When you ask experienced cruisers for their view on excursion tours, you’ll get very polar replies. Some will tell you they are the best thing since sliced bread, while others will tell you they are scams to stay away from. If you refine your question and ask if shore excursion operators are trustworthy, you will likely get a shoulder shrug and an “I guess.” While most seasoned cruisers have their own viewpoint on whether to take the shore excursions that the cruise lines offer, you very seldom hear any negative comments about trust issues with the tour operator.
While a cruise line can ignore or explain away some aspects of their relationship with the shore excursion operators, safety and trust issues can be very damaging for a cruise line. The cruise contract between the cruise line and the guest does limit the cruise lines responsibilities both off and on ship. While an independent contractor relationship exists between the cruise line and the tour operator, courts have held that the cruise lines have a responsibility to guests based on their recommendations. While many people would argue about the quality of a tour they may receive, the cruise lines are concerned with safety. While each cruise line has different policies, they generally have an agent in port that inspects the transportation being used by a tour company. In many locations, cruise lines will require the tour operator to have a bond for the company and staff.
Be Trust-worthy Or Else
Tour companies generally see a contract with a cruise line as a gold mine. In many popular ports a cruise line may have 10 port calls in a week. The sheer volume of tours that can be produced is very profitable for the tour company. The cruise line does the marketing and notifies them how many guests will be on the tour the next day. Generally, the tours are sold out. The contracts, however, allow the cruise line to cancel at anytime for any reason. The cruise guidelines generally allow for ‘cattle car tours’ (bus load after bus load of tourist) and are willing to accept a certain degree of quality complaints. because they can isolate themselves from the tours. A report of a tour operator employee being dishonest is harder for the cruise line to disassociate themselves from. These reports will be taken seriously and may result in a cancellation of a contract.
Like any other tour you plan on taking, look at the consumer sites that concern themselves with cruises and tours. Read the reviews and balance them out. Sometimes it is difficult to judge as cruise lines do change providers and many times the true name of the tour operator is unknown. Remember that there is always someone who cannot be pleased, but if there are a large number of complaints it’s good to take notice.