1. You are new to overseas traveling, are not adventurous and don't really like a challenge.
My inlaws fall perfectly under this category. They are well traveled within the US, but have not traveled out of the country. They are retired, and don't really appreciate curveballs thrown their way. They want to know what is going to happen, and to know that everything will turn out just fine. They are taking their first cruise in February, and we are going to suggest cruise line shore excursions to make sure they have someone leading them off the boat, all the way through the day and safely back on. The stress of attempting to do any of this on their own would outweigh any price benefits.
2. You have no time to research.
You are busy, and your idea of planning a trip is calling up your travel agent with dates and saying "book it". Then, you don't think much about it until the time actually comes and you relish in the idea that you can just go on your trip, and it is totally planned for you. You have no desire to wade through websites, trying to find the right deal or best restaurant or anything. You just want to go on your vacation when it comes, and enjoy yourself. You don't have the time or desire to research. In this case, you are a perfect candidate for a shore excursion.
3. You have mobility issues.
If you have mobility issues, no one will take better care of you than the cruise line shore excursion. They will let you know which excursions best suit your needs, and often have options that are designed with you in mind. You can rest easy knowing that no one will be expecting you to walk long distances or climb stairs. Although some private drivers could possibly provide the same service, sometimes this sort of issue is difficult to convey in another language and to the degree that you might need. You can rest assured with the cruise line excursions.
4. You have kids, and want to cater to them.
Often the cruise lines have excursions designed with kids in mind. This might include some sort of scavenger hunt or cooking demonstration, many times the types of things that really are not available to do on your own. Disney, in particular, does a great job of designing excursions with kids in mind. I saw lots of people wandering the streets of Malta with their kids and a GPS, participating in a scavenger hunt, and it looked like fun. You simple can't organize that sort of activity on your own.
5. You are going to a potentially dangerous place.
Your cruise stops in Egypt or the Holy Land. Do you really think we are going to tell you to strike out on your own. Ummmm, no. Even in places like Falmouth and Cozumel, we really think you need to book something in advance, even if it is not directly through the cruise line. There are some places that it just isn't smart to get out and walk around on your own. In fact, we think you should ALWAYS have a plan of some sort. The surest way to ruin your vacation is to just get off the boat, and see what is there. But, getting back to the dangerous places... look at the US Travel Advisory page and always use your judgement. If you don't feel comfortable going it on your own, DON'T.
So, that is our list. What do you think? Are there other groups you can think of that really should take a shore excursion? We'd love to hear about it.