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World cruisers: Do you research and pre plan excursions or explore on your own?


Tapi
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Hello World cruisers:

 

I’m someone who starts researching ports of call and planning activities ashore well in advance. I like to have everything planned and booked. Not a “let’s go ashore and see what we can find” kind of guy. 
 

While that has worked fine on shorter cruises with a handful of ports of call, researching and having activities pre planned and booked for each port of call on a world cruise sounds overwhelming. So, what do seasoned world cruisers do? Do you research and plan each port of call? Do you only plan activities on some? Go with the flow? I’d love to read your feedback! 
 

Thanks for your time! 

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47 minutes ago, Tapi said:

I’m someone who starts researching ports of call and planning activities ashore well in advance. I like to have everything planned and booked. Not a “let’s go ashore and see what we can find” kind of guy. 

 

I am as well.  As much as it is possible.  

 

During my world cruise, I had visited a few of the ports previously, had done the standard "visit the port" type of tours, and was OK with a repeat of a couple of them since some time had elapsed since my last visit.  But, there were ports that I had visited and had learned about experiences/sites that I either missed or I wanted more time to visit.  Those were the times when I arranged my daily schedule, used public transportation, and toured on my own.  

 

In ports that were new to me and ports where I did not think DIY type use of my onshore time would be a good idea, I depended on the ship's shore excursions most of the time.  I have joined fellow guests for a shore excursion when someone arranged it in advance of the cruise for the tour.  I have had more successes in doing this than disappointments.  

 

There are some DIY experiences that are better experienced alone rather than with a group.  A "take your time" thorough visit to the Vatican Museum (standing aside as the tour groups pass you by), the Star Ferry across Hong Kong harbor (try First Class one way; Second Class the other way), a drink and dinner at the Sky Tower's Restaurant in Auckland at sunset, and many others.  

 

 

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20 hours ago, Tapi said:

Hello World cruisers:

 

I’m someone who starts researching ports of call and planning activities ashore well in advance. I like to have everything planned and booked. Not a “let’s go ashore and see what we can find” kind of guy. 
 

While that has worked fine on shorter cruises with a handful of ports of call, researching and having activities pre planned and booked for each port of call on a world cruise sounds overwhelming. So, what do seasoned world cruisers do? Do you research and plan each port of call? Do you only plan activities on some? Go with the flow? I’d love to read your feedback! 
 

Thanks for your time! 

 I am like you. Have not been on a World Cruise before but various longer cruises. Was very successful previously with tours arranged by fellow cruisers or on my own. Had an incredible Anchor Wat trip arranged by a fellow cruiser at less then 1/3 of the ships tour and better service. I do usually check online on various sites what the best places are to visit and then pick what I want to do and if the ship-excursion offers what I want at an acceptable price I will book with them. Have been twice in Manila and would most probably have never gotten back to the ship if I would have been on my own, but one reason for that is that I want to see as much as possible being lucky to be in that place. I start planning and researching from the day I book and it is part of the fun.

Right now I am booked on two World Cruises with Costa and they have high quality excursions at reasonable prices, if not even included, so at the moment so far I will only do 2 ports on my own. I do watch cruisers in my home country aimlessly walk around, believe me strolling through the parking lots in Road Town is no way to enjoy our beautiful island. Have fun planning.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My travel buddy and I are both compulsive planners/researchers, but also willing to throw away the plan if a better idea emerges as we go.

 

We are booked on the 2024 World Cruise on Regent, which includes excursions in the fare.  But we do the research on what we want to see/do before choosing excursions (or deciding to go off on own). We also look up average temperatures for the date, to help with knowing what to pack, and things like local currency and languages. I’m attaching (I hope) a copy of the planning chart I started for that cruise. 

 

 

world cruise 2024 planning chart.docx

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For planning a World Cruise, I normally start planning & research, well over 1 -year in advance. The research normally starts with developing a Word document for each port. Here is a sample for Bay of Islands NZ.

 

07 - Russell, Bay of Islands.docx

 

I also research the requirements of all countries, for both of my passports

 

Visa requirements by country.xlsx

 

Since COVID requirements are constantly changing, I will update this 4 to 6 weeks before departure.

 

I also develop a shore-ex/private tours spreadsheet, which tracks the name/cost of tours we are considering and then eventually book. The shore-ex info is automatically added to our calendar on the cruise line's website, so I add all private tours. I then print the calendar and post a page on the cabin bulkhead daily.

 

The Word planning documents are finalised for the actual tours we book, then printed and bound into a book. This is invaluable, as by the end of the cruise we can never remember what tour is in each port.

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36 minutes ago, Heidi13 said:

The research normally starts with developing a Word document for each port. Here is a sample for Bay of Islands NZ.

 

That is a very thorough piece of research!  I appreciate you sharing that.  Considerably more detailed than anything that I have tried to do.  

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On 5/29/2022 at 10:53 PM, wishIweretravelling said:

My travel buddy and I are both compulsive planners/researchers, but also willing to throw away the plan if a better idea emerges as we go.

 

We are booked on the 2024 World Cruise on Regent, which includes excursions in the fare.  But we do the research on what we want to see/do before choosing excursions (or deciding to go off on own). We also look up average temperatures for the date, to help with knowing what to pack, and things like local currency and languages. I’m attaching (I hope) a copy of the planning chart I started for that cruise. 

 

 

world cruise 2024 planning chart.docx 54.39 kB · 22 downloads

Thank you

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@Tapi … I research every port.  That’s not to say that I book a tour in each one … I book where I feel a tour would provide the best experience … usually a private tour with a small group.   As for other ports where we DIY, sometimes I know exactly what we will do, but most of the time the research I do in advance just allows me to decide what to do when we arrive based on weather etc.  Knowing what there is of interest to us before we arrive means that I am not wasting time figuring out what there is to do after we get there and we can make the most of our time in port.

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That much planning & research can feel overwhelming.    While I’ve yet to do a World Cruise, we do have 49 day trip coming up this fall: a week in London, a 14 night cruise, a week in Rome, then a 3 week Med cruise - 
the result of the past 2 years’ travel getting rolled forward.   Maybe sharing how I approach this trip can help you. 
 

I’ve worked on the planning in chunks, with an excel workbook for each big piece.   That allows me to have a Schedule tab (looks like a calendar page, one column for each day, then times down the left).    As I research and start filling in plans, I can see if we have too many “very busy” days in a row and make adjustments.   
We also like to have time open to wander, so certainly every hour is not planned 😊

I often create a tab for each port, where I can put in pertinent info, list excursions that look interesting, etc.  
 

I get Fodor’s and/or Rick Steves guidebooks, read these boards, look on TripAdvisor.   Eventually things change from feeling like I’m looking into a kaleidoscope to having some clarity about each part of the trip.  
 

It is a lot of research and planning, but I mostly enjoy it.   Our trips have worked out really well; we waste little vacation time trying to figure out what to do.   
 

For me, the key is working on one part at a time.  
 

Now, I have friends who are not planners - they may have a very few things they know they want to see, but otherwise prefer serendipity.  
The important thing is to know which kind of traveler you are.  
 

Enjoy

Mary

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yes, it really depends what kind of traveler you are. I am now always getting organized in advance. My son and me had ended a cruise in Rio and had all the things we wanted to do, procrastinating we ended up missing out on Rio by night. When we finally got around to book it we noticed it was the evening of our flight so not possible. We are going to spend 2 month in Europe this summer and I just send my daughter the spreadsheet because she is going to meet friends in Barcelona and in Lisbon and she was shocked thinking she had so little available time, not realizing some excursions are just a few hours and evenings are free. At least I know that we will have plenty of free time but still will see things. I do make sure that I also have sufficient time for laundry days, so no stress.

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  • 1 year later...
On 6/2/2022 at 5:00 PM, Mary loves to travel said:

That much planning & research can feel overwhelming.    While I’ve yet to do a World Cruise, we do have 49 day trip coming up this fall: a week in London, a 14 night cruise, a week in Rome, then a 3 week Med cruise - 
the result of the past 2 years’ travel getting rolled forward.   Maybe sharing how I approach this trip can help you. 
 

I’ve worked on the planning in chunks, with an excel workbook for each big piece.   That allows me to have a Schedule tab (looks like a calendar page, one column for each day, then times down the left).    As I research and start filling in plans, I can see if we have too many “very busy” days in a row and make adjustments.   
We also like to have time open to wander, so certainly every hour is not planned 😊

I often create a tab for each port, where I can put in pertinent info, list excursions that look interesting, etc.  
 

I get Fodor’s and/or Rick Steves guidebooks, read these boards, look on TripAdvisor.   Eventually things change from feeling like I’m looking into a kaleidoscope to having some clarity about each part of the trip.  
 

It is a lot of research and planning, but I mostly enjoy it.   Our trips have worked out really well; we waste little vacation time trying to figure out what to do.   
 

For me, the key is working on one part at a time.  
 

Now, I have friends who are not planners - they may have a very few things they know they want to see, but otherwise prefer serendipity.  
The important thing is to know which kind of traveler you are.  
 

Enjoy

Mary

Very similar to how I plan trips.  I tried traveling without planning once and got home to find we had missed some things we would have loved.  So….don’t do that anymore.   Planning is part of the fun, but can easily be overwhelming.  I have to step away every so often and remind my self that it is ok if I don’t find the perfect day in every port.  We do a combo of ship tours, private tours, planned self guided walking tours and wandering on our own.  When we are doing land travel I’ve learned to put in a or parts of a couple of days about once a week to relax, catch up on paperwork, do laundry, etc.

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Right now I am researching excursions for my 2024 World Cruise. Costa is pretty slow with putting excursions up and since there is hardly anyone on cruisecritic roll-calls for Costa I am having problems finding excursions for 1 person only. It looks most excursions even on Tripadvisor, Viator, Getyourguide and Toursbylocals are for private groups now and hardly offer anything for 1 person to join. I am on cruises to see the world so only in Ports I have done already what interests me, I will just walk around by myself and even then I will find something to do, for example in Barcelona I will use the day to visit Casa Battlo and Casa Mila, which I missed when we were staying in Barcelona previously. So now my excel worksheet has in lots of ports points of interest listed to research again at a later date.

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2 hours ago, BVILady said:

Right now I am researching excursions for my 2024 World Cruise. Costa is pretty slow with putting excursions up and since there is hardly anyone on cruisecritic roll-calls for Costa I am having problems finding excursions for 1 person only. It looks most excursions even on Tripadvisor, Viator, Getyourguide and Toursbylocals are for private groups now and hardly offer anything for 1 person to join. I am on cruises to see the world so only in Ports I have done already what interests me, I will just walk around by myself and even then I will find something to do, for example in Barcelona I will use the day to visit Casa Battlo and Casa Mila, which I missed when we were staying in Barcelona previously. So now my excel worksheet has in lots of ports points of interest listed to research again at a later date.

Check out whatsinport.com for info about what's in every port one can imagine.  We use it for info that the cruise lines don't like to share - such as you can step off the ship and it's an easy walk into town.  The cruise line would rather sell you an excursion than have you go off on your own.  After our third visit to Athens on a cruise, we explored the port city of Pireaus.  And that was after the cruise director said there was nothing to see there. Print out the map from whatsinport.com and you're all set.

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/9/2023 at 6:44 PM, SargassoPirate said:

Check out whatsinport.com for info about what's in every port one can imagine.  We use it for info that the cruise lines don't like to share - such as you can step off the ship and it's an easy walk into town.  The cruise line would rather sell you an excursion than have you go off on your own.  After our third visit to Athens on a cruise, we explored the port city of Pireaus.  And that was after the cruise director said there was nothing to see there. Print out the map from whatsinport.com and you're all set.

I cannot thank you enough for your recommendation of whatsinport. We are booked on Cunard’s South American 79 day circumnavigation and this is precisely the information we had been looking for. We have taken a number of cruises and like to mostly do-it-independently as we dislike the shopping opportunities and food stops offered on many of the shore excursions preferring to spend the time walking and trying small cafes. There are some places where the safety of ship’s excursions are preferable and this site will help us figure out where. Thank you again for sharing. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 5/12/2022 at 2:32 PM, Tapi said:

Hello World cruisers:

 

I’m someone who starts researching ports of call and planning activities ashore well in advance. I like to have everything planned and booked. Not a “let’s go ashore and see what we can find” kind of guy. 
 

While that has worked fine on shorter cruises with a handful of ports of call, researching and having activities pre planned and booked for each port of call on a world cruise sounds overwhelming. So, what do seasoned world cruisers do? Do you research and plan each port of call? Do you only plan activities on some? Go with the flow? I’d love to read your feedback! 
 

Thanks for your time! 

Tapi,

 

The answer for us during our recent WC was "yes"--we research and pre-plan and do-it-on-our-own.

 

In fact, Tracey and I strongly recommend taking time to research all of your ports on your WC well before your WC.  Although we had done lots of traveling before our WC, we learned a lot about how we like to travel and experience ports--of course, there was a bit of trial and error. 

 

First of all, to define terms, to us, researching is far more than looking for what excursions are available on and off the ship.  Rather, we like to get an understanding of what makes that port (and its surrounding areas) special, what are the sights and sites that might be interesting to us, and then make a list of what we most would want to see.  Only then, we would recommend looking at what excursions are available.  

 

You next need to make an assessment of what level of risk you are comfortable with.  Honestly, our WC made us much more adventuresome travelers and our risk adverse level became much more permissive.  Why this is important is that if you are in a port which you would feel comfortable enough to DIY, we found we saw much, much more--including those prioritized sights and sites--for much, much less.  This is especially true if the port day is largely about seeing the port's city.  Hong Kong was a great example for us.  We walked off our ship with a plan of the sights/sites we wanted to see and had a wonderful experience for a fraction of what others paid to do an excursion on the ship.  (I'll note that your own mobility and health issues would be a consideration as we often would put in 30K+ steps in during a DIY port day.) 

 

Yet, if the conditions of the port (language, culture, security) are beyond what you are comfortable with, then you probably will not want to DIY.  For example, Colon, Panama was beyond the level (due to security) that we felt comfortable with heading out on our own.  While we didn't take a ship excursion or a private excursion, we rented (with other WC passengers) a taxi from within the port which was much cheaper than a ship excursion, but also had some safeguards that made us more comfortable.

 

We still do ship/private excursions if there are a few conditions that are met.  1)  Is the ship excursion included?  Our WC had a series of included excursions, however even then we DIY'ed a few of these ports as the provided excursion didn't hit the sites/sights that we wanted of that port.  2)  Does the excursion offer an experience that would be too difficult to accomplish on your own?  These might included special access to a venue or travel to multiple sites.  3) Speaking of travel--Does the site/sight mean you will be traveling 1+hours away from the port?  Depending upon the time in port, this might not be as much of an issue, but when we stopped in Aqabah, Petra is 2 1/2 hours away.  We could have done this with a private vendor, but based upon the time we had in port, we would not have had enough time to recover if our van/car had broken down.  A major advantage of a ship excursion is you are nearly 100% guaranteed to get onto the ship (we had a couple ports where the ship left 2 hours late due to ship excursions caught in traffic).  

 

So again, the answer is "yes".  We feel that only through doing your research of the ports can you really be able to make the decision that is right for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 8/12/2023 at 12:03 PM, JanR said:

First of all, to define terms, to us, researching is far more than looking for what excursions are available on and off the ship.  Rather, we like to get an understanding of what makes that port (and its surrounding areas) special, what are the sights and sites that might be interesting to us, and then make a list of what we most would want to see.  Only then, we would recommend looking at what excursions are available

I think researching is half of the fun and does most of the time involve watching youtube, going on tripadvisor and all other sites offering excursions. Youtube especially helps me watching people on excursions, whether it will suit me. On the excursion to Iguazu Falls I saw the boat ride included in the ship-excursion was not something I would enjoy, so I talked to the agents and they turned me on to the 2 hiking trails on the falls and doing that was a great experience. Quite a few of the other passengers on the tour actually joined me and comparing our experience with the people doing the boat-tour we had a much better time. Something I would not have known if I would not have gone onto youtube and seen people being miserable, soaked in the boat by the water from the fall.

Tripadvisor Forums have proven especially helpful to me. Costa had previously offered a tour to Sentosa Island but then cancelled it because the Tiger Sky-tower is permanently closed. But that had gotten me interested in visiting Sentosa Island. Did you know that the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia is on Sentosa Island? I did not.

I figured out what all I wanted to see there and went on TripAdvisor Singapore Forum because to work out the transportation had gotten to overwhelming. And there is my Hero - Singapore expert, now I know how to get there, how to get around and due to him discovered the Sentosa Express to get me back. I am a happy camper and looking forward to the 1/2 day I will hang out on Sentosa Island. A lot of times the excursions offered anywhere do not really cover what you would like to see, so you have to make up your own.

Hong Kong also took quite some time, to figure out how to see all the places I wanted to see without having markets included in every excursion I was looking at. Made it work with 2 full days only visiting one market. I have been in Hong Kong several times before so markets were not something I wanted to do again.

Another Cruise Critic member is on the same cruise as me and has recommended quite a few excursions to me, which I did book. He is a great planer and a big help to me, who also put me on to sites offering excursions I had never known about before. For most cruise lines you might have an active Roll-call to help you with excursion. One time on our HAL roll-call we ended up getting an incredible deal for a side-trip to Angkor Wat, one of the best side-trips we ever did and priced way below the ship-excursion. Found by one of our fellow-cruisers and organized by her. So I hope for you that your roll-call will be an active one with lot's of options.

I always think I don't know whether I will ever get back to that port or city again and I travel to see things and want to see as much as possible.

Have fun.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/12/2022 at 9:32 PM, Tapi said:

Do you research and plan each port of call? Do you only plan activities on some? Go with the flow?

 

These are the months I do exactly this: planning my world cruise. Yes, planning! I travel for seeing the world, not to stroll without orientation through unknown ports and watching containers being unloaded at the other end of the world, while I miss everything. My own planning is done now for the very most parts and took a bit longer than the cruise will!

 

On 8/14/2023 at 7:55 PM, BVILady said:

I think researching is half of the fun

 

Yes, it can be. Learning about the parts of the world we will visit is great indeed, but sometimes it can be frustrating as well. Always when plans don’t match with reality. Too often I regard excursions - regardless whether ship or third party excursions - as being too short. I’ll be enough days at sea. I don’t want to spend my port days aboard, but ashore. There are ports I perhaps never will go to again. Doing things on my own requires transport in the most cases and this is not everywhere as easy as taking the metro in port or jumping into a taxi or calling an uber.

 

On 6/3/2022 at 12:00 AM, Mary loves to travel said:

That much planning & research can feel overwhelming.

 

Indeed. But besides the amount of ports visited this is not really different from other cruises. It includes a lot of planning until I definitely know what I want to do in a port. In ports I have been several times already it is obviously easier, I can decide whether I’ll to do something again in depth, or to visit new things. For sure I won’t just do in a known port just an overview tour visiting a lot sights superficially, while exactly this might be my choice for a first time visit.
 
Ports new to me require a lot of work. For not being overwhelmed by the amount of information I looked only at a few ports at a time along the route. Not just one, because two ports in the same area of the world could offer similar things and this means also to decide where the offer could be better or where an alternative is better. If I can't decide I go further and have a closer look later again. For quite a number of ports I already knew what I want before the cruise line excursions came up, but these excursions can also be used for inspiration.
 
All information I compile in spreadsheets, one page as general agenda, one with excursions, one with needed means of transport, one with payment details, one with visa to be arranged… Where it is possible I include direct links to the source of information. Very important information as booking confirmations, descriptions of booked excursions or maps I collect as pdf files arranged by date. Recently I collected the Cantonese writings of the destinations I want to visit in Hong Kong, just to be sure that in case I would need a taxi I can show it to the driver. At least I try to prepare well.

 

On 8/12/2023 at 6:03 PM, JanR said:

We still do ship/private excursions if there are a few conditions that are met.  1)  Is the ship excursion included?  ...  2)  Does the excursion offer an experience that would be too difficult to accomplish on your own?  These might included special access to a venue or travel to multiple sites.  3) Speaking of travel--Does the site/sight mean you will be traveling 1+hours away from the port?

 

Valid points to take into consideration, but I wouldn’t limit it to these points. On my upcoming world cruise I will do some excursions of the cruise line, more often I booked with independent operators and in some cases I do things completely on my own. Only one thing won’t happen: stepping off the ship without having a clue. At least it won’t happen without change of itinerary during the cruise. It doesn’t matter to me whether a ship excursion is included or not, if I am not convinced I simply don’t take it. Do I like another excursion better than the included? I’ll pay for it. Things can’t be that cheap that I waste my time in port. I am not in panic that I could miss the ship. First of all most companies offering shore excursions are very aware of the factor time, some are even insure for missed ships, which is of course offered much more for the peace of mind than for covering a very likely risk. I take into the account how much time will be between planned return to ship and all-on-board time. Things are very different whether the ship is moored directly in the centre of the town visited or travelling takes hours. With very tight timing, however, cruise line excursions are my first choice as well. The only times I returned aboard too late was with ship excursions! When I go on my own I start early and go first to the places far from port and return step by step.
 
In the end most excursions on the world cruise I will do with local companies, the least number of excursions I’ll do completely on my own, while on my last cruise I did most things on my own and none with the ship. Everything depends on possibilities. With organised excursions I don’t need to care about transportation, in some places this can be quite limited. On the world cruise as it looks today I only once will rent a car, at least seven times I’ll use mainly public transport. Sometimes I can just walk. Funny: in Sydney opera tickets are for sale by the cruise line, shuttle bus included. But they warn that from bus stop to the opera 20 minutes walking is involved. We will dock at Overseas Terminal and Google tells me that walking from ship directly to the opera takes 14 minutes. I bought a ticket on my own for a fraction of the price and will walk all the distance. The many organised excursions also reflect the fact that I want to get explanations from a guide, to know what I see. That I’ll mostly will go with local companies has to do with a broader selection in many ports, that too many ship excursions return already for lunch and sometimes with the price as well. If two excursions go to the same spots I don’t pay much more to enrich the cruise line. But also the opposite happened, I selected pretty early a third party excursion and when the cruise line excursions came up they offered exactly the same for much less.

 

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I forgot:

 

On 6/9/2023 at 7:44 PM, SargassoPirate said:

Check out whatsinport.com for info about what's in every port one can imagine.

 

Since many years my starting point for planning cruises as well.

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