I used to be a big advocate of going it alone when in port on cruise ships. That led me to do some very interesting things not afforded those who take the safe route and pay for tours offered by the cruise lines.
We were on a Royal Caribbean cruise on the Sun Viking in Alaska – and I’m going back two decades ago – and we found the tours to be quite pricy and somewhat restrictive. We really wanted to take the train along the Klondike Highway from Skagway, but at $70 per person, we found it to be out of our reach. So instead, we did a little research and found an Avis car rental facility within walking distance of where our ship docked. We called in advance and made a reservation for the day at $30.
Our route from Skagway to Whitehorse paralleled the train. We were able to stop when we wanted and look out of both the right and left car windows. Those on the train sitting on the right saw only the mountain wall, leaving everyone straining to look out the left side. The train went from point A to point B without stopping.
So was our rental worth it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? Possibly. A lot would depend on the circumstances. Back then, you passed through several customs check points as the road twisted in and out of the U.S. and Canada. Twenty years ago, passage was fairly easy. You showed your passport and went on your way. That may not be the case today and long lines and endless interrogation may be the new norm. If that’s the case, I might have still done it at age 40, but at age 60, I wouldn’t want to spend half my life getting to Whitehorse. I would opt for the tour.
As we grow older, tours become more worth the investment and in some parts of the world, there is a level of safety and peace of mind knowing that the cruise line has given a particular tour a nod of approval.
Our new rule is that if the ship is docking in an interesting area or in the heart of a particular town, we will shop and roam in the area around the ship. Nassau is a good example. But if there is something we really want to see, we won’t hesitate to book a tour.
Just a reminder, the most popular of tours fill quickly, so if you have your heart set on seeing a particular attraction, be sure to book your tour well in advance of your cruise.