Best & Worst: Shore Excursions

Moai Cruise Excursion
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"Shore excursions are for sissies!” said Chris, my friend from Aegean 1 (now Aegean Odyssey). We were a few days into a 120-day cruise around the world, and there I stood at the port on Easter Island, eyeing a battered motorcycle for rent. Chris knew I wanted to go for a ride, but on something maybe a little more stable. Next thing I know, he’s flashing Jeep keys and a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin. He gunned it, leaving a wake of red dust that tailed us through our day with the moai.

They were mute sentinels, erect and precisely positioned, and yet cartoonish with long faces and pouty lips. Chris posed with one. I hugged one. Windows down in the equatorial heat, we drove the entire island to see as many as we could, barreling over grasslands and fiery terra-cotta soil, braking to avoid the freely roaming stallions and pregnant mares. Of the 887 moai, estimated at 600 years old, only a third ever stood upright. Most slumber in the Rano Raraku quarry, a graveyard of honored ancestors who never made it to seaside pedestals.

Now it was time to take a bath — us and the Jeep. The reddish-brown dirt here is fine and silky, seeping into every orifice. By the time this island’s done with you, it’s inside you. Even now, 12 years later, I know a stubborn speck remains.

Tasmania Cruise Excursion: They Don't Come Cheap
On a cruise around Tasmania, I signed up for the "Oyster Lovers Tour" to the renowned Freycinet Marine Farm, where for $125 you can slurp as many just-shucked oysters as you dare. But on arriving, we're told there are no oysters. Bad weather has kept the boats from going out. Instead, we get mussels. Not what I had in mind. Frustrated, I wander down to the water and come across an old fisherman carrying a bushel with a few dozen oysters in it. "I've just spent $125 on an Oyster Lovers Tour without oysters," I whine. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to let me have just one?" He was. — David Lansing