There are some fantastic cruise deals around, but what about getting off the ship and exploring the ports? You want to enjoy the ports, but the ship’s tours are expensive. How are you supposed to enjoy the ports when you are on a budget? I worked on cruise ships for twenty-five years and this is what I would recommend to cruise ship guests.
1. If it’s your First time in port and the ship is docked in an attractive spot. You don’t need to go far to enjoy it. See below for more info because sometimes the ship is docked in a shipping container port which isn’t attractive and you have to navigate your way into town.
2. Find out how you can get the Free shuttle buses to where the main attraction is in port, see below.
3. Take lunch with you, especially if you are going to a beach for the day. Take a bottle of water, a couple of soda cans, and grab some fruit and pastries from the breakfast bar sorted.
4. Research the ports before you go. Sometimes the local transportation is easy and very inexpensive to get around. More tips on this are below.
5. Book a local tour or rent a car. Most ports provide free tourist information on the dock or in the terminal. Just go to the desk, ask what the best tour is, and book a tour or rent a car directly with the operator. You will pay the local price, and they will make sure you are back to the ship in time before the ship sets sail. What port are you visiting? Most of our maps have the Tourist information desk highlighted. Drop us a note in the comment box below.
6. Just grab a cab and head to the nearest beach or ask how much for a half or full-day tour. Prices are per person, so be clear on the price, but you can negotiate upfront, not after the tour. They know all the best spots for photo opportunities, delicious local food and drink. Quiet beaches, local hangouts and local souvenir shopping. There is only one thing you mustn’t do when taking a private taxi, more on that later.
7. If you are a shopper some of the ports are famous for shopping, it depends on your budget, but a lot of the shops we recommend give away gifts and incentives to visit them. So even if you are on a tight budget, you can pick up freebies, gifts with purchases, exclusive discounts and more. Click here for your free maps.
1. First Time in Port.
Some ships dock in the shipping container docks, which is miles away from the main attraction in port. It’s just logistics, and it can’t be helped, so you have to get to the main area. 99% of cruise lines are obligated to provide shuttle buses to the destination. Here are a couple of ports where this happens Civitavecchia, Zeebrugge, Cartagena and Rio de Janeiro. These ports are ginormous, and it is wise to take the free shuttle bus to get to the main port. You need to make sure you know where you are going for safety reasons etc.
Here are some ports that have it all in terms of walking off the ship and enjoying the destination:
- Grand Turk – the beach is right there, with shopping and bars. Click here for tips on Grand Turk.
- St. Maarten – shopping, bars and beaches
- St. Lucia – shopping, bars and beach. Here are some tips on how to get to the Pitons which is a must.
- Cozumel – shopping, bars and some beaches.
- Zante, Greece – shopping and beaches
- Rhodes, Greece – shopping and beaches
- Kusadasi, Turkey
- Believe it or not, Monaco, the walk into town, is gorgeous.
2. Does your ship provide a free shuttle to the centre of town?
Find out where your ship is docking and if the ship has a free shuttle to the centre of town. Often this isn’t advertised until the morning you arrive. The cruise lines like to sell as many tours as possible, and guests think there is a free shuttle. They are less likely to buy tours. So make sure you ask the question when you get on board. You can either go to the Shore Excursion desk or the Reception or Front Desk. It might also be advertised on the Cruise line App or the Daily program this, of course, will save you a ton of cash.
If it is your first time visiting this port, simply explore the surrounding areas. If the ship is docked close, just head back to the ship for lunch, then go back out again. I always advised the guests to split the day into two halves. One half hit the beach, site see or shop than the other half do something else. that way you get to experience more on your cruise.
Or contact us, we have a list of resorts and luxury shopping complexes that offer free shuttle busses to their location. Tell us where you are cruising and we can share the info with you.
3. Take lunch with you.
There is so much food on the ship, and you have paid for it at your cruise price. Go for the full monty breakfast. Fill up on pancakes, waffles, bacon eggs, omelette and toast. Enjoy all that gorgeous food and to be honest you won’t want much for lunch. But just grab some fruit, maybe a couple of Danish pastries wrapped in napkins. A big bottle of water, a couple of cans of coke or whatever you like to drink. I’ve even taken those tiny boxes of cereal like Frosties or sugar puffs. Why not, then, when you get back. You can always grab a burger or hot dog before showering for dinner later.
As with tip 2, you can always come back to the ship for lunch, then head back out again for some much-needed shopping or site seeing.
4. Research the ports before you go.
There is local transportation in a lot of cruise ship ports. We recently visited Bruges when we cruised on Valiant Lady. We decided to travel there ourselves. I was apprehensive because my sister and brother-in-law came with us, and they had never cruised before, so I didn’t want to get them lost. But I found it all relatively easy here were the steps we took, which saved us approx $50 each = $200 / £150.
We took the free shuttle bus that the cruise line provided from Zeebrugge to Blankenberge.
We walked around the corner to the train station, the signs the same in any language.
I got in the cue and paid for return tickets to Bruges – €6.73 / $7.39 / £5.65. (For up to date exchange rates, check here)
Trains run on the hour, and the ticket lady explained in English our train from Blankenberge to Bruges and what time the trains were to return.
Blankenberge is a small station, see this picture. It is easy to figure out which platform. Most people we spoke to were friendly and conversed in English with us.
When we arrived, it was easy to walk into town. It was a beautiful walk.
Getting back was just as easy, and we saved $200 / £150 because the ship was providing a shuttle bus into Bruges from Zeebrugge, but it was $60 per person, which I thought was expensive.
5. Book a local tour.
If you are visiting a biggish port, there is most likely a booth or desk with a local expert who will give you free advice about the best thing you can do in port. Whether that is the direction to walk to the closest beach / local attraction/shops, bars and restaurants, or they will be able to book you a local tour. The best part about booking a local tour is paying the local prices. As you know, the standard of living on each island is different from country to country. So some tours are an absolute bargain if you book locally. You might not need to wait until the ship docks. You can easily find tour operators in each destination online. I have written a few blogs with links to independent tour companies, dive companies and special boutique tours. If you want to book a land or water tour for the destination you are headed to, just let us know, and we will send you a link to the blog that covers that destination.
For example, here is a blog about Secrets To Cruising To St Kitts and Nevis. – Cruise, Shop, Save (cruiseshopsave.com) and Best Way To Get Around Grand Turk – Cruise, Shop, Save (cruiseshopsave.com). Also, there is How To Get To The Pitons From Cruise Port – Cruise, Shop, Save (cruiseshopsave.com). If the ports you are visiting are not listed, let me know, and I will be happy to send you an email with tips on saving money in that port. I have cruised to most destinations, and I don’t plan on slowing down yet.
6. Just grab a cab
I have had some of the best tours with the local taxi drivers. I’ve still got their contact details on my phone. But here are some dos and don’ts of taking a cab to show you around the island.
- Make sure you negotiate the fare before setting one foot in the cab.
- Be warned the price they are giving you is most likely per person. So make sure that is clear before you get into the cab.
- The good thing is that you can negotiate but again, make sure you do that before you get in and repeat over and over what the price is that you have agreed.
- Make sure you know how long the tour is, half-day is that 4 hours – full day how long is that?
- Where are they taking you to, and make sure it includes where you want to go.
- The Cab driver will always take you to the most beautiful photo opportunities. Take you somewhere that serves fantastic local food and drink.
- It’s okay if your cab driver takes you for some local souvenir shopping. Still, a word of warning don’t shop for expensive watches, jewellery and electronics with a local taxi driver. They can take you to an unauthorized shopping location. I have seen guests get taken for a ride before. Pardon the pun.
7. If you are a shopper.
Most ports have excellent shopping right where the ship docks, so most destinations are tax and duty-free if you love a bargain. You can get bargains on tax and duty-free goods such as liquor, tobacco, watches, jewellery, souvenirs and, in some cases, electronics. But buyer beware in most places. I have been recommending shopping to cruise ship guests for over twenty-five years. I know where is good and where it is not. Suppose you want to go shopping only shop with the guaranteed and recommended retailers. You can also beat the crowds and get straight to the manager or the store owner so you can cut to the chase and get the best price only the Manager or Owner can offer you.
If you’re not in the market for a tax-free deal, you can always enjoy the shops, pick up some fantastic gifts, grab yourself some gifts with purchases, and get deeper discounts. We have this season’s maps all up to date with coupons on the back. Exclusive offers just for Cruise Shop Save followers and fans.
Just send me a message below, let me know where you are cruising to, and I will send you a PDF copy of your map with up to date coupons on the back.
If you are serious about shopping, saving up to 65% on watches, jewellery, etc., send me a message, and I will arrange for you to beat the crowds and get straight to the deals. You are on holiday, so you don’t want to spend all day cueing when you could get in, get your watch or piece of jewellery, then hit the beach and grab a cocktail.