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It is usually a lot less crowded on the excursions which because we like to snorkel is important to us.  Also usually less expensive.  For our zipling we were able to do more tricks than the ship excursion allowed. I always make sure they have 5 star reviews and are a reputable company.  Their reputation relies on them getting you back to the ship in plenty of time so we never worry about being late getting back to the ship.

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15 hours ago, jill wozhere said:

What are the pros and cons of booking shore tours through RC or booking privately? 

When we were taking our son to Uni at the Gong, we used Viator to book an excursion to the Australia Zoo, but this was after our cruise when we were on land.  The excursion operator kept to schedule.  On cruises, if all we want is ground transportation, we can find that on our own in port.  But if we are going on a long trip, such as 7 or 8 hours, we prefer Royal because of our faith that they will wait for our excursion to return.  So I would say it depends upon your trust with the 3rd party operator and whether the excursion allows 2-3 hours of extra time "just in case".   It also depends upon whether you really want a very specific excursion that Royal doesn't offer.  In the big scheme of things, I don't believe saving $10 on the excursion price is worth much, but doing something special I would otherwise miss might be worth a small risk.  Having taking about 30 excursions with Royal, I can recall two where there were traffic issues -- accidents on the highway that slowed our return to port.  In both cases we arrived at the port in plenty of time for "normal" re-boarding.  I like Matt's advice to consider both Royal and 3rd party operators depending upon your situation.

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