I tried going alone on a group shore excursion, and it was a smart way to enhance my Mediterranean cruise

19 Jun 2024
Calista Kiper

How can you safely explore ports on a solo cruise?

Whether you enjoy traveling alone or have a travel buddy back out at the last minute, solo cruises are a great way to enjoy a peaceful vacation on your own terms.

However, it's normal to feel concerned about your safety.

Traveling to a new place always poses new challenges and requires research to make sure you stay safe while exploring the port. 

Especially if you're a young woman like myself, you may be wondering how to safely exit the cruise ship and tour ports without getting robbed or worse.

While on my second solo cruise, I decided to try group shore excursions.

This month, I traveled to Spain and Italy on a 7-night Oasis of the Seas sailing,

With the chance to see historic cities like Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and Naples, I wanted to ensure that I could explore safely and see all the Mediterranean ports had to offer.

I purchased three Royal Caribbean shore excursions: one in Florence, one in Rome, and the third in Naples, visiting Pompeii.

After taking three different group shore excursions on my own, I discovered they were a great way to enhance my cruise and safely see the world.

1. I didn't have to exit the ship alone

One benefit of purchasing shore excursions through Royal Caribbean was that the tour groups met directly on the ship.

Instead of exiting alone, I just had to walk down a few decks to the Royal Theater.

This was a huge benefit, especially in Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy, which are infamous for pickpockets.

No matter where we walked, I was traveling in a larger group who could look out for each other.

Read more: Where to keep Seapass Card, phone, and cash when on a shore excursion?

2. Tour guides ensured I made it to and from my destination

Solo trips can be dangerous because there's no one else to look out for you.

If I'd explored ports on my own, there would be no one who knew where I was going or what time I planned on being back.

In contrast, shore excursions through Royal Caribbean provide tour guides, whose job is to make sure you get to your destination and back to the ship safely.

One of my guides took her responsibility so seriously that she called herself our "mother" for the trip.

Each guide would take note of every person's name and room number, ensuring that they could easily check if anyone was missing.

Not only that, they also provided emergency numbers to the tour guide and the company. 

If I'd gotten lost or in trouble, I had someone to call.

Even when tours gave us free time to explore, we were assigned a meeting place and time, so they would have noticed if I didn't return.

These measures served to ease my anxiety and free my mind to enjoy the historic cities.

3. I could strike up conversations and make friends with my tour group

Group tours also provided the opportunity to meet people and make friends, rather than exploring every city alone.

Whether we were taking the bus to Rome or walking around Pompeii, I found that there was always someone I could talk to or relate to.

This made it less lonely to travel by myself, especially because many of the other cruisers were also from the U.S.

Even while solo traveling in a foreign country, a group tour allowed me to find people who spoke my native tongue.

Safety in numbers applied here. The more people I met and talked to, the more could recognize and look out for me.

And vice versa applies: when I saw cruisers I recognized from my tour, I gave them directions and passed on information from our tour guide.

4. Background information was provided about each location

When you're traveling alone, there's only so much information you can teach yourself.

And while I checked out books and read articles about the destinations I planned to visit, you don't know what you don't know.

As a solo traveler, you don't want to be that person standing in the middle of the street Googling where to go, so my tour guides became an invaluable resource.

Each of my guides hailed from the region we were visiting and took the time to tell us about the history and culture.

They taught us words like "thank you" and "good morning," handed out maps of the cities, and pointed out important landmarks.

In Florence, we received some free time to explore on our own. Before we left, our guide even pointed out the restaurants she recommended we visit.

Getting background information from a knowledgeable local was one of the best ways I enhanced my cruise.

5. Some tours provided water and bathroom access

Another benefit of purchasing shore excursions is that it often becomes an all-in-one price.

When you pay for one, you receive transportation, a tour, and sometimes food, water, and bathroom access.

While my Mediterranean cruise took us to exciting destinations, the cruise ports were often pretty far from the most famous cities. For example, it took us three hours to travel from the cruise port, La Spezia, to Florence, Italy. 

Read more: Top 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid

Having transportation already taken care of really eased my mind.

Additionally, the tour guides ensured we made bathroom stops and told us where to get food or water.

One culture shock I experienced in Europe is that you have to pay to access public restrooms.

However, our tour guides ensured we wouldn't have to. To prevent us from paying, they took us to rest stops or gave us tickets that would exempt us.

This saved me money and lessened the number of places I would have to find and go to alone.

6. The ship waits to depart if we get delayed

Royal Caribbean shore excursions are also great for solo cruisers because the ship is contracted to wait for you if the tour is delayed.

When we were traveling to Florence, our tour was delayed by an hour because of an accident on the road. We didn't get back to the ship until 7:00 P.M.!

I felt better knowing that the crew would have to wait for us before they sailed to our next port.

As a solo traveler, getting left behind in a foreign country by yourself sounds like my worst nightmare!

Staying with a group for my tours ensured that I wouldn't be left alone, and the ship would wait for us if anything happened.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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