PORT PROMOTIONS – The online travel agency I work for offers shore excursions which is sponsored by a company called Port Promotions. Basically, the company offers pickup and return to the ship for each destination and guarantees your return to the ship on-time or they will arrange for you to catch up to the ship on their expense. (Either they fly you to the destination and put you up on hotels etc. to get you back on board the next port of call). They offer the same or similar popular organized tours for each destination. http://www.portpromotions.com/tvl/index.php
ADVANTAGES: 1) the biggest advantage is that they tend to have small group as oppose to the big buses of 50 people or so. Small groups of less than 20 people tend to keep schedules on-time, more personal service and it won’t be so crowded. 2) They tend to be cheaper (10 to 15% less especially if they are on-sale) or the same price as the cruise. Having a smaller group is a great advantage and I will detail to you my experience with them in Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey as you read on.
DISADVANTAGES: 1) Pricing – Unless you get a special offer from the online travel agency you work with (which you will get occasionally), price between Port Promotions and buying the excursion on the ship are pretty much the same. 2) You must purchase your excursion at least 3 days prior to the day you arrive at the destination. So unless you want to pay for online access on-board the ship (which ranges.45 to .65 per minute), I recommend booking them all ahead of time. 3) Not all excursions upon booking are automatically confirmed. In other words, once you book it, they will send you an email confirming that they have received your request but the actual excursion isn’t guaranteed to go unless a minimum number of people from either other passengers of your cruise or other cruise ship passengers order the same excursion with you. My guess is that the minimum number of confirmed passengers is 4. The only reason why I know that is because when I booked my Port Promotions excursion to Ephesus, Turkey, it was me, my wife and a Canadian couple on the same cruise ship and that was it. The number may vary but whatever that number is, once Port Promotions get the minimum number, they will send you another email confirming that the excursion is definitely a go. I believe they say that they will guarantee to let you know 2 to 3 days prior to you leaving for the cruise. So, worst case scenario, if they don’t get the guarantee your excursion is a go, you still have time to purchase the ship board excursion once you arrive.