Hank, Drlivingston, ftroute (and anyone else that has any info that wishes to add anything) as my cruise approaches, I’m looking at excursions and any information I might get from you about our ports.
Hank, you had said to write back once we decided what we wanted to do and see and you would try to give us some advice and more details, so here it goes…
First, let me state that we are not afraid of going it alone (not booking through the ship) but if you feel its best that we do in a given port, please let us know. Also, I wouldn’t be opposed to renting a car, but I think the cost of doing that for the 12 hours we are in a port makes it undesirable.
After looking through cruise chat and the suggestions I found for each of the ports, here is my list so far-
Naples- 7am – 6pm
Things we are interested in seeing are Pompeii, the Herculaneum and Capri – I found an older post that discusses taking the train to Pompeii and think we will do that. That same post also stated that Capri is also doable in one visit but I’d like more information on what there is to do or see in Capri before we decide to try to do both of those in one trip. The other thought is to do Pompeii and the Herculaneum site only since I saw that they are on the same train line (which stops do I use for both?). How would we do that if we chose to? Or maybe do Pompeii and then come back to Naples and see something there if there is something worth seeing- Catacombs?
Marmaris - 11am-6pm Hank said in an earlier post that this was not a common port stop. Has anyone had any experience going here? The excursions from the cruise line suggest doing the beach and lunch excursion, which we will probably do. However, we have done this enough to believe that we could probably get to the beach on our own… Anyone know how to go about doing this? Otherwise I’ll just book it through the cruise line.
Izmir - 9am -4pm Hank suggested taking the ship’s tour to Ephesus. Any other suggestions? Can we do the tour of Ephesus on our own (taxi of something?) If it’s a long distance to get there, then it might be best to book the ship’s tour.
Istanbul 9am-8pm Palace of the Sultan and Grand Bazaar looks to be popular. Again, can we do this or something similar on our own. Are there other things we should try to see?
Athens 6am-5pm We plan on metro line to the Acropolis and Plaka. This looks fairly easy to do. (Just watch out for the pick pockets) Other things to see in the Acropolis area? Is there an “all day” ticket we can buy or maybe a subway/bus combo ticket?
Katakolon - 8am -3pm See Olympia via the ship’s tour. Unless there are other suggestions.
Livorno 7am -7pm Plan is to take train to Florence and go sight seeing, have lunch. What should we see while in Florence and what train stops do we get off in Florence at? I also though of trying to go to Pisa just to say I saw the leaning tower. But I have no idea on the travel involved and if it is even doable.
Rome- all day and night. We disembark the following morning. We plan on taking the train into Rome (buy combined train metro line ticket). I want to see the coliseum and maybe use one of the “on/off” tour busses (any suggestions on which of these is a good one?) Obviously Rome is huge and probably not doable in a day. I have no interest in the Vatican and the crowds that will have, but if you only have one day in Rome which sites would you see? Good restaurant?
As a side note, we are staying in Rome the night before the cruise, but we don’t get in Until 4pm or so. I would imagine we will only have time to take in a dinner.
Jim, You just caught me a week before we leave on an extended two month trip (including South American and Europe) so I will try to answer your questions before we get too distracted with packing.
Naples: Both Herculanium and Pompeii are on the same Circumvesuiania train line. The stop for Herculanium (the clsoer one to Naples) is called Ercolano and the Pompeii stop is "Pompeii Scavi." If you decide to do both of these you can actually get a combination entrance ticket (at either site) which saves you about 2 Euros. Of the two sites, if you have to choose, I would recommend Pompeii although they are both great. As to Capri, its simply a beautiful island. Assuming you have no interest in the Blue Grotto (a fun..overpriced tourist trap) you simply go up to Capri Town and enjoy the cafes, shops, view, and the atmosphere. There are some other options such as going up to Anacapri where you can get a chair lift up to the top of the mountain. If you wanted to do Capri in conjunction with Pompeii (or Herculanium) you could simply continue on the same train line to Sorrento and take the ferry over to Capri. From Capri, you could catch the ferry all the way back to Naples (this is a 50 min ride).
Izmir - I again would urge you to take the tour to Ephesus (absolutely amazing). Its more than an hour drive from Izmir to Ephesus, so its doubtful you would get a good deal going it on your own. I do not recommend renting a car in Turkey, although its certainly an option.
Istanbul - We love this city. Its a place you can absolutely do on your own. Its a 5 min taxi ride from the pier over the bridge into town, or you can even walk it in about 30 minutes. My personal suggestions would be to visit the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and of course go walk around the Covered (Grand) Bazaar. Hage Sofia is only a couple of blocks from the Blue Mosque so you might want to squeeze in a visit here. All of these sites are within a mile so its walkable, or you can always find taxis (make sure they run the meter or they will rob you blind).
Katakolon - We have never been big fans of Olympia, but its the main attraction in this part of Greece. It is possible to do it with a taxi, but I am not sure if you can save much money. You might want to look on the internet for a company that provides transportation and get a price. I understand there is also a small rental car company in Katakolon (its only a small fishing village) so that would also be an option. My only problem with driving in Greece is that when you are far from Athens most of the signs are only in Greek.
Rome - We have no experience with the HOHO bus, so perhaps somebody can jump in and help. Rome is a fabulous city for walking and you would want to see the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain and walk the streets between these two sites. We generally do not eat well in Rome because the good restaurants are very expensive and the day is too short. But, we do really like to have lunch at one of the outdoor cafes (there are at least 5) located in the Piazza Navona (our favorite spot in Rome). The people watching here is fun (you will not believe all the tour groups) and the fountain in the Piazza is a true gem.
Florence - As you have already read, the biggest hassle is getting a taxi to take you from ship to the train station (be assertive and don't give-up). The name of the main station in Florence is "Novella" but everyone just says Florence. A stop in Pisa is doable, but it will cost you more than an hour. You would probably want to take a taxi to the leaning tower and than back to the station to save time. Why not go to Florence first, and than if you have time you can stop in Pisa on the way back. My hunch is you will love Florence and quickly forget all about going to Pisa. As to what to see in Florence, there is too much to list or possibly do in one day (or even two days). We like to have lunch outdoors near the Piazza Signoria. You can also admire the nearly perfect copy of David and save yourself a trip (and long line) to the Academia. We think the gelato in Florence is the best on earth, and it seems to be good everywhere. We have had the gelato at the world famous Vivaldi but honestly did not think it was much better than what we had elsewhere.
You cruise will leave you wanting to return to all of these wonderful places.
Actually Pisa is quite close to Livorno. It only take about 15 minutes on the train (vs over an hour to Florence) and we have driven from Pisa to the pier in Livorno in about 20 minutes. All the trains from Florence do stop in Pisa. If I can think outloud (can get in trouble for doing this) I wonder if you could stop at Pisa on the way back, take a taxi to the piazza where you find the tower (the only part of Pisa worth seeing) and than get a taxi to take you back to the ship. I have no idea what a taxi would charge from the tower to the ship, but my assumption would be that it might be around 50 Euros (just a wild guess). Just fruit for thought.
Jim, I concur with what Hank said. Make Florence your priority. The train folks refer to the central station in Florence as Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Nouvella.) Coming from Pisa, it is actually your second stop. Get off at the first and you are in for a long walk.
I have a train document (who'd guess that) at Firenze trains . Trains from Livorno stop at Pisa but you do not have to change trains. Trains are mostly regionals (some 1cl - mostly 2cl only.) 2cl does not buy you a seat - only passage on the train! (Yes, I've stood up most of the way several times.)
View from the top of the Duomo is great (if you can handle 430+ stairs.) View from Piazzale Michelangelo is spectacular also. There is a bus from the train staion (about 15min up and back) for 1 Euro.
Send PM if you want specifics. Have a great cruise!!!
Radiance of the Seas - Nov 2006
Legend of the Seas - Jun 2007
Costa Fortuna - Mar 2008
Legend of the Seas - Oct 2008
Celebrity Constellation - July 2009
MSC Orchestra - Jan 2009
Navigator of the Seas - March 2009
MSC Poesia - November 2009
Jewel of the Seas - June 2010
Thanks for the link (I edited your post to fix it, but it works now.) I already have a copy of your Civ to Rome train document in my stack of travel docsuments. I'll add this one too. I'll post you a PM if I have any questions after reading it.
If they dock at the normal pier in Izmir you could walk into town. But keep in mind that Izmir is a very large city so you would want to have some kind of plan. As to Marmaris, since we have never been there I would have no clue.
Jim, since Hank is on vacation now I am hoping that you can help me. We are stopping in Livorno with the Emerald Princess in May. I was planning to take the "On Your Own" shore excursion, which just takes you to and from Florence. However, the cost is $69.00 each. I would imagine it would be less expensive to get there on our own. Is it very difficult to get to Florence from the cruise port and how would we do it. Thanks!