You can browse through the shore excursions the cruise lines offer online as soon as you know where you`re going to dock. Every cruise line offers an online choice on their website. You just choose the port and see what you can do that day. It goes from city/island tours to adventurous trips like snorkeling, boat trips,…
You can either choose to already book your shore excursions online, if you already know what you want OR you can wait until you`re aboard your ship. You get a list of all the excursions and there`s an excursion desk where you can go with all your questions. They offer booking with them at a desk or (with RCCL) even from your cabin through the TV. There`s a seperate channel, just for excursions where they show short videos of the excursions! And you can make reservations.
If you decide to wait till you`re onboard, I would recommend to make your reservations the first day, as they fill up quickly.
There is the other option: not going on excursions through the cruise line, but on your own. Advantage is that it`s probably cheaper than through the cruise line. Disadvantage, who are you dealing with? Something you also have to keep in mind, if you go on an excursion on your own, make sure you get back to the boat on time. When you`re on an organized trip from the cruise line and you happen to have a delay getting back, they are in direct contact with the ship. On your own…well…you`re on your own!
I`ve done both, booked through the cruise line and exploring a destination on my own. If you`re with a group it might be interesting to explore the destination by yourself or make an excursion with one of the guys that are standing outside the ship when it docks. If you`re by yourself, it`s nicer to book an excursion, so you can join a group. Don`t worry you`ll meet so many people on a cruise, that you won`t feel alone and you can ask others if you can join them on an excursion.
A lot depends, I think, on the destination you`re visiting. Is it safe to go out by yourself? Is there something to see in the near area or do you have to take a taxi or bus to see the sights.
If you`ve booked through the cruise line, you`ll get your tickets delivered to your room. You just take them with you when you go ashore the day of your excursion. When you get off the ship, there will be people standing with signs in their hands. The signs indicate all the shore excursions, you then go to that person and get together with the rest of your group to start your chosen excursion.
If you haven`t booked anything, you can just go off the boat and explore the port of call by yourself or make arrangements at the port. As there are always locals offering you a tour or taxi to see the island/place where you docked.
Either way DON`T FORGET YOUR ID AND SEAPASS to get back onboard after you`ve visited the island or place you`re docked.
Read shore excursion reviews: