Are shore excursions or tours included in the river cruise fare? It depends. While shore excursions are often an add-on for ocean cruises, they are pretty much the norm for river cruises in all regions — with the exception of the United States. If shore excursions are included as part of the package, they are considered complimentary.
In most river cruise regions, tours are coordinated by the river cruise companies in advance. Travelers are allowed to choose which tour or tours they would like to take. Depending on the length of the tour and the amount of time docked in the city, there is often time to participate in more than one tour. Transportation to and from the river cruise ship and between tours is provided by motor coach if it’s not within walking distance.
Some river cruise companies base the tour groups on the activity level required or desired. For example, AmaWaterways offers a “Gentle Walkers” group and an “Active Walkers” group. Even if the excursions are not segmented by activity level, there will still be more than one tour group for most destinations. This is due, in part, to capacity allowed for each excursion.
Shore Excursions Included in the Fare
In almost all regions of the world, shore excursions are included in the package. The complimentary excursions are fairly standard among river cruise companies, which means you’re likely to visit the same sites, regardless of the cruise line.
Some companies, such as Uniworld, will allow you to purchase “premium” shore excursions either on the ship or prior to departure. Most companies allow you to purchase other excursions; however, Uniworld actually suggests specific “premium” excursions in its itineraries.
Shore excursions are included in the fare for these river cruise companies: AmaWaterways, A-ROSA (see note below), Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, Grand Circle, Scenic Cruises, Tauck, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises.
With regard to A-ROSA, they do essentially include shore excursions in the river cruise fare through the issuance of “Shore Excursion Credits”. These “credits” can be used toward the purchase of shore excursions. The amount of credit is relative and is based on the length and price of the river cruise.
Shore Excursions Not Included in the Fare
Ocean cruisers who have never been on a river cruise would probably not expect shore excursions to be included in the fare. However, for seasoned river cruisers, the expectation is there for onshore tours to be part of the package. While this is generally true, it isn’t always.
CroisiEurope, for example, does not include excursions as part of the package. The company has Mekong River cruise packages that offer excursions as part of the fare. This is a situation, though, in which CroisiEurope books space on cruise ships owned by another company. These packages are not put together by CroisiEurope.
In the United States, shore excursions are not always included in the package. American Cruise Lines offers a couple of complimentary excursions for some of its itineraries; but, in general, the company states that shore excursions are not part of the river cruise package.
American Queen Steamboat Company does not include organized tours as part of any of its packages. However, the company does offer an interesting alternative called “Hop-On-Hop-Off Tours” that provides guests with an opportunity to explore famous sites in each city.
American Queen Steamboat Company transports guests by its very own motor coach service. Travelers are given a map that shows the hop-on-hop-off route and the city’s attractions. Admission is included for many of the tours. And for those in which it is not, a discount will apply. So to some extent, excursions are included in the fare, but not in the sense that they are organized as group trips.
Shore Excursions Average Savings
This is difficult to estimate since you would have to look at each tour for each itinerary. The main thing to keep in mind is that excursions are typically part of the river cruise package. And they are included whether or not the package is all-inclusive.
See other all-inclusive river cruise articles in this series:
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