Jocelyn Greenwood, a first-time cruiser
from New York who was on the Emerald Princess last May in Greece,
learned firsthand that there are two distinct classes of people who
go on shore excursions.
The ones who take
the bus and the ones who get picked up in a black
excursions are quickly becoming the excursion of choice for
well-heeled travelers. Luxury line Crystal Cruises said it arranged
55% more private shore excursions between January and August 2007
than it did during the entire year in 2006.
Crystal's director of land programs, said that the highest demand
is in Europe, where about 70% of the customized arrangements were
On Princess, a
premium cruise line, more passengers than ever are paying fees
sometimes beyond the cost of the cruise in order to see the sites
in relative luxury.
spokeswoman Carol Maglione said that the cruise line has
been offering passengers customized tours and private car
excursions for several years and that they have consistently been
Greenwood went on
excursions in Athens and Kataklon, Greece, on consecutive days. In
Athens, she took a $1,119 private car excursion and to Olympia was
on a $64 bus tour, both arranged by Princess. The private car could
take up to three passengers.
"On the bus, I felt
like one of a herd," she recalled. "On the private excursion, I was
able to dictate where we went and how much time was spent at each
Greenwood said that
she booked the Tour of Athens by Private Car and was picked up at
the ship by a "spotless black Mercedes sedan."
"The amount of
information [she gave] was overwhelming," Greenwood said of the
guide, who informed Greenwood that a previous client had been U.S.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
"I was getting a
history lesson the whole way," Greenwood said. "The Acropolis was
extremely crowded, so it was great that I could get the attention
from the guide and also get away when I wanted."
After visiting the
major sites of Athens, Greenwood asked the guide to bring her to a
restaurant where locals dine.
The guide took her
to a "really funky" place where the guide did all the ordering,
Greenwood said. They enjoyed a spread of Greek food and beer.
"I have no idea
what I ate," she recalled. "But it was one of the best meals I had
on the trip."
The next day was
quite a contrast. Greenwood joined a bus tour from the port of
Katakolon to the archaeological site of Olympia.
At lunchtime, the
group was told it had 30 minutes to eat in a touristy area right
outside the Olympia archaeological site, where Greenwood said the
choices consisted of tourist-trap restaurants with unremarkable
food and overpriced souvenir shops.
there were dozens of groups from the Princess ship alone and that
finding the right bus among the multitudes in the parking lot was
itself a feat.
She considered the
time allotted to tour Olympia insufficient and found it difficult
to retain what she had learned.
"It really was
evident that the more you pay, the better treatment you get,"
Greenwood said. "I would have been devastated to have toured Athens
in a group if it was anything like the group tour of
president of Alice Travel in Fairfield, N.J., said that an
increasing number of his clients are choosing private, customized
excursions when they are traveling with family members or other
couples. Going in a group is an economical solution to getting the
service and attention of a guide driving a private
Princess offers a
private tour of Athens with a guide and van driver for $999 per
vehicle. The van can seat up to eight people, making the per-person
cost of a full van $125.
understanding that with even one or two other couples, you can do
it cost-effectively with a car and driver," Davis said.
contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].