No. of Recommendations: 3
Something to consider is that a ship is also transportation. We have, on numerous occasions, rented cars in-port and driven to some site that we wanted to see (like to Moser in Bosnia from Dubrovnik or the Caves of Lascaux from Bordeaux or the Alhambra in Grenada from Malaga) or even left the ship for a few days (with permission from the ship - so they know) and then re-joined down the path (like to the Taj Mahal, Machu Pichu and a safari in South Africa come to mind). We have taken the Queen Mary II as a substitute for flying to/or from Europe a few times as it cost about the same and gone as far as taking a 39 day cruise to Asia for an additional three months of travel there in order to avoid the 24 hour flight (and the fact that it cost less than a business fare ticket didn't hurt the decision making process :-).

Anyhow, all's fair in love, war and travel, so while there's nothing wrong with "packaged" tours, they are frequently poor values for those with imagination as they charge a substantial premium for the convenience of having someone else do the thinking. This frequently gives one the choice between cloning the same tour for far less money or spending the same and bumping up the luxury/convenience of the trip (as well as combining items from more than one tour in the same itinerary). For example, tour companies tend to charge the same for each person in a hotel room that you would pay for a room for two.

An example of the above was to study a number of high-end tour companies itineraries to India (A&K and Tauck come to mind). So I chose between the hotels they used (one used Taj, the other Oberoi, but I mixed to get the best solution for each stop). I noticed both made a big circle from Delhi to Delhi, so I re-jiggered it, figuring correctly that I was paying by the kilometer anyway, to have my car drive across India empty and then drive us back in a straight line (hitting the same spots, but being in the car half as long). Oh yeah - the car - I found that getting a car/driver (new SUV, price including room/board/tolls/everything, as well as a bunch of additional activities, tour guides, etc. negotiated in) was comparatively inexpensive, so why bother with others on the tour bus. The price was still so much lower than the templates that I doubled the length of the hotel stays (to enjoy the palaces) and still had a load of money left over (a fraction of which we used for side trips by air to Varanasi and Aurangabad).

Anyway, pay yer money, make yer choice.

Jeff
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