We are booked on the Grand Princess Eastern Mediterranean cruise in November. On reviewing the shore excursions I'm not sure in which city it is best to rely on Princess or where we can tour easily on our own. We are seasoned travelers and want to maximize our time (and dollars). We will be docking in Naples, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Mykonos and Alexandria. I'm sure we will do Mykonos independently but wonder about the other places. Sometimes when you only have six hours in port it is easier to take the shore excursion. Thank you!
I have done a similar cruise on Carnival and can answer for you.
Do on your own.... easy - Naples you can easily take the trains to get to Pompeii, The Hurculenium (sp?), Sorrento and you can easily take a ferry to Capri
Athens- easy to do on your own, take the metro into Athens from the port.
Ephesus- This is a long distance from the port. We took the ships tour here only because we did not wish to risk arranging our own transport and we couldn't find any private tours that were less expensive (or at least not enough to warrant the risk)
Istanbul- Carnival bussed us into Istanbul and dropped us off near the Grand Bazaar. From there, all the major sites we wanted to see were within walking distance. Easy to do on your own.
Mykonos, Alexandria - Did not go to either on our cruise so I can not comment
Thanks, Jim C. I will take your advice. I'd already heard from a friend that Mykonos is easy to get around. On some cruises we've found it easy to book trips with other companies or use public transportation to get around. It's just a bit harder when it is a major city and the port is a distance away.
Hi BritChris, welcome to Cruise-Chat. I'm moving your post to the Europe Port Chat section. Hopefully, it will receive more views there as well as answers. Hope you enjoy Princess as much as we do. Be sure to visit the International Cafe on the Plaza Deck, they have some fantastic pastries, gelato, and sandwiches, plus specialty coffees. Best wishes for a fantastic cruise!
Naples - you can do on your own. Take the train to Pompeii and Sorrento. Capri - take the ferry - it is right beside the ship.
Ephesus - we took ship tour - because it was far away. Next time, we will rent a car and have more time to spend there. I felt really rushed and herded like cattle on the Princess tour - no fault to Princess - just - it is a tour. And we did not like the fact that tour guide ended it with a rug tour. But we gave the guide a tip and then did not go into the rug store for their free apple tea and a pressure sale. Thank heavens the store is right beside the bazzar and shopping. Buy a really good guidebook if you choose to do Ephesus and Terrace Houses and Virgin Mary Shrine and Basicalla on your own.
Athens. We took ship tour. Again, because we had never been to Athens. Next year, we will simply take cab to subway or walk it (long 20 minutes but we could do it) and visit Acropolis on our own - again tour was rushed. And I would get off ship really early. Once again, they did a little tour of Pireas port on the tour bus before getting to the main event - Acropolis and I blasted Princess on that - and we got 25% of our money back. Come on - take us to where we want to go and fast because Acropolis can be very crowded but you will be fine in November.
Mykonons - of course - Princess made us pay $7.00 return for a ride from the port to the town. Okay, the road is a little narrow and it is literally a five minute walk - but I guess they had to make some money off us. I would walk it next time. Be sure to see the windmills and don't get lost. Yes, really easy to do so but fun. Other ports never been to but I hear that Alexandria you really have to take the tour - not the safest place to travel on your own. Cheers.
After reading the prior post I feel the need to comment on Ephesus. We have been to Kusadasi 4 times and visited Ephesus three on those times...once on a Princess cruises tour, once on our own by using the local bus/van, and most recently by booking a private tour (for only the two of us) through EKOL. Let me be very clear that I do not recommend taking a cruise line tour to Ephesus! Let me explain. Those cruise tours are large groups (usually 50+) and, most importantly, they do not visit the Terrace Houses. The Terrace Houses are the newest restored part of Ephesus, but is limited to small groups and it costs extra. Cruise line tours want to rush you through Ephesus so they can make more money by taking you to a pottery or jewelry factory (they get kick-backs) and it would take them a long time to break up into smaller groups to visit the Terrace Houses. Visiting the ruins at Ephesus without seeing the Terrace Houses is like visiting New York and not seeing Broadway or Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. The Terrace Houses are simply amazing. So, for those going to Ephesus, I strongly recommend booking a private tour (usually cheaper than cruise tours) with one of the reputable tour companies. As to the tour companies, EKOL has been around for years and has a great reputation and there is now a new company called Hello Ephesus which seems to be building a following. Both these companies take bookings via their web sites and give you multiple tour options.
Thanks for the advice. I definitely want to visit the Terrace Houses. I've investigated the EKOL company to use for taking private tours as opposed to Princess tours. Booking is a bit of an issue because they have a non-secure website and want you to print and fax your credit card information to them. I don't think so! If you found a different way, please let me know. I have some concerns that we have only six hours in Kusadasi and that's tight if Princess lets its tour groups disembark first.
I definitely will walk out Mykonos. Istanbul will be a race as there is so much to see.
Thanks for the ideas. I am glad that we are not dependent upon the Princess tours. 50 in a group sounds horrendous!
I agree that EKOL is a bit of a hassle because they want a deposit. But, based on our personal experience they are a first rate company and their reputation is first rate (for both Istanbul and Kusadasi). When we used them this past April we did fax our credit card info with no problems. However, there is new company called Hello Ephesus that has been getting some decent reviews from recent travelers. My understanding is that they do not require a deposit or credit card info. Some have reported that sometimes their e-mails to Hello Ephesus do not get through, but most seem to have no problems. As to disembarkation, it is no problem with Princess since your ship will be docked at the port (it is a short walk from ship to terminal building). The Turks clear ships very fast so you should have no delays.The private guides all wait right outside the terminal building (we could see the guides from our cabin balcony)and they aware of how long it takes folks to get of the ship. There are more than 1000 port calls in Kusadasi every year so they are used to all the procedures. I should add that Istanbul is one of our favorite ports in the world. We do everything on our own in Istanbul (we have spent several days there in hotels and have called there on 3 cruises) and have nothing but praise for the Turks.