Top 5 Luxury Shore Excursions Picked by Cruise Specialists

Top 5 Luxury Shore Excursions Picked by Cruise Specialists
Cruise Specialists offers clients the opportunity to participate in a range of exciting and memorable overland tours available on many cruise itineraries planned through their exclusive shore excursion program.

"Overland tours are overnight trips to a specific destination and a great way to be able to spend more time in a country and take a closer look at its celebrated sites," explained Heather Visser, the Shore Excursion Manager for Cruise Specialists who has traveled extensively around the world and spent seven years onboard world cruises arranging shore excursions and lecturing at ports. "A lot of popular spots are inland and inaccessible to ships, so overland trips are becoming more appealing to travelers because people want to make the most of their time in each port. They realize that it may be their one and only chance to see it."

Cruise Specialists' shore excursion department has picked the five most captivating overland tours to take in 2009:

1. Victoria Falls, Africa – One of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world is Victoria Falls in South Africa. In this area, where the countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana all meet, there is an opportunity for a wide range of experiences. Besides viewing the awesome Victoria Falls, travelers can visit local villages, ride elephants, walk with lions, go on safari and much more.

2. Temples of Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia – These awe-inspiring ancient temples in the mysterious royal cities in Cambodia are a must see. The Angkor Wat temple is the largest in the world and took close to 40 years to complete. Because of heavy tourism, they are slowly “crumbling” and may be inaccessible in the future. After exploring many of the great ancient temples, guests will also enjoy an Aspara dance performance based upon the statues and sculptures found in the temples that reflect the beauty and spirituality of Cambodian culture.

3. Machu Picchu/City of Cusco, Peru – One of the seven wonders of the world and often described as one of the most spiritual places in the world, visiting Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas should be on every traveler’s to do list. Many people don’t realize that to get to Machu Picchu you must fly to Cusco (former capital of the Incas) then take a two-hour plus train ride followed by a 20-minute shuttle ride up to the city, so a day trip from the cruise line often leaves guests with only half a day to explore this unique archaeological site. Staying overnight at an award-winning lodge in the heart of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary gives guests more time to explore the ruins, go hiking, visit local markets, and interact with local Peruvians.

4. Giant Pandas – Chengdu, China – Pandas are unique to this area and visitors have the opportunity to closely observe their daily activities at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding which rescues pandas and conducts research to preserve the species. This tour is operated in combination with a visit to see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an. At the Terra Cotta Warriors museum, travelers will see several thousand life size terra cotta warriors and horses created in 384 B.C. at the order of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

5. Cairo/Luxor, Egypt – This trip to the pyramids and ruins in Egypt is fascinating and full of history. Guests will enjoy a private lecture on the area by Dr. Zahi Hawas, the secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Other special additions to this excursion include lunch on a felucca (traditional wooden sailing boat) in Luxor, special front row seating at the Pyramids Sound and Light Show in Cairo and admission into the Mummies Room at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, housing eleven Royal Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt including the recently-identified Queen Hatshepsut mummy.

According to Visser, travelers have learned that while overland tours are more expensive than day trips, it is well worth the extraordinary experience and gives them better value for their money in the long run. "It is very important to book your shore excursions, specifically more detailed overland tours, through the cruise line or a reputable company like Cruise Specialists," added Visser. "If you book with an unknown agency, you have no guarantee that someone will show up to meet you on the day of the tour."