Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cruises

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cruises

Article excerpt

ASK cruise passengers about their shore excursions, and the comments often fall into two extremes: "great" or "terrible." We've had our share of both.

On the irritating side was the excursion offered by Princess Cruises to Pampalona in Spain. The local guide's English was very poor, and once he discovered there were several Mexican families on this tour, he chose to make most of his remarks to them, in Spanish.

There were also some close escapes, one of them in Bangkok, where, after an Orient Lines-organized tour of the royal temples, we chose to abandon the group and go off on our own. Those who stayed were taken to only one more stop: a high-priced, government-operated craft shop. But there also have been memorable tours: During a port stop in St. Petersburg, Crystal Cruises organized a spectacular private tour of the Ekaterina Palace in the village of Pushkin, followed by a ballet performance, fireworks, dinner and a wonderful choral concert. "I think a lot of shore excursions leave a lot to be desired," says Helen Luehman, a cruise counselor at Travel Horizons in Arlington, Va. "When I send people to the Greek islands, I tell them to walk to the end of the pier and get a taxicab. The cab drivers know how much the ship's tour costs, and all they have to do is dicker. When I went, the driver matched that price. And you could even do better. It depends on how you negotiate. A family of four or several couples can save even more. And when you get (to the attractions), you will be ahead of the bus tours and there will be less crowding." This go-it-alone form of travel, Luehman agrees, is best done by passengers who are comfortable with independent travel and can cope with language and monetary differences. She also adds some caveats: Deduct any admission fees from the ship tour price before calculating a target price for your taxi tour. …

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