One thing cruisers should think about when booking a cruise is shore excursions. Although you could wait until after you board and then inquire about what excursions the cruise line is offering, you might be disappointed to learn the ones that interest you are already sold out. It's a good idea, therefore, to talk to your cruise agent about booking tours before you sail.
One of the things you should consider is whether to book a tour run by the cruise line or one run by a third-party tour operator, of which there are many reputable outfits. The decision boils down to this: price versus risk. The cruise line's tours will be more expensive, often way more. But third-party tours have an element of risk. "What kind of risk are you talking about, Lombardi?" you ask. I'll tell you.
If you take, say, a bus tour with a third-party outfit, and there's a traffic jam or a mechanical problem that delays your arrival back in port and you miss the sailing, you're pretty much up a creek without a paddle. You'll have to find -- and pay -- your way to the next port of call. Not my idea of an adventure. Sounds more like an inconvenience if not a total nightmare.
There's more, although it's not nearly as severe.
If you have to tender into port -- that is, if the ship can't dock at the port of call and passengers must use tenders (small boats) to reach land -- then the cruise line's tours get preference. Usually that's not a problem, but occasionally it can be, if people don't debark the ship in time to make their third-party tours.
So, it's really up to you. How much risk are you willing to accept? Are you a gambling man -- or lady?
-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor