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Friday, April 13, 2012

In The News: Cruise Lines Face Stiff Competition For Shore Excursions.
The battle for your money is on!
4 independent Shore Excursion websites now offer cheaper shore excursions than your cruise line. The cruises lines are not happy and one line, Norwegian is fighting back, offering kids free shore excursions and teens at 50% off.*

For as long as we can remember, the cruises lines have had a virtual monopoly on the sale of shore excursions. These are sightseeing tours and activities that are sold onboard and online to cruise passengers for the ports-of-call stops on their itinerary. It's a huge revenue producer for the cruise lines and the income is not shared with their travel agent partners.

According to a PhoCusWright study, nearly a quarter of retail travel agents and 41% of home-based agents typically bypass the cruise lines to book shore excursions. Consumers often find cruise lines arranged shore excursions are overpriced, over crowded and represent only a small portion of what's available to see and do locally.

Every day, more and more travel agents are turning to independent companies to arrange shore excursions for their clients and the incentive to do so, is simple. They get paid a share of the revenue in the form of commissions for selling the sightseeing tours and activities offered by the independent shore excursion consolidators.

So with all this new competition, where do consumers find the best savings on shore excursions?

Let's begin by saying, the vast majority of cruise travelers purchase shore excursions for the ports-of-call on their itinerary from the cruise line. Why not? It's easy, convenient and can be booked online in just minutes. The shore excursions desk onboard takes care of it all. The buses pick you up right at the pier, and at the end of your shore tour get you back to the ship on time to board, before the ship sails off to another port-of-call.

But if you do it that way... is it the best way to save money and still have a great time ashore? The answer may not be what you think.

In addition to the cruise line's themselves, there are four major independent Shore Excursion providers who have a significant web presence. And one company, Shore Tours Group who has consolidated them all, into a one-stop shop for cruise enthusiasts.

How much can you save by booking through independent Shore Excursion providers rather than from the cruise line?

Let's look at the independent Shore Excursion providers.

First, what do they all have in common?
All 4 firms display hundred's of listings of shore excursions and tours for your specific cruise, displaying results by the types of activities you want, ship and itinerary, and guarantee that any shore excursions they offer will coincide with the ship's port-of-call schedule. All you have to do is go to to their web site, use the pull down menu on their home page and search for cruises that match your itinerary.

Once you fill in the info needed, you'll be taken to a list of available shore tours, some which are operated by the same ground operators who service cruise line passengers that book onboard at the shore excursions desk. There are hundred's of ports-of-call itineraries that match major cruise lines: Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.

There are two distinctions from cruise line purchased shore excursions that all 4 companies have in common - better prices - fewer crowds. Not in all cases, but in the majority of offerings. These companies focus on smaller groups visiting more interesting and authentic locations using more personalized local operators. While the cruise lines are experts in delivering cruises, these companies are experts in delivering shore excursions.

The value of discounts, depends on the independent Shore Excursion provider, but you can save up to 60 percent off cruise line prices for hundred's of comparable cruise line-organized shore excursions.

Shore Trips is a family company run by Barry and Julie Karp, owners of ShoreTrips. Both of them have had a very hands-on approach to servicing their clients in their respective businesses and an intuitive sense of the desires of today's travel -savvy audience. They have worked hard to develop a way for you to have smaller, more personal tours and adventures and yet feel secure knowing that all of the people they represent have an understanding of your expectations.

Shore Excursions Group
Shore Excursions Group was created with one goal in mind – to provide exceptional travel experiences to cruise passengers in the ports they visit around the world. To accomplish this, they have compiled an exceptional array of tours delivered by local experts with decades of experience serving travelers and delivering excellent tours. Their owners and management team are comprised of seasoned travel industry executives who leverage their considerable experience to delivery memories of a lifetime.

Brad Miller is the former Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer for Abercrombie & Kent, a leading luxury travel company. In that role, Brad was responsible for contributing to Abercrombie & Kent's international growth through the development and acquisition of tour products and travel experiences around the world with a specific focus on cruising and land based experiences.; Michael Bonner; has over a decade of experience working in the cruise industry in a variety of roles for both Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Viking River Cruises.

Port Promotions
According to Gordon Barr, the companies president, Port Promotions was founded to provide independent shore excursions as an alternative to the Cruise Line high prices and mass markets. Their tours are guaranteed to be less expensive and less crowded than those on the cruise ships. Port Promotions has emerged as one of the leading providers of independent shore excursions throughout the world, and is committed to providing a quality experience with a personal touch at a reasonable price.
Over the last 15 years Viator has built one of the industry's largest selection of tours and activities – all provided by local tour operators they hand-picked for quality, value and service, all backed by their low-price guarantee, and supported by hundreds of thousands of unbiased traveler reviews and photos.
What are the Potential Savings?
How much savings can you expect from independent Shore Excursion providers? Here are a few examples.
  • Juneau, Alaska: Whale Watching with Mendenhall Glacier $131.00 per person. Comparable tour booked with Royal Caribbean $171.00, potential savings $80 per couple!
  • Naples, Italy: Capri Day Trip with Lunch from Naples $133.00 per person. Comparable tour booked with Carnival Cruises $199.00, potential savings $132 per couple.
  • Mazatlan, Mexico: Estero Ecological Reserve Jungle Tour;$45.00 per person. Comparable tour booked with Princess Cruises $79.00, potential savings $68 per couple!
  • Hilo, Hawaii : Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls;$59.00 per person. Comparable tour booked with Norwegian Cruise Line $89.00, potential savings $60 per couple!
Note: Comparisons are based on the recommended retail price for one adult, displayed on a cruise line website for the equivalent shore excursion, tour or activity listed on an independent Shore Excursions provider's website. Prices were accurate at the time of publication, but may have changed. So, be sure to visit these firms web sites for the most up-to-date prices and availability.

Shore Tours Group
Now comes a new service: Shore Tours Group. This website let's you compare side by side the rates from all 4 shore excursion companies as well as view the shore excursions offerings from the cruise lines official sites. A one-stop-shop site that utilizes a Shore Excursion Comparison Shopping Tool to find shore tours, shore trips and shore excursion deals when shopping for a cruise.; The company can help you search for over 5500 shore excursion daily deals in one place. Real-Time shore tour deals you can book online and pay less than the cruise lines. Get unpublished exclusive discounts on top popular shore excursions without the hassle of searching all over the Internet. Worldwide destinations are represented, with an emphasis on discounted shore excursions for ports in the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, and Bermuda.

Final Notes
On a cruise you simply unpack once and each day wake up in an exciting new port of call. You don't have to arrange transportation from place to place, carry your luggage around, or use a lot of your vacation time in transit, or waiting in crowded airports to fly to your next destination. Once you arrive at your port-of-call, you can choose from several options to experience the sights, sounds and things to do of your port call. You can set off on your own to explore the island, city or countryside, or you can follow the crowds of cruise travelers who booked shore excursions with the cruise line. But what you now realize – and what the cruise lines did not want you to know – is that there is another option, and it’s one that can help you save both time and money on your trip.

The secret is, it's just as easy to book your own shore excursions, which could be smaller in size, of better quality, and may be cheaper in price. Use a comparison shopping tool like that found at Shore Tours Group and you save more than just money. Time. And we all know – time – is a precious commodity.

So, who do go with, your cruise line or an Independent Shore Excursion Provider?
The choice is always yours.

If you'd like more information about price comparison shopping for shore excursions,
simply email the Shore Tours Group.

* Norwegian Cruise Line’s Freestyle Cruising® comes ashore with unlimited free adventures for kids like swimming with dolphins, horseback riding and hundreds more.  Kids 12 and under free. Teens 50% off. All ports. All sailings. Offer dates 4/16/12 – 5/13/12.

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