Snorkelling in Queensland’s Airlie Beach. The snow-covered peak of Mount Vesuvius volcano is seen from the archaeological excavations of Pompeii in Naples, southern Italy.
Market stall at Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. Photo: iStock
Ocean rafting at Airlie Beach.
Swimming with whal sharks in the Andaman Sea. Photo: iStock
Airboat, Florida Everglades.
Chateau de Malmaison, formerly the residence of Emperess Josephine de Beauharnais. Now manor house used as a Napoleonic musee national.
Fancy cycling down a volcano when you go ashore in Maui? Or exploring Pompeii with a small group of fellow passengers when you dock at Naples? Maybe swimming with whale sharks is more your thing. Whatever rocks your boat, shore excursions on ocean and river cruises now offer almost limitless choices. From visiting historic sites to wildlife encounters, adventurous activities and gourmet tours, you’re sure to find something that appeals, wherever you cruise.
As the booming cruise business continues to expand, cruise lines are now catering for a raft of different travellers – families with young children, multi-generational families, couples and solos of all ages and interests, and seasoned cruisers who are looking for more in-depth experiences of ports of call.
While the nature of cruising means that the ship usually spends one day in a port, which obviously limits how much you can see or do, more cruise lines are providing late-night departures and overnight stays to extend time ashore. Others are starting to offer off-ship tours that can last for a few days
River cruise lines vie with each other to provide ever-more “exclusive” experiences – banquets in palaces with the royal owners, private access to famous museums and galleries – and ocean lines are following suit. Azamara Club Cruises was one of the first to offer passengers cultural events that you couldn’t organise independently, unless you had unlimited spending money. And as on river cruise shore tours, you don’t pay extra for AzAmazing Evenings. GOURMETCRUISE LINE: Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Reflection
THE DESTINATION Barcelona, Spain
THE EXCURSION Gourmet tapas hopping. Sample Catalan cuisine at three restaurants in two different neighbourhoods – the Born Quarter and Barceloneta – and enjoy a walking tour of the famous Boqueria market on Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter en route. Drinks at the restaurants are included.
INSIDER TIP Boqueria market is closed on Sundays and public holidays.
ESSENTIALS 4 hours. From $US115; celebritycruises苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seven Seas Marina
THE DESTINATION Punta del Este, Uruguay
THE EXCURSION Parrillada grilling lessons at La Salamora. Learn to cook meat like the locals at a beautiful country eco-ranch. Sample traditional appetisers and drinks and prepare a classic South American dessert while the meat sizzles – then enjoy a hearty lunch.
INSIDER TIP Definitely not for vegetarians.
ESSENTIALS 6.5 hours. From $272; rssc苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Journey
THE DESTINATION Tallinn, Estonia
THE EXCURSION Chocolaterie workshop. Enjoy a hands-on lesson in the art of truffle making with the master pastry chef at renowned café and patisserie Chocolaterie de Pierre, after a stroll through the medieval streets of Tallinn’s lovely Lower Old Town (just to work up an appetite).
INSIDER TIP Don’t even think about dieting.
ESSENTIALS 3.5 hours. $US201; azamaraclubcruises苏州美甲美睫培训/en-au CRUISE LINE Oceania Cruises, Oceania Marina, Nautica, Riviera, Sirena
THE DESTINATION Funchal, Madeira
THE EXCURSION Wine-tasting, market tour and lunch. The ship’s Culinary Centre chef accompanies this delicious culinary adventure, which includes a tasting session at a 17th-century monastery where Madeira wines are made and a bar stop to sample the island’s popular drink Poncha. A visit to Mercado dos Lavradores farmers’ market will whet your appetite for lunch at a lively local restaurant.
INSIDER TIP Wear loosely fitting clothes.
ESSENTIALS About 7 hours. $US245.70; oceaniacruises苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE APT, Aria-class ship
THE DESTINATION Lyon, France
THE EXCURSION Dinner at Michelin-starred chef Paul Bocuse’s L’Abbaye de Collonges restaurant. Set on the banks of the Saône a few kilometres north of Lyon, L’Abbaye is not only renowned for its cuisine, it features an amazing collection of restored fairground organs. You’ll be escorted by Australian winemaker Bruce Tyrrell, who is accompanying this Wine Series cruise.
INSIDER TIP Follow Bruce Tyrrell’s choice of wines.
ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact APT; aptouring苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[15-day Romantic Rhône & Seine cruise, August 2017] CRUISE LINE Avalon Waterways, Avalon Panorama
THE DESTINATION Regensburg, Germany
THE EXCURSION Guided city walk. While exploring this beautifully preserved city on foot, you’ll visit the 17th-century Historische Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen), one of Germany’s oldest restaurants; it’s been in operation in one form or another since 1146. Grab a beer and enjoy a sausage with sauerkraut and mustard while taking in the lovely views along the river.
INSIDER TIP Leave room for tasting more German beers after dinner.
ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact Avalon Waterways. avalonwaterways苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[13-day Beer-Themed Blue Danube Discovery cruise, July 2017] CRUISE LINE APT, Aria-class ship
THE DESTINATION Grignan, France
THE EXCURSION Domayne Bramarel truffle farm. Gilles Ayme’s great-grandfather planted truffle oaks on the farm in the 1800s and harvested the first “black diamonds” in 1850. Today, Gilles’ highly trained labradors demonstrate truffle hunting and the tour includes informative discussions and a tasting session in the farmhouse.
INSIDER TIP Buy a truffle treat in the Domayne’s shop.
ESSENTIALS For details about tour duration, contact APT. aptouring苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[8-day Rhone Treasures, May and July] CRUISE LINE Scenic, Scenic Diamond
THE DESTINATION Cognac, France
THE EXCURSION Remy Martin estate. A “petit train” takes you around the 292-year-old estate because the area it covers is so enormous – 6000 barrels of the precious brandy are stored in 29 buildings. The presentations and tasting sessions are highly professional and you learn an impressive amount about how this delectable spirit is produced.
INSIDER TIP Enjoy a snooze on the bus back to the ship.
ESSENTIALS Full day trip to Cognac; scenic苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[11-day Bordeaux round-trip cruise, April to October (except August)] ADVENTURE
CRUISE LINE Princess Cruises, six ships
THE DESTINATION Juneau, Alaska
THE EXCURSION Dog-sledding on Mendenhall Glacier. Fly over Juneau’s famous glacier by helicopter for spectacular aerial views, then mush along the ice and snowy terrain on a thrilling dog sled ride.
INSIDER TIP You’ll be weighed before you board the helicopter and have to leave everything except your camera at the base.
ESSENTIALS About 2.75 hours. $US589.95; princess苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of Hawaii
THE DESTINATION Maui, Hawaii
THE EXCURSION Cycling down Haleakala volcano. You’re driven to the 3048-metre high crater rim at sunrise, then follow the guide down 21 heart-stopping switchbacks. Stop en route for photo opps and at the historic town of Hali’imaile for breakfast.
INSIDER TIP You have to be a minimum of 1.52 metres tall, aged 12 or over and weigh less than 114 kilograms.
ESSENTIALS About 4 hours including 45-minute bike ride. $332; princess苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Aria
THE DESTINATION Hamilton Island, Queensland
THE EXCURSION Off-road ATV island tour. Explore the island by racing along scenic fire trails on quad bikes and photograph stunning Whitsunday vistas from less-visited vantage points.
INSIDER TIP The driver must be 16 or over – bring your full or provisional driver’s licence with you. Your passenger must be 13.
ESSENTIALS 2 hours. From $179.99, per vehicle; pocruises苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 CRUISE LINEPrincess Cruises, Island, Caribbean & Coral Princess
THE DESTINATION Costa Rica
THE EXCURSION Zip-lining in Veragua Rainforest. In the hills overlooking Limon, fly up to 45 metres above tropical rainforest canopy and streams in 10 spectacular traverses.
INSIDER TIP Don’t even attempt it if you’re afraid of heights. You must weigh less than 122 kilograms and the minimum age is five.
ESSENTIALS About 4.5 hours. From $US99.95; princess苏州美甲美睫培训 WILDLIFECRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Eden
THE DESTINATION Exmouth, Western Australia
THE EXCURSION Whale shark swim. Knowledgeable guides take you on a boat cruise around Ningaloo Reef where whale sharks swim just below the surface, allowing you to snorkel alongside them (without touching).
INSIDER TIP Snorkelling kit, morning tea and lunch are provided.
ESSENTIALS 7 hours. Adults from $429.99, children (12 and under) from $289.99; pocruises苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 CRUISE LINE Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the Seas
THE DESTINATION Akaroa, New Zealand
THE EXCURSION Swim with dolphins. Dive off the tour boat into the waters of picturesque Akaroa harbour to swim with the world’s smallest dolphins and penguins.
INSIDER TIP You must be able to swim at least 50 metres and be prepared for water temperatures of about 17 degrees in summer.
ESSENTIALS About 2.5 hours. From $170.28; royalcaribbean苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 CRUISE LINE Holland America Line, Zandam, Noordam
THE DESTINATION Haines, Alaska
THE EXCURSION Kroschel Wildlife Refuge. For many years, TV actor-director Steve Kroschel has rescued orphaned or injured wild animals and given them sanctuary in his 24-hectare park. On Steve’s personally guided tours you’ll have close encounters with moose, reindeer and a rare wolverine, among many other native animals.
INSIDER TIP Have your camera ready at all times.
ESSENTIALS About 3.75 hours; adults $US139.95, children (under 12) $US69.95 per child. hollandamerica苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Eden
THE DESTINATION Kangaroo Island, South Australia
THE EXCURSION Seal Bay. Experienced local guides lead this tour to Seal Bay Conservation Park, where you can see endangered Australian sea lions in their natural environment of coastal vegetation, dunes and beach from lookouts on the boardwalk.
INSIDER TIP The entrance fee contributes to ongoing research and conservation.
ESSENTIALS 4.25 hours. Adults from $169.99, children (12 and under) from $159.99; pocruises苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 OUTDOORSCRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Eden
THE DESTINATION Broome, Western Australia
THE EXCURSION Broome hovercraft tour. Skim over sand flats surrounded by mangrove forests on a fascinating narrated hovercraft ride. You’ll see preserved dinosaur tracks and learn all about Broome’s coastal environment.
INSIDER TIP A great family outing.
ESSENTIALS 1.5 hours. Adults from $139.99, children (12 and under) from $99.99; pocruises苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 CRUISE LINE Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Valor, Sunshine, Pride and Magic
THE DESTINATION Port Canaveral, Florida, US
THE EXCURSION Airboat tour, Central Florida Everglades. A 15-person airboat whisks you over land and water from a fish camp outpost to protected wetlands and fresh-water marshes, home to Florida alligators and a rich assortment of birds and reptiles.
INSIDER TIP Bring insect repellent.
ESSENTIALS 3 hours. Adults $US71.99, children $US52.99;
苏州美甲美睫培训carnival苏州美甲美睫培训 . CRUISE LINE P&O Cruises, Pacific Aria, Dawn, Explorer, Jewel and Pearl
THE DESTINATION Airlie Beach, Queensland
THE EXCURSION Ocean rafting. Learn about marine life on the reef as you zip along the beautiful coastline, then look out for turtles while you’re snorkelling in clear, warm water.
INSIDER TIP Snorkelling equipment, stinger suits, wet suits and lunch are provided.
ESSENTIALS 4.5 hours. Adults from $189.99, children (12 and under) from $149.99; pocruises苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
CRUISE LINE Royal Caribbean, Ovation and Radiance of the Seas
THE DESTINATION Tauranga, New Zealand
THE EXCURSION Kayaking. Paddle across peaceful Lake Rotoiti on your way to the Glow Worm Cave, where you’ll see the magical bioluminescent light created by millions of these tiny creatures. Then head off to Manupirua Beach to relax in warm geothermal pools.
INSIDER TIP You’ll be paddling for at least two hours so you need to be fit.
ESSENTIALS About 6.5 hours. Adults from $238.08, children from $172.28; royalcaribbean苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 ANCIENT HISTORYCRUISE LINE Princess Cruises, Pacific, Sea Princess & Majestic Princess
THE DESTINATION Aqaba, Jordan
THE EXCURSION Day tour to Petra. A two-hour bus trip through the desert takes you to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, where you join a guided walking tour. Over about six hours you will see many monuments including tombs, theatres, obelisks and temples, carved out of distinctive red sandstone.
INSIDER TIP Be prepared for at least nine kilometres of walking in blazing sunshine.
ESSENTIALS 10 hours. From $US229.95; princess苏州美甲美睫培训CRUISE LINE Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Constellation, Reflection and Silhouette
THE DESTINATION Naples, Italy
THE EXCURSION Behind the scenes Pompeii tour. Discover some of Pompeii’s most fascinating discoveries on a private tour of the archeological site’s Applied Research Laboratory and enjoy an intimate group stroll through the ruins.
INSIDER TIP Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Pompeii – it’s incredibly hot in midsummer.
ESSENTIALS 4.5 hours. From $US149.00; celebritycruises苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE Crystal Cruises, Crystal Esprit
THE DESTINATION Mykonos, Greece
THE EXCURSION Exploring the sacred island of Delos. After a 45-minute caique (local boat) trip from Mykonos, you’ll disembark on Delos to walk in the footsteps of ancient gods and goddesses. Magnificent ruins include Doric temples, markets, an amphitheatre, houses with mosaics and the famous Terrace of the Lions statues.
INSIDER TIP Keep your phone and camera in a waterproof bag in case you’re splashed on the way to the island.
ESSENTIALS About 4.5 hours. $109; crystalcruises苏州美甲美睫培训 MODERN HISTORYCRUISE LINE Oceania Cruises, all ships except Oceania Regatta
THE DESTINATION Gibraltar
THE EXCURSION Gibraltar Under Siege. Learn about Gib’s oldest inhabitants, the Rock Apes, explore the 18th-century Great Siege tunnels and visit the Gibraltar Museum, which was built on the site of the old Moorish Baths.
INSIDER TIP Don’t touch or feed the Rock Apes and keep your possessions close – these playful animals are wild and wily.
ESSENTIALS About 2.75 hours. $141.70; oceaniacruises苏州美甲美睫培训 CRUISE LINE Avalon Waterways, Avalon Creativity
THE DESTINATION Normandy, France
THE EXCURSION Normandy’s landing beaches. It is only when you see the coastline and visit sites such as Omaha Beach, the Pointe du Hoc monument and the American Cemetery that you get an idea of the scale of the D-Day operations in 1944 and the extent of the carnage that took place in Europe in World War II.
INSIDER TIP You will shed tears.
ESSENTIALS Full day trip; [on 8-day World War II history-themed cruise round-trip from Paris, July] avalonwaterways苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[on 11-day Paris round-trips] CRUISE LINE Uniworld, River Ambassador
THE DESTINATION Dachau, Germany
THE EXCURSION Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The sign at the bottom of a monument at the centre of the camp reads, in several languages, “Forgive, but never forget”. An experienced local guide takes you around the camp, Dachau Museum and Jewish Memorial Chapel and offers additional insights into the horrifying history.
INSIDER TIP Nothing can prepare you for this sort of reality check.
ESSENTIALS Half-day; uniworld苏州美甲美睫培训
[on 10-day Jewish Heritage cruises, Munich to Cologne, May to November] CULTURECRUISE LINE Scenic, Scenic Gem
THE DESTINATION Giverny, France
THE EXCURSION Monet’s house and gardens. Jump on one of the ship’s e-bikes at Vernon and take a self-guided tour of the beautiful estate that is a living work of art itself.
INSIDER TIP The gardens are planted to look their best in every season and are open from March to November. There are always crowds.
ESSENTIALS Easy 5-kilometre bike ride; scenic苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛
[on 11-day Paris round-trips] CRUISE LINE APT, AmaVida
THE DESTINATION Porto, Portugal
THE EXCURSION Porto Old Town. See narrow cobbled streets and squares flanked by colourful tiled terraced houses, the 12th-century Sé do Porto cathedral, elegant shopping avenues, dozens of cute cafes and bars – and enjoy a port tasting in Gaia.
INSIDER TIP Go to Ribiera in the evening to hear fado music.
ESSENTIALS Half-day; [on 14-day Lisbon-Madrid cruises] aptouring苏州美甲美睫培训419论坛 BEFORE YOU GO
RULE ONE: OPEN SESAME
Check the day and date you arrive in port and find out what attractions will be open – for example, many museums in Europe close on Mondays and that fabulous fresh food market you’re hoping to visit may operate only on Saturday mornings.
RULE TWO: ALL IN THE TIMING
Shore excursions can take a full day or three to four hours. You’ll usually take a bus to the destination and it’s worth checking how much of the tour time is taken up travelling there and back; if travel times aren’t listed in the excursion itinerary, do a quick calculation on Google maps. If you have to sit in a bus for three out of four hours to visit a temple, say, you might choose to see something closer to the port.
RULE THREE: CANCELLED OUT
Even when you book a ship’s shore excursion in advance, be aware that it can be cancelled by the time you board the ship if there aren’t enough takers. So it’s worth having an alternative plan, or getting advice from your travel agent or cruise line about how popular your chosen tour is likely to be. Conversely, if there’s something you are really keen on doing, don’t leave booking it until you get on board.
RULE FOUR: CRY FREEDOM
If you prefer to do your own thing but like the security and convenience of being dropped off and picked up – particularly when the port is quite a distance from the destination, such as from Civitavecchia to the centre of Rome – take advantage of ship-arranged bus trips that allow you free time to explore.
RULE FIVE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Pick a tour that suits your level of fitness – if it’s too easy it could be slow and boring. Common sense prevails but to make it easier to choose, ships’ shore excursions are usually graded according to how easy or challenging they are in terms of mobility and pace; for example, if you click on the relevant icons on a Princess Cruises’ excursion description you will see a detailed outline of whether it is easy, moderate, strenuous or wheelchair accessible. SHIP TOURS v GOING IT ALONE
Booking a ship’s shore excursion takes all the hassle out of planning and if there is any delay on the tour, the ship will wait for you.
DO IT YOURSELF
Organising your own tour can save money. Research and book in advance, or check out the ship’s onboard port information and consult local tourism representatives who come on board.
Sharing a taxi with fellow cruisers can be cheaper, more flexible and fun than doing a bus tour with dozens of other passengers.
Book a tour with a company such as Viator that syncs with cruise ship visits in most ports around the world – they cost less than most ship’s tours.
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