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Florida Guide > Other Activities

Cruising – Shore Excursions - Going it Alone

When you book a cruise you will receive information about shore excursions several weeks before your departure, and you will then have time to browse through them and decide what points of interest appeal to you. However, you don’t have to book an excursion through the cruise line – there is another way!

So what about doing it yourself, and going it alone once you dock? Well, I would say that if it is your first cruise, take the easy option and book one of the excursions organized by your cruise line. But do your homework first, as you want to be sure that you have chosen well – use the internet and find out what is of interest on each island, and read the information sent to you by the cruise line. We have found that the information given by Princess, for example, is excellent, and their descriptions are quite full, so these are a good starting point. Do make sure that if you have any mobility issues you read the information carefully. It should tell you how long the tour is, how many steps there are to negotiate, whether or not it is hilly, or uneven terrain.

But if you want a challenge, then do it yourself. With a bit of common sense it is not that difficult to organize. Again, use the internet to work out what you want to see, and then compare it with the excursions offered by the ship. These excursions usually go to the most interesting places, so that is a good place to start. I would, however, base my decision on which island you are visiting. For example, Jamaica is a large island and distances are therefore greater, so if you hire a car and break down you may be miles away and could find it difficult to get back to the ship. Wherever you go, I would advise you to limit the distance you travel - decide what you want to see beforehand, plan your route carefully, and be very sensible about timings - get straight off the ship as early as you can, and leave plenty of time for the return journey, taking into account possible traffic jams in small towns on the way – Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas, for example, gets very crowded at peak times, making it difficult to get to the dock.

So if you are a ‘regular’ cruiser and you have already visited some of the islands, or if you just want to be adventurous, hiring your own car can be an excellent option, as long as you follow the rules:
  1. Plan ahead – before you get on the cruise, preferably.
  2. Make enquiries about hiring a car before you depart.
  3. Get off the ship early.
  4. Get a good map.
  5. Get an emergency contact number in case you have an accident, break down etc. and make sure your mobile phone is working.
  6. Check the car thoroughly before you leave the depot and note any bumps, scratches etc. Check headlights, indicators, seat belts, brakes, windscreen wipers and washers, and of course the air conditioning – you will definitely need that!
  7. Don’t drive too far.
  8. Make sure you leave plenty of time for the return journey.
If you do all of that you will have a fantastic time and be able to see so much more than you would on an organized trip, and there will be no waiting for that party who never get back to the coach on time, nor will you have to be dragged into numerous diamond and emerald shops – unless you really want to.

Have a great trip and enjoy seeing the ‘real’ Caribbean islands.

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Page added on: 2 March 2009
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