I need your help!! We are planning a cruise in September 2007 on the Celebrity Century that will be stopping in Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium; Le Havre (Paris), France; La Coruna, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; and Tangier, Morocco. Last year when I went on the Baltic Sea cruise, some of the shore excursions the ship provided were a waste of money; so . . . before I book any this year, I'd like to hear from some experienced cruisers who can give me suggestions on the best way to tour these cities? Thanks.
I can give you lots of help with most of the ports, but there are too many options for a simple post. You need to study each of the ports (try looking at all the cruise ship tour options on-line) and give us some idea of your intentions. For example, from LeHavre do you wan to take the long trek to Paris, go to Normandy, go to Honfleur, got to Mont St Michal, or even Giverny. In most ports of Europe you can do things on your own (using trains, buses, rental cars etc) or you can pay the big bucks for tours. One warning about Celebrity. Do not expect much help on-board for doing things on your own. That cruise line really pushes their overpriced tours (they make a nice profit) and only gives you limited info regarding other options. In fact, sometimes they will do their best to scare you into using their tours (you might miss the ship, you might get mugged, you might get lost, and on and on and on they go). Keep in mind that the folks that do their port and shopping lectures are actually from a private company that makes money by "plugging" certain merchants, tours, etc. But, much of what you do depends on your sense of adventure, "travel smarts," and level of comfort doing things without the "security" of a tour. We have been traveling extensively in Europe (and Asia) for about 30 years, been on more than 20 cruises in Europe, and probably only taken 3 or 4 tours total during all those cruises (we also do a lot of driving in Europe on our own). We have never missed a ship (came very close on two ocassions) and always had a lot of fun. But, independent travel is not for everyone. its all your choice.
Welcome to Cruise Chat, Celpink. Those are some great ports and, like Hank said, study the different options and pick something that will be suitable to your personal interests. That being said, I urge you to take great caution when travelling in Tangier, Morocco. That is not Europe. You are actually in North Africa. European law does not govern that port. Crime has been a large problem there and Westerners are often targetted for muggings and various other offenses. Odds are, you will be fine. My advice would be to book something through the cruise line for the Tangier port and make sure that you have trip insurance.
Thank you for the information. That's interesting about Celebrity, I'm glad to know that. Our last cruise was with Princess and our tour in Finland was great, but our tour in Oslo was a waste of time and money. Let me do some more research on my own (it may take me awhile, I have five young children so my time on the internet is not always as long as I'd like) and I'll get back to you. As far as the Le Havre, I'd love to see Normandy and Paris, but is that even feasible? I'm assuming I'd have to choose one or the other. If that's the case, we'll go to Paris. Any other information you have I'd love to hear. As far as hiring a driver/tour guide on our own, do you know any reputable and reasonably priced companies/individuals? Thanks so much for your response.
Thanks for the insight. I've read some interesting reviews on Morocco and found people either love or hate it. What would you recommend seeing there. It seems like the cruise line only offers a few tours in that country.
I would echo the advice about Morocco. This is not the place for inexperienced travelers to go off on their own. However, its still a port full of tourists (there are daily ferries that come over from Gibraltar) and its reasonbly safe if you take reasonble precautions and keep alert as to your surroundings. As to Normandy and Paris, no you cannot do both of those areas in a port stop. Its one or the other. The advantage of Normandy is that its closer and the advantage of Paris is that its....well its Paris (my wife's favorite city on earth). When you do your research on the ports, pay attention to the distance (and travel time) from port to the various options. Unlike the Caribbean or even most of the Baltic ports, some of the major attractions can be hours from the ship. As an example, it can take nearly 2 1/2 hours to get from LeHavre to the center of Paris. On the other hand, many of your ports are relatively close to the best sites such as Zebrugges which is within a half hour of Brugges (an amazing city).
Hi Hank - I've started doing a little research, mainly reading through the tours that Celebrity offers and have a couple of questions for you.
1. Bruges is about 30 minutes away from the port and sounds like a town I'd really enjoy. Do you pass through this town on the way to Brussels? Is Brussels worth seeing? From what is offered by the ship, it doesn't sound too exciting.
2. Do you pass through Normandy on the way to Paris?
3. At each port, would we be able to hire our own guide to take us around? Celebrity doesn't offer any private tours. There are four in our party and I believe we'd enjoy picking and choosing what sites we'd like to visit.
4. Of the ports we are going to, which cities are accesible by foot. (I know Paris and Brussels aren't.) For instance, when we went to Oslo, Norway last year, we could have easily done Oslo on our own without ever getting a taxi, etc.
We are on your cruise. We usually tour on our own, but are doing ship's tours for Beaches of Normandy. It was about the same price as a private tour and we did not feel comfortable renting a car for the day. We are also doing ship's tour at Coruna to visit Santiago. We wanted to do it on our own, but felt our port time was too short to try this. In Tangier we have arranged a private guide for the day. Cost is a little less than ship's tour, but there will only be 8 of us. In Zeebruge, we have arranged for a taxi to take us to Bruges and then return us to the ship. There are 6 of us sharing the cost, so it is about what we would pay to do shuttle and train on our own. Lisbon we will do on our own. Last year we did a Baltic cruise and did every port on our own with no trouble (except St. Petersburg), but in those ports you walk off the ship and there you are. This time we are using some ship's tours basically to save time in getting to and from places. I wish we had more time in some of these ports. See you on board. Have you joined the Cruise Critic roll-call for this cruise?
How did you arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the dock at Zeebrugge, Belgium to take you to Bruges? I can't find any information for this type of service. There are 7 in our group and we hate to pay $69 a piece for the ship tour transportation to take us to and from Bruges. Once in Bruges, are taxis readily available for returning to the ship? Do you remember about how much the taxi charged for this 10 mile trip? Thanks.
There were taxis waiting at the port when we got off the ship. There were four people in our group and it cost 45 to 50 euros each way - so basically 100 euros for a round trip for the four of us. Brugge is about 20 minutes away from the port. The taxi driver that took us asked us what time we wanted to be picked up so we scheduled a pick-up time and a meeting place. I'm not sure how much the bigger taxis cost. Good luck. We loved Brugge. It was one of our favorite stops.