Cruise lines carefully arrange their itineraries to visit places that have a little something for everyone, whether your interest is nature, museum hopping, barhopping, or no hopping at all. You can take in the location’s ambience and natural beauty, learn about the local culture and history, eat local foods, and enjoy sports activities. And you’ll have the opportunity to shop to your heart’s content.
When the ship gets into port, you’ll have the choice of going on a shore excursion organized by the cruise line or going off on your own. The shore excursions are designed to help you make the most of your limited time at each port of call, to get you to the top natural or historical attractions, and to make sure you get back to the ship on time. They also will keep you in the crowds you’ve been in on board the ship, which is kismet for some and unpleasant for others. And shore excursions are a big moneymaking area for the cruise line, adding a hefty sum to your vacation costs. Whether you choose to take one of these prearranged sightseeing trips is a matter of both personal preference and budgetary concerns; you should in no way feel that you must do an excursion in every, or any, port.
At most ports, the cruise lines have guided tours to the top sights, usually by bus. The most worthwhile tours take you outside the downtown area or include a dance or music performance, or a crafts demonstration (or sometimes all the above). There’s a guide on each bus, and the excursion price includes all incidental admission costs. The commentary is sometimes hokey, other times educational, and occasionally barely there at all, especially in parts of the world where language barriers are an issue.