Congratulations! You are all set! You’ve booked your cruise and are now at the exciting stage of planning your time ashore.
Decisions, decisions… Not only are there so many fantastic tour options to choose from today, but there are now so many fantastic tour operators touting them! All of them vying for your attention by way of slick looking websites and equally slick sounding promises. With some asking you to part with your credit card details claiming that ‘we won’t charge you – this is merely required as a guarantee’.
And this is where I ask you to please stop for just one moment and think about the decision that you are about to make.
I ask you this. When coming to the decision as to which cruise line you chose to cruise sail with, am I not correct in presuming that safety and ethics played a big part in that decision? You are, after all, trusting them with the most precious of all cargoes – your family, your friends and yourself. So why would you want to put that precious cargo at risk and purchase a shore excursion from an on-line outlet that you are not 100% sure of or familiar with?
At first glance, an independently sourced tour option can appear amazing value for money. And maybe it is. You have read first hand the reviews stating the operator was great, the guide was amazing and the tour was offered at a fraction of the price. And do you know what? Maybe it’s true. Maybe the operator was actually great and delivered a fantastic experience for these guests. Maybe…
It’s alarmingly easy to set up a professional looking website – and at the risk of sounding patronising and condescending,I do think that some of you reading this post would probably be shocked if you only knew quite how easy. Reviews can be faked. As can impressive credentials and fancy logos. These so-called operators might respond to your email enquiries with friendly efficiency – all the while displaying a professional command of the English language. So far so good.
But what if it’s all fake? Stop and consider the consequences. You might arrive at the port only to find there is no-one there waiting for you. You spend the best part of an hour, maybe two, searching for your contact – phoning the number you were given (at an expensive overseas rate). The clock is ticking and there is still no sign of the promised contact holding up a sign with your name on it… and hang on a minute, that phone number you were given has all of a sudden gone to voicemail. It’s only then that you then realise you’ve been conned and not only that, they’ve stolen your identity and maxed out your credit card in the process. You have become a victim on internet fraud. A victim of today’s ever increasing cybercrime.
The other possibility is of course that they actually DO turn up. The roadworthiness of the vehicle is decidedly questionable, your promised ‘friendly and knowledgeable English speaking driver guide’ doesn’t speak a word of English and quite frankly, you and your family could well be in grave danger. You are taken to shops and sites that were not part of the agreed tour itinerary where you are encouraged to shop (back to that credit card thing again) and the included ‘authentic local lunch’ is both unidentifiable and inedible. And just while we are at it – that vehicle you are travelling in – is it insured? Are you 100% sure?
All in all, was it really worth it? Are you sure that the tour you purchased on-line really was of better value and ultimately cheaper than the one you could have effortlessly purchased via your cruise line? The chances are that it was not.
Everyone loves a bargain, me more than anyone so I completely get the attraction. But when it comes to safety and value for money when spending time ashore in a foreign country – my professional advice on this occasion would be to not be swayed by the ‘too good to be true’, and stick with the cruise line. (This is aside from the old adage that the ship will not wait for you if you miss the all-aboard. You can be sure it won’t.)
Unfortunately the lucrative shore excursion market has resulted in the internet becoming a veritable breeding ground for such criminal activities, and it really is my sincere opinion that the safest and best option is to purchase your shore excursions via your cruise line.
Having worked in the shoreside shore excursion for many years – both as a guide and as a land based shore excursions manager , I can honestly say that the amount of work that cruise lines put us though in order to make sure we deliver the best possible shoreside experience, would surprise you. Every single part of each and every tour comes under scrutiny – the tour description, the tour content, the detailed timings, and the overall value for money. Background checks on guides, drivers, vehicles, safety management, risk assessment, crisis response, insurances, restaurants. The checklist is quite overwhelming and leaves no stone unturned. Assigned local operators really do represent the best in local services and must be at the top of their game – continually come up with new tours, keeping up with new attractions and alerting the lines to any new regional activities. Believe me, if there is something new and noteworthy going on in a port, your cruise line will know about it and will be offering it.
I have no doubt that there really are some reputable independent shore excursion operators out there in this big beautiful world of ours. And I sincerely respect that it is a cruise passenger’s choice how they choose to spend their money and their time ashore. If you think about it, the rise in cybercrime is much more damaging to the reputations of those legitimate and reputable on-line shore excursion providers than it is to the cruise lines. But why take the risk?
It’s an unfortunate fact that cruise passengers today must be extra vigilant when making their shore excursion choices and subsequent purchases. Today’s passengers must keep in mind that by choosing to go-it-alone in a misguided bid to save a few dollars, they might inadvertently and quite unintentionally be putting themselves and their loved ones at risk.
Be safe, be aware and please take care.