AFS “How to have a perfect time in port or Suzy’s secret port tips revealed.”

Cruises are a great value as an inclusive vacation but optional shore tours can cost a fortune if you’re not careful.  I do recommend doing a few ship tours, particularly to sites far from port or when the only way to gain access to a place is via the ship.

 Here are some tips to make the best of your time and money.

  • Here is a great site to learn everything about the port.  www.whatsinport.com
  • If you really want a guided tour then save money by finding a ship tour you want.  Then check Viator www.viator.com/‎ who often offers the same tour at half the cost!
  • Decide in advance how you want to spend your hours in port.  Do online research before departure on what you most want to see. Google each city.  Find local events or public holidays when sites may be closed.  (For private tours go to viatour.com or shoretrips.com, but maybe expensive.)
  • At most ports, everybody is heading to the same famous sites.  Hire a taxi outside the port fence.  Get several friends to join you.  Negotiate in advance a half-day rate.  Use same taxi driver for drop off and pick up.  Have a set price or ask driver for estimated meter amount.  If all you need is a driver, skip the guide. Sometimes guides can be hired at the sites.  
  • Hire a private car and driver at local tour agency or hotel concierge.  I do not recommend renting a car due to strict and different driving laws.  I do rent scooters often.
  • Onboard, read the daily descriptions of the ship tours to get ideas of significant places you can visit independently.  Calculate the travel time from ship to site.  Ask the crew.  They know estimated times needed for transfers in and out at every port. When the ship anchors, you either walk into town or ride small tenders.  Passengers who booked the ship tours are allowed off first to board the tenders.  Be patient. You’ll have plenty of time to explore.
  • Onboard, it’s hard to extract comprehensive information from the Shore Tour Desk  They are trained NOT to give you suggestions for liability sake.
  • Onshore walk into city center.  Use public transit options.  They are cheap, fast and authentic with locals.  Lonely Planet guidebooks have the best logistical information on bus, train and ferry schedules for each city.  Look for local tourist office.  They can assist you with day tours often at ½ the price.  
  • Sometimes a ship tour is greater value than doing it alone.  For example, precision timing for visiting Egypt’s pyramids.  Port docks can be far away.  In Italy, it’s a 2-hour drive to Rome.  If a site is too challenging to get to or expensive to enter, book with the ship.
  • Private AFS tours. Sometimes we can offer our own private group tours that are the same or more creative than the ship’s tour.  They are always less expensive, more fun and leads to group unity.  Cruiselines hate this.  Some will even penalize us with fines to prevent it.  If we offer one, please be discreet and follow disembarkation details form your trip leader.
  • If you can afford it, feel free to book all shore excursions with the ship.  Know however some tours may hold you hostage in select stores to push shopping.  
  • Wifi prices crazy expensive and slow onboard ship.  Do your surfing on port days.
  • Mind the germs. Wash your hands more on the ship.
  • The crew does not have US Labor Laws at sea, getting low pay while working 13 hour days.  Please tip cabin staff generously.
  • No theft protection.  Leave valuable and expensive jewelry at home as suggested by the cruise line.  
  • Google Lonely Planet cruiseline port details.  https://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/cruise-ports-how-to-make-the-most-of-shore-excursions/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d2755e97

Whatever you choose, be smart, be bold and use every minute onshore to the fullest.


31 secrets the cruise lines don’t tell you, for first-time and experienced cruisers

Cruise ship life can be a little mysterious. Your choices aren’t always spelled out in black and white.

The more you cruise, the more you pick up on the unofficial secrets the cruise lines don’t tell you — which give you more options, let you save money and generally allow you to have a better time onboard.

Maybe it’s knowing what your cabin steward is able to bring you or what the off-the-menu items are at the bar or dining room. Or perhaps it’s a tip on getting a good deal on an onboard purchase.

But why wait to figure these things out the hard way — possibly after you’ve missed your chance? We trawled through all the great advice on Cruise Critic’s message boards to bring you some of the worst-kept cruise secrets — at least among readers who love to share. But whether you’re a first-time cruiser or an old sea dog, you might find there’s something here you didn’t already know.

Cruise food secrets

Unlimited main dining: You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entree and dessert in the main dining room. You can order two entrees or three desserts if you choose. You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrees as starters or order a few appetizers for your main meal. It’s a great way to try new foods you’re not sure you’ll like (escargot, anyone?).

Cheap or free room service: Room service is generally free, except for service charges on certain lines. Celebrity’s late-night orders bear a $4.95 fee, while all orders on Royal Caribbean (excluding continental breakfast) and Norwegian (excluding morning coffee, continental breakfast and orders placed by Haven Suite passengers) cost $7.95. Meanwhile, Carnival and Holland America offer for-fee room service menus in addition to their complementary menus. It’s recommended you tip your delivery person, but in-room dining is not the splurge it is at a hotel.

Breakfast options: For your morning meal, you might have more options than just the buffet and main dining room. On Norwegian, it’s no secret that O’Sheehan’s offers tasty made-to-order omelets and corned beef hash, yet many cruisers still don’t know about it. Carnival’s BlueIguana Cantina and Royal Caribbean’s Johnny Rockets and El Loco Fresh (on Oasis-class ships) are other alternative breakfast venues. Check your daily newsletter to see which restaurants are open in the morning.

Specialty dining on the first night: Most people dine in the main dining room or buffet on the first night of a cruise, and many haven’t discovered the specialty restaurants yet. If you book an alternative dining venue for the first night of the cruise, you might get a discount on select lines (like Celebrity Cruises) or have an easier time getting a reservation for a popular venue. Carnival Cruise Line passengers who dine in the steakhouse on the first night get a free bottle of wine.