Please help. I've read many of the postings and reports on Monte Carlo and must admit I'm confused. We are going on Holland America Rotterdam in October and are scheduled to arrive in Monte Carlo. Revelation
Tours has recommended that we see the medieval village of Saint Paul, the old Nice (for the market), the village of Eze, Monaco and Monte-Carlo. We would love to do this itenerary but do not want to pay 600Euro for the two of us (although we could try to find 6 other people). We are scheduled to be in port from 10am to 5pm. From other posts I think I've figured out that we can get to Nice by train easy enough, but Eze would be difficult by train? And, I haven't seen anything at all on St Paul. Would appreciate any help with the following:
1. How do you get to Saint Paul from Nice?
2. What kind of train ticket would be best if we want to go from Monte Carlo to St Paul first and make stops in Nice and Eze on the return to Monte Carlo?
3. Are there good web sites for train and bus schedules?
4. Will we have enough time to see it all?
Great questions Bag Drag, You can do this itinerary on your own (we do this all the time) or you can take the tour. Its just a matter of personal preference and your comfort and ability to be an independent traveler. You St Paul is actually a wonderful village called St Paul de Vence. This is an ancient walled city that can only be toured on your feet. Its primarily full of shops, very classy art galleries, and restaurants. Its one of our favorite places in this part of France and once you are there, a guide really does not serve any useful purpose. But, getting there is a bit of a hassle. We normally rent cars when in this part of France, and than its easy for us to drive to St Paul de Vence (was just there in May). There are two ways to get there using inexpensive public transit. There is a bus that runs from Nice to St Paul de Vence (usually about once per hour) that you can catch at the Nice bus station (a very long walk or short taxi ride from the center of Nice. This bus also makes several stops (its a local) as it winds its way through Nice, but I do not know the exact corners where you can grab the bus downtown. Another way is to take the train (from Monte Carlo or NIce...its the same train) and get off at the stop just past (west) of the Nice Cote d'Azur airport at a station called Cagnes sur Mer. From there you just cross the street to the bus stop and you will pick-up that same bus (the one from Nice) as it makes its way to the village. From Cagnes sur Mer its about 15 min to the village. The trains run about once every 45 min, and you can find the schedule on the french train web site (www.sncf.com). Eze is another small (arty) village that sits between Monte Carlo and Nice. If you were using the train you would get off at Eze sur Mer and than you have to wait for a local bus to get up to the village of Eze. There is also a bus that runs directly from Monte Carlo (or Nice) to Eze....and I think (not positive) its the #12 bus. The "old town" of Nice is walkable from the train station in Nice. Trying to do all of this on your own in 6 hours via buses and trains will be very difficult (its why we prefer having a car). St Paul de Vence takes quite a long time to access..depending on your bus/train connections. If going on your own you might want to take the bus from Monte Carlo to Eze, than take the bus or bus/train from Eze to Nice. You can also spend some time in Monte Carlo. Skipping St Paul de Vence would be a reasonable decision if you using public transit. The other possibility would be to go to St Paul de Vence (in the morning) and stop in Nice on your way back to the ship (skipping Eze). Your total cost for using buses and trains should be under $100. Renting a car for one day would also cost about $100 - $120, but I don't recommend this option unless you are comfortable driving in France. By the way, you should be aware that Monte Carlo is probably a tender port (most cruise lines tender you to a small pier just below the Ave. Pres. J.F. Kennedy). If this is the case with your cruise it will shorten your day because of the time for tender operations.
Hank that was great information. Can't thank you enough. After reading this I looked at what Holland America is offering and found that they have a tour that does similiar stops for around $50-55 per person. Sounds like that might be our best bet although we'll be on their schedule instead of ours. At least it will be direct transportation and we'll know that we'll get back to the ship on time.
One more question - all the searching I've done on European shore excursions results in info on "private tours" which are very expensive. I'm more use to trips in Mexico and Caribbean where you get off the ship and get the same tour for around half what the cruiseline wants. Will I see the same thing in Europe where tour operators will be looking to fill up their van or bus? Or, is it still going to be the private tour offer for hundreds per person?
I will try to answer your question, but keep in mind that we have been traveling in Europe for over 30 years (cruises and on land) and we very seldom take any tours...preferring to just go off on our own. When you get off at most of the European ports, there will be taxis/drivers that will look for full day hires. Some will speak English, some will not. Some might be decent guides, some will not know as much as me. You will not generally see real professional tour operators soliciting for tours in most of the ports. Many will look for recomendations on the internet (on this board and a few others) and book in advance (at pretty high prices). The cruise line tours are somewhat overpriced (4 persons can often hire a private guide/driver for about the same price) but they do offer some feeling of security (you do not have to worry about making arrangements, missing the ship, etc) for a trade-off of being stuck on a large bus with a large group. The bottom line is that you can do almost any European/Med port on your own, if you simply do your pre-trip homework and have some "travel smarts." However, I have seen many many fellow Americans who go off on their own without a clue...and do not ever really enjoy their port visits. My personal opinion (many disagree with me on this) is that most Americans and Japanese try to do too much in too short of time period and really do not see anything. Yes, they go to a lot of places so they can write in their travel diaries of the 15 sites they saw in 4 hours, but the reality is that they really see very little of the real Europe. My wife and I often love to spend a couple of hours sipping a glass or wine or beer in a well-placed outdoor cafe and watch the tour groups running to and fro. Sitting in that cafe and sipping a good local brew (and having a regional snack) is the real Europe...running to 5 churches and 3 museums in a day is simply seeing churches and museums. I am amazed at how many go to Florence for a one-day visit and spend their entire day in 2 or 3 museums. I wonder if those same people had a one day visit to New York City would they spend their entire day in museums (as good or better than museums in Florence( and skip Rockefeller Center, great stores, restaurants, etc. I also wonder if they would want to see New York through a bus window. So much for my very opinionated philosophy. I am just a believer in stopping to smell the roses, and am opposed to the "If its Tuesday it must be Belgium" way of travel.