The MSC Seaview is such a fabulous ship and cruising aboard her is a great way to get around and see some of the best highlights of Europe.
One downside though is that shore excursions can be pricey. We found ourselves having to compromise and choose because doing an excursion at every port was simply out of our budget.
Also, some of the excursions we did were so rushed that we didn’t get to enjoy just ‘being’ in the destination. We found it much better when we picked only one or two things to do in a place, instead of trying to fit everything into one day.
Excursions didn’t always give us time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and sample the delicious food on offer or wander through the character-filled city streets. Our kids also got tired with some of the more fast-paced excursions.
We’re also fairly independent travellers and prefer to put together our own itineraries to match our interests AND to avoid the obligatory gift shop stop nature of some organised tours.
So what’s the alternative?
We discovered that there are companies out there offering fantastic tours, often for much less cost than the premiums you will pay if you book your excursions through the cruise company.
It’s also actually quite easy to independently get around many of the stops if you use a combination of buses and skip-the-line tickets.
If you’re travelling in a family group, it can sometimes be cheaper to book your own private transport too.
We’ve taken several tours now with GetYourGuide in various parts of the world, and every experience has been great. They use local guides, it’s extremely easy to book through their website and the customer service with both companies has been prompt and excellent.
One of our best days was when the ship docked in Malta and we simply took a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus around the island. It cost a fraction of what the MSC excursions were and meant we could take our time and have one of the most memorable meals of our trip.
If you’re interested in looking at different alternatives to the MSC excursions, here are some recommended tours in the places that the MSC Seaview visits.
We’re also found some fabulous alternatives to what MSC offers – how about cruising the Riveria in a vintage Citroen car, taking a food tour through Genoa, visiting the prettiest Cinque Terre villages (that the MSC tours don’t go to), and fabulous family-friendly tours in Rome that our kids loved!
Barcelona Shore Excursions
This Hop-On Hop-Off bus allows you to see all the highlights of Barcelona, with audio commentary from 15 different languages. Your ticket includes a map detailing the routes and stops.
It visits many of the must-see sights including Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, Barcelona Cathedral, Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona Aquarium and many more.
It’s a short walk or Uber to the World Trade Centre stop, where you can board the bus and present your voucher. This definitely lets you make the most of your day in Barcelona!
Because you have such a short time in port, you want to make the most of it and not waste time in long queues to get into attractions. This is where skip-the-line tickets are brilliant.
You pay a small premium to enter through a separate line than the general public, meaning you have more time to explore the attraction. Combined with a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket they’re a great way to maximise your time in Barcelona.
Check prices and book tickets here:
Ajaccio (Corsica) Shore Excursions
This economical boat tour takes in the natural beauty of the Gulf of Ajaccio and the Sanguinaires archipelago on a 3-hour boat tour.
Enjoy a stopover on Mezumare, the main island in the archipelago, accessible only by boat. Go for a swim or take a walk to the lighthouse.
Cannes Shore Excursions
The MSC excursions on offer for Cannes are a little limited, so here are some alternative suggestions to make the most of your time there.
Take part in a 2.5 hour e-bike tour with an English or French speaking guide, exploring the highlights of Cannes including the old port, the Suquet neighborhood, the famous La Croisette boulevard, La Californie or Palm Beach area. This tour makes several stops to take pictures, shop or have a drink. Ideal for active families!
If you’re a group of 5 or more, then it’s definitely more economical (and comfortable) to hire a private driver for your Cannes and French Riveria sightseeing rather than go with the crowds off the ship.
The driver will pick you up directly from the port and take you where you want to go along the Côte d’Azur. The guide is available in 5 different languages.
Check prices and book a Private French Riveria Private Half Day Tour here.
How special would it be to cruise around the French Riveria in a vintage Citroën Traction Avant from the 1950s?!
You can rent one of these archetypical French cars for half a day and visit some of the most gorgeous small villages like Eze, Gourdon, Tourrettes sur Loup, Saint Paul de Vence, Valbonne, Biot, or Mougins.
You can customise your itinerary to suit and arrange to be picked up and dropped back to the cruise port.
This fabulous tour will walk you through the famous Croisette Boulevard with its Palais des Festivals and prestigious hotels to the local market, where you’ll get to sample delicious regional specialities. After your food tour, wander through the beautiful streets of old Cannes at leisure.
Your guide meets you at the cruise terminal with a placard with your name on it and can walk you back at the conclusion of the tour (or you can wander back at your own leisure).
Genoa Shore Excursions
Explore Genoa in an economical way at your own pace via a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour. The bus can be boarded directly from the Cruise Terminal at Genoa, and takes in sights like the grand 16th and 17th-century palaces on the Strade Nueve, Cathedral San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale and the city’s museum.
From our experience, taxi drivers charge an absolute premium to get you into town from the Genoa cruise port (we got charged an extortionate 20 euros to travel from the port a small distance to the train station), so this is a great way to see the sights without paying a fortune to get around.
You could also combine the Hop-On Hop-Off tour with an audio guide of the Old Town. For 11 euros, you can purchase a 2-hour self-guided tour that also gives good discounts to a number of different museums – the perfect way to put together a DIY tour of Genoa.
Genoa is famous for its delicious cuisine, and a great way to learn more about it is by taking a food tour.
This 3-hour tour with a local will take you through Genoa’s downtown alleys to some of the city’s hidden gems with at least 5 food stops, chosen on a daily basis depending on what is in season. Dishes may include Pasta with pesto, savoury pastries, focaccia with cheese, fried calamari, stockfish, anchovies, frisceu, coffee and dessert. Water, beer, wine or soft drinks are included.
The famous explorer Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, and this 3-hour walking tour with a local tells the story of his life, along with stops along the way at key sights.
You’ll learn all about the entwined history of Genoa and Columbus, see some hidden sights that only locals know about, and enjoy a Genoese aperitif of local wine and focaccia.
La Spezia (Cinque Terre) Shore Excursions
It will be rushed, but if you want to see both Pisa and Florence during your La Spezia stop, here’s the perfect way to do it without breaking your budget.
This bus trip picks you up from the cruise terminal at 9am and drops you back at 5.30pm in time to re-board the ship. The bus is comfortably air-conditioned and features WiFi, a multi-lingual assistant to help with any queries, including an emergency number to contact in the unlikely event you encounter any problems. You’ll also receive a free map of Florence and Pisa.
Alternatively, if you’d like a little more comfort and are a group of up to eight people, you may prefer to take the trip in a Mercedes sedan or private minivan. Learn more and check prices here.
This tour allows you to visit three of the Cinque Terre’s most picturesque villages – which are not available on any excursion that MSC offers. It’s also 20 euros cheaper per person than MSC’s Cinque Terre tour.
You will be picked up directly from the port and enjoy free time in Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Monterosso villages. A professional tour guide accompanies you and helps you with travelling through the villages by train, which is the most authentic mode of transport between them. In Monterosso, you’ll also get to try the local delicious limoncello liqueur! The trip has returns you back to La Spezia port in time to board the ship.
If you’re a group travelling together, or if you just prefer to do your Cinque Terre exploring in private, then check out this private Cinque Terre Tour. The cost works out more economical than taking the MSC option on offer for groups of 8 or more people.
You can choose your itinerary – visit the villages of your choice riding the Cinque Terre Express train along the Ligurian coast while learning the history of this stunning part of Italy.
Cinque Terre is the perfect place to do some independent exploring, and what better way to do it than zip between the villages in your own private speedboat.
The boat comes complete with a tank of gas, map of the Cinque Terre and you’ll be given a quick lesson on how to use it before you take off at your own leisure.
Foodies will love this food tour that explores the mix of cuisine from Liguria and Tuscany.
On this 3 hour tour a local will show you around the streets of La Spezia, sampling 5 traditional and street foods served in different eateries, such as anchovies, calamari, sgabei, testaroli, panigacci, farinata, espresso and ice cream!
Cittavecchia (Rome) Shore Excursions
If you’re planning to independently explore Rome, it’s significantly cheaper to book your own Rome transfers for the 1.5 hour journey from Cittavecchia Port to the city, than purchasing the MSC Cruises option.
This ‘Rome On Your Own’ transfer is around 25 euros cheaper per person for adults and 12 euros cheaper per child than MSC’s option and has excellent reviews.
That’s a 74 euro saving for a family of four – imagine all the gelato you could buy with that!
Private Rome Highlights Tour
If you’d prefer to explore the must-see sights of Rome at your own pace in a luxury vehicle, then a Private Rome Highlights Tour is a good choice.
This tour lets you admire the sweep of the Spanish Steps, throw a coin in the Trevi fountain, look inside the Colosseum and Pantheon, go to the Vatican and more.
Rome Skip-The-Line Tickets
Once you’re in Rome, to make the most of your precious time in Rome we recommend skip-the-line tickets, allowing you to save time queueing and see more.
As an indication, when we’ve visited Rome in June the queue to enter St Peter’s Basilica was around 2 hours and last year in July the queue for the Colosseum was around 1.5 hours without fast-track or reserved entrance tickets. So it can definitely be worth paying a little extra for them!
Some of the most popular skip-the-line tickets include:
Rome Tours For Families
If you’re travelling with kids we’d highly recommend taking a tour that’s tailored specifically for families.
The knowledgeable local tour guides really bring the city to life and make it interesting and interactive for all members of the family. We took a family tour of the Colosseum and our kids (and the adults!) absolutely loved it, it’s really worth doing.
The following Rome family tours come highly recommended, click the links for further details and prices:
Palma de Mallorca Shore Excursions
A super easy way to explore the highlights of Palma de Mallorca at your own pace. The bus visits such iconic places as Catedral El Seu, Almudaina Palace, Castell de Bellver and the Plaza Espana.
Save time and book a fast-track ticket to gain entry into the Palma Cathedral and Diocese Museum. This ticket will give you entrance to the city’s most iconic building and the treasures of the Diocese Museum.
A unique and novel way to explore Palma de Mallorca is by hiring your own Formula Racing Car. This 2.5-hour tour takes you through the Sierra de Tramuntana mountains with spectacular views of Mallorca. Kids can take part too as a ‘co-pilot’.
This excursion takes a 1-hour boat trip around Palma Bay with the opportunity to see great views of the city and harbour. From there it’s onwards to the cooking school, where a professional chef will teach you how to make traditional Spanish cuisine including traditional “gazpacho” (cold tomato soup), Spanish omelette, authentic Mallorcan mixed paella with meat and seafood and a Catalan cream dessert.
Relax and enjoy dinner with a drink and receive all the recipes so you can recreate these delicious Spanish dishes back home!
Things To Know About Booking Independent Shore Excursions
-We were worried about having to wait around the ship while people who had booked excursions through MSC disembarked first. This was not the case at all. We never had to queue to get off the ship and could come and go at ease. In some cases, we saw people standing around waiting for their excursion to depart while we went off on our own independent sightseeing!
-Many tickets and tours sell out in advance, particularly during peak summer periods and especially skip-the-line tickets. Be sure to purchase well in advance, ideally before you leave home so you don’t have to use expensive on-board internet.
-It’s very easy to get to the meeting point of your tour by utilising Uber or a taxi. In some ports, you may have to walk a short distance to the port entry as Ubers may not be permitted in. Don’t be fooled by having to pay the expensive coach transfers, particularly if you are travelling as a group of four or more.
-Carefully check the times and dates of these tours to ensure they align with the times that your cruise will be in port.
-Carefully check any dress requirements for example conservative dress and covering up when entering the Vatican in Rome, comfortable shoes for walking tours.
-Ensure you have adequate travel insurance in case you can’t make the tour for any reason (for example if the ship is running late into port for weather-related or medical emergency reasons)
-MSC guarantee that the ship will wait for you if you are late returning from an excursion, however, this is not the case if you book your excursions independently. So there is a small risk but this comes down to common sense in our opinion – leave yourself enough time to be comfortably back to the ship before it departs and you’ll be fine! Many of these tours depart and return directly from the port and the tour companies specifically timetable according to the cruise ships that are docking.