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Excursions: Cruise Line vs 3rd party


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7 hours ago, tchampion said:

When is it best to book an excursion through the cruise line instead of another 3rd party company? What are some of the 3rd party companies you suggest? I've been looking at Shore Excursioneer (based on one of @Matt you tube videos,) why are some excursions on RCCL not listed with Shore Excursioneer? 

 

We book longer excursions (like the mostly all day ones) through Royal per the comment by @ChrisK2793 .  Getting transfers to the beach or to shopping can be done locally.  We have used Viator to find excursions, too.  I would say it depends on what you want to do.  Sometimes a particular experience just isn't available from Royal, and some 3rd parties also offer a guarantee to get you back to the ship on time. I find that if you buy excursions early at discount from Royal, you don't overpay much, but I don't take helicopter rides or other exotic excursions.  Good luck on your cruise!

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The biggest advantage to booking through a 3rd party is generally a lot less crowded excursion. There is a minimal risk involved such as the ship not waiting if there is an unforeseen delay or such but it is minimal. I remember doing a catamaran and snorkel in St. Kitts awhile back through a 3rd party. There were 4 of us in our group had signed up and when we arrived we were the only 4 people. The crew still went ahead and took us and we had a fantastic time! I have done similar excursions booked through the ship and they are always packed.

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4 hours ago, ChrisK2793 said:

One plus to booking excursions thru Royal is that if something goes wrong and the excursion is late, the ship will wait for you 

This is why I have booked with RC in the past. I know it costs more but the peace of mind is worth it to me. Now these have generally been longer excursions, mostly all day or half days where getting back to the ship on time may be a factor. I'm looking at some 3rd party excursions this time but mostly shorter ones, a couple of hours at most.

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You have to consider the port, itinerary and season.  Some ports lend themselves to using a 3rd party, for some ports it's easier to book through Royal.  

Tender ports are generally better to use Royal excursions.

As a solo traveler it's often easier to book through Royal. 

If you book through Royal you must check prices frequently.  Prices are not fixed.  They vary from time to time, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.  I've saved hundreds over the years by watching prices and rebooking when prices drop.  If you catch price drops they can be cheaper than 3rd parties. 

A huge benefit for me when booking through Royal are itinerary changes.  Cruising in hurricane season in the tropics there is an increased opportunity for itinerary changes.  When booked through Royal and there are last minute changes it's very relaxing being able to grab a cocktail and not worry about it.  If you book a 3rd party it can be hectic and stressful dealing with it from the ship when there are last minute changes especially if you don't have Voom internet.  

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As all others have mentioned, there are some risks in using 3rd parties, but I can give a big thumbs up to Island Marketing, Ltd.  We did private tours with them last Spring in Nassau, Roatan, and Costa Maya and all were wonderful with no problems.  Their web address is (location name)cruiseexcursions.com, like https://jamaicacruiseexcursions.com/about/ .  You can link to all the different locations they service through each website.  One tip - before reserving online and charging a deposit to your credit card, let your CC company know you'll be making an online international purchase, or if your CC is like mine with security features, the charge will be rejected at first, and you have to have them run it through twice.

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As mentioned several times, if something goes wrong on your excursion booked through Royal (and it will sometimes) they WILL get you back to the boat at their expense.  This happened to a friend of mine.  The boat left port so they took a boat to catch up to the cruise and they boarded like a tender would as the boat was moving.  Worth the extra money to book with Royal in my opinion!  Lots of excursions you book with 3rd parties use the exact same companies and you go with the masses to the same locations.  Just like when you go on these booked through Royal you will have people from other ships and companies at port.  Im sure there are some 3rd parties that are not though.

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