I've been meeting an increasing number of visitors coming into the city from cruise ships, and whilst it's always a pleasure to be able to show off the city there are a number of recurring questions and comments that arise when arranging such tours.
Cruise companies offer a variety of shore excursions for passengers to book, from which the cruise company takes a commission payment. My bespoke tours are only available to book directly through me, and it is apparent that cruise companies are not always providing passengers with as much information as they might need to be able to plan their own shore excursions into Edinburgh.
So here's my rundown of tips and comments for passengers arriving into Edinburgh from a cruise, and in particular the advice I would give to those looking to book one of my private Edinburgh tours!
CHECK WHICH PORT YOU'RE ARRIVING INTO
There are four major ports from which cruise ship passengers can travel into Edinburgh - and one of those ports is actually in Glasgow! So be aware that if your cruise itinerary describes visiting Edinburgh, you may actually be docking a significant distance from the city.
CONFIRM TENDER AND TIDE IMPLICATIONS
Different ports have different docking arrangements, and most commonly visitors have to take tenders from the ship to shore - this can add significantly to the time taken to get off the boat.
Also, different ports can be differently affected by the high and low tides, which in some instances can dramatically shorten the time available on shore. Check how long you will actually get ashore in Edinburgh, and confirm the need for tendering to and from the ship itself.
SHUTTLE TRANSPORT OPTIONS
For the ports further from Edinburgh, most cruise companies provide a regular shuttle transport link from the dock into the city centre. Different cruise lines have different policies on whether this service is free or paid for, and how frequently the service runs.
Generally the shuttle transport from cruise ships drop off on WATERLOO PLACE in Edinburgh, but it's worth confirming that detail, especially if you're planning to meet a tour guide (like me!) when you get there.
Cruises into NEWHAVEN seem less inclined to provide a shuttle transport service (maybe because it's a much shorter distance from the city), so you may want to plan a taxi/Uber or local bus journey into the city - it should take you about 20 minutes in a taxi, a little longer by bus.
Travelling into the city from SOUTH QUEENSFERRY or ROSYTH, shuttle buses can take up to an hour to make the journey. A taxi may be quicker, but would be fairly expensive. From South Queensferry, regular trains run via nearby DALMENY STATION, which is a commuter line into the city.
Dalmeny Station is a short walk from South Queensferry dock, but up a considerable number of stairs from sea level. Trains from Dalmeny take about 15 minutes to reach the city centre, arriving into WAVERLEY STATION in the centre of the city.
Travelling from Glasgow can be a more elaborate process, and I would generally suggest visitors take advantage of the transport options laid on by the cruise company for the sake of simplicity - otherwise travelling by train can require a change of trains (and, in Glasgow city centre, changing between the two central stations) and public bus services can take a disproportionate amount of time.
CONSIDER THE NUMBER OF PASSENGERS ON YOUR VESSEL
Depending on the size of your vessel, you could be joining a couple of thousand other passengers disembarking (which has a major impact on the time taken to tender to/from the ship) and your ship may not be the only one in town - over the summer, there can be ships docking in each of the ports, meaning the net number of cruise passengers coming into the town can be fairly significant.
Major attractions, such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, can quickly get swamped by large groups arriving at the same time, so be aware that you will be amongst crowds almost anywhere you are in the city - entry tickets in particular should always be bought and printed in advance to save you joining long lines wherever you go.
UNDERSTAND EDINBURGH'S PHYSICAL LAYOUT
Edinburgh is a challenging city to explore. Built on a ridge of rock, with steep valleys running between high peaks, it's not a big city centre, but getting around it can be harder than you expect.
Gauge your physical fitness for walking and exploring - it's a city best explored on foot, but even walking through the lanes and alleys can be problematic for people with even minor mobility issues.
Also the number of people in the city at peak times can make even short distances difficult to cover quickly. Similarly, with the volume of traffic and tour buses in the city, taxis and buses can take longer than expected to cover moderate distances.
PLAN TO DO LESS, RATHER THAN MORE
Try to plan your day to give yourselves plenty of time between attractions, or to find places for lunch, as things can generally take a lot longer than you might expect. And content yourself to plan to do less rather than more - this may be your only day in Edinburgh, but trying to do EVERYTHINGTHECITYHASTOOFFER in a single visit of just a few hours is simply not possible (and wouldn't be enjoyable even if it were possible!).
Aim to get a flavour of the city during your visit, and an overview of what it has to offer visitors. My tours won't take you inside any attractions, so although a full-day is often people's first instinct for a tour, with me you'd be better taking a shorter introduction to the city, with a plan to visit one of the attractions by yourselves after our walk...
LUNCH, SHOPPING, TOILETS
... and don't forget time for lunch, shopping and bathroom breaks!
START PLANNING YOUR RETURN TRIP
One visit to Edinburgh is never enough - so start planning your return trip now!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
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