Cruise Excursions: DIY Vs. Booking Onboard – The Truth

So you’ve booked your dream cruise vacation and now you’re faced with the choices of how to spend your time in port. Should you venture out on your own and explore the local sights at your own pace, or should you take advantage of the convenience and peace of mind that comes with booking an excursion through the cruise line? It’s a dilemma that many cruisers face, and in this article, we’ll uncover the truth behind the age-old debate of DIY vs. booking onboard for cruise excursions. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first-timer, prepare to gain valuable insights and make an informed decision that will enhance your overall cruise experience.

Cruise Excursions: DIY Vs. Booking Onboard – The Truth

Benefits of DIY Excursions

Flexibility and Freedom

When it comes to planning excursions during your cruise, opting for DIY (Do-It-Yourself) arrangements can offer a great deal of flexibility and freedom. By planning and organizing your own activities, you have the power to choose the destinations and experiences that truly interest you. Instead of being confined to the predetermined options offered by the cruise line, you can tailor your excursions to your own preferences. Whether you want to explore off-the-beaten-path locations or spend more time at a particular attraction, DIY excursions allow you to design your own adventure.

Cost Savings

One of the main advantages of DIY excursions is the potential for cost savings. By bypassing the cruise line’s excursion packages, you can avoid the mark-up typically associated with booking onboard. Instead, you can shop around for local operators and compare prices, ensuring you get the best deal. Additionally, DIY excursions allow you to control your spending by choosing your own activities and avoiding unnecessary expenses. This can be particularly beneficial for budget-conscious travelers who want to make the most of their cruise experience without breaking the bank.


Another perk of DIY excursions is the ability to customize every aspect of your adventure. With onboard booking, you may find yourself restricted to prearranged itineraries that cater to a broad range of interests. However, when you plan and arrange your own excursions, you can select activities that align perfectly with your personal preferences. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking thrilling adventures or a history buff interested in exploring cultural sites, DIY excursions allow you to tailor-make your experience.


DIY excursions provide an unparalleled opportunity for authentic experiences. By venturing out on your own or by working with local operators, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, interact with the community, and engage in genuine experiences. Whether it’s exploring local markets, trying regional cuisine, or engaging in cultural activities, DIY excursions often allow for a deeper level of immersion compared to curated onboard excursions. If authenticity and a genuine connection with the destination are important to you, then DIY excursions are an excellent choice.

Disadvantages of DIY Excursions

Time and Effort Required

One of the main drawbacks of DIY excursions is the time and effort required to plan and organize everything yourself. Researching destinations, finding reliable local operators, and arranging transportation can be time-consuming. Additionally, without the guidance of cruise staff, you may face challenges in coordinating logistics and ensuring a smooth experience. DIY excursions require a certain level of organization and willingness to invest time and effort before and during your cruise.

Language Barrier

Another potential disadvantage of DIY excursions is the language barrier that may exist in some destinations. While English is widely spoken in many tourist-centric areas, you may encounter communication challenges when exploring off-the-beaten-path locations. This can make it difficult to navigate, communicate with locals, and fully understand the cultural significance of certain landmarks or activities. For travelers who are not fluent in the local language or are uncomfortable with potential language barriers, booking onboard may provide the convenience of English-speaking guides.

Safety Concerns

Safety is a crucial factor to consider when opting for DIY excursions. While cruise lines typically vet their excursion providers to ensure safety measures are in place, the same level of assurance may not exist with independent operators. It’s essential to thoroughly research and choose reliable operators who prioritize safety. This includes checking for proper licensing, certifications, and positive reviews from previous customers. DIY excursions require a higher level of vigilance to ensure your safety throughout the entire experience.

Lack of Support

When you book an excursion onboard, you have the advantage of immediate support from the cruise staff. They can offer assistance, answer questions, and address any issues that may arise during the excursion. With DIY excursions, you may not have the same level of support readily available. In case of any unforeseen circumstances or emergencies, you may need to rely on local resources or handle the situation on your own. This lack of immediate support can be daunting for some travelers, particularly those who prefer the peace of mind that comes with onboard assistance.

Benefits of Booking Onboard


Booking onboard offers a high level of convenience for cruise passengers. Instead of researching and organizing excursions months in advance, you can simply choose from the prearranged options offered by the cruise line. The convenience factor is especially appealing for those who prefer a hassle-free vacation where all the planning is taken care of. By booking onboard, you can relax and enjoy your cruise without the additional effort of organizing excursions on your own.

Expert Guidance

One of the primary advantages of booking onboard is the access to expert guidance provided by the cruise staff. These professionals have a thorough knowledge of the destinations and can offer valuable insights and recommendations. With their guidance, you can make informed decisions about which excursions suit your interests and preferences. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or simply prefer the peace of mind that comes with expert advice, booking onboard ensures you have the support of experienced professionals throughout your excursion.

Guaranteed Availability

Booking excursions onboard guarantees you a spot on the activities you desire. Popular excursions can fill up quickly, and if you opt for DIY arrangements, the availability of certain activities may be limited or sold out by the time you make your plans. By booking onboard, you beat the rush and secure your spot ahead of time. This not only ensures you won’t miss out on the experiences you’re most excited about but also eliminates any potential disappointment or last-minute scrambling to find alternative activities.

Compliance with Cruise Schedule

When you book onboard, you can have peace of mind knowing that the excursion will be carefully coordinated with the cruise schedule. Cruise lines have a vested interest in ensuring that their passengers return to the ship on time, and onboard excursions are designed with this in mind. By choosing to book with the cruise line, you can be confident that the excursions will be scheduled in a way that allows ample time to explore while still getting you back to the ship safely and on schedule.

Disadvantages of Booking Onboard

Additional Cost

One of the most significant disadvantages of booking excursions onboard is the potential for additional cost compared to DIY arrangements. Cruise lines often charge a premium for onboard excursions, including a markup for the convenience and expert guidance provided. This higher price point may be off-putting for budget-conscious travelers who are looking to maximize their savings. If cost is a primary concern, DIY excursions may offer a more budget-friendly alternative.

Limited Choices

Another drawback of booking onboard is the limited choice of excursions compared to the wide range of options available when planning independently. While cruise lines typically offer a variety of excursions that cater to different interests, there may still be limitations in terms of destinations, activities, or duration. If you have specific preferences or want to explore lesser-known places, you may find the onboard options somewhat limited. DIY excursions allow you the freedom to choose from a broader range of activities and destinations.

Lack of Personalization

Booking onboard generally entails joining a group tour or excursion, which means you’ll be sharing the experience with other cruise passengers. While this can be a great way to meet fellow travelers, it also means that the excursion may lack a personal touch. Large groups can limit your interaction with local guides, restrict your ability to ask questions, and diminish the overall personalization of the experience. If you value a more intimate and personalized adventure, DIY excursions can provide a better fit for your preferences.

Crowded Excursions

Booking onboard excursions often means joining a large group of fellow cruisers who have also chosen that particular excursion. As a result, the experience may feel crowded and less intimate. Attractions and landmarks may be overrun with tourists, limiting your ability to fully immerse yourself in the destination. If you prefer a more intimate and less crowded experience, DIY excursions may offer a better chance to explore at your own pace and avoid the crowds often associated with organized onboard excursions.

Cruise Excursions: DIY Vs. Booking Onboard – The Truth

Factors to Consider When Choosing


The destination plays a significant role in deciding between DIY excursions and booking onboard. Some destinations may be well-suited for DIY adventures, with easily accessible attractions, reliable local operators, and a welcoming infrastructure for independent travelers. On the other hand, certain locations may require the expertise and support offered by onboard excursions, especially if they involve remote or potentially challenging environments.

Activities and Interests

Consider your preferred activities and interests when choosing between DIY and onboard excursions. If you have specific hobbies or preferences, such as snorkeling, hiking, or historical sightseeing, you may find that certain excursions offered onboard align perfectly with your interests. Alternatively, DIY excursions allow you the freedom to design your itinerary around your specific passions, ensuring a more tailored and enjoyable experience.


Budget considerations play a crucial role in the decision-making process. DIY excursions can be more cost-effective, allowing you to allocate your travel funds more efficiently. On the other hand, onboard excursions often come at a premium, factoring in the convenience, support, and guidance provided by the cruise line. Analyze your budget and weigh the cost savings of DIY excursions against the added expense of onboard booking.

Time Constraints

The amount of time you have available for excursions also influences your decision. If you have a limited timeframe, onboard excursions can offer a hassle-free way to experience the destination within the confines of your cruise schedule. On the other hand, DIY excursions may require more time for planning, coordination, and navigation. Consider how much time you’re willing to invest in organizing your excursions and whether you prefer the convenience of prearranged onboard options.

Tips for DIY Excursions

Research in Advance

Thoroughly research your destination before your cruise to gather information about available activities, attractions, and local operators. Look for reliable sources such as travel guides, online forums, or reputable websites to ensure you have accurate and up-to-date information. This research will help you build an itinerary that suits your preferences and maximize your time at each destination.

Plan Your Itinerary

Once you’ve gathered information about the available attractions and activities, plan your itinerary accordingly. Determine which places you want to visit, the order in which you’ll explore them, and the estimated time needed at each location. Planning your itinerary in advance will help you make the most of your time and ensure that you don’t miss out on any must-see attractions.

Use Reliable Local Operators

If you opt for DIY excursions, it’s crucial to choose reliable local operators to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Look for operators with positive reviews, proper licensing, and certifications. You can also consult travel forums or seek recommendations from fellow travelers who have visited the destination. Utilizing the services of established local operators will enhance your excursion and minimize any potential risks or complications.

Be Aware of Time Restrictions

Keep in mind the time restrictions imposed by your cruise schedule when planning your DIY excursions. Ensure that your planned activities and return times are in sync with the ship’s departure. Leave ample room for unforeseen delays or mishaps to avoid any last-minute rushes or missed departure calls. Being aware of your cruise ship’s time constraints will help you have a stress-free excursion experience.

Cruise Excursions: DIY Vs. Booking Onboard – The Truth

Tips for Booking Onboard

Attend Cruise Excursion Presentations

Take advantage of the excursion presentations held onboard by cruise staff. These presentations provide valuable information about each excursion, including highlights, duration, and any special requirements. Attending these sessions will give you a better understanding of what to expect, helping you make informed decisions about which excursions align with your interests and preferences.

Consult with Cruise Staff

Don’t hesitate to consult with the cruise staff for guidance and recommendations. They have extensive knowledge of the destinations and can offer personalized advice based on your interests. Discuss your preferences and requirements with them to ensure you choose the excursions that best suit your needs. The cruise staff is there to assist you in making the most of your cruise experience.

Compare Excursion Packages

Take the time to compare the excursion packages offered by the cruise line. Consider the activities included, the duration of each excursion, and whether any additional fees or expenses are required. By comparing the different options, you can make an informed decision that offers the best value for your money. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification on any aspects that may not be clear.

Book in Advance

To secure a spot on your preferred excursions, it’s recommended to book onboard as soon as possible. Popular activities can fill up quickly, so booking in advance ensures you won’t miss out. By reserving your excursions early, you have peace of mind knowing that your preferred activities are locked in, enabling you to focus on enjoying your cruise without any last-minute worries.

Comparison of DIY vs. Booking Onboard

Flexibility vs. Convenience

DIY excursions offer the advantage of flexibility, allowing you to design your own adventure and explore at your own pace. On the other hand, booking onboard offers the convenience of prearranged excursions that are carefully coordinated with the cruise schedule. Consider whether you prioritize the freedom to customize your experience or the ease of having everything taken care of for you.

Cost Savings vs. Additional Cost

DIY excursions can potentially save you money by bypassing the mark-up associated with onboard booking. However, booking onboard may provide added convenience and support, which comes at an additional cost. Weigh your budget constraints and priorities to determine which option offers the best financial value for your cruise experience.

Customization vs. Limited Choices

DIY excursions allow for a higher level of customization, allowing you to align your activities with your personal interests and preferences. Booking onboard, on the other hand, may limit your choices to prearranged packages that cater to a broader range of travelers. Consider whether the ability to tailor your experience is more important to you than the convenience of selecting from curated options.

Authenticity vs. Expert Guidance

DIY excursions often provide a more authentic experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and engage in genuine interactions. Booking onboard, however, offers the advantage of expert guidance and recommendations from the cruise staff. Think about whether you prioritize a deeper connection with the destination or the peace of mind that comes with professional support.

Cruise Excursions: DIY Vs. Booking Onboard – The Truth


When it comes to choosing between DIY excursions and booking onboard, personal preference and consideration of individual needs are key. Balancing priorities such as flexibility, convenience, budget, and customization will help you make informed decisions that enhance your cruise experience. Whether you opt for the freedom and authenticity of DIY excursions or the convenience and expert guidance of onboard bookings, the choice ultimately rests on what aligns best with your travel style and desired adventure. So, research, plan, and embark on the excursion experience that suits you best!

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