Are Shore Excursions Dangerous? | Travel Research Online


Are Shore Excursions Dangerous?

In light of recent events, clients and travel advisors are asking this question. If you missed the news stories over the holidays, there have been two recent accidents involving Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise passengers. The first was just days before Christmas when a bus crashed, killing 11 cruise passengers and a tour guide. The excursion to a nearby Mayan ruin site was contracted through the cruise lines. The second incident was last week with a SCUBA diving boat sinking. Again, this was a cruise line contract excursion. Both incidents occurred in Mexico.

Clients have questions

Many travel advisors are reporting that clients have been asking questions and raising concerns. Questions include “are shore excursions dangerous?” and “do cruise lines guarantee their shore excursions?” and “are their alternatives?” Some have narrowed down their concerns, and questioned if this is yet another problem with travel to Mexico in general.

In situations like this, we need to walk a fine line. We can never make any guarantees, as we have no way to enforce those guarantees which can open us up to serious liability. We can explain to clients how cruise lines and third party excursion companies (like Shore Trips and Shore Excursions Group) thoroughly vet their tour operators.

However, regardless of how much vetting is done, and what requirements are imposed on tour operators, accidents can happen. Drivers can be driving safely, and still have accidents. Even with regular maintenance, boats can spring a leak. Safety issues may be more likely to occur with unvetted operators that passengers engage with when they get off the ship in port. At least with cruise line and third party company excursions, you know someone has looked into safety records, and have properly vetted the tour operators.

Is it Mexico?

Mexico has been getting a bad rap for years. Stories about gangs and drug cartels give some folks the heebie-jeebies to start with. Add stories about tainted alcohol or cruise passengers being robbed, and now stories about cruise excursions going awry, and it seems like Mexico is cursed.

Other ports of call in the Caribbean aren’t necessarily safer or more dangerous than Mexico. It just feels like Mexico has the misfortune of always ending up in the US media, and always in a bad way.

Can sightseeing buses crash in New York City? Yes. Can a fishing boat sink in Alaska? Yes. Do they get sensationalized in the media? It’s hard to say.

Will this affect your business?

That’s even harder to determine. You may have some clients that were considering a cruise change their minds, and stick to a land vacation. Past cruisers may not be deterred based on their past experiences.

All we can do is to answer their questions as honestly as possible, without risking our businesses with undue liability. If you have questions about what to say, or not to say, to protect yourself from liability, consult an attorney. They too won’t take any guarantees (i.e. that you won’t be sued), but they can make recommendations of how you can reduce your liability risk by what you say, and how you say it.

Susan SchaeferSusan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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