Forum members at the Prow's Edge Cruise Forum have lots to say about shore excursions, and our favorite comment comes from one of our regular readers who complains about the "sheep mentality" of the majority of cruise passengers when they take a cruise.
In the forum, Cruising Mike says: "I can't believe how much like sheep cruise passengers are - especially when it comes to shore excursions - they blindly follow the crowds to the shore excursion desk and book away their tours without doing any research and then wonder why they paid $100 for a bus tour they could have done just as interestingly by themselves - FOR FREE!"
While the generalization may be a little unfair, it is astonishing to discover how few cruise passengers really prepare for the shore activities before they get to the ship and their port of embarkation.
Our favorite example of this occurred on a cruise to Alaska calling in at Sitka, where passengers paid over US$100 for a bus tour of the town, including a stop off at a famous landmark. The entire tour could be seen from the deck of the cruise ship. Passengers watched the "sheep" line-up for half and hour to board the bus (the walk into town would have taken 3 minutes) and then followed the progress of the bus as it wound it's way slowly around the tiny town, stopped at the famous church, off loaded the tourists, waited half and hour for them and loaded them all back on – to head back to the dock where it took them all another 20 minutes to get off the bus and head back to the ship.
It's a great dinner story, but a sad indication of how so many cruise passengers fail to do their research before going on a cruise.
The key is to spend as much time, if not more, on finding out about the destinations on your cruise as you would on the cruise and the cruise ship itself.
There is a wealth of information about the various ports of call on the internet. This is what Google is here for. And it's your responsibility to find out what your options really are – before you board the ship.
As in the case of the Sitka tour above, clearly a little probing and research would have saved those hapless passengers a lot of money.
Of course, not all shore excursions are designed to take advantage of gullable cruise passengers. And indeed, that Sitka example may well have been perfect for the elderly and those unable to walk very far, and even for those with money to burn who don't want to be bothered to do the research. For some, part of a cruise is not having to think for themselves.
Also, many of the cruise tours and shore excursions are beyond simple internet research – like helicopter tours to fly up to the glaciers in Alaska, or around bubbling volcanoes in Hawaii, and a good number of cruise lines offer fascination and unusual excursions that are simply beyond the the scope of you and I and Google : like those offered by Windstar Cruises as outlined in our news page at http://www.prowsedge.com/cruises-news-050310-windstar-cruises.html. who offer exciting options like a bike ride on the city walls of Lucca, Italy, or painting lessons with a well-known Croatian watercolorist in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The bottom line is that you need to take a look at your destinations, see what the various cruise lines offer in the way of exploring the areas, and make your decisions - but make them on the basis of being informed.
This way you might avoid being the butt of a great dinner story and get to take home some truly memorable cruise stories of your own.