So you’ve patted yourself on the back for booking a great deal for a fabulous cruise trip to the Caribbean.  Airfare has been paid and you feel that the majority of your travel costs are done.  After all, the cruise provides all the food, entertainment and travel to the different destinations.  Well think again as when you start reviewing the excursions fees from the cruise line . . . you may fall out of your chair and paramedics may need to be called! 
 
So how do you avoid the hefty fees and still take advantage of fabulous excursions, simply book your sightseeing trips with vendors directly and bypass the middleperson . . . the cruise line!  Below are a few tips to get you started!
 
1.       Join a Cruise Club Organization:  There are several cruise clubs on-line which allow you to share information about a particular cruise and tips on booking sightseeing trips with vendors.  For example, cruisecritic.com offers a roll call for members which allows you to join a specific cruise and dates.  From there, members can agree to share costs with booking a private tour company for a more customized itinerary.  Imagine getting a more personalized tour of the port city with just 8-10 other people at half the price!  You can also search within the site any feedback from prior passengers who booked an off-ship excursion. 
2.       Review Travel Sites On-line:  Search sites like tripadvisor.com which are an excellent source for tour companies, reviews, travel tips, photos and rating system.  You may get a recommendation or referral from one place but not sure if you want to rely on just one source.  With a site like tripadvisor.com, you’ll get detailed information from many users, their likes and dislikes and useful tips for readers.
3.       Google Search:  Simply key in your sightseeing trip criteria and you’ll be amazed at the variety of options that come up for your search.  From here, you can narrow down which tour companies appeal to you and then head over to review sites to check and see if they are really that awesome as they claim to be on their site!
4.       Compare Tour Company Prices to Cruise Line:  After you’ve done your research, compare what the cruise offers versus booking an off-ship excursion yourself.  If the price difference is only 20% or less, then it may be worth to just book with the cruise line.  Benefits with the cruise line is that they handle all the arrangements, passengers get first priority disembarking from the ship and you can typically cancel 24 hours before the trip.  If you book directly with the tour company and need to cancel, it may be difficult if the boat is at sea and you have no internet connection.