Cruise excursions are a great way to explore the local flavor of a port of call while having a blast and getting a new experience under your belt.
But not all shore excursions are created equal. While the chance of being injured on one of these expeditions is relatively low, some excursions pose more danger to passengers than others.
Many foreign countries lack the strict business regulations of the United States that keep customers safe. Moreover, in poorer countries, tourism can be a strong source of revenue for individual citizens. But the easy money American tourists provide can encourage these business owners to cut corners when it comes to keeping their tour safe.
Because of this, it is important to exercise caution when signing up and participating in a shore excursion. Here are some tips for staying safe while exploring the sights, sounds, and adventures of your port of call.
How to Stay Safe on a Cruise Expedition
Book Excursions through the Cruise Line. When deciding which expedition to take, it is better to pick from the ones that are offered by your cruise line.
Cruise companies take great care to investigate the tour operators they use for their business. Background checks, license checks, evaluations of equipment safety and maintenance, contact with local authorities, and random on-site inspections are all commonplace for cruise companies.
By the time the cruise docks in the port, the cruise line will have conducted extensive evaluations of any tour group they offer—failing to do so would be a huge liability for the company. That is not to say that an accident cannot happen on a cruise expedition, but the company’s extensive research should bring you more peace of mind. Plus, if you go through the cruise line and something goes wrong that means you can seek compensation from them instead of whatever tiny operation handles the excursion itself.
You may be able to find a tour or excursion that costs less than the opportunities your cruise offers, or the cruise line may not offer the excursion that you wanted. But remember that the trade-off is you and your family’s safety—there may be a reason that your cruise did not give a tour operator their business.
Do Your Research. If you have your heart set on an excursion that your cruise line does not offer, make sure to do your research beforehand. Look up reviews and ratings on sites like Cruise Critic, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor or other internet forums. On many websites, you can also ask questions regarding your own concerns and limitations.
Another place to check is the local tourism office. If you have specific excursion in mind, you can send a quick email to the tourism office in the city in question. Tourism officials do not want anything bad to happen to visitors, so they will be more than happy to provide you with the information you need. They can tell you what to avoid, which tours have a good reputation, and even suggest other excursions you might enjoy.
Ask the Right Questions. A good tour operator should be able to answer questions about the safety measures his or her company has in place. Particularly if you are booking an independent excursion, it is a good idea to have a few questions prepared for the tour staff.
Some questions you might want to ask are:
- How often is the equipment checked and maintained?
- What kind of certifications do the guides have?
- How are staff members trained?
- What is the company’s insurance coverage?
If you have any physical limitations, you should bring this up with your tour operator before you pay for an excursion. For example, if you have a bad knee, you may want to ask if the tour is particularly strenuous.
Avoid Booking Excursions from Port Solicitors. At many ports around the world, tour companies like to send out representatives to pitch their tour to newly arrived cruisers. Unless you have researched their company beforehand, you should avoid booking a tour through these people.
There is no way to verify any of the claims made by these solicitors. Many of them are experienced, aggressive salespeople who will say anything to get your business. This is not to say that they are all con artists, but there is simply no way to separate the legitimate excursion companies from the dangerous ones while you are standing in a crowded port.
Listen to and Follow Instructions. When you have decided on a tour, make sure to follow any instructions provided by your guide. Avoiding major accidents is critical in a foreign country, where there is no guarantee that the quality of medical care matches that of the US. Furthermore, your insurance probably will not cover emergency medical care in another country. Even minor accidents can end up being very costly.
If you or a family member has been injured on a cruise or shore excursion, you deserve fair and just compensation – but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it without a fight. Cruise accidents and injuries require legal representation with a strong background in maritime law. Our cruise lawyers have decades of experience between them, and we’ve helped countless people just like you.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.