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Enhance Your Cruise Excursions: Forward Planning Helps You to Get the Most Out of Your Cruise

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published June 4th 2022
cruise, poolside, getting the most, relaxation
Will You Lounge Poolside or Participate in the Games?

Cruises are the perfect solution for couples that want to reduce the schlep and add to the number of sites to see. Unpack once and your hotel moves whilst you sleep at night. Glorious.

We spend our vacations as we spend our lives. Full tilt or relaxed, it's mostly the location that changes. So, if you're a planner, use your skills to get the most out of your next cruise adventure. Taking the time to customize your experience allows you to capture the very best of every destination.

Until you know what's there, though, an overview sightseeing tour when you first visit any new location is highly recommended. Utilize the Hop On Hop Off Bus in your departure port city when you allow an extra day.

To maximize the value of your time ashore, there are several steps you can take before you start your journey.

tourist, traveler, currency, ease of trip
Have the Proper Currency - these are Euro coins

First, have the proper currency. Rick Steves recommends using your ATM card abroad as one way to reduce fees. If you don't want to do that, have sufficient funds exchanged prior to departure (Euros, Sols, NZ or AUS dollars) or find a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. Credit cards won't give you as good an exchange rate as you'll typically find from either using your ATM card or exchanging money at home, but the convenience may make up for the cost.

Second, learn the language or at least be able to say these five wherever you go:
a. Do you speak English?
b. Please
c. Thank you
d. Where's the bathroom?
e. May I please have a glass of wine?

tourist, traveler, currency, ease of trip
Get Your International Drivers License

Third, if you're considering renting a car, get your International Driver's license and consider learning how to drive a stick. They're much more common in Europe and usually cheaper to rent.

TIP: Save yourself a lot of heartache if you get a car, buy the insurance.

Planners find great value in perusing the ship's itinerary well ahead of time to laser focus your interest. It leaves you shipshape, knowing the amenities and entertainment available. The excursion list is the blueprint from which you'll make your adjustments. Pick your favorites. Discard anything that doesn't interest you.

Take your excursion list over to your search engine. Google "Day Trips from (your port)." See what TripAdvisor, Groupon, AirBnB Experiences, Expedia, or Travelocity have to offer at the same port and time. Or find the same company that caters to the cruise ship and contact them directly. See how their price differs.

Check out for unique, off the beaten path experiences earlier visitors recommend. Your photos will be different from anyone else's, and so will your experience.

Visitor's Bureau, help, traveler, tourist, journey
Visitor Centers are Invaluable

Reach out to the visitor's bureau at each of the ports. They know what's going on in their city. Special festivals, little known attractions, hidden gems. Tell them what you're interested in and they'll help tailor your experience to your specifications.

Use these ideas to build and expand your itinerary.

Sign up for your favorites. Remember that excursions range from adrenaline rush to total tranquility. Be sure to mix them up throughout your voyage.

Look for different ways to get your pulse pounding with a variety of diverse excursions. Set up a road trip at one port, a walking tour at another, a bike tour at the next, a water activity in the middle, a cooking lesson, a museum. For a true treat, choose an aerial adventure over volcanoes or rain forests anything outside your ordinary life (and buy the recording so you can re-live it with friends and family back home)

TIP: for walking tours, go a block off the main promenade either direction, and find interesting, usually less expensive, stores and cafes with locals delighted to help enhance your visit to their town

helicopter, travel, excursion
Helicopter Trips Bring Special Requirements

TIP: for helicopter adventures, wear dark clothing to decrease your reflection that disrupt your photos

Full day trips may be best booked directly thru the cruise simply because the cruise ship guarantees they won't leave without you. That peace of mind has come in handy on more than one occasion and allowed a "sit back and enjoy" attitude instead of sweating out the clock when a mishap occurs.

Don't put your vacation at risk by waiting in line at the museums. Pre-purchase your tickets online and skip the queue. Always.

When starting or concluding your journey, consider extending your trip a few extra days on either side in your port city. Whether time before to adjust to a new time zone, or time after to figure out how to re-pack your bags to allow for all your new purchases to get the suitcase closed and under the airline maximum weight, extra days can be a godsend. It also gives you the opportunity for a deep dive into this local culture.

Vacations are too valuable to waste even a minute. Make sure you enjoy every minute, even if that minute involves sitting poolside on the ship. Planning your journey will enhance your experience and increase the likelihood of your having a once in a lifetime, personalized trip.

Great news! When this one is over, it's time to start planning the next.
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