My boyfriend and I will be sailing in November at the following ports on RC. We are looking into booking the ship's excursions versus private tours or doing it on our own. Any help would be great. We are younger than the average traveler (early-mid 20s) and generally like to travel alone rather than in big groups, however, as we have not yet been to this area we are a little unsure of going it alone. We are both fluent in English and Spanish, so we are hoping to pick up some Italian to help in going it alone. Is this a big advantage? Worth learning?
Any help would be great. Especially recommended private tours/guides that are good but also affordable. Willing to pay more than ship fees, but not if we don't have to.
Barcelona (2 days): We need hotel suggestions and suggestions on airport to hotel to port travel ie: taxi versus private car
Villefranche (Nice, 10am-8pm): Not really big into gambling, is Monte Carlo ok to miss? We were thinking of doing Nice on our own, the flower market and street vendors (heard the food is great)
Livorno (Florence/Pisa, 7am-6pm): We are thinking of going to Pisa first for a quick sight of the Tower and then to Florence to enjoy the architechure and local flavor. Taxi versus train versus private driver? Shore excursion? We are trying to stay fairly affordable without giving up our freedom.
Naples, Capri (8a-8p): Definitely want to do Mt vesuvius and Pompeii. Is a ship excursion recommended?
Venice (1 1/2 days): St Marks and a night gondola ride, will not be doing through the ship as they only offer 6 person gondala rides, any suggestions on where to get a decent price for 2? Also, are most gondeliers willing to let you bring a bottle of wine aboard? We also want to do Murano, can't decide on catching a taxi or taking a ship excursion?
Dubrovnik (10a-6p): This is the port we are most unfamiliar with. Silk production?
Santorini (7a-7p): Mainly want to take in the view. Can we wander on our own? Any cafe recommendations? Oia seems to be the most popular?
Piraeus (Athens, 7a-5p): Can't wait to see Acropolis. Walking distance not an issue. Should we get a guide? Or are the books enough?
Civitavecchia (Rome, depart): We will most likely have 1-2 days, not near enough time. We want to see the Vatican and St Peters at minumum. Would also like to get to the museums. I have heard the lines can be intense. But I have also heard that certain guides/groups can by-pass the lines. Any suggestions? Again, we are on a budget, but for Rome will spend a bit more to have a better experiance. Also any hotel suggestions? And transport from port to rome to airport?
I did Pompeii and Vesuvius when in Naples by taxi
It cost about 120 Euro and worked quite well
To get to Rome use the train
The port bus (free)takes you to the port gates then walk straight ahead to the station in a few minutes
Trains are cheap comfortable and actually quicker than excursion buses which get stuck in traffic
I try to help with a few thoughts:
Villefranche: Monte Carlo is ok to mis. Nice can easily be done on our own, the flower market as well as churches, hotels and others are nice. In some restaurants the food is indeed great, but also not cheap.
Livorno: In my opionon the time is to short to do Florence and Pisa in one day. Pisa alone with its campo dei miracoli (cathedrale, baptisterium, museums ...) and other sights deserves a day or two, a quick sight of the Tower alone is not worth the dertour. Florence deserves weeks. Nevertheless some tourist do it.
All options you gave are possible, most conveniert is the private tour but cheaper and more recommendable is public transportation. The train to Florence stops at Pisa, thus one of the cities or both can easily be reached. You could take the bus to the station in Livorno and walk in Pisa but to maximise your time you should take a taxi to and from the station in Livorno and also in Pisa. In Florence you are right by the center thus you can walk there.
Naples, Capri: Both Mt vesuvius and Pompeii can be reached by train (Local train Circumvesuviana from a seperate station not trenitalia from the main station!) For Mt Vesuvius you need to continue with a bus, the excavation in Pompeii are right next to the station. Make sure to exit at the excavation site not in the modern town.
Venice (1 1/2 days): Probably most gondeliers are willing to let you bring a bottle of wine aboard. Officially prices are the same everywhere. You might be able to barganin away form the most visited sights. Murano is an island to be reaced by boat only. Water taxis are expansive but there is a water bus, too. Glas makers offer free transfer to Murano (but not back) to lead you into their shops. I would advise against going there in your limited times. Venice is full of wonderful sights.
Piraeus: The Acropolis is too far to walk all the way. Instead take the metro. A good guide book (more than just one page ...) is fine and gives you all the time and freedom you want.
Civitavecchia (Rome, depart): If you carry luggage the walk from the port entrance to the station gets long. You might prefer to take a taxi from the ship to the station (or, of course, to take a taxi all the way to Rome to be more comfortable (and much more expensive)). From Rome to the airport there is a train from the main station.
A couple of web sites that you might want to visit. Venere Travel Searches A very useful site for hotel accomodations. Quality reviews for most hotels. Site can be slow during day in US. Best viewed evening hours after the Europeans have gone to bed. I just booked hotels in Rome and Florence last night. Of course, having spent many, many days in both locations helped.
Italian Train System Very useful and informative. Learn about the different types/classes of trains. Check depart/arrive times.
From Livorno, take the train directly to Florence. Check afore mentioned site. You do not want to take a 'locale' as it will stop numerous times between Livorno and Florence.
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 so much for all the help. A few more questions-if you can. I will be in Barcelona, venice and Rome overnight. Are all of these places safe for walking aroung at night? We would like to see the fountains in Rome at night. There is a few tours I found online by private companies, but could it be done on your own?
I DO NOT recommend Hotel Raco Del Pi. Despite reviews, we were rather disappointed...especially for the price.
The Barri Gotic can be sketchy at night, especially during dinnertime (8 to 10) when people are eating and and the quarter is relatively empty. Just be smart and protect yourself form pickpockets. It is great to go for dinner at that time anyway with the locals.
To get around on the relative cheap, I can't recommend the tourist bus enough. A taxi to the port cost us 12 euro if I remember correctly. I think it was about 22 euro from the airport. We stayed near the Gothic Cathedral.
Originally posted by Beth123:
I will be in Barcelona, venice and Rome overnight. Are all of these places safe for walking aroung at night?
Rome and Venice are safe for walking around at night! (Just to my best knowledge of course.)
In Venice there will be very few people around when you leave the major tourist trails but it is nevertheless safe.
Rome probably has its share of criminality somwhere but the areas you want to visit (fountains -> historic city center) are safe besides of the general advice to be aware of the possibility of pickpockets.
In both cities it is very nice to stroll around on your own and take all the time you want. My recommendation for the last stop in Venice: Stay in one of the cafes with live orchestra on St. Mark's square until they close.
Great questions. Given your age you should do a lot of pre-trip homework and consider doing much on your own (it will save you lots of Euros and get you away from the herds...I mean group tours). Let me take a stab at your questions.
Barcelona - Just grab a taxi from the airport (about 25 Euros to anywhere in town or the port) which is cheaper than any transfer. This is a modern airport and you will have no problems.
Villefranhe - We have been traveling in Europe for over 25 years and avoid Monte Carlo at every opportunity (smile). Nice is nice and I personally hope they have Nice fish soup in heaven. You can easily get to Nice or Monte Carlo on the train or local bus (both within walking distance of the tender pier). Also read-up on the village of Eze which is worth a visit for a wonderful change of pace.
Livorno - Hiring a taxi will cost you about 250 Euros for the day (negotiable) and it can carry 4. The train is your cheapest option and since the train goes through Pisa (you might have to change trains here for Florence) you could stop in Pisa and walk or grab a taxi over to the tower for a quick visit. Shore excursions are fine if you want to spend a lot of money and like excursions. Cruise lines charge about $80 for a bus to Florence (takes 1:20) vs the train which costs about $25. However, you will need a local taxi to get from Livorno's pier to the train station. In Florence you can walk everywhere from the station.
Naples - Too many options to mention at the moment. You can get to Pompeii on the train from Naples (Circumvesuviania Line but Vesuvius is more of a challenge (I am no expert on Vesuvius). At Pompeii you should consider joining an English speaking tour (about 10 Euros per person) since the ruins are over a large area and a guide can be very helpful.
Venice - Just do everything on your own. Walking is the way to see Venice. You can easily hire a Venice from any of several locations (one is next to St Marks Square) and you will pay about 85 Euros (this is negotiable) for the Gondola which gets you about a 45 min ride. Definitely go alone (its romantic) and buy yourself a bottle of wine to sip in the Gondola (most of the gondoliers have plastic cups).
Dubrovnik - Have never been there so can't help.
Santorini - Easy to do this on your own and English is widely spoken. When you get off the tender you can go up to the city (Fira) on the funicular or the donkeys. At your age consider taking the donkeys for a great laugh (unless you fall off). If you get tired of Fira, just walk a couple of blocks to the bus stop (anyone can point you in the direction) and for 1 Euro you can take the local bus over to Oia in about 15 min. Oia is smaller than Fira (the main town) but its more laid back and also has cafes.
Pireus - Getting from the ship to town can be done by walking (10 min walk) to the subway. Books are fine for Athens, but consider jumping on an English speaking tour when you enter the Acropolis. A guide can really help bring some life to the extensive ruins.
Rome - Do whatever you can (even sell your husband for money) to afford extra days in Rome. There are various strategies for dealing with the lines at the Vatican, but we have simply walked over about 30 min before opening and just waited our turn. We have been there 4 times and never waited more than an hour. Transport from the port can be expensive unless you can handle your luggage. In that case you can take the free bus shuttle to the port entrance, walk about 4 blocks to the train station and take the train into Rome. Depending on your hotel you might want to grab a taxi from the station to your hotel. There is a direct train line from Rome that goes right into the airport terminal (about 9 Euros one way) and that is the cheapest (and fastest) if you can handle your luggage.
One other thing. Pickpockets make a good living in Europe so take some basic precautions, always keep alert, and never leave your luggage where anyone can grab it!
I forgot to add that we were in Dubrovnik in September and spent several hours walking the wall around Old Town and in Old Town itself. It is really lovely. Most of the shopkeepers are very friendly and helpful. There is a nice CD shop near the main entrance if you are interested in local music. They will let you listen before you buy.
If you stop to eat somewhere, I highly recommend using the restaurants restrooms as the public ones in Old Town were disgraceful.