Ship of fools: Shore excursions can sink your cruise

For years, whenever anyone has asked me for my advice about port excursions on a cruise, I have had the same advice: Don't pay for them.

You can usually see a port more cheaply, quickly, and in more depth if you steer away from the clots of tour groups and do everything yourself.

Never pay $100 and up to be corralled onto a coach and follow a bored guide holding up a numbered sign all day. There's always a taxi, a dollar van, or a sidewalk that will take you to your adventures without an insane cruise line markup. Unless you have your heart set on some offbeat adventure like zip-lining, cruise port excursions are usually a high-priced convenience item that repackage stuff you could buy on shore for less. They're simply not a necessity. Just make sure you get back to your ship on time and you can usually do it yourself.