Royal Caribbean to Enhance European Shore Excursions with New Port In Jamaica

From the announcement made last week that Royal Caribbean is to upgrade the liners Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas with facilities from its Oasis-class ships, Royal Caribbean International, the cruise operator, will be showing off even more improvements for cruisers with a whole new shore excursion package that spreads across fifty five ports in twenty two Mediterranean and European destinations, meaning guests can now design a cruise holiday that is tailored to their individual requirements. A well as this, the cruise-line has revealed more details of a brand new port it is building and is scheduled to open sometime in Jamaica in 2011.

Private Excursions, Easy Tours and Family Activities

With its recent successes in Russia, Royal Caribbean International is now allowing it’s guests the chance to arrangement their own private shore excursions to explore Mediterranean and European destinations from thirteen ports-of-call including Greece, Israel, Egypt, Finland, Italy and Sweden. Passengers who do not wish to be limited by a fixed itinerary can now have the cruise line arrange programs and allow access to a private bus for each tour that can provide for up to ten people and at the same time enjoying stress free sightseeing.

Royal Caribbean has also designed a selection of new half day shore excursions specifically designed for families and multi-generational groups. Some of these activities include a Pizza Making experience in Sorrento, Italy. Here visitors are given a city tour which is then followed by a professional pizza making class and lunch to enjoy their cooking, also a Sea Kayaking adventure in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to take in a different perspective of the beautiful city and its historic architecture.

The cruise line is also extending its offering of what it calls “Easy” tours for passengers with difficulty standing for large amounts of time or walking, as well as adding fourteen new programs meaning that there is now thirty three in total. Guests can explore the old town of Trogir or sample Sardinia’s finest wines or perhaps take in the views of the many artistic and historical landmarks in the area from the comfort of their own transport, which has been modified with lifts and access ramps where possible.

Royal Caribbean International is currently focussing on the European cruise market, with eight ships currently sailing in Europe this year. The cruise operator is set to further extend its presence in 2011, when it will have a record breaking eleven ships in and around Europe waters.

Plan your own verses Pre-planned Shore Excursions

When you are planning a cruise vacation, part of the process is also planning out the shore excursions that you will be taking, after all sightseeing is a major part of any cruise holiday. Making the right choices with your day and overnight trips is important to consider carefully because its at this stage you may end up causing the costs of your cruise to go sky high!

Typically Shore excursions can be bought onboard ship from the tour desk that most ships will operate. The range of trips are often numerous and will range from half a day coach trips which will cost about £30 / $50 up to exciting adventure excursions that may well cost up to £200 or $300 per person.

The possibility of arranging you own shore excursions or simply plumping for the shore excursion on offer by the ship will usually depend on a few factors; perhaps you know the area, or there is something specific you want to visit. Also consider the local language, if you speak Spanish or French you might be able to communicate easily with the locals, plenty of destinations speak English also, so by finding these facts out in advance can help you make the decisions when planning the days trips.

If you a planning to arrange private tours, some independent tour operators may be cheaper, you can either contact the tour operator directly before the cruise or hire a local guide when you have arrived in the port. Sometimes it can be a good idea to group up with some other people on the ship that you might have made friends with over the past few days; this can make the overall costs of the excursions cheaper too.

If you want a personalized shore excursion, then hiring a local guide is a really great idea. You will be able to plan you own timetables; with the guides advice and you will definitely get to see more than on the standard cruise line offering. You could even grab a guidebook and go off your own if you are really adventurous, most European cities have good transport links, with the major hubs having signs and translations in popular European languages especially English.

One important point to take note of is that if you are planning a day trip that is not planned by the cruise line, that you ensure that you get back to the ship in time for its departure, if a passenger misses a ships sailing, it their own responsibility to get to the next port to catch up with the ship, this could be a costly mistake to make and is something to avoid at all costs.

Sometimes it really is easier to stick with the standard excursion offered by the ship, if you want to just have a nice day out without any worries then this can be the best choice, in the end there a advantages and disadvantages of planning your own cruise shore excursion and you will probably want to make up your own mind at which ports you want to make your own decisions or just go with the standard day out packages.

One last point, is to make sure you have contacts number with you, each port will have a contact number for the port agent that you can get from the staff on your cruise liner, that way if there are any problems that mean you get stranded you can at least keep the ship staff up to date with what’s going on, and maybe they will be able to help you out.

Going Ashore – Spending time in Port

Going Ashore

Unless you are cruising the Atlantic or perhaps on a cruise without a destination, then your ship will of course spend time in port.

So that each cruise line can have differing and attractive itineraries to attract and encourage new passengers to travel with them, they will attempt to include a vast variety of activities ranging from surfing to day visit to the culture capital cities of the world.

Once you have arrived aboard your ship, unpacked and gotten the lay of the ship worked out, you will no doubt find that the cruise liner, as a means of transport is about as carefree and relaxing as you would have imagined. You will be travelling between destinations in luxury and even though life about a modern cruise liner is the epitome of relaxation, visiting the ports and places that the ship will be calling at is an intriguing opportunity to investigate and explore new surroundings and cultures.

Spending Time in Port

If as a cruise passenger, you are interested in spending as much time in port as you can, then making sure you select the right itinerary for you is important. This clearly involves looking at the schedules of the cruises and identifying which ports the ships will visit as well as how long the stay will be. This is especially important if you have something specific you want to see on your European cruise, for example in Rome or Venice.

With a ship arriving in port at roughly 8am in the morning, passengers will be able to leave the ship within half an hour, once the finalities of docking have been seen to, this will include something sometimes called ‘clearing’. This is the process whereby before passengers are allowed ashore, the local officials will come aboard to inspect the ships paperwork and perhaps examine some passenger’s passports to ensure everything is in order. Depending on circumstances this may be quite quick are take longer if for example passengers who have specific immigration requirements do not present themselves promptly.

Sometime cruise liners will not actually dock at certain port, perhaps the waters are too shallow or the dock too small, in this case a boat called a Tender will take passengers ashore, generally those with pre-booked shore excursions with the cruise line will get priority and everyone else will be on a first come first served basis usually using a ticketing system.

One thing to bear in mind is the most cruises will require its passengers back aboard at least half an hour before departing, so for a typical 8am until 4pm day this will give you seven hours or so to fit everything in. This is where planning comes in handy.
Some places a quite small, however places such as Venice in Italy are too large to explore in one day, so making sure you know what you want to see in advance is an advantage (this includes using a few maps to figure out how you will get to each place). Alternatively this is where a pre-planned cruise line arranged excursion has the advantages, its all done for you so you don’t need to worry about missing out.

Some ports of call will be overnight stays, in this case the ship will not arrive and leave in one day bit will dock overnight. This means that you will get the excellent opportunity to dine ashore, rather than aboard ship if you so prefer. Also it means that you can explore further inland, for example if you were docking a Spanish port such as Barcelona or Valencia.

With so many different shore excursions on offer from the cruise lines, especially for European cruise operators, shore excursions are something that should be part of any cruise vacation.