Cruise lines and cruise ships may have huge variances, but that’s nothing compared to the array of itineraries you can choose from. Also the experience you can enjoy during each port can be very different depending on what you decide to do, so it’s worth preparing yourself for a day in port to understand exactly what to expect.

Sometimes you’ll wake up to find that the ship has already docked in port, whereas other times it may be closer to lunch time before you arrive. Of course each has its benefits; watching the ship dock from the deck or your own balcony can be fascinating, but the earlier the ship is docked the more time you have to explore.

Your ship may not be able to dock at all – some ships are simply too big for certain ports. In these instances, the ship will weigh anchor out at sea, and you’ll be transported to the shore on a tender boat. There’s no dangerous climbing or slipping around – it’s all very straightforward and quite exciting too.

Adventures ashore

Elephant-back safari excursion in Bali

Elephant-back safari excursion in Bali

When you go ashore in a port you have three options for exploring. The one that you’ll hear the most about is the cruise line’s own excursions that you can book on-board or in advance. For most cruise lines these have a decent-sized cost to them, but they offer plenty of choice for the top attractions.

However, you should also be aware that the cruise lines aren’t the only people offering excursions. You can book them with independent groups, and we’ve our own recommended partner that we use – They offer exactly the same service but for a price that is usually much cheaper. Cruise lines may warn you that if you don’t use official excursions and you’re late back, the ship will leave without you – but good excursion companies like our partner guarantee to get you back to the ship in time.

Or you could take matters into your own hands, and explore on your own. If you’re on a smaller island then this could be a good idea, but where you’re arriving in a port some distance from the main attractions (such as Civitavecchia, the port for Rome) you need to navigate the trains yourself and ensure you leave ample time to return.

Staying aboard

Relaxing in the Jacuzzi on-board

Relaxing in the Jacuzzi on-board

There’s actually a fourth option when your ship docks – and that is not visiting the port at all. You have the freedom to enjoy your holiday as you wish, and if that means you’d rather stay on the ship during a port visit – because you’ve seen the sights before, or you’d rather just unwind that day – then you’ll have a much quieter ship that can be delightfully calm.

It’s worth taking a look at our excursion options with our partner,, as you can save money by buying packages of excursions that are tailored to each itinerary. If you want to know more about excursions, our Cruise Concierge team are on-hand to help, just give us a call on 0207 980 2847.

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Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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