Hi, I need some help with shore excursions. This will be our first time in Europe. I am traveling with my husband and four children ages 11, 9, 6, and 2. After picking our excursions, the total added up to be close to $6,000. We not going to spend that much money on excursions. What can we do on our own and what do we really need to do with the ships shore excursions? I am so excited and want to see as much as possible.
Rome, we already have this one covered.
Wow. Your first time in Europe and you have 4 children. I guess the best thing I can say is good luck and God Bless! Your $6000 tour figure is not surprising considering you are buying tours for 6. Normally, I could give you detailed info on how to do most of the ports on your own, but I just do not think my normal ideas would work well with 4 kids. What interests most adults, does not often work well with young children. Some of these port days are very long and can wear out anyone. As an example, just to get to Florence from Livorno will take nearly 1 1/2 hours each way. The main tourist center of Florence is pretty much a pedestrian-only area which demands a lot of walking. A glass of coke in an outdoor cafe can easily cost $6 (and that is per person) and we have not even talked about food. Santorini, Mykonos and Venice (another place that requires a lot of walking) are your best bets to do on your own. Most other places involve transportation issues just to get from the ports to the places of interest. You might be able to save some money by hiring private cars/drivers, but this will require you to do some on-line research. But even hiring a large taxi for a day can easily cost more than 300 Euros, and this is not like having a tour guide. Hopefully there are some others here who have done that type of port-intensive cruise with a family your size. We have been crusing in Europe (and other places) for more than 25 years and have never met any family of your size doing that type of trip. The few times we have seen large families, they were usually traveling with additional care-givers such as grandparents or a nanny.
Hi Nicole, My reaction was the same as Hank's when I heard you were coming over with 4 kids, but we lived in Europe for 10 years while we were raising our 3 children and we traveled with them all the time. There's lots of good information in travel books and on the internet, so find out as much as you can about each port if you are going to do it on your own. You have chosen a great itinerary to give you a good feel for Europe. Here are a couple of my ideas for the different cities. In Santorini you will tender in and then you need to take either a cable car or donkeys (which I think the kids would enjoy) to get up to Fira. We then took the local bus to Oia which is a great little village. If you are bringing a stroller for the trip, don't use it here. Mykonos is a little easier to get around. We have both tendered here and gone into a port - the port provided bus service the couple of miles into the village. I know there are buses to the beaches, but we have just walked around. Look for the huge pink pelicans. In Naples we docked right in town. We walked across the street to the newsagent on the corner and bought tickets for the tram to take us to the train station. The tram tickets were about a euro each and he will tell you where to catch the tram and which one to take. There are good directions for the train station on this website and we followed the directions and took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii and then went on to Sorrento for a few hours and back to Naples. I think the kids will love Pompeii. I also think your children will love Athens. You will probably need a taxi to get to the metro - it's a mile or more walk - but then it is very easy. Take the metro (about a euro) to Monasteraki Square - from there you can walk through the ancient agora and then go to the Acropolis. There is a single ticket that includes a varity of sites. We also lived in Turkey, so when we visited Kusadasi, we were comfortable taking a dolmus (local mini bus) out to Ephesus. Ephesus is a must, and if you want more info on the dolmus, let me know. In Venice, we always walk but I know you can buy a day pass on the vaporetti which would probably be fun for the kids. The ship might offer day passes, otherwise you need to walk (about 10-15 minutes) to Pizzale Roma to get the vaporetti. Piazza San Marco with the Basilica and Doge's Palace are a couple of the highlights here. In France there is always a TI when you get off the ship to give you a map and help you with directions to the train, etc. For Florence, there is lots of information on this website. If you need a couple of down days, I would choose to just walk around Katakolon (Olympia). This is usually a short day and we have not gone to Olympia. We were there 40 years ago, and as I recall there isn't much there. Someone else may have more information. In Corfu we have hired a driver to go into the countryside which was very beautiful, we have also been there and just walked around the town. Hank is right about how expensive it is to just buy a coke - there are lots of grocery stores where you can buy snacks for the kids. Also, people might take an apple or something from the ship for a snack. I'm sure you will have a great time - just get all the information you can before you leave home.
Thank you for everyone's advice! I really appreciate it. I failed to mention that we have Grandparents traveling with us. They have cruised the Med about four times before. They only like doing Princess shore excursions. I just can't see paying $6000 on excursions right now. My children are young and we won't get our money's worth. It would be hard to have my 2 year old on the long Princess excursions. I don't want to ruin my fellow cruiser's excursions if my 2 year old has a melt down on the excursions. All and all I think it will be extremely stressful. I am very excited about going on my own. It has already been so much fun researching and learning about all of the ports.
I have a few questions, I will start today with our first port Monte Carlo, Monaco.
1. I am thinking about seeing Place ju Palais, Monaco Cathedral, the town of old Monaco, and taking turns with my husband looking in on the casino, as I known children are not allowed.
Are there any guided walking tours of old Monaco?
2. Where does the ship pull into port and how do we get to the old part of Monaco? I think I it is a 10 min. taxi ride and once in Monaco do the bus system.
3. If we had time, I would love to go to Nice and see the Matisee museum. Can I take a train or bus to Nice and then back to Monaco? How much time would that take?
Our ship pulls in to port at 7:00am and leaves 6:00pm.
4. Is it safe to travel Europe by train or bus? I believe everyone does. As opposed to riding the bus in the States. I would never get on our city buses in my home town with my children.
5. Is there anything else in Monaco or Nice that we should see? I saw someone post, only see 3 attractions a day to be able to enjoy the trip. However we are one of those familys who want to see everything and go go go. Luckily our children have always been on the go with us.
Hi Nicole, We are breathing a sigh of relief (on your behalf) now that we know you have the grandparents. Of course the easy solution is to get the Grandparents to pay for all the tours (do not tell my daughter I said this) but I assume your parents are not about to buy that suggestion. Regarding the Monte Carlo casino, keep in mind they have a dress code and there is an admission fee (some of us would think its nuts to pay money to go inside a casino). As to wear your ship docks in Monte Carlo, there are a couple of possibilites including the chance that they would tender at that port, so you need to post that question on the Roll Call board for your specific cruise where somebody will probably have the exact info. You can take the train or bus between Nice and Monte Carlo (train is faster) and its about 20 min each way on the train. Europe is quite safe on the trains and buses with the exception of gypsy pick-pockets/purse snatchers. So, its just a matter of taking some common-sense precautions and being alert to your surrounding. If you have your heart set on Monaco and Nice (neither is my favorite place in the region) you might want to plan on having lunch at an outdoor cafe in the old town section of Nice (great food and perfect local atmosphere).
Thanks for the reply. We do not have our heart set on Monaco and Nice. What is your favorite place in this region? We were also thinking of doing a princess excursion to the Medieval Villages Of The French Riviera. It includes a visit to St Paul de Vence and Grasse. I not sure how we would do this one on our own and make it back to the ship in time. Or maybe going to the medieval village of Eze. What is your opinion?
Thanks so much,
Perhaps my wife and I are a bit biased because we have been visiting Europe for quite a few decades. As an example, we have never been a big fan of Monte Carlo. The palace is nice for a visit, but we find the rest of the city a bit too modern, too exclusive (many boutiques make Rodeo Drive look cheap. Personally, we enjoy smaller villages such as Eze and St Paul de Vence (our favorite place in the region). But, given your situation Nice would be high on my list (Nice is nice). If you are docking (or tendering) into Monte Carlo it is hard to not give the place a short visit. There is a local bus that regularly runs between Monte Carlo and Eze, and this is a better option than the trains because the Eze train stop is far below the village and still requires a bus or taxi to get up to the village. St Paul de Vence is somewhat difficult to do on your own unless you have a car (it is possible to take the train to Cagnes sur Mer and than get a bus). One possibility would be that you spend some time in Monte Carlo, take the bus to Eze (you can get the schedule and info from the local tourist folks that should be at the ship). When you arrive at Eze, check the bus schedule for the times the local bus shuttles down to the train station Eze sur (Bord) Mer. You can than take the train to Nice (you might also find there is a bus from Eze to Nice but I am not sure whether this exists). From Nice you can than use the train to get back to your port. Keep in mind that the trains do not run more than twice an hour (sometimes less) so you must always check the schedules and plan accordingly. Taxis are very expensive for all but short local hops. Renting a car is a good option for those that are comfortable driving because you can usually get a car for about $100 (plus gas at $9.00 oer gallon).