Is Your Cruise Tour Excursion
In mid-July, seven people were injured and three
killed when a glass-bottom boat capsized in the waters off Cabo San Lucas,
Mexico. Everyone had been a passenger aboard Carnival’s Elation. I feel a
connection with this tragedy since I had been on a similar glass-bottom boat
excursion in the same area while cruising aboard Princess Cruises' Sun
Princess. Unlike the tourists on the doomed tour, fortunately, I had
listened to well-heeded advice that anyone considering a shore excursion should
Saving Money Versus Safety
Glass-bottom boat tours
are popular in Cabo San Lucas, as the 45-minute cruise around Land's End offers
bountiful scenery and sightings of sea lions, pelicans, and tropical fish of
every shape and color. I took the glass-bottom tour recommended by Princess
Cruises. Whereas, passengers on the doomed boat did not take the tour
recommended by Carnival; instead, they were lured by the less-expensive tour on
a private boat.
Even the U.S. State Department's website advices
visitors to Mexico to "carefully assess the risk potential of recreational
activities. Sports and aquatic equipment may not meet U.S. safety standards nor
be covered by any accident insurance."
Cruise lines and cruise directors
routinely warn passengers not to take "certain" independent tours because of the
aforementioned issues. One thing is for certain, if a cruise line recommends a
tour, it has been thoroughly investigated.
"We only work with well-established tour operators that
have done business with the cruise industry in the past," says Carnival
spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz. Indeed, all the major cruise lines carefully
monitor their shore excursion programs for both content and passenger
satisfaction. Before a tour is recommended to guests, the cruise line will
complete a thorough investigation of safety and maintenance records, as well as
an onsite inspection. "We continually send employees on our recommended tours to
make sure they are running properly," notes de la Cruz.
vs. Independent Tours
Cruise line recommended tour excursions are, on
average, higher in cost than independent tours, so they might seem less
attractive. However, the recommended excursions are better options for many
reasons. Besides the safety factor, there is also the convenience of not having
to "haggle" in a foreign language or to negotiate in currencies that are
On the other hand, not all independent tours are unsafe or
difficult to deal with. Often, the key to using independent tours is doing
research before you go. Asking people who have visited the area can yield
excellent advice. Internet cruise message boards located at Cruise
Addicts, Cruise Mates, and Cruise Critic can be
bountiful resources for tips.
Even with good research, ask questions of
independent tour operators to ensure your safety. Consider doing the following:
If the tour operator will not answer your questions willingly,
move on to another operator that will.
- Make sure your tour is with a well-established and insured company.
- Don't be afraid to ask how long they've been in business or if they
had an accident.
- Never go on a water or air tour if it is windy or looks like it will
you partake in certain high-risk activities such as scuba diving, Jet Ski (wave
runner) tours, helicopter rides, or parasailing, you'll be asked to sign a waver
form releasing the cruise line from liability. Because tour operators are
independent companies from the cruise line, there isn't a guarantee that all
will be smooth sailing.
Last month while in Bora Bora, I took the cruise
line recommended wave runner tour. About halfway through the tour, my wave
runner had mechanical problems—it began to take on water and eventually sank!
Thankfully, experienced guides were quick to assist, and I was able to finish
the tour on another wave runner. Mishap and all, the tour was the highlight of
my vacation. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine taking this type of tour without
licensed and experienced guides—I may not have been so lucky or had such a good
Being on vacation can make one lackadaisical when
it comes to safety. Just note the photos of my glass-bottom boat tour—none of us
were wearing life jackets. The guide offered them but everyone shrugged him off,
displaying poor judgment. The victims killed in the Cabo San Lucas accident
drowned, and like us, they were not wearing life vests. In retrospect, we were
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