A Day In The Life Of A Shore Excursions Staff Onboard Cruise Ship

Nov 02, 2020

Shore excursions staff is one of the most interesting and dynamic job positions onboard a cruise ship that consists of selling, promoting, and dispatching the shore excursions offered by the cruise line. It is part of the Shore excursions department managed by the Shore excursions manager and assisted by the Assistant shore excursions manager. This department is usually small, consists of 5-15 team members, depending on the class and capacity of a cruise ship. 

I have been working in the Shore excursions department for a few years now, and in this article, I will tell you how a typical day in the life of the Shore excursions staff looks like and what the main advantages and disadvantages of this job are. 

To make the article more clear, I will divide the typical days of the Shore excursions staff into five different parts within a cruise, as the duties are different and vary on daily basis. Those are embarkation day, sea days, port days, port days for a person on duty, and a debark day. 


Embarkation day is the first day of each cruise when the guests from the previous cruise leave the ship, and new ones arrive on board on a new cruise. This day is usually a busy and long day for Shore excursions staff as it requires a lot of standing, talking to guests, patience, and mental energy. 

On embarkation day, the shore excursions desk is usually open from 10 am to 9 pm, and our main goal is to promote and sell as many tours as possible. Besides selling, we deal with guest requests and all potential issues: guests want to switch or cancel the tours, they have special requests, etc. On this day, there is a lot of talking involved, and you are expected to know the answers to all guests’ questions and inquires. 

While the Shore excursions staff team members are at the desk (we do rotations, so everyone can have a break), the Shore excursions manager and Assistant manager are normally at the office, dealing with the paperwork.


The day when a ship is sailing is commonly referred to as “sea day”. For crew members in general, it is a hard day because all guests are onboard and almost all venues are open. For the Shore excursions department, it varies. 

At the beginning of a cruise, before port days, we are normally at the desk trying to sell as many tours as possible. After the ports, we have no more tours to sell, but we still have to deal with guest complaints, issues, and other requests. 

If the day before last is a sea day, a part of the team is at the office handling paperwork and preparing for the next voyage. The office part usually consists of printing the tickets for the guests who prepaid their shore excursions, doing changes in the system, stuffing tickets, writing letters to the guests, cleaning the office/desk, etc. 

There are also some other duties to perform, such as helping other departments and participating in their onboard activities. Sea days can be tough at the beginning of the cruise, but by the end of the cruise, they become more easy-going. 


One of the main advantages of the Shore excursions staff position is the chance to join the tours for free when the ship is in port, and get the same experience as guests. That’s why port days are the favorite days of Shore excursions staff.

On port days, approximately an hour before the ship docks, the Shore excursions department organizes a tour dispatch for the guests who are joining the tours. The dispatch is organized either onboard or outside on the pier, depending on the port, and the whole team works together so that everything goes smoothly. The dispatch process is very dynamic, as there are hundreds of guests joining the tours, and sometimes we have to improvise to make it right.

While almost the whole team does the dispatch, there is usually one team member (or more, if needed) at the desk in the morning, who needs to be there for the guests in case they want to book tours last minute. 

The desk closes after the ship docks, and the tour dispatch is done in a couple of hours, after which we are free to go explore the port or join one of the tours. 

Sometimes, we are required to go on specific tours to inspect them, or have a familiarization trip with the rest of the team, organized by a tour operator. Port days are great and we don’t open the desk until an hour before the ship sets sail, which leaves us the whole day to spend in a port. 

In the evening, once everyone is on board, we re-open the desk for a couple of hours, and that’s it for the day.


Port days sound too perfect, right? Well, not for the Shore excursions staff who is on duty that day. On port days, there is always one team member in charge of leading the tour dispatch process and he/she is required to stay on board for the whole day in case there are some issues or problems on the tours. 

The person on duty is responsible for the whole dispatch (sometimes there are tours in the afternoon or evening, and a person on duty has to be there to make sure everything goes right) and write the daily report once all the tours are back. Port day for a person on duty is long and exhausting, both physically and mentally, as many issues and changes can occur. 


Debark day is the last day of the cruise and is the same as embarkation day, as one cruise finishes, and another one starts. 

On debark day, there are always one or two team members on duty, in charge of dispatching debark tours. Debark tours are a few shore excursions organized for guests on the last day of their cruise and consist of a tour followed by an airport drop-off. 

Debark day for the team members on duty is not demanding, it usually takes a couple of hours and the process goes smoothly. The rest of the team starts their day at the desk around 10 am, as I mentioned in the "Embarkation day" part. 


To conclude, being a Shore excursion staff has both positive and negative sides. As the main advantage, I would highlight the opportunity to go on tours for free and enjoy amazing and unique experiences that guests normally pay for. Working in a small team is also one of the advantages, as well as the commission-based salary which motivates us to sell more and do our jobs passionately. 

As for the negative aspects, the contracts of Shore excursions staff are quite long – they vary from 6 to 8 months, which can be challenging sometimes, especially when your contract is reaching the end and you are fed up with everything. We don’t have a day off (like most departments), and sometimes we have to do perform some activities that are not part of our department and our job. That is all I could think of. 


If you are into traveling, have excellent communication skills, and are passionate about selling and promoting tours, this is a job for you! I encourage everyone to try, as the experiences you’ll get happen once in a lifetime. 

If you need more insight into a ship and crew life, or you have other questions, feel free to reach out and check out some of my articles on the topic: