Land-TouringWhat about touring while on a cruise vacation? Tours can be purchased from the cruise line, done on your own or you can combine the two. Booking it through the cruise lines has some advantages. Some of them are obvious.

By taking a cruise ship tour you are assured that the cruise line has thoroughly examined the places they will take you and will rate them according to their difficulty. This lets you know ahead of time if this is the right tour for you. They are always run by local tour companies and these companies want to keep that business. For this reason alone they go above and beyond to keep you happy.

With a cruise ship tour you know the equipment -buses, trains, vans and sometimes airplanes- are A-one. They will always have English speaking tour directors but they also supply tour guides that speak other languages as well. You never have to wait in line to get into museums or other attractions- a big time saver. And of course, all of the work is done for you by the tour companies and the cruise lines. And it is safe. The cruise lines would never put you in a dangerous situation or take you to a dangerous location. There are always a couple of cruise line employees on the tour to make sure no one gets lost and that the bus leaves with the same amount of people that it started with.

When going to a new or exotic port I would recommend the cruise lines excursions. Some of the most wonderful excursions we have taken were cruise line tours.

Really, for a first time visit this is the way to go. And if you choose this option when the tour guide tells you to be back at the bus at a certain time, be there. By being late you are inconveniencing all the others on the tour and jeopardizing the remaining stops that are scheduled. When you get back to the ship look all around your seat for your belongings and don’t forget the rack overhead.

On the flip side of cruise excursions, you will be traveling in buses with lots of people. It will always be more expensive than doing it on your own. You’re paying for the work that has gone into the sites visited and the expertise of the tour guide

When touring on your own make sure you have the name and number of the port agent in case of an emergency. (This is quite handy if you miss the ship). Always know what time your ship leaves. Do NOT rely on the time printed in the initial brochure that you read at home. The departure time will be printed in your daily schedule and will be posted at the gangway. Things change and sometimes ships leave earlier than previously announced.

If you miss the ship it is your responsibility to meet it at the next port. Not a situation you want to be in. If you want to visit a place on your own make sure it is open on the day you are visiting the port.

Use common sense when touring. Don’t wear lots of flashy jewelry, leave it back in your cabin locked in the safe or in the safety deposit box at the purser’s office.

Use a handbag that zippers shut and keep a firm hand on it. Rome, Italy is notorious for expert picket pockets with all kinds of ways to trick you.

Wear comfortable shoes- your days are long when touring and you will probably be doing a lot of walking. Don’t wander off on your own, stay with the group. Layered clothing in the colder climates is very sensible since you may leave at 8:00 am when it’s still cold out but by noon it has warmed up. Pack some wet ones so you can clean your hands. We always pack an apple or candy bar for a little pick-me-up in mid afternoon on long tours (our tour from Le Havre, France to Paris was twelve hours).

I pack a small purse that has a handle that you can zip to make it into a back pack or it can be worn over the shoulder and in front of you. The pack always contains Tums, any medication I am taking, an extra pair of glasses, one for sun the other for indoors, bottled water, a book for long bus rides, a small snack, a collapsible cup, wet ones and tissues. My money and credit cards go in the inside compartment completely zipped up. When touring in large groups or large cities I put it over my shoulder with it facing forward and I always have a hand securely around it. If you are at an outdoor café don’t put on the seat next to you or hang it from the back of the chair you are using, keep it on your lap. You don’t have to be paranoid just be sensible. By following these guide lines you will have an enjoyable tour experience, no matter which option you choose.