the ship. It can be a big savings if you want to take the chance.

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1.  You can pre-book ship-sponsored excursions.

2.  You can book ship-sponsored excursions on board; however, if an excursion that you want is full, you will miss out.

3.  Ship-sponsored excursions guarantee that you will be back on board on time or the ship will wait for you, if not, they will get you to the next port to meet the ship.

4.  Private excursions are typically much less expensive.  You can pre-book them or look for vendors waiting for you on the dock.  

5.  You do take the chance of not being back on board on time; however, these vendors rely on this business and are pretty experienced in getting guests back on time, otherwise, it hurts their business.

6.  I normally base my ship-sponsored vs. private decision based on my comfort level with the port after much research.

7.  I would recommend checking out the ports of call forums for your ports and see what people who have actually been there recommend.

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1 hour ago, pandapatch said:

Hi, our first time cruising and first post here, so hope I am doing this correctly! My questions is do you need to pre-book shore excursions or can you do it when you are on board. Also wondering about not doing it through the cruise line, but have heard horror stories about missing the ship sailing. We are doing 7 night Alaska cruise with Holland America on the Neiuw Amsterdam.

 

Welcome to Cruise Critic and the Wonderful World of Cruising:classic_cool:

Since this is your first cruise, you might want to consider booking your shore excursions through the cruise lines.  

We still sometimes book with the cruise line because it's easy and convenient!  :classic_wink:

 

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You don't NEED to pre=book ship's excursions, but you can.  If there is something you REALLY want, I'd book in advance...but if you're unsure, you can wait.

 

You will not miss the ship if you keep your watch (not your cell phone) set to SHIP'S time.....and private tour companies depend on getting you back in time!  No real worries there.  Many things are quite easy to do on your own, without any excursion at all.

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I've been on 4 cruises and have never booked an excursion through any of the cruise ships I'm on. Maybe I'm cheap, but I find them to be quite expensive. I also enjoy doing the research on what to see and how to get from point A to point B. If you don't want the "hassle" of figuring out logistics on your own, I think an organized excursion makes sense.

 

For me, the only disadvantage I see is the risk of missing your boat, but that risk can be significantly mitigated by making sure you're leaving extra time to get back to your ship.  But that same risk exists whether you're heading to the airport for a flight, etc.  I usually try to be back on the ship 2 hours before final boarding.  

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I make no secret that we are "excursion adverse" since we strongly dislike being part of a large group being herded around like cattle.  That being said, cruise line excursions are popular with some folks.  Missing the ship is one of those over mentioned things that seldom happen and are not even a concern to folks that have a watch and some common sense.  That being said, there are some excellent excursions in Alaska although the best ones can be very expensive.  In particular we love the "driving dog sled" excursion from Juneau where you are flown high up on a glacier (usually the Mendenhall) to the summer camp for many of the Iditerod dogs..which are world-class athletes in the dog world.  

 

However, a lot of the tours that stay relatively close to the ports do not always justify the cost.  A local walking tour does not need a tour guide that can easily cost over $100 per couple.  For example, in Ketchican one can easily walk to the Totem Pole Museum, pay the admission fee, and enjoy.  No need for an excursion.  But for those who want to spend the big bucks on lots of excursions, I am a happy camper since we are stockholders of the cruise line and benefit from their generosity.

 

Hank

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Welcome to cruise critic! 

 

In addition to checking out the HAL board (https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/103-holland-america-line/) for HAL specific questions, make sure you check out the Alaska Ports of Call board (https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/33-alaska/) for lots of information on private excursions and your Roll Call (https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/461-nieuw-amsterdam/and then find the thread with your embarkation date) to see what others on your cruise are doing.

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We used to book all excursions by the cruise line, but got tired of the overpriced overcrowded ship tours, now we book almost all tours with fellow roll call members, I like having tours of 6 to 10 rather than huge crowds on ship tours. TripAdvisor is a great source for private tours. 

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The horror stories of people who miss the ship are usually not on independent excursions (it usually involves drinking and losing track of the time). Those companies rely on positive reviews and getting people back to the ship on time keeps them in business. We have taken many independent excursions and have never come close to missing the ship. In my experience the excursions are cheaper and better than the ship’s excursions. For example, went to sting ray city in grand cayman with an independent excursion. Was on a small boat with a guide and 6 people. We arrived early and got to feed, pet, hold, etc the sting rays. 30 minutes or so after we arrived a huge double decker boat pulled up and our guide told us that was the ship’s excursion. It was crammed full of people and only had a few guides. Several people saw everything that we were able to do and came over and asked our guide to help them hold one because they didn’t have anywhere near enough guides for the people they had.

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2 hours ago, sanger727 said:

The horror stories of people who miss the ship are usually not on independent excursions (it usually involves drinking and losing track of the time). Those companies rely on positive reviews and getting people back to the ship on time keeps them in business. We have taken many independent excursions and have never come close to missing the ship. In my experience the excursions are cheaper and better than the ship’s excursions. For example, went to sting ray city in grand cayman with an independent excursion. Was on a small boat with a guide and 6 people. We arrived early and got to feed, pet, hold, etc the sting rays. 30 minutes or so after we arrived a huge double decker boat pulled up and our guide told us that was the ship’s excursion. It was crammed full of people and only had a few guides. Several people saw everything that we were able to do and came over and asked our guide to help them hold one because they didn’t have anywhere near enough guides for the people they had.

I did a rccl ships excursion to string ray city it was terrible they packed people on boat standing room only , staff did not seem to know what they were doing. Avoided ship tours since .

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Run, don't walk by the ship's excursion desk!  They are nothing more than overpriced cattle herds.  As others have suggested, check out Trip Advisor or the ports of call threads on these boards for recommendations.  They are always cheaper and are certainly less crowded.  Often you are able to negotiate with the driver for a more personalized tour.  They are easy to book and easy to find once you get off of the ship.  There is much less of the "hurry up and wait" that comes with the ship's excursions.  We find that by booking a tour that ends at least an hour or two before "all aboard", there is little to worry about.

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On 5/17/2019 at 8:16 AM, OCruisers said:

 

Welcome to Cruise Critic and the Wonderful World of Cruising:classic_cool:

Since this is your first cruise, you might want to consider booking your shore excursions through the cruise lines.  

We still sometimes book with the cruise line because it's easy and convenient!  :classic_wink:

 

^ this. I/we hope you will continue to cruise after this adventure but, for your first time go with guarantees. Go with ship sponsored adventures. Especially in Alaska where the unpredictable is predictable. 

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