My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Nine Tips for Surviving a Cruise Bus Excursion

2010/03/04by Donna Hull

bus-excursion-shipA cruise bus excursion gone wrong. If you’re a baby boomer who enjoys cruising, then sooner or later you’ll find yourself on a cruise bus tour where group dynamics have turned an excursion into an ordeal. Alan and I have survived a few, although most of our cruise excursions have been pleasant experiences.

When we sailed on our 52-day cruise from Vancouver to Singapore, the itinerary included several very long bus excursions. While we prefer to explore independently in port; for certain destinations, we think it’s best to opt for the safety and convenience of a cruise-sponsored trip.

With all of our cruising experience, we’ve seen our share of good and bad behavior from fellow passengers. As I said in the intro to this post, it all comes down to group travel dynamics. These nine tips will help you survive:

Make the right choice. Read the tour description. Does it sound appealing to you? Can you keep up with the activity level indicated? Will your patience last to the conclusion of a day-long bus tour to Hanoi with a driving time of 3 hours each way?

Be on time. Arrive for the tour at the appointed time. On trip stops, adhere to the schedule. Show respect to your fellow passengers. Don’t make them wait because you’re late.

Kindness counts. Are you able-bodied? Sit farther back on the bus, leaving the front seats to those who might have difficulty getting on and off.

Patience really is a virtue. Wait your turn to exit the bus. The tour isn’t going to start until everyone is off. If you have to be the first one out of the bus, sit in the front, which might mean arriving extra early at the beginning of the tour to secure a choice seat.

Keep your seat. Did you pick the wrong seat? If your location doesn’t please you, the next time you re-board the bus, look around for another seat. But, that doesn’t mean rushing back to the bus to claim someone else’s seat, which is the surest way to ignite an argument on a bus excursion.

Listen to the guide. The guide is paid to talk. If the idea of listening to him  discuss the beauty of his country for the entirety of the trip bothers you, then sit closer to the back of the bus or bring along noise-canceling headphones. And remember, the guide may be paid to talk but you aren’t. Be courteous to those around you who may be trying to listen.

Stay with the group. Joining a group bus excursion does not give you the right to wander off on your own, linger taking photographs or stop for unscheduled shopping. While the tour guide desperately tries to find you, the rest of the group is steaming on the sidewalk.

Hold your tongue. Are you dissatisfied with the way the excursion is progressing? Express your displeasure privately to the tour guide. If that doesn’t correct the situation, discuss your problems with the cruise tour desk once you return to the ship.

Quell your inner rebel. If you’re unhappy with the excursion, don’t broadcast it. Other passengers might actually be enjoying themselves, or making the best of a bad situation.  We’ve seen passenger insurrections started by one or two unhappy fellow cruisers. The result wasn’t pretty.

The best advice that we can give – set the tone by being positive. Board the bus with a smile, make eye contact with your fellow passengers, say hello – a little bit of niceness goes a long way.

Need more group travel advice?

Baby boomers have you experienced a cruise bus excursion gone wrong? Post a comment with your survival tips. Alan and I will add them to our group travel survival list.

This is the second post in my Survivor series. Did you read about surviving a long cruise? Later this spring I’ll be writing about how to be a road trip survivor.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Pauline Frommer March 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Thanks so much for linking to my article!
Might I also suggest that instead of taking the cruise sponsored group tour, you look into private tour companies' offerings at the ports? Through such companies as ShoreTrips and PortCompass you can find terrific local companies who do the exact same (or better!) itineraries as the cruise lines, but charge less and take MANY fewer people on their excursions, so you're not dealing with crowds. We used ShoreTrips in Cozumel and had a wonderful experience.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Great resources, Pauline. Thanks for telling us about them. Yes, we prefer private tours vs cruise sponsored tours when possible. Traveling through southeast Asia, we weren't as comfortable doing that. On our upcoming cruise from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale, we'll certainly be checking out Shore Trips and PortCompass as well as other private guides. The forums at Luxury Cruise Talk (http://www.luxurycruisetalk.com/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/…) and also Cruise Critic (http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/) is filled with private guide reviews from cruisers.

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Sandy2118 March 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Thanks for these great suggestions, which I will pass on to my traveling baby boomer friends. I once took a bus ride from Paris to Stockholm. Never again! I find I have even less tolerance for cramped buses ever since passing 60.

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marthaandme March 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I've never gone a cruise, let alone a bus excursion. These are great tips to keep in mind.

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Christine March 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Useful tips – my parents often go on bus excursions and I will pass these along to them.

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Meredith March 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

The world should read this post! (At least the excursion-taking world.) Great advice, actually, not just for life on the bus but for life in general. :)

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Susan March 4, 2010 at 5:05 pm

These tips are useful to all travelers, not just cruise passengers. Thanks, Donna!

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Jennifer Margulis March 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I hate traveling by bus. I have nightmares about it. Literally. But these are good suggestions for how to survive the trip if one chooses to travel this way!

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Frugal Kiwi March 4, 2010 at 10:16 pm

A private options sounds good to me. I'm not a big fan of tour bus trips, but I expect the private ones would be more to my taste.

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Mark H March 4, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Some excellent lessons – could be posted in every tour bus as the commandments of travel. I avoid large group buses like the plague for all of the reasons you hint at with your commandments, though I've been on a couple of simply excellent small group travel trips. So much of any of these tours are dependent on the guide and these are difficult to guage before you start.

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Alisa Bowman March 5, 2010 at 2:28 am

I have trouble traveling in groups because I'm basically an antisocial human being who hates to sit for long periods of time. But these are great tips to keep in mind!

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iwalkwrite March 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I liked this a lot. Group travel etiquette & philosophy for life :-)

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ottsworld
Twitter:
March 6, 2010 at 5:42 am

I think these tips can apply to any group tour! Good reminder to simply be nice…it will get your further than being mean.

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heatheronhertravels March 6, 2010 at 10:49 am

I've never been on a cruise but I can see that there would be times when it would make sense to take a group excursion if it means you could see something more easily in the limited time you have although I expect the convenience comes at a price. I wondered in which circumstances you might opt to organise the excursion yourself, or book it thorugh another local provider on shore and whether you've found advantages or disadvantages in each approach

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MyKidsEatSquid March 6, 2010 at 10:38 pm

I've been on good and bad bus excursions too. It seems like the success of these excursions often has more to do with your fellow travelers versus those who are running the trip–the nature of travel is you have to be patient, but not everyone has learned that lesson.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm

A bus trip from Paris to Stockholm would be a long journey. Thankfully, cruise bus excursions aren't that long :-). On luxury cruises, they usually don't crowd passengers onto the bus, opting for several buses instead. Of course much depends on the destination and what's available.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thanks, Meredith. I agree that these rules would be applicable to almost any situation. Of course those who really need to follow these suggestions, will not be reading this post. Or if they do, they won't think it applies to them.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Luckily, these are short excursions, Jennifer. The longest cruise bus excursion I have been on was a 3-hour one to Hanoi – there and back in the same day. When it's the only choice for seeing an area that I might not visit again, I bite the bullet and ride the bus.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:10 pm

We take the private option when we can. However, when traveling on cruises to the more remote parts of the world, the cruise excursion is a safer option.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I agree with you about guides, Mark. They make the difference and there's no way to know about them until your excursion is already in progress. During our cruise through southeast Asia, the majority of our guides were excellent.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Most of the major cruise destinations offer choices of private guides. Many of the cruise boards and forums on the internet discuss guides, often having a thread for people to post their experiences and recommendations. Many travelers will negotiate with taxi driver/guides right at the port. The ship usually offers advice on how much to pay and other port tips in their daily bulletins.

One of the advantages of a private cruise excursion is doing what you want rather than following along with a group. The price can be more or less, it just depends on what you're doing.

One disadvantage is that if you return late to the ship from a private cruise excursion and miss the sailing, you are on your own. Catching up with the ship can be quite expensive.

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Mark H March 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm

That must have made your trip very enjoyable. I have found some have no judgement as to the mood of the group (tired, bored of listening to facts, fascinated, want to move a little faster, …) and that is so critical in doing the job well. It isn't just knowing when some building was built or the name of a painting.

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