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Cruises are one of the safest types of holidays that you can take. Ships have to follow a huge number of rules and regulations to ensure that you stay safe on board, and safety inspections are both regular and rigorous.
However, once you step off the ship and onto the shore, a little more care is needed to ensure you and your family stay safe. Whilst thousands of passengers enjoy all the excitement that shore excursions have to offer each year, the destinations on your itinerary are beyond the control of your cruise line and incidents do happen. Here we look at the different ways you can stay safe while enjoying the variety that shore excursions bring to your cruise holiday.
Book excursions through your cruise line
Although you can save a lot of money by planning your shore excursions with local providers, keep in mind that your cruise line will have gone to great lengths to ensure that the tour operators they work with are trustworthy and reputable, as well as being insured and fully licensed. Their checks will have included a thorough evaluation of health and safety records, together with on-site inspections and liaison with local authorities. Paying a little extra for this due diligence won’t guarantee you a safe experience, but it does provide extra peace of mind.
If you do decide to book directly with local tour operators, make sure that you ask plenty of questions, such as how much training staff are given and how often equipment is maintained, tested and replaced. If the company isn’t forthcoming with specific and reassuring information like this, avoid them at all costs. You also need to make sure that they are properly insured, and it’s worth searching the internet for positive reviews from people who have used them recently. Above all, never, ever book an excursion with one of the many touts that hang around at the cruise ports unless it’s a company that you’ve researched in advance – no matter how well-honed their sales pitch may be.
Don’t get carried away
Although your cruise line will likely have plenty of excursions on offer for thrill-seekers, you need to be realistic as to your limitations. If you’re not a regular thrill-seeker then don’t feel that you have to take them up on every white knuckle experience – there are plenty of gentler activities on offer that are just as enjoyable. Many cruisers over the years have pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone and wound up short of breath, panicking or claustrophobic taking part in activities that they would never normally consider outside of the cruise environment. For the best experience, choose activities which you know you will enjoy and that are appropriate for your level of physical fitness, health and personal preferences.
Opt for excursions with small groups
The best shore excursions are those where there are a smaller number of participants. Not only are these considered safer but they allow you more time with your tour guide. For many excursions, parties of more than 8 or 10 guests can be chaotic and the guide may find it difficult to give each guest individual attention. Tour operators may allow more participants to book on a tour but be mindful that they may essentially be ‘chasing the money’ and not putting their guests’ experience first. There are no regulations as to how many participants should be allowed on a particular excursion, or on how many guides need to be provided per guest. You, therefore, need to carry out your own due diligence and ensure you book in a party that you feel will be a comfortable size for the activity in question.
Check the weather and sea conditions
Some activities will run regardless of the weather or sea conditions but you may not feel comfortable or safe taking part if it is raining or the sea is rough. It’s therefore advisable to check the conditions to make sure you are happy with them, as the tour operator may still take out the party even if conditions aren’t ideal.
A good tour operator will ensure conditions are safe for the activity you have chosen but if you have booked independently of your cruise line, again, extra care may be required. Look for any conditions that may impair your enjoyment of the activity you have selected such as rain, which may make rocks slippery, or rough seas, which may make snorkelling unpleasant and more difficult. If you’re not comfortable with the conditions, see if you can cancel – if you’ve booked through your cruise line, many will give you a full refund if you give 24 hours’ notice. If you can’t get your money back, don’t let this motivate you to go along regardless – your comfort and safety are more important than the money you may lose.
Listen to the health and safety talk
We’re so acclimatised to hearing health and safety information that it’s easy to switch off and think we know it all – but it’s so important to pay attention, even if you’ve done the activity a hundred times before. Your tour guide will be aware of local factors that may impact your ability to carry out the activity and if you’re not listening, you may miss the one thing that will land you in pain or discomfort, affecting your enjoyment of the rest of your holiday.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Nick Page