Cruise holidays around the Scottish Highlands and Islands are proving ever popular. They are attracting visitors, not just from the British market, but from across the world.

As a tourist guide I welcome holidaymakers for shore excursions at a number of ports in the Highlands, including Fort William, Invergordon, Oban and Portree. Of course, whether they are stepping on to a coach or in to my vehicle for a private trip they will always experience a first-class tour.

But for many that pass you at the port you can just tell that everything isn’t right and they aren’t having the fantastic time they had hoped for when booking their trip.

Cruise ship in the waters off the Isle of Skye
The French cruise ship Le Boreal anchored off the Isle of Skye

Follow these cruise tips to avoid those trip ruining mistakes

The travel consumer website ‘Smarter Travel’ sets out a host of tips that you should heed if you want to avoid “The worst decisions you can make on a cruise.”

You might say who would bring work with them on a cruise. But with the pressure of over bearing bosses following us out of the workplace the temptation is high to open the laptop or check your smartphone. If you heading on a Scottish cruise I would recommend “ditching the device” even for a few hours so you can enjoy the stunning scenery unfolding around you.

And Smarter Travel recommends taking your time to travel and don’t book same-day flights. Linger a while near your cruise embarkation point and explore, perhaps booking a guide to show you the local sights and sample the Scottish culture.

As an independent tourist guide I would always recommend following their advice, “to plan your own shore excursions. Don’t blindly buy shore excursions from the ship.” Booking independently may at first glance seem more expensive but getting a group of fellow passengers together to share the cost makes it an excellent alternative to the on-board offerings. And you will receive a much better experience, avoiding the conveyor-belt crowds churned off cruise coaches. You’ll get a professional guide to yourself.

Heading on a Scottish cruise take a look at these private shore excursions

The west Highland town of Fort William is becoming more popular with tour operators, particularly those with smaller cruise ships. From here you can head to Glencoe or see Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis. And it’s easy to step back in history and follow in the real-life inspiration for the Outlander novels by taking a trip to Glenfinnan.

Whilst a little further south cruises head into the scenic sheltered harbour at Oban. Just a short way away you can follow in the footsteps of ancient kings and visit beautiful Argyll. And nearly every cruise ship touring the Highlands will stop at Invergordon. Most will head on a coach to the crowded sites along Loch Ness but with a private guide you can head to the hidden Loch Ness for a more unique tour.