We just got back. We did not get much feed back on excursions so here are my thoughts that may help you. I hope it is not to lengthy.
We just returned from the Millennium Venice – Barcelona Aug 5th. It was a great cruise! We have been Royal Caribbean loyalists but from now on it will be Celebrity. The food can not be compared as well as the service, RCCL has declined in these areas and they focus on the fun of the ship. Celebrity is pretty boring when it comes to activities, not much there. We enjoy sitting back with books, ipods and keep my drink fresh. 40 and above I think is the age group here. Teenagers seem to have a great time because there are so many traveling with parents. Many kids and my 12 year old could not wait to get back on the boat and hang with all his friends. 20 and 30 something’s are not going to have as much fun, little night life, pool activities, etc. We chatted with a honey moon couple, who expressed that there was not much to do, they were right.
There were my wife and I, five kids (25, 23, 17, 15, and 12) and my mother in law (75). My biggest concern where the excursions, keeping all happy and being able to keep up with groups with my Mother in law who walks slow. I prefer to get a Frommers guide to an area and rent a car or public transportation and explore. With our large group we leaned toward excursions and loved some and not so much on some. Here is what we did and what I would do know if I went again.
Venice – We have been to Venice a couple of times and knew it well. We took Celebrity’s transportation to San Marco ($20 per person/per day) it is the only way besides a water taxi, so they got ya. We went to san Marco and walked the city to the Rialto Bridge and back to San Marco. Went back the next morning and did the Gondola with the kids, ate lunch and needed to be back by 2pm.
Suggestion to do – Stay on the ship until after dinner or go eat in Venice but go at night, it is a beautiful city. Explore the city at night. Next morning get up early and get on line for San Marco Basilica and Dogge’s Palace next door. the lines are very long at noon. Take a Gondola ride it is a must. At San Marco and the Grand Canal the rate is a firm 100 Euro for about ˝ hour. On the side streets it is possible to get it cheaper but not a guarantee depending on the crowds.
Make sure you watch the ship leave Venice from the top decks. They play great inspirational music and the views of the city from that high is amazing.
Croatia – We took a bus tour of the country side with a small lunch and wine tasting then to the old city of Dubrovnik. Just OK.
Suggestion to do – Go to the old city, there are buses from the ship. Explore the old city and walk the Wall. That was great, it is about a 2 kilometer walk lots of steps. Well worth it. They say the Seafood in the city is great though I did not get a chance to try.
Athens – Took separate trips the kids and my self climbed the Acropolis. A must see! My wife and Moth/Law took a no walk bus tour they said was just OK. The trips were shorter (4 hours) saw plenty. Would do that again.
Beware – Some Cab drivers are crooked. Get established fares before getting in. The dock posts rates of 19 E to Athens and 15E returning. Many tales of 40Euros plus fares coming back. One guy said the cabby dropped the 50 that he gave him quickly and started waving a ten, he did not realize until the cab pulled away that he was ripped off.
Santorini – Great island! We took the Exclusive tour ($300 each), waste of money. The winery was terrible (I am in the business); the boat tour around the island was the regular government tender ship that dropped you off at a different place.
Suggestion to do – Go to Oia, this is an amazing town. Finish in Fira Town; eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the ship. Amazing food. The cable cars going up and down to the docks get crowded. There were two ships in port and the lines coming down were 1 ˝ hours wait. We would have walked down but Mom could not of done it (15 minute walk). You can take a donkey ride up and down but I heard you smell like a Donkey all day, they smelled bad from a distance.
Naples – The kids and I hiked Mt Vesuvius and saw Pompeii, Wife and Mom took Almafi Coast tour. We liked the Volcano not so much Pompeii, Wife loved the Almafi Coast, was the highlight of her cruise.
Suggestion to do – People came back raving about Capri, they said it was the nicest place they had ever been, and this was several groups. We are making sure we get there in the future.
Florence/Pisa – We took the walking tour of Florence and Pisa w/ Lunch. Mom stayed back to rest on the ship. Worst excursion. Saw a lot and saw very little at the same time. Pisa was very crowded and no time to climb the tower. Lunch was Roast Beef and mashed potatoes?! In Italy??? Can not express the disappointment.
Suggestion to do – Get the Frommers guide to Italy and take the Florence on your own excursion, see what you want stop when you want eat when and what you want. You are better off taking the ships bus instead of the train or cab, when you are there do as you want. Do not try to see all; you can not do it in a few hours. Pick two things and really enjoy. Museum lines are very long. Hours to see ‘David’.
Rome – We went to the Vatican and the Coliseum. Vatican was the highlight for me and Mom, very crowded and amazing. We had been to the Coliseum before but wanted the kids to see it, they were not as impressed as I thought they would be. Again the Lunch was better but still a disappointment. Better off eating at a small outside café.
Suggestion – Rome on your own and pick two things. The Vatican was great and they say the lines are shorter for pre booked excursions and just showing up takes hours to get in but I am not sure. One thing is certain that once in Rome this is a city that can take a week to see, it is like seeing NYC in 6 hours (can’t be done). The Seven Hills of Rome are tough on the feet.
French Riviera – We took the Best of the French Riviera tour. Not the best tour. Again the lunch was Curry Chicken. (What????) Food is the highlight of Europe but not on these excursions, they do not even give you a couple of choices to pick from. (Except in Fira in Santorini that was a great meal with many choices and courses). Saw Nice (drove through) Canne, St Paul and a perfume factory. If beaches are your thing the only sand beach we saw in the Mediterranean was in Canne, very crowded but nice.
Suggestion to do – Monte Carlo casino for the gamblers was big with a lot of people. Some answers to questions many had, Dress code is casual, no jacket needed. Many went in shorts not a problem. The minimum card tables were all 50 Euros. If I went again I would spend the day relaxing in Canne and people watch on the beach.
Your going to have a great cruise the ship is wonderful.