The line up of tour buses in Alexandria,
Egypt on the morning of our
A fantastic day in Giza and Cairo with
car and tour guide
was glad we weren't with
the big throng of tour groups!
On our epic
walk from Fira to Oia on Santorini
- our best self-made tour yet.
Price $0. Views: priceless!
Working hard on the 12M America's Cup
excursion in St. Maarten.
Kayaking on Mendenhall Lake with my
husband, we paddled up to
and family know that my husband and I are big on DIY projects, performing most
home renos and improvements ourselves. When it comes to vacations, we're the
same way. Before we go on a cruise, you'll find me clicking away on my
computer late at night, planning each port visit. But it hasn't always been
When we first started cruising, we always purchased
excursions through the cruise line. It was peace of mind knowing that we were
guided in a group, and we would never miss the ship. However, after a few
cruises, we grew tired of being herded and following a time-restricted agenda.
We started to do things on our own.
research I found many tour companies online that offer excursions at each port.
Their rates are competitive, often lower than what the cruise lines charge.
And most also compensate travel agents for sending clients their
And to ease
any concerns about missing the ship, many offer the same guarantee that the
cruise lines do - should they miss the ship, they will make arrangements to
bring the clients to the next port of call.
who want to set their own itinerary - like us - a private tour with guide and
driver is the way to go. This is what we did on our visit to Egypt during our
On an early
morning in Alexandria, as the masses from the ship packed onto the endless rows
of motor coaches, we climbed into our private SUV with a driver and
Egyptologist guide and headed off ahead of the giant convoy of buses.
customized our itinerary, visiting the must-sees on
our list. It was
great to bypass the shopping traps included in regular tours, although I did
succumb to ordering a gold and silver ring with my name written in
hieroglyphics - a cherished memento to this day.
experience, whenever we travel, I seek out private tour operators to take care
of our sightseeing. We've toured Paos Volcano in Costa Rica, snorkelled with
jellyfish in Palau, circumnavigated Bora Bora by bicycle, all through small
group or private tours.
benefit of using 3
rd party excursion
companies is the ability to find unique tours not offered through the cruise
line. As a travel agent, it is often difficult to
differentiate your offerings from your competitors, but providing unique
options for shore excursions can ensure your clients have a special
experience... and a little something to brag about on their return to the ship.
On our last
Alaska cruise, I found a company that offered kayaking on Lake Mendenhall
outside of Juneau. They were the only company with a license to operate on the
Lake. Being avid kayakers, we jumped at the chance and had a spectacular day
like these are what make travel so fulfilling. We have the freedom to explore
and immerse in the destination, without following a group schedule and
Key to any
DIY excursion is having the time and willingness to do the research. My husband
jokes that the time I spend researching on a place is probably 3 times the hours that we will actually spend
there. He's right of course, and it has to be worth
the investment. For me, it's what I love doing and it helps us
anticipate each exciting port of call.
Ming Tappin is a cruise
veteran with 20 years' experience in the industry and has sailed on 35 cruises
and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is passionate about cruising and is
always looking forward to her next adventure.