I’ve been on quite a few cruises (17), and I always enjoy exploring the various ports. Sometimes, I book excursions through the cruise line. Other times, I book 3rd-party tours or just take public transportation to nearby sites. My daughter and I will be sailing on an MSC cruise around Norway this summer, and I’m blown away by the sky-high prices of the cruise ship excursions.
Cruise Ship Excursion vs. 3rd Party Excursion Prices
In the town of Flam, Norway, the main attraction is the scenic Flam Railway. It is rated one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. The cost of booking the train through MSC for me and my daughter combined is $244 USD.
However, if I book through the Norwaysbest.com site, the total price for the two of us is only $104. The train stops very close to the dock, so I see no reason to book directly with the cruise line in this situation.
The spectacular Stegastein Viewpoint excursion through MSC would cost us a combined $163.
In Nordfjordeid, we could book the Loen Skylift excursion through MSC for $310.
But, if I book directly through the Visit Nordfjordeid site, the price is $189 for the 2 of us.
Lastly, in Alesund, a Hjorundfjord Cruise booked through MSC costs $236.
If I book through Visit Norway website, my total cost is $121.
As you can see, we could save a lot of money (almost 50%) if we go with 3rd party companies for excursions.
Drawbacks of booking through 3rd party websites
Why doesn’t everyone book through 3rd party websites if the price is so much better? A few reasons:
- Cancellation policies: Usually, excursions booked through the cruise line have better cancellation policies. For example, if the cruise can’t dock at the port due to bad weather, the cruise line will refund your money. Not all 3rd party excursions have the same policy.
- Late arrival policy: If you’re on a cruise line excursion and you get back to the port late, the ship will wait for you. If you’re late from a 3rd party excursion, the ship will probably leave without you.
- Convenience: Many cruise ship excursions meet on the cruise ship and guide you from the ship to the bus/boat/train. With a 3rd party excursion, you usually have to find your way from the dock to the meeting point by yourself. There’s more “DIY” involved.
I’m going to book 3rd party excursions in at least 2 of our ports for this cruise. We will be docked for 11 hours in each of these ports, which is plenty of time to accomplish what we want to on our own. If our schedule was tighter, I’d be more likely to stick to the cruise line’s excursion. And, in at least one port, we plan to book nothing at all! Alesund is a port stop we can easily navigate without any tour.
Do you stick with cruise ship excursions? Or, do you book 3rd party tours or explore on your own?