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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 09-18-2006, 02:49 PM
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First post to this port chat. Almost lost my hubby this summer so we are not putting off our dream vacation any longer. Doing a Mediterranean cruise June 6 and after Naples, Venice, Dubrovnik, Messina, Barcelona, Cannes and Livorno, we have to go back to port in Rome at which time we're taking the train back to Florence and staying their five more days. We have only done several Caribbean cruises so anything anyone can tell us to do, where to buy, what to avoid and tours of the countryside (inexpensive please) out of Florence will be so much appreciated.
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Old 09-19-2006, 07:47 AM
 
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Speaking as a happy "hubby" I am glad that things are working-out and will be happy to help you with some ideas on every port and Italy. I know all these places quite well except for Dubrovnik. You have lots of time and if you really want to save money (organized excursions can add thousands of dollars to your trip cost) you need to do your homework. The large bookstores such as Borders can provide hours of fun and knowledge without the extra cost of buying hundreds of dollars of tour books. Lets start with you Florence question. From the port, assuming that you can handle (or roll) your luggage a few blocks, here is what you can do to save over $100 on transfers. When you get off the ship there is a free shuttle bus (provided by the port) that will take you to the port entrance. From there, its a 4 block walk (towards your right) to the Civitavecchia station where you would catch a train to Rome and than change for a train to Florence. The region around Florence (Tuscany) is worthy of months of exploration. Personally, I like to explore Tuscany with a rental car,,but this would depend on your level of comfort driving in Italy. Tuscany must be explored on the road (trains are too limiting) so the only other option is to use private tours or hire a driver (both very expensive). If the idea of driving sounds reasonable, you might want to consider renting a car for pickup at Civitavecchia, drive to Florence, and eventually drive yourselves back to Rome's airport (FCO) where you can drop the car. We do this quite often, and usually spend our last night at the Rome Airport Hilton, which is connected to the airport terminals via a pedestrian overpass (its a pretty long walk). In fact, we just did this in May and we dropped our car at the airport about 3 in the afternoon, took the train into Rome for dinner and shopping, and than caught our flight the next morning. Driving in Italy is not too difficult if you avoid driving in the main cities (such as Florence) and learn to deal with parking issues. Autoeurope is a great place to rent cars for periods of at least 3 days or more. Car rentals are a lot cheaper if you can drive a stick (automatics cost a lot more) and you need small cars to negotiate narrow streets in the villages and get good gas milage (gas is about $7 a gallon). If this idea is acceptable, I can give you lots of ideas on where to drive, where to stay, etc. If not, you would use the train to Florence, and than book some tours out of Florence and also use the trains to get to some other towns. I will later post some ideas for each of your ports, as you give me some feedback about your thoughts and ideas. This might actually be fun and give some others fruit for thought.

Hank
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Old 09-19-2006, 11:27 AM
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Hi Hank,

Thank you so much for your fast response which was also very helpful.

You know how in every family there is a picture taker, planner, organizer? Well, I'm the one in our family and I have been diligently reading the Europe post. What neat and marvelous information, especially from you.

I need to tell you a little about us though so you might better be able to help us out and, I agree, this will be fun. As my first post says, we have cruised the Caribbean several x's, mainly because we live in FL. Europe is entirely another world. We are in our 60's. My hubby has two knee replacements and a shoulder replacement and I have one knee replacement. You would never know he has artificial knees, but mine didn't turn out so well. However, I'm quite stubborn and so no mobile scooters ever and no walkers or canes between us. However, I have to give serious thought to walking long distances as my knee locks up and becomes quite painful. I am doing everything I possibly can to see and do everything we want on our dream vacation and that includes intense physical therapy already which will be ongoing up to the time of the trip, if necessary. I'm the adventurer moreso than DH and I am thinking twice about renting the car. Don't know yet. IF we take the train to Florence (we're staying at the Hotel David), we were thinking of taking daytrips out of Florence, but you say they are so expensive. We DO have to budget so I may be willing to rent a car there and, of course, I cut my eyeteeth on a stickshift. In getting our luggage from one place to another, you know how we Americans are. We take way too many clothes on cruises and I'm wondering if there is a type of luggage that would be better for us to get all our stuff into so as not to have to many suitcases. Also worrying about size as we're not yet familiar with the new restrictions on flying, weight of luggage, size of luggage, etc. This way we might be able to handle our luggage and could buy new pieces now (so it doesn't hurt so much closer to the trip). I'd love to see Sienna (sp?) and who knows what else in Tuscany. In Naples, although I'm afraid of heights, we definitely want to do the amalfi coast so I can get scared out of my wits, Pompeii and maybe a small village where we can eat somewhere along the way, so I don't know if I should drive that or take the ship's tour or a local tour. I anxiously look forward to your response and really, everyone's response, hints, tips and what everyone has found in the way of PRICES for ship's tours or local tours at any of the ports we will be visiting. I am SO excited; I feel like I'm just beginning life again!!!
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Old 09-19-2006, 11:32 AM
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Hi Hank,

I did reply to your post, but not sure if I did it right as I did not hit the button "Reply to Post". So it's in the thread I started. I'm just getting the hang of this. Bev
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Old 09-19-2006, 12:04 PM
 
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Well, we sure can appreciate the knee problems (my wife has arthroscopic surgery coming up in a few weeks). Lets be real honest here, your ability to walk sould be a msjor factor in some of your decision making. We can certainly give you a lot of help since we have been there many times. In fact, we stayed at the Hotel David for 2 nights this past May. I like the David because they have free parking (we had a rental car) and its outside the very busy center of the the city. The walk from the David into the center of Florence takes you along the beautiful river (you can walk either side) and is about a mile and flat. There are also very convenient city buses that have stops within 100 yards of the hotel. Siena is reachable from Florence by train or car and is a place that does require a lot of walking up and down steep sidewalks. You also should read-up on San Gimignano, which is a pretty neat town and one of our favorite places. There are lots of other interesting towns including Lucca and Volterra...so you need to do a lot of reading and prioritize your wants. As to luggage, we are the wrong ones to give any advice as we tend to overpack in a major way. Keep in mind that you need to plan on each piece weighing less than 50 lbs..so light weight luggage is a good thing. All the airlines will let you check 2 pieces with each piece weighing no more than 50 pounds...so you can still take alot of clothes. As to the Amalfi coast, on our trip this spring we spent 6 nights in a wonderful hotel in Praiano....which is about 6 miles on the Amalfi side of Positano. We had a car and really explored the area in great depth...as opposed to the one-day trips we had previously done off of various cruises. If you want to do the Amalfi drive you will either need to take the ship's tour or hire a private car/driver for the day. Doing it on your own (we drive it and have also used the local SITA buses) is a bit adventuress for a first time visitor. The views from parts of the road are spectacular, but the road is actually very safe and has excellent guard rails and stone walls at all the right places. There are other more dangerous and frightening roads in Italy, perhaps the worst being the S583 road that goes from Como up to Bellagio (very scary). I will not hide the truth which is that tours (private or ships) are pretty expensive (as is everything in Europe with the weak dollar). You will find that full day tours can easily cost $150 - $220 per person per day. Private tours can sometimes be a better deal if you have a group of 4 or more. Personally, we have a bias against almost any tour because we hate to be with groups....but for many visitors a tour is the way to go. Some of the ships tours do Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast,..because Pompeii is actually on the way from Naples to Sorrento where you pick up the Amalfi Drive. If you want to splurge at any port and hire your own car/driver, this would be the place. You can be at Pompeii in about 30 minutes from the pier, spend a couple of hours in the morning when its still not too hot, and than go on the Amalfi Drive. It will be a very busy day, and you will be rushed everywhere, but will see a lot. On the Amalfi Drive you want to stop in Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello...and when you throw in Pompeii it is a tight schedule that begs for a good private guide or very experienced traveler. As to your other ports, Venice can easily be done on your own as can Barcelona and Cannes. Messina is a jumping off place for Tamormina which is a good 45 min from the port. This can easily be done with a tour, or there are a few more adventuress (and cheaper) ways we can discuss later. If you can spare the money and time, I would also recommend you spend at least 2 or 3 pre-cruise days in Rome.
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Old 10-03-2006, 02:07 PM
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Guess what? We took your advice about pre-cruise days in Rome and booked three nights at the Hotel Concordia. Ever hear of it? It had lots of nice reviews and is only a five minute walk from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi (did I get that right?) Fountain. Any other suggestions? We do want to see the Coliseum. What is the best way to arrange that on the cheap. We're taking your advice about slowing the pace, walking down nooks and crannies and people watching, but the Coliseum is a must for us. Bev
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Old 10-22-2006, 05:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Hank:
Well, we sure can appreciate the knee problems (my wife has arthroscopic surgery coming up in a few weeks). Lets be real honest here, your ability to walk sould be a msjor factor in some of your decision making. We can certainly give you a lot of help since we have been there many times. In fact, we stayed at the Hotel David for 2 nights this past May. I like the David because they have free parking (we had a rental car) and its outside the very busy center of the the city. The walk from the David into the center of Florence takes you along the beautiful river (you can walk either side) and is about a mile and flat. There are also very convenient city buses that have stops within 100 yards of the hotel. Siena is reachable from Florence by train or car and is a place that does require a lot of walking up and down steep sidewalks. You also should read-up on San Gimignano, which is a pretty neat town and one of our favorite places. There are lots of other interesting towns including Lucca and Volterra...so you need to do a lot of reading and prioritize your wants. As to luggage, we are the wrong ones to give any advice as we tend to overpack in a major way. Keep in mind that you need to plan on each piece weighing less than 50 lbs..so light weight luggage is a good thing. All the airlines will let you check 2 pieces with each piece weighing no more than 50 pounds...so you can still take alot of clothes. As to the Amalfi coast, on our trip this spring we spent 6 nights in a wonderful hotel in Praiano....which is about 6 miles on the Amalfi side of Positano. We had a car and really explored the area in great depth...as opposed to the one-day trips we had previously done off of various cruises. If you want to do the Amalfi drive you will either need to take the ship's tour or hire a private car/driver for the day. Doing it on your own (we drive it and have also used the local SITA buses) is a bit adventuress for a first time visitor. The views from parts of the road are spectacular, but the road is actually very safe and has excellent guard rails and stone walls at all the right places. There are other more dangerous and frightening roads in Italy, perhaps the worst being the S583 road that goes from Como up to Bellagio (very scary). I will not hide the truth which is that tours (private or ships) are pretty expensive (as is everything in Europe with the weak dollar). You will find that full day tours can easily cost $150 - $220 per person per day. Private tours can sometimes be a better deal if you have a group of 4 or more. Personally, we have a bias against almost any tour because we hate to be with groups....but for many visitors a tour is the way to go. Some of the ships tours do Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast,..because Pompeii is actually on the way from Naples to Sorrento where you pick up the Amalfi Drive. If you want to splurge at any port and hire your own car/driver, this would be the place. You can be at Pompeii in about 30 minutes from the pier, spend a couple of hours in the morning when its still not too hot, and than go on the Amalfi Drive. It will be a very busy day, and you will be rushed everywhere, but will see a lot. On the Amalfi Drive you want to stop in Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello...and when you throw in Pompeii it is a tight schedule that begs for a good private guide or very experienced traveler. As to your other ports, Venice can easily be done on your own as can Barcelona and Cannes. Messina is a jumping off place for Tamormina which is a good 45 min from the port. This can easily be done with a tour, or there are a few more adventuress (and cheaper) ways we can discuss later. If you can spare the money and time, I would also recommend you spend at least 2 or 3 pre-cruise days in Rome.
Read carefully, Hank, and you will see you actually used the word "splurge" in the above. We are going to do this with a private driver and sharing it with another couple we met on this wonderful website.
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Old 11-10-2006, 01:08 PM
 
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Bev, I am not personally familiar with that Rome hotel, but the location sure sounds fantastic. When it comes to Rome, we simply like to know our options and wants, and than we just take things as they come depending on our mood, the weather, and our endurance. The cheapest way to see the Coliseum is to simply take a taxi, public transit, or walk over to the place. You can just buy your entrance tickets on the spot, and if you have a decent guide book you can do this place on your own. I should mention that we just broke most of our personal rules of travel on a 2 week trip to Egypt (got back yesterday) where we booked private guides and drivers for most of our days. We really appreciated having the expert guides (they were all licensed Egyptologists) but we also found ourselves missing our private times at sites. We met many tourists who were afraid to go anywhere on their own, while we cherished our free time when we could just go out and explore. It is similar to attitudes we have often found with many Americans in Europe who seem to have a fear of simply going out on the streets without a guide. Rome is a city made for personal exploration and simply walking down almost any street can yield much joy as you enjoy the great architecture and nice little shops. Be sure to spend some time at my favorite Piazza Navona where you can sip a drink in one of the cafes and people watch.

Hank
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Old 11-11-2006, 07:54 AM
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Bev,
I agree with Hank. Walking in Rome is very doable for the most part. I have an upcoming knee surgury, so after walking in Florence all day the day before, my knee was pretty swollen and irritated, but we slowed down in Rome and walked from the Spanish steps down to the coliseum and it wasn't too bad. Granted, you have more years on your knee than I do, so if you are worried about that, then take a taxi to the coliseum. The cobblestones are uneven and I jolted my knee several times, and they were wet from rain, so a little slick. But I watched closer where I was walking and managed fine. Good luck on your trip.

Sheila
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Old 11-11-2006, 09:30 AM
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Thanks for the info. I AM one determined lady to do whatever is needed. I just completed an 8-wk course of PT. I really clicked with my physical terrorist (I mean therapist) and she got me walking up and down steps, foot over foot, for the first time since my knee replacement five yrs. ago. Unfortunately, I form scar tissue to an excess which interferes with the recuperation and bending. Enough of that. I just signed us up for a six-wk. course of continued dance lessons--another thing I haven't done since the knee--oh, we dance on occasion, but we used to do the group dancing lesson and I'm glad to be returning to it, just to keep moving. I hope to be able to walk to the Coliseum. Wet cobblestones sound worrisome. What type of shoes did you wear? I want comfortable walking shoes that are not sneakers. Does anyone have any suggestions where to look? I will pay for a good pair. Bev
 
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