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Your worst Shore Excursion bought from the ship

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Have you ever had a really bad shore excursion bought from a ship ?

 

My wife and I were in St. Thomas and signed up for a 2 hour tour of the island .Our first stop was at a shopping area supposedly for 30 minutes. It would up being the entire 2 hours because the tour guide counted the time going to and from the shopping area.

We all complained upon getting back to the ship and got a credit for another tour that cruise.

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We did a rccl tour of stingray city totally overcrowded boat , I rarely now do any ships excursions they are generally a ripoff. 

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Some context first: I traveled a fair amount with my parents, both land trips and cruising, when younger, so I have never been particularly afraid of doing things on my own and had visited a number of European countries solo already.

 

My first Mediterranean cruise, back in 2005, was a trip I wanted to take with my mom, who was then 72. Part of it was her age and part of it was not traveling with my dad, but she wanted to do ship excursions in every port for "security" so I said fine and did all the research, booked tours that went to the places I wanted to see -- some of them were even smaller group tours. I thought it would all work out fine.

 

It didn't.

 

I had not counted on the long amounts of time that these tours would spend on useless "shopping" stops, often touted relentlessly by the guides at any time they had a captive audience on the bus. Looking back on this cruise I can laugh but at the time I was very frustrated -- some of these places I'd read about all my life and I was getting shorted on time so that people could spend time shopping for cameos, leather, rugs, cartouches, gold jewelry, you name it. There were other egregious failures too, like the guide in Turkey who spent time on the bus telling tasteless jokes about the Kurds and the Syrians. And oh yes, she was the same one who told us when we got on the coach that she "could tell us all about the history of what we'd be seeing, but we would just forget it all anyway, so she wouldn't bother."  Really???

 

The breaking point came in Istanbul, one of the last stops. We had a full day small group tour. The guide, so far as I could tell, had zero passion for what she was showing us. Her spiels at each stop were short and perfunctory but lunch (at a fancy hotel on the Bosphorus) ran an hour over schedule since she didn't gather us up at the time she stated.  And then we got to a rug store where they literally locked the doors to stop us from leaving on our own. (I wanted to nip out and at least get a few photos of the bazaar, which we were tantalizingly on the edge of...I wasn't allowed to leave as I "might delay them" if I was late returning -- what a joke!)

 

Haghia Sofia was planned as the last stop on the tour, as the "highlight" of the day. After spending so much extra time at lunch and in the rug store, we were told that we were running late and had to get back to the ship -- we would barely have half an hour inside. It was already getting dark, so no chance of good photos, and we were not even allowed up to the second floor to see the mosaics. When the bus pulled away, my eyes still glued on the receding bulk of Haghia Sofia and full of unshed tears, I vowed I'd never take any more of these ship tours unless there was absolutely, positively no way to do something on my own instead. And I've pretty much stuck by that since.*

 

*except for tours offered on my Voyages to Antiquity cruises which did not include ANY shopping stops and often had quite expert guides, as well as the participation of whatever expert lecturers were also onboard.

 

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We booked a hike in the hills through Princess. In the info, it said "you'll get your feet wet." Monumental understatement! They'd had rain. We have to cross a river twice, first time in hip-high, extremely fast moving water. One of the gals nearly got swept downstream. Another gal and I staged a mutiny and they took us across on a horse that just happened to be in the area on another excursion. Second crossing, and I'm no exaggerating this at all, we had to wade across water that was up to my neck. My feet started to float out from under me. You'll wonder why I didn't just swim at that point. I can't swim. To my mind, it was reasonable for me to book an excursion where I'd "get my feet wet" even if I couldn't swim. Obvious mistake.

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I confess to being outspoken on this topic, but the worst cruise ship excursion was ANY cruise ship excursion.  Early in our cruise life (mid 70s) we quickly realize that most cruise line excursions were similar to cattle calls with 50-60 folks being crammed in a bus, instructed to follow the leader, taken to places that give kick-backs to the tour company and guides, etc.  As we expanded our travel around the world the excursions got even worse.  DW and I decided that we would be much better off simply doing our own thing and sometimes using a small group private tour (we usually find these on the CC Roll Call boards).  While there are some places in the world where folks are well advised to join some kind of tour (China, Vietnam, and Russia quickly come to mind) I cannot even imagine taking a cruise line excursion anywhere in the Caribbean.   Want to go shopping?  Simply walk or take a taxi (shared transportation is very common and cheap).  Want to go to a beach?  Take or share a taxi and go to the beach of your choice.  Want to drive all over an island.  This is where you might want to join a small private tour or simply join a small group at the port (there are generally all kinds of tour options as you leave the ship or tender pier).   On some islands we actually prefer to rent a car (usually a lot cheaper than a full day tour) and drive ourselves.  

 

Another great reason we prefer to avoid tours is that in much of the world there are wonderful places to eat while off the ship.  I cannot imagine being in Italy or France and not enjoying lunch at a decent venue (we are not talking about places that cater to large bus tours).  Even in the Caribbean there are some excellent places to dine (St Maarten was known for this prior to the awful hurricane).  And just keep in mind that when a cruise line lectures you about "recommended stores" that is generally code for stores that PAY to be recommended.  This is a huge racket and lots of money changes hands (with a cut going to the cruise line).  Some of these recommended stores are actually pretty decent, but others simply make their money from the cruise line folks.  In many cases the store next door to that recommended store will have the same or better merchandise at better prices.

 

Hank

 

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Hmm, a 2 hour tour with 30 minutes for shopping. I'd probably not have booked that tour if that was disclosed.

 

The most disappointing tour I've done was in Nassau. We took an island tour that the description included a sampling of local cuisine. The reality, we got dropped at a restaurant for 30 minutes where we were on our own. Including to pay for it. 

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2 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

Some context first: I traveled a fair amount with my parents, both land trips and cruising, when younger, so I have never been particularly afraid of doing things on my own and had visited a number of European countries solo already.

 

My first Mediterranean cruise, back in 2005, was a trip I wanted to take with my mom, who was then 72. Part of it was her age and part of it was not traveling with my dad, but she wanted to do ship excursions in every port for "security" so I said fine and did all the research, booked tours that went to the places I wanted to see -- some of them were even smaller group tours. I thought it would all work out fine.

 

It didn't.

 

I had not counted on the long amounts of time that these tours would spend on useless "shopping" stops, often touted relentlessly by the guides at any time they had a captive audience on the bus. Looking back on this cruise I can laugh but at the time I was very frustrated -- some of these places I'd read about all my life and I was getting shorted on time so that people could spend time shopping for cameos, leather, rugs, cartouches, gold jewelry, you name it. There were other egregious failures too, like the guide in Turkey who spent time on the bus telling tasteless jokes about the Kurds and the Syrians. And oh yes, she was the same one who told us when we got on the coach that she "could tell us all about the history of what we'd be seeing, but we would just forget it all anyway, so she wouldn't bother."  Really???

 

The breaking point came in Istanbul, one of the last stops. We had a full day small group tour. The guide, so far as I could tell, had zero passion for what she was showing us. Her spiels at each stop were short and perfunctory but lunch (at a fancy hotel on the Bosphorus) ran an hour over schedule since she didn't gather us up at the time she stated.  And then we got to a rug store where they literally locked the doors to stop us from leaving on our own. (I wanted to nip out and at least get a few photos of the bazaar, which we were tantalizingly on the edge of...I wasn't allowed to leave as I "might delay them" if I was late returning -- what a joke!)

 

Haghia Sofia was planned as the last stop on the tour, as the "highlight" of the day. After spending so much extra time at lunch and in the rug store, we were told that we were running late and had to get back to the ship -- we would barely have half an hour inside. It was already getting dark, so no chance of good photos, and we were not even allowed up to the second floor to see the mosaics. When the bus pulled away, my eyes still glued on the receding bulk of Haghia Sofia and full of unshed tears, I vowed I'd never take any more of these ship tours unless there was absolutely, positively no way to do something on my own instead. And I've pretty much stuck by that since.*

 

*except for tours offered on my Voyages to Antiquity cruises which did not include ANY shopping stops and often had quite expert guides, as well as the participation of whatever expert lecturers were also onboard.

 

Yes, the dreaded rug store!!!!

 

We did a tour of Epheseus. I would have chosen the group tour set up in our roll call, but DW definitely wanted to see the Virgin Mary's House while the tour specifically said no to that. Now the tour was fine until the waste of time of the rug store.

 

But we did at least get a little time at the bazaar afterwards. DW bought a cloth holder for her glasses that looked like a Turkish rug for IIRC one Euro. Years later someone was admiring it and asked where did you buy that. And the answer of course was Turkey.

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28 minutes ago, ontheweb said:

Yes, the dreaded rug store!!!!

 

We did a tour of Epheseus. I would have chosen the group tour set up in our roll call, but DW definitely wanted to see the Virgin Mary's House while the tour specifically said no to that. Now the tour was fine until the waste of time of the rug store.

 

But we did at least get a little time at the bazaar afterwards. DW bought a cloth holder for her glasses that looked like a Turkish rug for IIRC one Euro. Years later someone was admiring it and asked where did you buy that. And the answer of course was Turkey.

When we did a similar tour with Princess, they cut shore our visit to Ephesus (everyone on the tour was angry) and dragged us to a "Jewelry Factory" where we were the only people in the large store.  They actually locked us in the store and the tour guide would not let anyone leave for more than an hour.  Most folks did use the rest rooms and then stewed in chairs (scattered around the huge jewelry store) while we waited for the guide to take us back to our bus.  When we returned to the ship there was immediately a big line at Guest Services where everyone was complaining how we had been cheated our of Ephesus because of that stupid store.   A few days later we received a letter (in our cabin) from the Hotel Manager with an apology and a 100% refund of that tour price.  But that happened many years ago.  Now, the Hotel Manager would likely complement the tour guide for trying to "enhance" the bottom line (they obviously get a cut from any sales).

 

About 4 years ago, DW and I were traveling around New Zealand (on our own with a rental car) and went to wonderful farm that had a contract with the NZ government to take care of Penguins.  It was an amazing place, the owner's wife gave us all homemade refreshments, and they talked for over an hour about their efforts to help the young penguins.  One lady asked them if they ever had cruise ship excursions and the owner got very irritated.  He said that they had been approached from 2 cruise lines and several tour contractors who wanted to bring large bus loads to their farm.  They insisted on a big discount from their usual price (the money was used to fund the care for the penguins) and would obviously mark-up the cost for the excursions.  He told those folks to take a hike!  He also told our small group (we were a van load of about 10) that they would never allow bus loads to tramp all over their farm and frighten the penguins and their young ones.  We did take several other small tours (which we booked while staying in some South Island towns, which were generally limited to fewer then 10 and they were terrific.  This kind of stuff is not even available to cruise ship excursions or other large bus loads.

 

Hank

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I confess to being outspoken on this topic, but the worst cruise ship excursion was ANY cruise ship excursion.  Early in our cruise life (mid 70s) we quickly realize that most cruise line excursions were similar to cattle calls with 50-60 folks being crammed in a bus, instructed to follow the leader, taken to places that give kick-backs to the tour company and guides, etc.  As we expanded our travel around the world the excursions got even worse.  DW and I decided that we would be much better off simply doing our own thing and sometimes using a small group private tour (we usually find these on the CC Roll Call boards). 

 

I totally agree.  Cruise line excursions are a thing of the past for me.  I stopped booking them years ago.  I have no patience anymore for the crowded buses and the tourons who hold everyone else up because they can't grasp the concept of time. 

Edited by Aquahound

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A Royal Caribbean excursion to "Hell."  What a waste of time and money.  Actually the entire cruise was, so there's that.

Other cruise excursion I hated was the obnoxious people off cruise ships at the Colosseum in Rome.  We weren't on a ship but there as land-based travelers, and the crowds were almost all tour groups from large mass market ships all jostling to get a better place in the lines outside.  We saw two guides pushing each other and almost coming to blows until a third intervened.  Unbelievable.  

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12 hours ago, Aquahound said:

 

I totally agree.  Cruise line excursions are a thing of the past for me.  I stopped booking them years ago.  I have no patience anymore for the crowded buses and the tourons who hold everyone else up because they can't grasp the concept of time. 


We still book them now and then.  We only cruise small ships, and typically there are under 20 people on our excursions.   They also have little or no "shopping" time.  (Where they do offer a shopping stop it's typically short and not some craptacular souvenir shop, but a place of actual interest such as a local farmers or artisans market for 15 minutes.)

We were supposed to be on a Baltic cruise this summer, and had booked a ship sponsored excursion to the Soviet ICBM silos in Lithuania.  There was no local tour that I could find on that date.  It would have cost more in both time and dollars to rent a car, drive ourselves there and back, and return the car than what we were paying--not to mention dealing with a language we are very unfamiliar with for signage.  Nope.  Instead we decided to go stress free and take the ship excursion.  

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I recommend neither a car nor the cruise line bus tour to Chichan Itza pyramids. The road was pot holed and took 3 hours to get there and 3 hours back. Take the air flight via the cruise line, only so you do not miss the ship. The cruise lines 'generally' will wait for 'their' late arrivals, but will not wait for private late arrivals. If you go it privately take your passport and the ship's agents telephone number to arrange a flight to the next port to catch the ship, and enough cash in case they will not accept AMEX.

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I found the 'rug tour' in Istanbul 'enlightening' as a one time occurrence.  Firstly, it was not part of the itinerary that we booked. We booked the Grand Bazaar. The bus stops right in front of the entrance to the rug shop, just up the street from the Grand Bazaar (within sight). Before the doors of the bus open the guide 'asked' us to please listen to the story of rugs before we enjoy the Grand Bazaar. This 'time' allowed every able bodied man in Istanbul to form a gauntlet from the bus door to the rug store door so that the passengers were 'herded' into the shop, no escaping from the linked arms of the smiling faced shop attendants hired solely for this task, because they all disappeared when the door was locked behind us. The owner/salesman asked us all to take a seat in the round on benches (boards set on hassocks/ottomans). Turkish tea is served. Then he starts on one end and asks each of us the same question "Where are you from?" From his memory he recites back to you the name of the oriental rug store in your hometown, its owners name and the street that it is on. That immediately told me he knows prices, because he sells to these guys and there is no way any of us will get a good deal here in Istanbul. At least not from him.

   As for the Grand Bazaar, shop after shop after shop, of the same gold trinkets weighed for their price in grams. A complete waste of time to walk farther than the first shop. The prices of gold/gram was the same throughout the bazaar and everyone displayed the same thing.  For this reason it is very easy to get lost in the Bazaar, there is no unusual shop to give one a landmark to guide one back to the bus.

 

 

 

 

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In Istanbul, when our group got to the rug tour, Mrs Ldubs and I peeled off on our own.  The guide tried to stop us but we told him to go fish.   Caught up with the group later for the bus ride back.  

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17 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I confess to being outspoken on this topic, but the worst cruise ship excursion was ANY cruise ship excursion.  Early in our cruise life (mid 70s) we quickly realize that most cruise line excursions were similar to cattle calls with 50-60 folks being crammed in a bus, instructed to follow the leader, taken to places that give kick-backs to the tour company and guides, etc.  As we expanded our travel around the world the excursions got even worse.  DW and I decided that we would be much better off simply doing our own thing and sometimes using a small group private tour (we usually find these on the CC Roll Call boards).  While there are some places in the world where folks are well advised to join some kind of tour (China, Vietnam, and Russia quickly come to mind) I cannot even imagine taking a cruise line excursion anywhere in the Caribbean.   Want to go shopping?  Simply walk or take a taxi (shared transportation is very common and cheap).  Want to go to a beach?  Take or share a taxi and go to the beach of your choice.  Want to drive all over an island.  This is where you might want to join a small private tour or simply join a small group at the port (there are generally all kinds of tour options as you leave the ship or tender pier).   On some islands we actually prefer to rent a car (usually a lot cheaper than a full day tour) and drive ourselves.  

 

Another great reason we prefer to avoid tours is that in much of the world there are wonderful places to eat while off the ship.  I cannot imagine being in Italy or France and not enjoying lunch at a decent venue (we are not talking about places that cater to large bus tours).  Even in the Caribbean there are some excellent places to dine (St Maarten was known for this prior to the awful hurricane).  And just keep in mind that when a cruise line lectures you about "recommended stores" that is generally code for stores that PAY to be recommended.  This is a huge racket and lots of money changes hands (with a cut going to the cruise line).  Some of these recommended stores are actually pretty decent, but others simply make their money from the cruise line folks.  In many cases the store next door to that recommended store will have the same or better merchandise at better prices.

 

Hank

 

 

+1 on this reply.  The worse ship tour was one in Wellington NZ.  It was free because we won it and even at free, it was a waste of time and money.  They took us to a museum and spent more time giving us tea and cakes than allowing us to visit the museum.  They then drove us around the town with only 1 stop at a cathedral.  However, it was not the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul which is supposed to be wonderful but instead some other much less spectacular cathedral.

 

I learned that sometime even free isn't worth it.  In general, I feel that you are almost guaranteed that any private tour will be vastly better than any ship tour.

 

DON

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Istanbul was better when it was Constantinople, but we can't go back to Constantinople.

It's been a long time gone, Constantinople.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

That's nobody's business but the Turks.

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20 minutes ago, donaldsc said:

 

+1 on this reply.  The worse ship tour was one in Wellington NZ.  It was free because we won it and even at free, it was a waste of time and money.  They took us to a museum and spent more time giving us tea and cakes than allowing us to visit the museum.  They then drove us around the town with only 1 stop at a cathedral.  However, it was not the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul which is supposed to be wonderful but instead some other much less spectacular cathedral.

 

I learned that sometime even free isn't worth it.  In general, I feel that you are almost guaranteed that any private tour will be vastly better than any ship tour.

 

DON

For cruisers, time is a big issue.  Port calls always have limited time and when you take any kind of tour, other then a very small private tour, a portion of your time is spent waiting for others and doing things for which you have little interest.  A group tour to a museum might involve a quick 1-2 hour visit where the guide takes you to specific places on somebody else's agenda.  If DW and I visit a museum on our own we can generally cut our stay shorter or lengthen our visit to meet our own agenda.  As an example, the first time we visited the Heritage (St Petersburg) we were part of a large cruise ship excursion.  We had about 2 hours inside the museum where we saw primarily Russian art.  The next time we returned to the Hermitage, DW and I had our own Visas and were on our own.  While waiting in line to enter we joined with 1 other man and hired a private guide who used to work as a large group guide inside the museum.   He quickly took us in a special entrance for Russians and we only paid the Russian admission fee of less than $2.  After spending about 3 hours inside the museum seeing some interesting art, DW asked our guide if they had any Impressionist art.  The guide took us to the top floor where there was a large gallery of some amazing Impressionist paintings seldom viewed as part of group tours.   We had a similar experience in the Vatican.  The first couple of times we visited we were on large tours which dictated how much time we could spend in various places.  On our next visit we went on our own and spent many hours enjoying what we wanted to see....not what was on somebody else's agenda.

 

But our personal agenda when traveling in most places of Europe and Asia is food, cuisine, and sometimes wine/booze.  In Rome we will often spend more then 2 hours enjoying a nice lunch (dinner can take longer) and we often choose restaurants and cafes that are also great for people watching.  You cannot do that kind of thing on a group tour.

 

Hank

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We were passing by Hawaii and we had this tour to some holly mountain there and we were very unlucky to have a bad weather. Our guide picked like the worst car to take us there and we were stuck in the mud. We spent like 4 hours  trying to escape.. by the time the storm was over we had no other wish but to travel back to the hotel and later to the ship

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Another big issue with excursions can be the weather.  When we do our own thing we will usually do our pre-trip homework and identify the various options for a port or land day.  But unlike those who commit to cruise line excursions or many private tours, we do have the ability to change our itinerary at a moments notice.  So, if we had planned on visiting the ruins at Pompeii, but it turned out to be a very hot or rainy day...we would simply do something else that better fit the weather.   In places that we visit many times (such as much of Europe) we will often save museums for bad weather days and take advantage of good weather to spend more time outdoors.  It is the same when it comes to meals.  We might be walking down a street and spot an interesting restaurant that seems to be very popular with locals.  A quick check of the menu might make this place look good and we can simply stop and enjoy a meal without worrying about when we have to meet our group.

 

Hank

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1 hour ago, ldubs said:

In Istanbul, when our group got to the rug tour, Mrs Ldubs and I peeled off on our own.  The guide tried to stop us but we told him to go fish.   Caught up with the group later for the bus ride back.  

 

Same here.  Our awesome Ephesus tour from Kusadasi was nearly ruined by a rug tour with pushy salesmen.  Luckily it was the last last stop and was near the port, so Mrs. Hound and I peeled off and went on our own for the remainder of the day.  

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I haven't done a ship's excursion in several years except for what we call the "party boat" in Puerto Vallarta.  That's a scuba excursion with kayakers, snorkelers, and whale watchers included on a large catamaran.  It always is a blast and usually there are fewer than four divers, so it's like a private dive.  One time, I was the only diver.  After the dives, the bar opens and food is provided throughout the trip.  They follow up with a fun show.  That is the only one I will do.  The worst I had was in Cabo San Lucas where they turned it into a cattle boat and then held the diving to the skill of the newest diver.  As a PADI Assistant Instructor with more than 600 dives,  and being an underwater photographer, this was pure hell.  Only private operators for us.

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Easy question to answer for me.  Jamaica:  Ocho Rios, specifically.  A Star Princess shore excursion.

 

Booked a taxi through the Shore Excursion Office for a trip to a shopping center.  The driver and I agreed on when and where at the shopping center for me to be picked up to return to the ship.  I arrived at the appointed place and time.  He was not there.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Another taxi driver saw what I was doing and offered to take me back to the ship.  I said, "No, I'll wait a bit longer."  Mr. Driver still didn't show after another 15 minutes so I accepted the other taxi driver's offer.  He was apologetic for what I had experienced and, I think, charged me less than I expected.  A Shore Excursion staff member happened to be on the pier when I returned and I immediately went to her and told her what I endured.  She apologized.  I received a refund for what I had paid Princess plus what I paid for my trip back to Star Princess.  

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1 hour ago, rkacruiser said:

Easy question to answer for me.  Jamaica:  Ocho Rios, specifically.  A Star Princess shore excursion.

 

 

Aw, Ocho Rios.  We were offered a good deal on some weed several times during our touring there.  

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1 hour ago, ldubs said:

 

Aw, Ocho Rios.  We were offered a good deal on some weed several times during our touring there.  

 

Along with Montego Bay for me.  When I last visited Ocho Rios, my intent for the day was to leave the ship and patronize the Margaritaville near the pier.  When I saw the phalanx of taxi drivers at the exit of the pier that I would have to go through to "get to the other side", I turned around and returned to the ship.  

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10 hours ago, ducklite said:


We still book them now and then.  We only cruise small ships, and typically there are under 20 people on our excursions.   They also have little or no "shopping" time.  (Where they do offer a shopping stop it's typically short and not some craptacular souvenir shop, but a place of actual interest such as a local farmers or artisans market for 15 minutes.)

We were supposed to be on a Baltic cruise this summer, and had booked a ship sponsored excursion to the Soviet ICBM silos in Lithuania.  There was no local tour that I could find on that date.  It would have cost more in both time and dollars to rent a car, drive ourselves there and back, and return the car than what we were paying--not to mention dealing with a language we are very unfamiliar with for signage.  Nope.  Instead we decided to go stress free and take the ship excursion.  

 

Same here, while we prefer private tours, we don't automatically discount the ship's tours, especially on small ships. During our 3 days in Sydney, we did our own tours the first couple of days, then the last day did a ship's tour to Hunter Valley. We only had 4 of us on an exceptional tour - smaller group than many of our private tours.

 

For the worst ship's tour, it would be with CMV in Nynashamn for Stockholm. Guide talked for about 5 mins, then nothing else for 90 mins until reaching Stockholm. In the Vasa Museum she was dreadful, reading the signs, so I wandered the museum myself.

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