Shore Excursion Guide Jobs

Most tour guides think that they can go into any type of tour job they want because they have already done touring.

Shore Excursion Guide Jobs are Much More Demanding Than Other Tour Guide Jobs

The fact is that being a shore excursion guide is different to being a normal tour guide – there is much more work involved. The first thing to take into account is the fact that shore excursion guides work on cruise ships, and other sea vessels, which may not suit some people.

This is in no way a luxurious or glamorous job, so if that is what you are looking for it will be best to look in another industry. Being a shore guide is demanding, it takes up a lot of your time, and while you do get some time to spend by yourself while you are on the ship, you have to spend most of the time preparing for the tour ahead.

Did You Know? A Shore Excursion Guide has to know his or her geographic areas and liaise with many different people who often speak a variety of different languages.

Job Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a shore excursion guide is not that much different from the traditional land tour guide, the biggest difference is that you have to prepare for more than one tour or site. As you may know, there are a number of stops along a cruise before you get to your final destination. This means that passengers will want to go out to see ports and surrounding areas. This is why it is important for you to know everything there is to know about each port the cruise will stop at along the way.

Apart from the set stops you will need to know a bit about the other ports along the way, as there may be an unscheduled stop. Your duties go further than planning tours, you will actually have to take the tour group around, so you will need make contacts in the area, know people worth knowing and you will need to call beforehand if you need to book for shows, special shopping trips, and land tours that may require a vehicle. In order for everything to run smoothly on shore you will need to know the local language. Most port stops have limited time, which means that you do not want to waste your tour groups’ time with translating the local language with the help of a book.

You will also need to have good selling skills, as it is also your job to sell the tour packages to passengers onboard the ship. You will work under the shore excursion manager and will be responsible for directing the activities set out by this person. You will also be required to meet the revenue goals set out and make sure to always keep the standards high.

Job Requirements

To get hired as a shore excursion guide is to, first of all, know the ship. Most guides starts out working on the ship in one of the restaurants, as a child minder or as a steward. They will work on the ship and get accustomed to how it works and then learn the areas they go to. It is most certainly easier than studying each port and surrounding area, and learning the different languages in a classroom.

If you are lucky and work for a small cruise company you may be able to get into an entry level guide job. However, if you are looking for something more promising you will need to be able to offer the employer a bit more, like having a good working knowledge of a computer, you need to look the part, and have good management skills. You may also need to prove a track record in the industry as well as have a good skill for communication and public speaking in a few languages.

Training & Degrees

If you are looking to obtain a top level position you will need to obtain graduate degrees in travel and tourism as well as tourism management. Most employees do not offer on the job training as they are looking for the best of the best to fill these positions. However, you can start out in smaller cruise companies and work your way up as you gain more experience in the field. Usually cruise liners offer assistant shore excursion positions where you will work under the shore excursion manager and main guides.

It is very important to have an excellent geographic knowledge base of every port of call on your cruise itinerary and there are usually a number of different tours that guests can choose from at each port. Depending on the port, there can be activity tours where passengers will be taken zip lining, kayaking, hiking, or dog sledding, whilst other tours are predominantly sightseeing, and others could be scuba diving tours or beach tours. The manager will have to book and plan all these tours, while the shore excursion guides are selected to lead certain groups based on their knowledge and skill sets. Another way that the tours are run is that the shore excursion manager will plan for local tour guides to meet the passengers and take them to the various local sights that they obviously have a much better knowledge of. This is tricky in many areas where English is not a first language, in which case the cruise liners will rather hire someone to work on board the ship who can speak the local languages required for the entire duration of the cruise itinerary.

Aside from a hospitality and tourism management degree, shore excursion guides and managers will need to have Safety and Environmental Protection Policy training, as well as first aid and CPR training as part of the rules and regulations for all cruise ship employees.

Salary & Benefits

There is an estimated growth of 15 percent in the industry up until 2018, so job security is a guaranteed benefit for the shore excursion guide. As an added bonus you get to eat all your meals for free, you get free room and board and paid vacations as well as fully paid air fare and overnight accommodation if needed. The minimum monthly income for this position pays around $2,000 a month, with guides with offering more experience seeing an income of around $3,000 a month.

Shore excursion guides also have the ability to supplement their income with tips. Cruise passengers usually tip quite well for interesting, exciting tours, and while not all the members of a tour will tip, there are usually a few excellent tippers, some offering up to $50 for a top quality experience. Some people will tip $5 or $10 for a good touring experience. The tip also depends on the cost of the tour itself, which is paid as an additional extra on a cruise.

If you like the thought of constant travel and never being in one place for long then you will enjoy being a shore excursion guide. One thing that you have to remember is even though you are always traveling and visiting new places, you always sleep on board the ship you are working for. This may be positive for some people and a negative for others.

Summary Box:

  • You get to earn a good monthly salary, plus tips
  • You get free board and meals, as well as some basic cruise liner company employee benefits and a paid vacation
  • You get to learn about many different places on your way, and get to partake in different cultures.


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