Pick your excursions wisely
When it comes to picking cruise excursions it can be tempting to take the standard, ticking off the big sights trips but speak with the destination team to unearth some more unique tour options which provide the chance to interact with the locals and learn about their cities.
For example, Princess Cruises offered Beer Tasting in Tallinn with a local expert right through to traditional fishing-village lunches with locals in Denmark; you can make your time on land a chance to connect with the very people who call your port home.
If in certain destinations you still can’t find the perfect itinerary for an excursion, book an independent, local tour which ticks all your boxes.
Get around like the locals
In most of our ports of call, we could walk, cycle or bus into the city centre, so if an excursion just isn’t your thing you can explore solo.
Getting around as the locals do is not only a great way to explore the city but also a chance to understand it better; I always find the day-to-day life of a destination is the best start in getting under its skin. The added bonus of cruise docking times is you likely won’t be getting stuck in work rush-hour foot traffic which is great for you and means local workers don’t need to battle the ship guest just to get to the office.
Get around like the locals
Get off-ship tips from the crew
With a crew of over 1500 on my Princess Cruises, there was the chance to meet staff from around the world. I had some great banter and have kept in touch with a few of the guys from my ship and not only is this another chance to learn about someone else’s home, they are also usually experts in the destination you are visiting.
With many staff roles allowing the chance to venture on land, check in with your favourite waiter or bartender if they have some insider tips of things to do when you head onshore, they will usually have visited more than once and have worked out the best spots in the city or ways to maximise your time.
Hire a private driver
The destination team on Princess Cruises were also able to arrange private drivers for the duration of your time on land. While you can book these alone, the guarantee of Princess Cruises waiting for you when booked through them can be a safer bet if you plan on venturing out and traffic is not on your side.
Not only do you get a ready-made expert local guide in the form of your driver but you can maximise your time on land to suit your needs. That could be heading to a local farm in Finland and learn their practices from the farmers or simply spending more time viewing attractions at your pace, the additional cost could allow you to really nail out the city in a day.
Get souvenirs and meals from small local businesses
Dine off the ship when possible
While it may be tempting to return to the ship for your all-inclusive lunch, take the chance while ashore to find local restaurants and dine in the destination.
Cruising doesen’t always have the best impact on a destination as thousands of people can disembark and not spend a penny, so find a local restaurant for lunch (and maybe even breakfast and dinner too). You’ll be putting cash in a local business, interacting more and get to enjoy my favourite hobby in the world, people watching over coffee.
My tip is when looking at restaurant reviews would be select the restaurants which have the highest rating from natives to the country, like which restaurant in Copenhagen has the highest score by the Danish, that way you know you are finding somewhere popular with the locals and not just tourists.
Buy your souvenirs locally
In the same vein, support local businesses as much as possible. While most ports will sell anything you may want to take home, venture into the local, family-run business when you are in the city and spread that tourist dollar further.
If you are planning your first cruise but worried about it, check out these cruising myths and FAQs I debunked or the full review of my Baltic Sea Cruise here. Safe sails and don’t forget to keep that adventurous spirit alive!
This 11-day Baltic Sea cruise with Princess Cruises starts from £999pp for an interior stateroom based on twin-share*. Taking in Warnemunde Germany, Oslo Norway, Copenhagen Denmark, Stockholm Sweden, Helsinki Finland, St. Petersburg Russia and Tallinn Estonia, it offers a great chance to explore many cities in a short vacation.
*load factor, dates, availability and other factors will affect the final quoted price