Land Explorations While Cruising

Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge

What better way to see the world than from the deck of a world cruise ship? Once you arrive onboard and settle in, sit back and let the ship take you to a variety of ports, places and countries. No more flying, airports, wasted travel days, immigration, security hassles or lines! Simply hang on to your wine glass, enjoy the onboard entertainment and fabulous food, then wake up every morning in a different port on your world cruise vacation.

Planning your trip on land

The secret to a wonderful day ashore is to plan ahead. Have an idea of what you want to see before you begin your cruise. Your ship brochure tells you a few things about each port and you'll usually be given some information aboard ship before you arrive.

Most cruise lines offer pre-planned shore excursions. Traveling in a group to a port's major highlights is a great way to see it all and make new friends. By paying a bit more, you'll eliminate the worry and responsibility of planning and operating your own tour. Be prepared, however, to move at the group's pace, which means spending more or less time in some places than you would if you were on your own. Many cruise lines will allow you to pre-book shore excursions on their websites.

If you prefer to wander on your own, pick a registered taxi that is often at the pier when a ship is in port. Before you get in a taxi, negotiate an agreeable price for the number of hours you wish to tour. In the negotiating process, you can also determine if the driver speaks enough English to give you a proper guided tour.

Your driver will generally expect a tip on top of the price you've agreed upon if he or she does a good job of explaining things and suggesting what to see. Do not go with a freelance taxi driver - check the vehicle and make sure it's a registered taxi. Often, the licensed taxis will be available immediately at the gangway, while the freelance taxis are outside the gate. Make your choice wisely as the cheapest price is not necessarily the best deal.

Arriving and leaving port

Don't be startled if you notice that your legs are a bit wobbly when you first go ashore. After you get your sea legs, they sometimes take a while to adjust to being back on land. When planning a day onshore, choose comfortable, rubber-soled walking shoes as there may be cobblestone and uneven surfaces in many of the older ports. In the summer months, expect temperatures to be hot and humid, especially if you're on a South America cruise heading close to the equator.

If you visit places of worship while on your European cruise, make sure to dress conservatively - shorts and sleeveless dresses should not be worn. A smart tactic is to bring a wrap or shawl so that you can be comfortable and cover up.

Lastly, don't be late getting back to the ship - it's possible that the ship will leave you behind. Guests who don't make it back on the boat before it leaves port have to cover their own expenses to get to the next port, so make sure you keep your eye on the clock and have it synchronized with the ship's time.

The ultimate cruise experience is much more than just choosing a great ship. Although the onboard amenities and ship's grandeur play a big part, the itinerary, sights and local shore excursions can make for the most amazing cruise vacation.