AmaWaterways cruising the Danube. Photo by AmaWaterways

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A big part of any cruise is exploring destinations along the way. Cruise lines have long offered shore excursions to travelers, but the types of excursions are changing. The days of one-size-fits-all excursions are giving way to a new era of personalized and immersive experiences.

Travelers want authentic experiences that align with their dreams and aspirations. Cruise lines have quickly adapted to offer excursions that cater to a diverse range of interests and passions.

Deeper, Authentic Connections

Cruise ship dining
Cruise ship dining. Photo by Marina113

Today’s cruisers want more than just a glimpse of the ports of call; they’re looking for authentic connections with the destinations they visit.  

“We’ve seen increased demand for intimate, personalized experiences,” says Kristin Karst, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of AmaWaterways. “Our Special Interest Tours have become much more popular as they provide unique experiences based on travelers’ specific hobbies and passions. Popular Special Interest Tours include sampling local delicacies, such as the pralines in Regensburg, Germany, or trying a hand at local traditions, like knotting pretzels in Wertheim, Germany.”

Princess Cruises offers Local Connections excursions led by local experts with a direct connection to the destination. From foodie-friendly to art-centric, these excursions connect travelers with locals who share their passions.  

A Viking Longship cruising on the Main River. Photo courtesy Viking
A Viking Longship cruising on the Main River. Photo by Viking

Viking’s Local Life excursions give an insider’s look at life in a destination, such as a visit to a Norwegian farm. Viking’s Working World excursions showcase local expertise, such as a visit to a Mercedes-Benz factory in Strasbourg, France.

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More Active Offerings

More travelers are booking active excursions. Hiking excursions are popular, such as hiking to scenic locations or historic castles. AmaWaterways was the first to offer bicycles on board and others have followed. Biking excursions allow travelers to explore destinations like a local, pedaling along picturesque riverside paths and through small towns.

A guest gazes up at Cologne’s cathedral during a guided bike tour. Photo by AmaWaterways
A guest passing Cologne’s famous cathedral during a guided bike tour. Photo by AmaWaterways

Immersive Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

Many cruisers seek bucket-list adventures. Princess has partnered with Discovery™ to offer Discovery Exclusive Tours, unique and immersive once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as tubing down a river in Dominica. Their Animal Planet TM excursions provide new ways to interact with the natural world, such as seeing Akureyri from the top of an Icelandic horse or taking a camel ride in Timanfaya National Park.

Regent Seven Seas has more than 3,800 free unlimited shore excursions, but their Regent Choice Shore Excursions (additional cost) provide bucket list experiences like soaring over Alaskan forests to Mendenhall Glacier.

Accessible Shore Excursions

Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain
Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain. Photo by KavalenkavaVolha

Many cruise lines offer accessible shore excursions. Celebrity’s Shore Excursion Coordinator helps guests find accessible tours in specific ports and provides recommendations tailored to the individual. Guided wheelchair-accessible cruise excursions include tours of city centers and ancient ruins or wheelchair-accessible trains like the White Pass Scenic Railway in Alaska.

Private, Personalized Experiences

Many travelers want private, custom excursions that reflect their interests and passions. Cruise lines are responding by offering customizable options. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises have Private Journeys, custom shore excursions planned exclusively for each guest by Destination Insiders.

Multi-generational Family-Friendly Shore Excursions

Exploring new places is a great way to build family togetherness, and more cruisers are booking family-friendly cruise excursions suitable for multiple generations. An example is Holland America’s Time-Travel Adventure through Rome.  

One thing is certain: cruise excursions are popular. Be sure to book your cruise excursions in advance.

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Janna Graber

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