A new approach to the cruise shore excursions: micro-tours

I’ve met plenty of fellow gay cruisers who say, “we’re not bothering to get off the ship today; we’ve already been to (insert cruise port) six times. There’s nothing new for us.” Of course that’s not true—there is always something new; it’s just a matter of finding it.

A cruise ship as seen from Montjuic, the highest point in Barcelona—and a place you can explore through an Airbnb Experience. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Andy Mitchell

A cruise ship as seen from Montjuic, the highest point in Barcelona—and a place you can explore through an Airbnb Experience. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Andy Mitchell

The current trend of micro-tours provides a way to shake up shore excursions. The company changing the game may surprise you — none-other than Airbnb.

Airbnb now allows local residents almost anyplace on earth to create their own micro-tours and experiences. To qualify, tour guides must offer both quality and uniqueness. Airbnb makes it super easy to search tours and specialized activities in the ports we’re headed to—although they aren’t yet available in many smaller island ports.

The author hiking on Montjuic in Barcelona with Sebastian, an Airbnb Experience host. Photo: Randall Shirley

The author hiking on Montjuic in Barcelona with Sebastian, an Airbnb Experience host. Photo: Randall Shirley

Barcelona tours

On a recent, multi-day visit to the port of Barcelona, I booked three different “Airbnb Experience” tours. All of them differed from what a cruise shore excursion desk would have offered me. None of the Barcelona tours was gay-specific (however I did find a gay-specific food tour during extra days in Madrid). Airbnb does not allow discrimination in their lodging or experiences.

The variety of Airbnb experiences available in Barcelona was staggering. My choices included hiking, cats, and food.

  • Spend a morning hiking on Montjuïc, the city’s highest point, with an adorable guide named Sebastian, who pointed out the city’s highlights from a completely unexpected vantage point.
  • Visit Gatuari, a cat cafe in the Gracia neighborhood, where for two hours I hung out with 10 gorgeous adult cats, each hoping to be adopted, and learned from a docent about local efforts to manage the stray/abandoned population.
  • Explore the legendary La Boqueria market with a chef, and then join her in her personal residence for an afternoon making homemade sangria and paella.
Airbnb Experience host Helina teaches a small group to make paella in her Barcelona home, a possible Airbnb Experience cruise shore excursion. Photo: Randall Shirley

Airbnb Experience host Helina teaches a small group to make paella in her Barcelona home, a possible Airbnb Experience cruise shore excursion. Photo: Randall Shirley

The timing of each of these activities would perfectly fit most ship’s port time. The largest group (paella cooking) consisted of only 10 people, and the experiences were far from an ordinary port day.

Each Airbnb Experience showed me an aspect of the cruise port that I previously wouldn’t have discovered. I found the guides and fellow guests to all be plenty gay-friendly, and the quality of the experiences to be exceptional. And then there’s the price tag: the price you pay on Airbnb is all-inclusive and I found all the activities to be extremely good value.

Other port cities

In other cruise ports, a tiny sampling of Airbnb Experiences include:

  • San Juan: A craft cocktail rum adventure
  • Puerto Vallarta: Power walk through hidden streets
  • Havana: Stained glass experience
  • Copenhagen: Nordic knitting
  • Vancouver: Chinese dumpling making
  • Singapore: Craft your own silver ring

There are other companies offering online booking of local tours and activities—Victor.com comes to mind—but I have never seen the depth and uniqueness of the offerings that people come up with for Airbnb Experiences, and like their lodging options this is due to the highly local, individual knowledge, taste, and expertise of the people offering the experiences.

Take a look at the Airbnb experiences as an option for your upcoming cruise shore excursions. And if you have additional tips for finding great shore experiences, please add them in the comments below.

 

*The author paid for all Barcelona travel and Airbnb Experiences. He is an Airbnb/Misterbnb lodging host in Kona, Hawaii.