The cruise is booked (and a Big Thank You to Princess Cruise Lines for their recent sale pricing for this cruise!). The flights are booked (sigh…no deals there but we did manage to save about $600 by using Loyalty Points from our grocery store). After the cruise we are staying in London for about a week and the hotel is booked (and more money saved thanks to Aeroplan and CIBC Rewards!). That gives us where to go, where to stay when we arrive and how to get there and back.
Now to fill the days with fun, food, drink and history. Decisions, decisions…so many to choose from.
There are pros and cons to no matter how tours are booked. Through the ship you ~know~ the ship will wait for you if your tour is late getting back for any reason. Inclement weather, traffic issues, breakdown with the vehicle…no problem. The ship will be there when you finally return. But what if the ship has nothing of real interest to you or most things are priced too high for your budget? (Both will happen so don’t be surprised.)
A lot of time tours can be booked on your own. If you do your research you may find less expensive, more informative tours available through private local companies. But, if you return late, all you can do is wave good-bye to the ship as you watch it sail away to what would have been your next destination. Oh…and by the way. You’re likely in a different country than where your ship is now headed. And it may be across open water so now you need to book a flight. And you’ve just remembered your passport is in the safe…in your room…on the ship…sailing away.
But really, don’t let this deter you. Careful planning on your part will reduce that potential calamity to almost zero. Check out your tour guide’s company long before you even get on the ship. Take a copy of your passport (at the very least) with you on your tour. Structure that tour to be back to the dock at least an hour before the ship leaves. We have done both ship and non-ship tours and have yet to be stranded.
But…back to our problem. There are some ‘touristy’ things we want to see, certainly. St. Andrews is one…the inside of Buckingham Palace (which we didn’t get to do on our first visit)…maybe try to get a photo-op with ‘Nessie. You know all about those type of things to see and do. (One thing we’re going to take a pass on is kissing the Blarney Stone. First, I’m not sure I could make the long walk up the very narrow staircase. And second…bend over backwards to be upside down while placing my lips on a rock that millions of others have done in the past? I just do not find it that appealing.)
Other, less common things have piqued the curiosity as well. Like doing a night tour of White Chapel where a certain “Ripper” instilled fear and sliced his way to infamy. Or perhaps a walk through Glamis Castle, seeking out Duncan Hall, best remembered as the place that Macbeth murdered King Duncan. Or maybe just spend the day walking through Edinburgh, in itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As you can see, choices are many. People who haven’t cruised before and even some that have, point this out as one of the drawbacks to cruising in general. A lot of things to do and see and so little time to do them. Certainly a valid point. But with a little thought and deliberation ahead of time, the hours on shore can be packed with memories only attainable by being there. You can’t read about them. You can’t experience them by sitting at an all-inclusive resort. Your pace is your own to consume as much of the surrounding culture as you care to. The hours may seem insufficient, but reminiscence can easily spur return for a more lengthy stay…to pick up where you left off.
Then you remember there is so much more you have yet to see, elsewhere, in this great, big world…and time, once again, becomes a factor.