Schnappi, The cost of the tours has been an issue with cruisers for the past few years. The cruise lines see the tours as a major profit center and they charge accordingly. The port lecturers on-board most cruise ships are actually employed by a private company also involved with the tours and the lecturers will often do everything possible to scare passengers into taking their tours. Having someone "in charge" is a two edged sword since you do get the security and peace of mind of just going along with a large group, but you also miss a lot of the atmosphere by being in a large group. One popular alterntaive is to hire a private driver/guide via the internet which is another way of avoiding the large groups. But, Western Europe is quite tourist friendly and in most cases its very possible to go on your own, duplicate tours for a lot less money, and have lots of fun. But, you really must do your pre-trip homework so you run into very few surprises. We have been traveling in Europe (and many other places of the world) for over 40 years and very seldom ever use a tour. In fact, our rule of thumb is to never take a tour unless it does something we want to do that we cannot reasonbly do on our own. We are in the minority with this attitude but it has served us very well. My main problem with tours (besides the large groups) is that it does not often leave time for enjoying the wonderful outdoor cafes of Europe...and people watching.