Cruise Ship Excursion Tours
Ask people who work a full-time job how much vacation time they have and many, if not most, will respond, “Not nearly enough!” As hardworking Americans, we highly value our vacation time and want to make sure that we get the most out of every single vacation that we take, whether it entails traveling to a foreign country or to our own backyards. Many Floridians enjoy their vacation time by taking cruises to various destination ports such as Jamaica, Bahamas, or Costa Rica. Cruise lines such as Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean offer many attractive packages to their passengers that include tour stop activities at certain ports. These “excursion tours” entail activities that range from taking a bus tour of the country’s terrain to snorkeling in ocean waters to parasailing along coastal shores.
Excursion tours are exciting because they offer the opportunity to participate in activities traditionally not available to us in exotic and foreign places. Cruise lines often promote these tours as part of their luxury cruise experience. They will provide detailed descriptions and perhaps even videos about the offered excursion tours on their websites as well as in written pamphlets and brochures. They also offer cruise directors and other knowledgeable staff members who will gladly advise and assist in booking the right tour for you and your party.
Of course, booking these tours through the cruise lines is more expensive than the price offered by the street peddler who waits for tourists to step off the ship at ports, but the belief is that it is worth it. It is worth spending the extra money to book these tours through the cruise line because of assurances regarding quality, safety, and security. Passengers logically assume that excursion tours that are endorsed by the cruise lines are better and safer than non-endorsed tours. After all, if the cruise line is promoting a particular excursion tour over other similar tours offered at a port, then the cruise line must have carefully interviewed and screened the tour to make sure that it is indeed safe, secure, and superior.
Passengers generally pay the premium because they assume that the quality of their adventure and the safety of their families will be far better protected by placing trust in the well-established and financially sound cruise line. Passengers reasonably assume that the cruise line has prudently screened the training, experience, and qualifications of its on-shore staff and routinely monitored the quality and maintenance of their equipment and gear. These are all reasonable assumptions for passengers to make, right?
WHAT PROTECTION HAVE YOU REALLY BOUGHT WHEN YOU BUY YOUR SHORE EXCURSION THROUGH THE CRUISE LINE?
Remember all of that fine print you did not read when signing up for your excursion tours? In one sense, do not worry because the vast majority of passengers do not read it either. On the other hand, that fine print contains some very important language regarding the excursion tour’s as well as the cruise line’s duties and obligations to you, the ticketed passenger. In reality, once you have been hooked into buying your shore excursion tickets from the cruise line and it has pocketed as much as over fifty percent of the cost of every ticket, cruise lines do everything they can to distance themselves from any responsibility for the injuries and deaths that too often occur when passengers are handed over to some foreign shell corporation running the show on shore.
These are corporations involved in a $29 billion per year industry. Often, however, the land excursion companies used by cruise lines are not vetted and only partially qualified. They frequently carry little or no liability insurance coverage; safety or security measures may be ignored; and the financial status of these excursion companies is often suspicious at best. To get in front of these potential charlatans before they take advantage of you and inadvertently cause you or a family member injury, ask for details about the land portions of the cruise. For example, the physical demands of shore activities are sometimes glossed over by the cruise ship lines. Many times, the level of difficulty is similarly categorized in two different trips, when in actuality, one is far more strenuous and risky than the other. Ask about price. Passengers can often directly book with the same tour company for a much lower price. Read all the fine print, particularly on the waiver form that you will invariably be told you have to sign as they are about to hook you into your zip line harness or hand out your scuba gear. Safety of transportation is seldom discussed by the cruise line and its excursion desk. Typically, transportation is provided by the land-based vendor. You could find yourself being transported in a door-less van with no seatbelts.
Most important of all, you need to understand that if tragedy strikes, you may find yourself faced with trying to recover damages for a catastrophe that occurred in a far-off country. The laws in that country may afford you little relief from what may turn out to be a shell corporation with little or no collectible assets. And what about the mighty cruise line you trusted to stand behind the quality of the product you bought on its ship based on the advertising in its brochure? Well, they are going to tell you that they have no relationship with and no responsibility for anything no matter how badly “their” tour operator screwed up. We hope that the family members of the victims of the Mexican bus crash find the quality legal representation they will need to defeat the “cruise line shell game” they are likely to confront in dealing with the terrible tragedies they have suffered.