It’s fabulous being on a cruise ship, but it’s also fun to climb off and explore new places. As cruising booms, cruise lines keep adding new ports of call to itineraries (P&O’s Pacific Jewel, for instance, will be the first cruise ship to call at Papua New Guinea’s privately owned Conflict Islands in 2016). Cruising can take you to places both big and small, and everything in between. With shore excursions, you can explore these stops in a more in-depth way but, with planning, you can also devise your own excursions.
Try Cruiseabout's Shore Excursions
Try sumo wrestling or swimming with sharks
Those who cruise to Moreton Island off Brisbane with P&O shouldn’t miss the twilight shore excursion to hand-feed wild dolphins that come close to shore. The cruise line also gives keen anglers heading to Norfolk Island the chance to head out with fishermen to hook a trevally, trumpeter or kingfish. When P&O’s Pacific Eden cruises Western Australia’s Coral Coast, passengers can swim with whale sharks at Exmouth.
Pick up a new skill during a shore tour. When Diamond Princess cruises to Hakodate in Japan, passengers can head to a sumo museum that honours two grand champions. If you’re brave enough to don the (very brief) sumo attire, you can try a spot of wrestling for yourself.
As Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas cruises from Shanghai to Singapore, passengers can take an all-day tour that combines a cooking class with exploring Hoi An’s World Heritage-listed ancient town in central Vietnam.
Something to brag about
Cruise to Juneau, Alaska, with Holland America Line and you could find yourself mushing your own dog-sled team across a glacier. The shore tour includes a scenic helicopter flight across the Juneau Icefield to a remote dog-sled camp. In Cannes, Celebrity Cruises offers a one-hour Ferrari experience. Slide into the passenger seat of a classic Ferrari and, together with a driver, zoom around the moneyed hills of the French Riviera. Families cruising with Royal Caribbean to Phuket can sign up for an all-day sea cave canoe adventure that involves nosing into caves, tunnels and scenic lagoons in a three-person inflatable canoe.
Do-it-yourself shore excursions
Sometimes a ship docks right in the middle of the action – which means you can simply disembark and explore the port at your own pace (making sure to return in plenty of time – the ship won’t wait for you). Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay is one of the world’s most photogenic docks, offering views of both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Disembark and explore the Museum of Contemporary Art – a free museum that’s only a few steps from the terminal – or enjoy a beer in one of the historic pubs of The Rocks.
You can also walk straight from the terminal into Cairns in Far North Queensland, Hobart in Tasmania, Auckland in New Zealand, Barcelona in Spain and Quebec City in Canada, to name but a few accessible port cities. Many river cruises also allow docking right in the heart of a port town allowing you to maximize your time when in port without the expense and hassle of a taxi.
It also pays to do a little research before splashing your cash on a tour. For instance, if you BYO snorkel gear on a cruise to Moreton Island, there’s no need to sign up for the shore tour to snorkel the wrecks lying just off the beach. Simply wriggle into your flippers, slip on your mask and paddle out a short distance to see a multitude of fish swimming in and around the wrecks.