If you’re in the process of planning a cruise, you are probably also considering booking one of the many shore excursions that cruises offer. Shore excursions provide cruise passengers the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of a port of call. From sightseeing tours that visit historical landmarks to exotic jungle treks and adventurous zip lines, shore excursions offer many thrilling opportunities for travelers.
Unfortunately, cruises often work with outside providers when offering shore excursions, and the safety standards and quality of tours can vary significantly from port to port and even from excursion to excursion. Passengers should always take the time to ask questions and familiarize themselves with tour operators and their safety records before selecting a shore excursion, especially when choosing higher-risk activities. Shore excursion accidents are common, so it’s important to do your research before booking a tour.
If you are considering booking water sports, zip lines, or other “adventure-type” excursions, it is always a good idea to research the sport and understand the basic safety requirements operators are required to have. Ask about the safety measures that will be taken and how often equipment is maintained and replaced. You should also ask to ensure operators are properly trained, licensed, and whether or not a safety briefing will be offered prior to commencing the activity.
It’s important to research tour operator safety protocols before you book the tour because many cruise lines impose a cancellation penalty, and if you discover an operator’s practices are subpar after booking, you may not be able to get your money back. In order to avoid disappointment or injury, passengers should take the time to read all the fine print, including cancellation policies and required levels of fitness prior to booking a shore excursion. It’s also wise to ask your cruise line what will happen if your ship is diverted from a port of call where you’ve booked a shore excursion. Many cruise lines will not refund money on pre-booked excursions, even if the tour was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions or diverted itineraries.
Cruisers also have the option of asking their travel agent for suggestions on excursions that have high satisfaction ratings and can also browse online for individual participant reviews. If a cruise line’s highlighted tours are not to your taste or have a history of accidents, you can also opt to explore a destination on your own. However, independent exploration comes with its own risks. Many popular cruise destinations are known for their high crime rates and cruisers may find themselves in a dangerous situation. If opting to venture out on your own, make sure there are no travel safety alerts issued in the area you are planning to explore before you head out.
Always remember that cruise passenger ticket contracts protect cruise lines from liability if you get hurt while on a shore excursion, especially those that are run by outside providers. If an accident or injury does occur, consult with an experienced cruise accident lawyer so you can have a better understanding of your rights before deciding how to proceed.