First of all, know that I have to do ALL the planning, reservations, booking tours or not, researching, etc., etc. My DH will do NONE of it. As we have never been to Europe before, it is very daunting. It has been suggested to fly to Rome before our cruise so we may see some of the highlights. I'm scared to death to do this, but am contemplating it. I need an inexpensive hotel near things. Is there such a thing? How to get about in Rome? How to know what to see? Tour drivers or not? And why, oh why, when I read all about these tour drivers to other ports of call will no one give me an idea of what they cost? I need some idea so as to better keep planning our trip. We are already staying in Florence for four days post-cruise. Need lots of help and suggestions. Hey! This is a lot for a 65-yr-young gramma.
Don't worry I'm in the same boat. no pun intended. We are 70, this is our first cruise in 22 years and are on the cruise before your's, so we have decided to fly into Rome and spend three nights there before getting a car to take us to the ship. I believe the cost to be somewhere around 130 Euros.
We have booked our hotel the Best Western Presidential Hotel through a web site called hotelclub.com and got a really good rate. I have used hotel club twice before when travelling to Australia and so far have found them to be very good. So, we are going to book a car to pick us up from the airport to take us to the hotel and then again to the ship. We have to watch our spending pretty closely with the exchange rate as it is at present, prices in euros have to be doubled to get to New Zealand dollars and we get 0.62 USD for every 1.00 NZD.so you can see as a pensioner we have to be careful. Mind you we are saving like mad at the moment we are going to have great time I hope you do to.
Actually, Ptur, it would be great fun if we WERE in the same boat. It does sound like our roles are reversed though. My hubby is the one who gets very nervous about things AFTER he tells me I'm the one who gets to plan it all. Thanks for the advice. We will be looking into it. Your exchange rate is maddening. I thought ours was bad enough. Here in the States, it's called being on an income that needs fixed, oops, I mean on a fixed income. I'm not complaining, though, since I never thought we would have our "dream" trip. Let us know what else you are finding if you feel it will help us as we have the identical ports of call. I am so thankful for this website. I am getting so many ideas; now to commit to my notebook. Hank, also, is a huge help. Bev
I don't know if you are still checking this post but I am the total planner in my family (wife and teenage son) and really enjoy it. We have been to Europe several times, Italy a couple of times. Rome is a huge city and watch out when you cross the street because I'm not sure they believe the pedestrians have the right of way. I have done most everything using the internet, Hotels, trains, etc. Since you haven't travelled that much to Europe, I think the best for you would be to find a local tour company who gives day tours to the major sites. I think you can do the Vatican on your own, but it is far from the other major "downtown" area sites and it deserves a better part of a day. You should see if Grayline has tours, they are usually good. Also, go to the library and pick up the Frommer's and Fodor's travel books. I love to read all the books I can and know the major sites not to miss. This is getting long, I could go on, but won't bore everyone.
Thanks for your response. We are booked into Rome four days before our cruise leaves and we are only five min. from Trevi Ftn., Spanish Steps, etc. We will walk to those, of course, and we are not interested in the Vatican. We definitely want to see the Coluseum. What else do you recommend as must-sees? We will probably never be there again. Bev
I want to delicately answer the original posters concerns about cost, panic, etc. Yes, it is easy to simply book tours/drivers everywhere and just sit back and relax. On the other hand, its hard to relax when you are facing bankruptcy after paying for all the tours. I have known folks who actually spent more on European tours than on their cruise! So, what to do? First, do your homework on the ports. Spend time in bookstores reading travel books and taking notes (no need to buy). Do lots of reasearch on the internet (its actually fun). Remember that Europe (and much of Asia) is very tourist friendly and, with some homework and planning, you can usually do things independently on your own at a huge savings in cost. We have been traveling internationally for over 35 years, and hardly ever take any tours. You mention Rome, pre cruise. Rome is a wonderful city, and its relatively easy to see everything without paying for organized tours. The city is large, but its a great place to walk. You also have a subway system, inexpensive local buses, and taxis (a bit more money). A decent tour book is a lot cheaper than private guides. The language barrier is really not a problem as English is a pretty international language. Most restaurants and cafes actually have English menus, and you will be amazed at how much Italian you can read (pizza is pizza). As to hotels, look at the internet booking sites (expedia, orbitz, etc) and read the ratings and opinions at tripadvisor.com (I love this site) to get some ideas. As to the Vatican, I am not sure why you are not interested,,,as the Vatican Museums (this is a walking tour that includes the Sistine Chapel) is amazing. Many of the best things in Rome are seen by simply walking and looking at the buildings and ruins (it costs nothing to walk around the Palentine Hill area). Sometimes we think the most fun in Rome (and other European cities) is to simply sip a glass or wine or beer at a well-located outdoor cafe and people watch. In Rome, our favorite "sipping" place is one of the cafes at the Piazza Navonna..where you can look at the gorgeous fountains and watch humanity pass-by your table.
Hank, Thanks for your post. We are taking your advice about many things. In the last post on post-cruise Florence Oct. 3, 2006, you will see I mentioned you and that we were taking your advice to stop and smell the flowers (or the wine) and we are going to people watch and enjoy the moment we're in. We're glad to be booked into a place where we can just do so much walking and resting and people watching. So you're saying we can just find our own way out to the Coliseum by bus or subway? What about tickets ahead of time? Believe me, we will not be spending more on tours than we do for the cruise. Our airfare, however, left us gasping for breath. I guess the Vatican was low on our list due to the fact we are not Catholics.
Bev, I also am not a Catholic,,,but the Vatican truly transcends religion. The Vatican Museum tour (you can do this on your own or with a guided tour) is more about seeing a great museum with wonderful art,. I know the Sistine Chapel has been hyped to a point where its almost a cliche...but for art lovers the place is like a holy grail (no pun intended). On our visits to the Colosseum we just walked up to the entrance and bought tickets with very short lines. But than you already know that we are very independent travelers and like to avoid tours. The Colosseum is right on the metro line (subway) and also a great area for walking since its next to the Forum and Palatine Hill. Bev, I would really recommend that you not over plan your visit,,but rather be flexible and do your own thing depending on the weather, your energy, and perhaps the advice of others here and at your hotel. Rome is a pretty sprawling place with much to see and do, so I would suggest you just make a list of all the places that you find interesting, and than simply do what feels right at the time. Keep in mind that Sundays and Mondays may find certain attractions closed, so you need to do some planning if you are dealing with these days. As to lines, the biggest problem is always the line to get into the Vatican Museums..which can sometimes take 1 1/2 hours in high season. I am told that the lines for the Vatican are actually better if you wait until after 1:30...but we have always visited this place in the mornings and put up with the wait. Like most European cities, Rome is best enjoyed by long walks through the city (for those that can walk) with ocassional stops at outdoor cafes for a rest and refreshment. My wife would tell you that shopping is a lot of fun, even if you don't buy anything. The city is certainly worthy of a 3 day visit...and even longer for those that want to explore in depth and do some day trips outside of the city.
Hi again. I am in total agreement with Hank about the Vatican. You had asked for the "must see" sights..this is absolutely a must-see, for anyone, Catholic or not. I am not Catholic but I definitely wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. It is in my eyes, breathtaking and to think someone had to paint that while lying on their back. It is truly remarkable. Vatican city is a huge city within a city. Many things to see. It is the church of all churches. Actually I would put the Vatican before the Colliseum but that is my preference. I am a do it yourselfer, so I most of the time do the research and do everything on my own without a tour. But I know that many people don't like to plan those things and want to do too much and can't plan well. Also I am not sure of how much walking people like to do or if they don't think it is an adventure to take the subway or train by themselves. So I suggested a tour so you can kinda relax. To each his own, you know. Definitely make a list of the things you want to see and do, read up and make sure you have the time but don't stress if you can't get everything in. You do have to take time to "smell the roses". Myself I am getting abit excited as I just booked us on the Prinsendam to Europe on June 26. Looking forward to it. I have already checked out a ton of books from the library.
One more thing about the Vatican, if you go, no shorts (showing the knees) or bare shoulders. This is only for the chapel, though, I believe. But it is better to be safe than sorry. They won't let you in. Bring a shawl or some wraparound item that you can easily carry and put on.