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Ask the Editor: Shore Excursions

Is it better to pre-book shore excursions or book them onboard?

Is it better to pre-book shore excursions from home prior to sailing or wait to book them onboard the ship?

In some cases the question is moot; certain lines and certain itineraries mandate pre-booking, especially in European or exotic destinations. This is often done when the number of passengers taking the tour will dictate the number of guides, buses and logistics that in certain parts of the world are best set up far in advance.

Pre-booking is also a good idea for excursions that have extremely limited availability. Examples would be dive or fishing trips, river rafting adventures, helicopter flightseeing and private car sightseeing. Sometimes extra capacity can be added at the last minute, but not always. If the anticipated highlight of your trip is a helicopter flight over the lava falls on Hawaii's Big Island, or a private car and guide to show you around Ephesus, it's better to be safe than sorry; book as soon as possible (before departure if pre-booking is offered).

However, pre-booking is not necessarily a plus, especially if you have never been to a particular port before and your only knowledge of the individual tours in the brochure comes from the cruise line's descriptions. It's better in this case to wait until you get onboard, then attend the shore excursion presentations or talk to the shore excursion staff face to face.

In any case, be certain of the cruise line's cancellation policy before booking or pre-booking!

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