ORGANIZED TOURS OR ESCORTED TOURS IN GENERAL - Now I’m one of those people that like organized tours for several reasons but the main reason is because one of the positions I held in Travelocity was to work with Escorted Tour operators like Trafalgar, Collette, Globus, Cosmos, General Tours etc. and knowing each company and how it operates including how each of these organize tours for destinations across the board plus personally taking about a half dozen of them in the past, I believe until today that it is the most economical and overall easiest way to see the city or destination for the first time without wasting time. Now I know some of you like the idea of doing things on your own which is fine and applaud that. In fact, I know for a fact doing it independently does have its appeal because it does give you some unique memories as you figure your way through narrow streets yourself. But remember that doing it on your own have headaches on its own. 1) Wasting time finding your way through the city will inevitably get lost. Time, as you know (unless you are European that have 2 months of vacation, is short and valuable. Every minute you are not home is one more dollar out the window. 2) To get from place to place and to alleviate time, many people rely on taxis and are sometimes easy but sometimes expensive (especially if the cab driver isn’t very honest). 3) Doing public transportation gets a bit tricky especially if you don’t speak or read the language (like Israel and Egypt) plus you waste time finding schedules etc. 4) If you are arriving via cruise ship, some of the ports are not actually in the destination you want to see. As an example, Alexandria is a 3-hour car ride to Cairo then once you are within city limits, you have to fight the city traffic to get to the Giza Plateau where the Pyramids are so you risk wasting time enough to miss the ship (ouch!) 5) Having a tour guide telling you what you are seeing is a great thing especially for someone like me who is history or culture buff.
Now if you have already been to these cities and have visited before extensively, then I can see going independently since you know where to go etc. But for the new visitors like me, I preferred the organized tours.
Anyway, now that you know I prefer organized tours, let me go over the research I went through. First of, other than the on-board shore excursions they offer on the ship during or prior to the cruise, there are not many organized tour companies that are willing to pick you up at the cruise terminal for each location and bring you back on-time. Most of the tour companies like Viator for instance, picks you up at the city center (which means you have to find your way from the cruise terminal to a central meeting place which wastes time). The only other options are 1) The Shore Excursion desk of your ship 2) Port Promotions or similar company that my company works with or 3) Arrange a private tour for yourself. Let me tell you the pros and cons to each.