While Royal Caribbean shore excursions have many options, some cruisers find themselves looking elsewhere for something to do in port. Whether you’re looking for an activity not offered by Royal Caribbean, hoping to find a better price, or want to see the widest range of tours available, it’s helpful to know where to look.
It’s important to note, of course, that booking a tour through an outside provider does not come with the same benefits as booking through Royal Caribbean directly. Booking through Royal Caribbean ensures the tour operators are vetted and approved, and on the off chance your tour runs late, you can take comfort in knowing the ship will wait for you before leaving port.
That being said, booking independently can mean smaller tour sizes, more excursion options, and lower prices. The benefits of an independent tour provider often outweigh the drawbacks, especially when you are able to read reviews from those who booked the tour in the past and know that you are booking with an experienced tour company.
The following websites and tips are what we use to find shore excursions outside of what Royal Caribbean offers.
If you’re looking for a relaxing beach day with all the amenities of a resort, look no further than Resortforaday.com.
Resortforaday.com is a service that sells day passes at resorts and hotels for cruise passengers. There are currently resorts available in 23 ports, the majority of which are in the Caribbean.
The exact amenities and inclusions of a day pass through Resort For A Day vary, as offerings are subject to the resort’s policies. Some resort day passes include all-inclusive food and drinks whereas others give a food and beverage credit. Likewise, some resorts are kid-friendly and include access to a waterpark or kids club whereas others are adults-only.
A day pass at the Westin Cozumel, for example, includes unlimited food and beverages, beach and pool access, a kids club for children aged 4-12, outdoor showers, wifi, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle-boarding.
Margaritaville Beach Resort & Waterpark in Nassau, on the other hand, is not all-inclusive. Food and drinks must be purchased individually, but pool, beach, and waterpark access are available to day pass guests.
It’s important to choose a day pass wisely to ensure the resort’s offerings and ambience fit within your travel style. If you want a relaxing, quieter day in port, an adults-only resort may be the best fit. If you’re traveling with kids, though, a resort offering a waterpark or kid-friendly activities would be a better choice.
Most resorts allow access to day pass guests from around 9 or 10am until 5pm.
Tripadvisor.com and Viator.com
Tripadvisor is an excellent research option due to its lists of things to do in cruise ports around the world. To search for tours and activities in your port of call, go to Tripadvisor’s front page and click the “Things to Do” button.
Input the name of your cruise port and you’ll be taken to a page with a wide range of tours available. One of the best benefits of Tripadvisor is the amount of reviews available on the website. Reading reviews from those who have booked the tour in the past is helpful, as it allows you to learn more about the excursion’s benefits and drawbacks.
Not only does Tripadvisor list tours you can book directly through their website, but it also lists the essential things to do and eat at each location. These lists can be helpful for passengers planning a DIY excursion. Knowing the best beaches, restaurants, and attractions in your port of call can make exploring on your own a whole lot easier.
Viator, like Tripadvisor, allows you to book tours from independent tour operators, and has a wide range of tour categories available. From Arts & Culture to Classes & Workshops and Food & Drink, you’re sure to find a tour that fits your interest on Viator.
Shore Excursions Group
While similar to Tripadvisor and Viator, Shore Excursions Group focuses solely on shore excursions for cruise ship passengers. Tours are offered all around the world, from the Caribbean to the Arabian Gulf and Asia.
Shore Excursions Group makes it easy to pick a tour that fits within your cruise ship’s itinerary, as tours are filtered by your cruise ship’s specific departure date and ports of call. There’s no need to check your calendar or worry about accidentally booking the wrong day, as Shore Excursions Group has all Royal Caribbean itineraries listed on their website.
Shore Excursions Group features several different types of tours: small group tours, private tours, scenic tours, cultural tours, active tours, and city tours. Each type of tour comes with its own style, whether traveling to Alaska’s glaciers on a scenic tour or cycling through small towns in Europe on an active tour.
Message blog forums
Online message boards are a great way to find more information about your cruise ship, and they can also be a useful research tool when deciding what to do in port. Hearing from those cruisers who have been to your destination before is valuable, as they are able to offer their recommendations on what to do (and what not to do) in a particular port.
The Royal Caribbean Blog message boards, for example, have a shore excursions board where you can ask questions to fellow cruisers and learn more about what each port of call offers. If you’re wondering if a certain tour is worth it or you're trying to choose between two separate tours, odds are someone on the message boards has first-hand experience with your port of call and can help you make a decision.
Google (“port name + tour”)
Sometimes the easiest way to find a shore excursion on your own is through a simple Google search.
If you’re looking for something to do in St. Maarten, for example, search “St. Maarten tour” on Google. You can customize this further if you wish, searching “St. Maarten tour kid friendly” if you’re traveling with kids or “St. Maarten tour catamaran” if you want to sail around the island.
Google will list the most top-rated websites where you can book shore excursions and read reviews from those who have done the tour previously. It’s hard to go wrong with a Google search when researching shore excursions, and it is a good starting point for those researching activities in their ports of call.