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How to get the most out of each destination on a cruise holiday!

Genevieve Dawid is a professional destination lecturer, guest speaker, consultant, and author for the cruising industry. Cruising is her speciality and she is never happier than when at sea sharing her experience and knowledge with the cruise passengers.

Often Genevieve gets asked by cruise passengers how to get the most out of each destination on their cruise holiday! For many, such cruises are fulfilment of a once in a life time ambition, perhaps celebrating a landmark anniversary, and understandably they will want to make the most of their special experience. Of course there are many people who have been bitten by the cruise holiday bug and always learn something new with each adventure. Genevieve offers the following advice and tips for both novice and experienced cruise holiday makers:

Planning your excursions and tours

Most cruise lines offer brochures and online websites outlining details of the destinations en route and the optional trips you can be book prior to your departure. I would strongly recommend booking in advance for day trips which have a limited number of available places.

For independent travellers wanting to use a local taxi, the tour excursion desk on some ships will try and help you make arrangements with their shore based agents. A small charge is often made for this service. Alternatively, you can choose to book from the selection of excursions arranged by the cruise lines’ own on-board team. It is only if you book a shore excursion will the ship wait should there be a delay to your tour.
If there is sufficient time you might also opt to combine your independent travel arrangements with a half day tour. During the voyage the shore excursion team will provide details of the tours available. A destination lecturer, like myself, will also present an overview of the destinations to be visited, enabling you to make the most of your time ashore.  These lectures are presented live in the theatre (details are in the daily programme) and usually they are also shown later on the cabin televisions.

Utilise the information provided

I have visited many wonderful destinations and worked on many different ships. It is my “job” to present entertaining, well researched and engaging lectures to passengers, providing a wealth of informative information for each destination prior to arrival. The bespoke lectures inform passengers about the geography, history, culture (including, where relevant, what to wear to conform to the strict customs of some countries), cuisine, important landmarks etc for each destination.

The lectures are carefully structured to suit the intended audience. For example, the content and style may be aimed at families and children or have an all together different feel for presentations during specialist cruises, or those aimed at our senior citizens. However, some common issues will always be covered, such as the accessibility of destinations for passengers with limited mobility.

Equipped with all this detailed local knowledge and tour excursion notes, passengers are able to get the most out of each port destination on their cruise holiday.


Disembarking the ship at a destination

Before you go on shore, you will need to take your personal cruise card in addition to local currency and a map usually supplied by the shore excursion team. Always take your cruise daily programme with you as it lists an emergency number for you to call should you need it.

Take a look at the personal possessions you have chosen to take onshore. Do you need to take with you all your credit cards, passport and drivers licence? How would you feel if they were lost or stolen?  There is petty crime all over the world, please don’t make yourself a target by wearing your best jewellery and expensive watches. Only take hand bags if you feel you have a good reason to and limit its content to the absolute minimum.
Be aware that some countries do not allow any food, beverages or medication into their country, so you will need to check the guidelines before you leave the ship.

Do take an umbrella or a waterproof as I have seen rain in the driest of locations.
One other bit of important advice; don’t forget to change the time on your watch as the cruise ship enters different time zones! Also check the ship’s departure time shown as you disembark the ship. Passengers simply must return on time:-

“Don’t be late, the ship can’t wait!”

Advice on transport while on shore

Over the years tour options have changed considerably. You may for instance choose between activities located further inland or enjoy a relaxing panoramic tour closer to the port. Do read or ask for the tour excursion notes prior to booking as they will provide sound advice on the location being visited including terrain (such as steps to climb, uneven ground, etc), refreshments and so on.

Public transport facilities will usually only accept local currency although taxi drivers may take foreign currency.

If taking a taxi then do always agree a price before setting off. Write down this agreed amount on a piece of paper. Then write down, preferably in the local language, the place or landmark(s) where you want to visit. Also do check the car for safety and essentials such as a spare tyre!

If the taxi driver agrees to take your own chosen currency rather than their local currency, check how you will receive any change and at what exchange rate! I also recommend you try and find a language that you and the taxi driver can converse with. 

Hire cars are an option although sometimes a hassle and whatever you do always carry a good map with you. Plan your trip carefully before you set off especially if you don’t know the area.

The “hop on”, “hop off” buses are typically a great way to see the local area and good value for money, although the voice over is usually in several languages and so sometimes difficult to follow.

Trains are often a cheap method but you must be certain of the timetable and of any track maintenance that may cause diversion or cancellation.  Do leave plenty of time to get back to the cruise ship in case of delays.

Some destinations may have local traditional transport on offer, such as horse and carriage. It’s a good idea to wait until there are several waiting carriages as that will be the time to negotiate the best deal. If you get off the ship at 9.00am, don’t rush to be first. Perhaps wait until 11.00am when you may be able to secure the ride for half the price. When negotiating always agree the payment method and exactly what you will receive for your money.

Sharing transport obviously reduces cost, so it’s worth trying to tie up with other like-minded passengers. Anyone travelling alone, especially the ladies, they are strongly recommended to find a companion to accompany them when planning any independent travel away from organised excursions.

For independent travellers, do visit the Tourist Information Centre as they will have up to date information on attractions, opening and closing times, discounted vouchers and much more.

Also for students and senior citizens many destinations offer discounts on transport and discounts or free entry to attractions and museums. Usually you will need to show your passport or a copy of it (personally, I prefer not to take my passport out of either the cabin safe or purser’s office). Or if applicable your student card.

Enjoy your cruise holiday

Each cruise line operator offers a slightly different emphasis as well as differing tour itineraries. So when planning a cruise take time and professional advice to ensure you chose the right ship and destinations which suit your personal tastes and circumstances. Whichever cruise line you choose, you are sure to experience some unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime moments be it riding camels or elephants, holding Koala bears, feeding kangaroos, experiencing the world’s fastest train, journeying on old steam trains through beautiful valleys, snorkelling in the Barrier Reef, going up volcano’s, or simply taking in the culture of an enchanting destination.

Whatever you chose to do, I wish you a fantastic time at each port destination on your cruise holiday.

 

Genevieve Dawid

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