Shore excursions are a major source of profit for cruise companies, which is why first-time cruisers are sometimes skeptical about booking the tours. They aren't sure they're getting a good deal.

Princess Cruises is seeking to put everyone's mind at ease with a new shore excursion Best Price Guarantee. Sister brand Carnival Cruise Line launched a similar plan two years ago.

With the guarantee, if you book your excursion pre-cruise and find the exact same shore excursion elsewhere at a lower price, you'll receive 110 percent of the difference in the form of a shipboard credit. So, for example, for a $129 shore excursion you find at $119, you'll get an $11 credit.

Cruise lines do have competition from third-party shore excursion sellers, such as and and tour operators at the ports of call (some of whom provide the tours to the cruise lines).

But here's the rub: If you invoke the Princess guarantee, it has to be for the exact same outing. If the cruise line, say, adds time at the beach to a tour of ancient ruins, you can't ask for money back if you find a cheaper ruins-only tour.

If you book through a third-party company or local operator, ask about refund policies in case your ship is late into port or a tour has to be cancelled because of bad weather. In both cases, cruise lines will give you a refund -- that is where booking through the cruise line becomes particularly attractive.

The Princess guarantee of course has fine print -- namely that you have to submit paperwork at least seven days prior to your sailing date. You can't book a cheaper tour at the pier and say, "Hey, give me some money back now."

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