I am going on Celebrity-Century at the end of Sept. with a few friends.
My question is, should I book excursions for Florence, Rome and Nice ahead of time (if at all) or should we just have a cab, shuttle, or train take us into the city from the ship and then tour on our own?
We went on RCL Brilliance in Oct 2004 and took excursions almost every Port of Call. We stuck to 1/2 days so that we had time to walk around on our own as well. Its a good idea to take an excusrion because you would not see as much doing it on your own and it would likely be more expensive unless you can rope a few others into sharing the costs. In the case of Rome its about 1 1/2 hours from the Port into Rome and hence a 1/2 day tour there or an explore on your own tour is a good idea. To some extent it all depends on the type of person you are and whether you can enjoy a guided tour. We just walked away on our own for a while if we got bored and then met up with the tour later.
Itīs not like being in the Caribbean and take a private taxi tour for a price, much cheaper, than the tour offered from the cruise line.
Taxi prices are higher in Europe and when a point of interest, like Rome, is too far away from the harbor, I would recommend, taking a tour. But a half day tour for Rome and Florence is not enough. Here you should take a longer tour, because there are so many things to visit.
In Nice I think, the harbor is close to the center and here you can enjoy french lifestyle on your own.
Take a look at the shore excursions,what they offer and than decide.
And be careful, Italy and France are not the safest places. But therefore, really wonderful, especially in september.
I took a Royal Caribbean Med cruise a couple of years back and I would strongly recommend tours in ports with things that interest you. Unless you speak Italian, Spanish and/or French when in those countries it's much easier to be on a bus with a guide that speaks your language. In both Florence and Rome I did full day tours but only half of the day was a guided tour showing the highlights like the Vatican and Coliseum in Rome then you have the rest of the day and a map provided on the tour to explore whatever else you want to on your own. That was definitly the way to go. In Nice you can chose do what you want. You actually dock in another little town - I think it was called Villefranch or something like that and it isn't much of a town but you it does have a train station in it and I found the train VERY easy to take to Nice during the day then at night I took it the other direction to Monte Carlo for dinner and gambling. Warning though - in Monte Carlo at the train station there isn't anyone who speaks English unless you get lucky and happen onto somebody walking by. I got lucky in that I speak French or it would have been tough to find out where to catch a cab or even what direction to head to get to the shopping/dining and casino. The train station is not necessarily within walking distance. In Nice it was very close and an easy walk to the water and shopping area from the train.
Let me know if you have any other questions. I will happily answer them.
I would agree with the other posters. If it is your first visit to the area, then the ship's shore excursions are the way to go. If you have traveled to these areas before, then a train would be the way to go. Rome is quite a ways from the port, as is Florence. By quite a ways, I mean at least an hours train/taxi ride. The ship will offer transfers to each city, but a full day's tour will not be much more.
In France, you might dock in Nice, but you might also dock in Villefranche. Villefranche is a wonderful spot worth a day's visit.
To me it depends on distance. Cabs (and most things) are very expensive and sometimes they are not keen to pick up tourists. Other times they are. If the ship docks near where you want to go, walk or take a cab.
Most people in Europe want to communicate and you can normally get buy. Of course the US political environment may have changed that a bit....I dont know.
If you feel comfortable, you can also take a subway which my wife and I do often. If this is your first time abroad, perhaps tours are the way to go but I seldom feel satisfied with them.
I am sailing the Western Mediterranean next month for the first time. My husband and I chose to book ship sponsered excursions at ports where a long drive to town or points of interest would be necessary. Cities with sites close to port are probably safe for short cab/train rides and walking.
Because a city cab or private tour offers no ship protection in the event that you can't make it back to the ship (flat tire, language barrier with a local driver going the wrong direction...anything can happen), I was willing to pay a little more for the peace of mind that the ship would not leave without me.
Almost every cruise I've been on has left passengers at port due to late tours or other issues. Better to be safe than sorry, especially with so much at stake!