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Cruise lines ban private shore excursions

Private shore excursions will no longer be allowed by a number of cruise lines when they resume sailing later this year.

MSC, one of the first cruise lines to re-start cruises last year, was also the first to ban customers from taking private tours.

One family was thrown of the MSC Grandiosa after they broke away from the ship’s organised excursion in Naples. They had previously been warned that they must stick with the group.

German cruise line AIDA also banned a passenger from reboarding the AIDAblu after they wandered away from its official shore excursion in Catania, Italy.

Several other cruise lines have since told passengers they will only be allowed on tours organised by the ships.

But excursions sold by cruise lines are often much more expensive than those sold by third-party companies.

Cruising Excursions offers tours at around 30% less than those provided by the cruise lines.

It told TTJ it was aware of “a few” cruise lines that are insisting that passengers take only their own excursions for their initial sailings.

It said if customers are banned from taking private tours they’ve bought from Cruising Excursions it will refund them.

Cost isn’t the only reason why many cruise passengers prefer to arrange their own excursions though, many just want the freedom to wander on their own rather than being herded around in large groups.

In fact, one of my tips for taking a cruise would be to turn left off the ship when the organised tours turn right; we all want to discover our little bit of paradise, right?


P&O Cruises and Cunard to offer cheaper, more intimate shore excursions

P&O Cruises and Cunard confirmed to TTJ that passengers will no longer be allowed on shore unless they take one of the ships’ own tours.

But they say they’ve introduced a range of cheaper tours that can be booked up to eight weeks before departure. These are priced between £15 and £25.

“Where possible we’re creating experiences that our independent guests already enjoy such as walking tours and city sightseeing options” – P&O/Cunard spokesperson


MSC sticks by its private shore excursion ban

MSC continues to ban passengers from taking their own shore excursions, claiming it’s safer. A spokeswoman told TTJ: “We decided to implement protected excursions to ensure that every aspect of the guest’s time ashore meets the appropriate standards of health and hygiene from ensuring that transfers are properly sanitised, that tour guides and drivers are wearing PPE through to ensuring there are reserved areas for MSC Cruises guests at attractions.”

Some of MSC’s cruise packages include complimentary excursions but for those without tours included it has a Shore Excursion Explorer package which includes three excursions from €131 (about £113).

cruise shore excursions

What is Marella Cruises’ policy?

If you’re booked on Marella and you like to do your own thing you’re in luck because this cruise line says that its customers will be ‘free to enjoy their own tours’.

A spokesperson told me Marella hasn’t banned customers from private excursions. Instead, it said they will be expected to comply with health and safety measures in the countries they visit.


What are other cruise lines saying?

Passengers booked with Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean will have to wait to find out if they’ll be allowed on private excursions.

An RCCL spokesperson told TTJ: “We have not yet shared our global health & safety protocols.”

A spokesperson for Princess told us: It’s too early to say exactly how shore excursions will look when we return to service.

“The health and safety measures implemented by Princess, including shore excursions, are continuously evaluated and will evolve as the pandemic and circumstances change over time.”

Saga has included up to six excursions in its cruise fare for 2021. It also has a new Explore Ashore service for customers who want smaller, more intimate tours or bespoke itineraries, which can be booked onboard.

Fred. Olsen still has details about shore excursions available on its website, which suggests these will still be allowed, although it’s best to check with them first before booking

Norwegian Cruise Line didn’t respond to our enquiry.

Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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