How safe is your shore excursion?

This week’s bus crash in Vanuatu during a P&O cruise shore excursion has put safety front and centre. But how do you know if that inviting and exciting journey is safe?
 P&O Cruises Australia told Cruise Passenger earlier this week that it was the first shore excursion where the line has encountered such serious issues.But it isn’t the first shore excursion that has sparked injury or death…
Earlier this year, a 16-month-old boy died after a vehicle carrying passengers from the MSC Orchestra crashed in Dominica. The accident happened when the vehicle was driving back to the ship from an independent shore excursion.
There have also been several bus accidents in the Caribbean involving cruise ship passengers. In January, a passenger on Independence of the Seas died and three others were injured with their tour bus crash in Falmouth in Jamaica.
And in December 2015, two Celebrity Summit passengers were killed and 16 others injured during a bus accident in Tortola.
Some countries have more lax safety regulations so here are some tips to minimise the risk of accidents happening on shore excursions.

1. Book your excursion through your cruise line
Cruise lines inspect tour operators they partner with as they have to comply with the country of origin’s safety standards. The cruise lines do independent background checks, interviews with local authorities, evaluation of safety records and on-site inspections. While sometimes shore excursions through cruise companies may be more expensive, at least you know they’ve done the research.

2. If you choose an independent tour operator, do your homework
If you decide to use another tour operator, do your research. You can get a wealth of knowledge about the tour operators from local media, tourist boards and even reading reviews by past participants. Remember, you’re putting your life in someone else’s hands.

3. Never book shore excursions from local touters
While these guys might be offering sweet and cheap deals, don’t fall for the sales pitch. Make sure you know who you’re booking with to minimise the risk. If you are planning to book a shore excursion as soon as you get off the ship, email the local tourism board and ask for advice. Tell them you are arriving on a cruise ship on this day, and ask them for which companies are credible and reputable.

4. Know your limitations
This might be an obvious rule but it is an important one. Make sure you book shore excursions where you feel comfortable doing the activities. But even if you don’t, there is no harm in saying no at the time. Be honest with yourself and your travel companions.

5. Pay attention during the safety talk
Yes, it might be boring. But it can mean the difference between life and death. While the key agenda of these talks is to avoid accidents, it’s also to ensure that you avoid discomfort while you’re on your shore excursion.