Cruising as a holiday option is almost always the top most on anyone’s aspiration list. There is a charm associated with a cruise holiday that is hard to miss. However, when you embark on your first cruise holiday there are many questions in your mind and one of them is whether you would be sailing continually or if the ship will dock in the course of the cruise. Well, fret not because the ship does dock and give you great breaks in the form of shore excursions. On my first ever cruise courtesy Singapore Tourism Board and Tirun Travel Marketing, on the beautiful ship the Mariner of the Seas, I learnt so many new things that you can do aboard a ship and also about the very exciting shore excursions. Simply said these are breaks you can take and explore the destination where the ship docks. The best part is that you do not need a visa to get off the ship for the shore excursions as you are considered in transit. Just keep your cruise booking confirmation and passport handy and can enhance your cruise experience several notches higher. So here are my top five reasons why you must take a shore excursion.
Discover a new country
When the ship first docked at Port Klang in Malaysia, I was looking out the balcony of my sea facing room and was quite amazed to see the lit up port at daybreak. However we were not disembarking but my wait was not too long as the next day, the ship docked in Phuket and a short boat ride (these run every few minutes) brought me to the shores of beautiful Patong. The first sight I saw was endless rows of boats and water scooters and I immediately knew this was the place to enjoy beach sports. So whether it is parasailing, jet skiing or banana boats it’s all here.
Being in a new country can throw you off guard especially on what to see within the day you have. However, the cruise liner makes this easy when it offers an organized tour where you have a guide waiting for you and you are shown all the important sights on a bus tour. In Patong, I visited the beautiful Karong beach and Chalong Buddha temple that has a stunning architectural facade. I also visited a cashew factory and a gem factory as part of the tour. After a quick round of shopping at Jungceylon Mall, I finally saw a spectacular show at Simon cabaret by the unique Lady Boys of the beach town.
Take a break
The best part of the shore vacations is that they come like a good break while you are cruising. While there is a lot to see on a cruise ship, you may feel the need to be on land for a while and get back to cruising and these shore excursions offer just that. And the best part is that this break offers something new each time and you will love to come back and relax to the sound of the sea in your comfortable cruise room!
Experience local food
Food today has become a big part of understanding the local culture. While you are in a new country, keep an eye out for what the locals eat. In Patong, I actually ate a mango in early March! Try the Tom Yam Goong soup, Green curry vegetable, spicy red curry beef and fried rice shrimp – all local Thai dishes that will set your tastebuds zooming! Walk to the local food vendors and sample authentic Thai noodles and curries too.
Add value to your cruise experience
Finally, a cruise vacation is a one-of-its-kind holiday where there are so many new things to discover. And shore excursions add to the overall experiential factor by allowing you to explore a city over a day and hop to another the next. Cruising allows you to be get up and close to several sights across different countries. While cruising is a wonderful experience in itself, the shore excursions are a great way to discover something new and exciting. Now, that is a great package deal you cannot ignore!
This post was made possible due to Lonely Planet India who invited me to this experience.
Bindu Gopal Rao
Bindu Gopal Rao has extensively explored India and some parts of China, Malaysia, Australia, Sri Lanka, UAE, Hong Kong and more. Her expertise lies in writing about exploring places holistically – both offbeat and traditional tales with a twists.