Sometimes I think that when I try to choose my excursions it is more excruciating for me than selecting a cruise. When choosing excursions there are two methods that come to mind. The first method is so much easier than what I am currently putting my self through.
That method is to just wait till on board the ship and then pick something that sounds interesting and fits the budget. This is method that we always used in “old days” of cruising in the 70’s and 80’s. This even worked for my husband and I on honeymoon cruise in 1993. Some cruisers still don’t even begin to think about their destinations or excursions until they have embarked on the their cruise.
However, in the last 15 years excursions and their booking process have become much more sophisticated. Cruise lines are now offering everything from zipline rain forest canopy tours, to dog sledding, to submarine tours, to snuba, and much more. They also offer coach tours to exotic locations that can’t be reached from the immediate port area. These all day coach tours might take passengers to big cities like Paris, ancient ruins like the Yucatan’s Chichen Itza, spectacular historic cities like Granada, or National Parks like Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. Now cruise lines have lengthy descriptions of all their excursions online and have automated the booking process so that passengers can book their excursions prior to their cruise. With so much from which to choose, destinations that one doesn’t want to miss, and an overabundance of available information, obsessive planners, like me, can find making a tour selection extremely challenging.
When we originally booked our upcoming Trans Atlantic cruise I knew nothing about the Canary Islands or Madeira. Maybe I should have embraced the philosophy that “ignorance is bliss” and left those islands as unknowns. Instead I dove headfirst into websites and guide books that have provided me with much more information about each of these locations than I could possibly use during our short port stays. I’ve learned that Madeira has scenic views, historic architecture, lovely gardens and exotic flora. The Canary Islands offers some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Spain including the tallest peak in all of Spain and the Atlantic on Tenerife and exotic moon scape looking parks on both Lanzarote and Tenerife. Both the Canary Islands and Madeira are know for their unique wines.
On top of all these island destinations I have also been researching what to do during our three day pre-cruise stay in Barcelona and our first stop on mainland Spain, Malaga.
Budgeting for all of these exotic excursions presents the most difficult challenge. A family of 4 on a 7 port trip could easily spend well over $3000 just on excursions. That is almost enough to pay for the next cruise, so budget minded families must try to limit their excursion spending. We probably want to spend about $600-800 total on all our sight seeing including our three days in Barcelona. That means carefully picking excursions that will take us to the priority sights that we couldn’t see on our own, and then finding ways to enjoy other ports with-out a formal excursion. What all this means is means my going back to the guide books, surfing the net, and creating spread sheets with prices and information. All this work makes me long for the old days when passengers would just book their excursion once they started their cruise instead of spending moths obsessing about what to do. Well, I do say that planning can be half the fun.