While I’m not a huge cruiser, I have been taking four, sometimes five, cruises per year these last few years. I like the convenience factor of cruising and the fact that they offer such excellent value. My kids also love cruising so much right now too, which makes it easy to book a cruise instead of other types of trips.
I typically book with MSC Cruises because kids ages 11 and under are free on most itineraries and their pricing is usually the best anyway. And before anyone asks, MSC Cruises doesn’t pay me to say these things! They really do offer the best pricing. For my upcoming Norwegian fjords cruise in June, for example, our balcony cabin on the MSC Meraviglia was around $3,100 for the seven-night trip. However, competitors like Royal Caribbean and Holland America were charging more like $7,000 and up for similar itineraries!
Of course, the cruise fare itself isn’t the only cost involved in cruising. You also have excursions to book at each port you stop in — or not. You don’t have to book anything at all, but I typically do.
The thing is, I normally plan our own excursions instead of booking with the cruise line. Here’s why:
You can help the local economy.
I always prefer to spend my money with the people of the destination I’m visiting instead of a big corporation. Case in point: Whenever I go to Jamaica, I hire my friend Lyndon from Purpose Driven Tours to pick us up from the airport or take us to a beach. Lyndon is an independent business owner, which is rare for tour operators in Jamaica. When you spend money with someone like Lyndon, it goes directly to their family without a big company taking 50% or more off the top.
You can run things on your own schedule.
During our March trip to Ochos Rios on the MSC Seaside, Lyndon suggested we go to Puerto Seco Beach, which is about an hour from the cruise port. I’m so glad we went here! The water was amazing, the food was plentiful, the people were so friendly, and it wasn’t crowded at all. There’s also a huge floating water park at this beach resort for the kids. You should definitely check it out!
The thing is, MSC Cruises also took a group to this beach. But because it was a group trip, they were only there from around noon until 3:00 p.m. Since we went with Lyndon and he picked us up as soon as we could disembark, we were able to stay at the beach from 10: 15 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Self-guided tours can be a lot cheaper.
Self-guided tours can also be less expensive. For our upcoming Norway cruise, this was especially true. While I did book a hiking tour to a glacier with MSC Cruises, I booked our shore excursions through the fjords separately. Out of Flam and Stavanger, we’re cruising the Nærøyfjord and Lysefjord for a little over $300 USD for six people instead of the $500 USD+ we would pay if we went with the ship.
Do you ever plan your own shore excursions? Why or why not?
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