Of course you don’t have to partake of share excursions. Shore excursions are a way to enhance your cruise vacation, but they are not mandatory by any means. You can do what you want in port, including walk around town or just stay on the ship. You will either tender (small boat to shore) or dock. It depends on the port and how many ships are there. But if you tender it will usually be done efficiently.
In the Caribbean and Alaska you certainly don’t have to take tours – but many people do and are quite happy with them.
If you are cruising in Europe and some other parts of the world it may be different. Unless you just want to go into the city. They usually run shuttle buses which will take you ‘downtown’. But this is only to the port city. For example, the port for Paris might be Le Havre. If you want to get to Paris, you’re on your own. Sometimes you’re close to a train station – all depends.
Shore excursions are usually well organized and worth the money. I know sometimes you can do it cheaper on your own, but remember that you are also paying for a guide, admissions, etc. Not to mention peace of mind – the ship won’t leave until all the tours are back. If you go on your own you may have to build in extra time to be sure you won’t miss the ship. If you are a maximizer like me who tries to pack as much into a day as possible, the tour might be your best safe guard against over doing it and missing the ship.
If you’re highly independent, I’m sure you can always do things on your own, I know a concern can be stragglers on a group tour. This rarely happens in my experience, especially if you are on a cruise in Europe, Asia, etc. Experienced cruisers know how to behave. If they don’t they are brought in line very quickly – believe me! However, if you are very concerned about this, there are also plenty of private tours that allow you to chart your own course.
Are you curious about what types of shore excursions are available? Just click here and browse.