From planning to packing, and enjoying all that a ship has to offer, Cruise Passengers love to exchange great cruising tips.

This week, we talk food and shore excursions. Food might have received honourable mentions in our previous episodes, but fear not, there is more!

Choosing and planning shore excursions, like food, is both an art and a science. We share tips on how you can make sure that you enjoy the best time on shore.

Feel free to share your best tips in the comments section and help your fellow cruisers out.

Gavin Harper shared a baggage tip: “Have photographs of your suitcases on your phone, particularly if flights are involved, much easier to show a photo (which can then be sent with the missing baggage report) than try describing a missing case.”

Thanks Gavin!


1. Lunch at specialty restaurants

Some specialty restaurants serve lunch and they usually have lower cover charge for lunch sitting. It can be great way to try the food at a smaller cost.

2. Pace yourself

It is very tempting to have a taste of all the food around you. But remember to pace yourself if you do not want to put on too much weight while holidaying. Spread out the delicious treats for the whole cruise, your tummy will thank you for it.

3. Request table for two in advance

Tables for two are limited in the main dining room as cruise lines try to maximise seating. So if you are on a honeymoon or looking to spend some private time with your partner, make sure to save your spot early with the maître d!

4. Order your extras as early as possible

The waiters like to keep everyone at the table on the same course so ordering a second main while everyone else is ready for dessert might delay dessert for everyone. Try to get in all your orders right at the start or if you are hit with food envy midway, put in the extra order at the start of each course. If you have a show to get to after dinner, you might also want to hold that thought.

5. Find the secret breakfast spots

Breakfast can actually be found beyond the buffet, room service and the main dining room. Dining spots around the ship might also offer a complimentary morning menu. If you are up for some breakfast hunting, try places like O’Sheehan’s on Norwegian Cruise Line, BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival and the International Café on Princess Cruises.

6. The coffee bars have free snacks

Cruise ship cafes charge you for the specialty coffee but they offer many complimentary snacks from paninis, pastries to fresh fruit and salad anytime of the day.


7. Do your research on where you’ll be docking

The ports can quite a distance away from the city so you’ll need to factor in the cost of the transfer if you are planning your own excursion. Some ports also offer free shuttle services. Buying a shore excursion in every port can also add up quickly on your final bill. However, at some ports like Alaska and exotic destinations, going on a shore excursion might be the only way to explore the port.

8. Pack some snacks

If you are in a port that allows you to take food off your ship, packing some snacks might come in handy if you’re going on an all day tour. With all the ground to cover on the tour, you might start feeling hungry before the time set aside for trying out the local fare.

9. Head for the middle when boarding the tender boats

Moving to the centre of the tender boat will help everyone board quickly. You’d be getting to shore faster, meaning more time to experience everything on shore!

10. Take a picture of the license plate of you tour transport

On an excursion we always take a picture of the license plate of the vehicle/van/bus we are traveling in since so many of them look alike and there tends to be several of them all in the same place.

11. Double check the time you have to be back on board

This can vary from port to port and can also be updated during the sailing. A quick double check will help to ensure that you get back at the right time for departure.

12. Be on time when returning after a shore excursion

It is probably every cruiser’s nightmare to have the ship leave without you. Cruises usually ask guests to be back on board 30 minutes before departure but also plan ahead for unexpected delays, especially if you are exploring the shore independently.

13. Don’t purchase everything at the first port of call

Check out in advance what souvenirs each port are famous for so you can spread out your budget and have something to remember each destination by.

14. Bring cash

Bring local currency in cash for independent shore excursions so you can easily pay for taxis, tips, snacks and souvenirs. If you did not manage to prepare local currency, you can also ask if you can pay in US dollars.

15. Leave shopping for the last

Leave the shopping for the last so you can explore the sights and attractions on shore without having to carry around your purchases all day.

16. Some excursions are better booked through the cruise line

There are a few benefits with booking shore excursions through the cruise line. You can save the effort of planning your own excursion, especially if you want to see a few things while you’re there of if the attractions are further away from port. The ship also won’t leave without you if you’re late returning from an excursion booked through the line. You might also want to book through the cruise line if you are planning to try adventurous activities like zip lines, kayaking and glacier hiking, as all of their tour providers have been vetted.

17. Read the shore excursion description carefully

To make sure you get the experience you’re after, understand exactly how your time will be spent on the tour. Ask the shore excursion manager to explain how much time is spent on the bus driving to and between attractions, how much time you’ll get to spend at each destination. Most often, you’ll might have to decide between spending short mounts of time in a variety of places and getting a detailed tour of one area.

18. Book limited availability excursions in advance

Excursions like flightseeing in Alaska often have very limited availability. It can be helpful to check the availability on your must-do tours. That way you can decide if you need to make your reservation ASAP or you can afford to wait and see.

19. Dress according to local customs and cultural dress codes

When in Rome (or anywhere else in the world), do as the Romans do. Being mindful of how you dress shows respect for the local customs, which the locals will appreciate. This could be wearing skirts or bottoms that go beyond the knees in many parts of Southeast Asia to wearing a cover up in the Caribbean when walking to and from the shore.

20. Bring a list of emergency contacts and a photocopy of your passport

You want to be prepared for any emergencies so take down the numbers of the cruise line, ship, travel agent, insurance company and the tour guide/operator. A photocopy of your passport will also come in handy if your passport is stolen.

Read other parts here:

Part 1: Before your cruise

Part 2: How to pack and things to do when you first embark

Part 3: Cabins and activities