We are scheduled for the 12 days Mediterrean cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam from August 19-31. I am trying to get a few shore excursions booked/planned before we go can anyone give me some suggestions. I know booking through the cruiseline is always a good idea but I was thinking about planning your own excursions if possible for some areas.
Here is the itinerary:
Piraeus (Athens) Greece
Istanbul Turkey overnight
Kusadasi (Ephesus) Greece
Thira (Santorini) Greece
We just got back and had a great time. Below is a list of the tours that we did and hopefully that will help you make your decisions – have a great trip! Debbie
Venice – On the first night my husband and I took the Evening Gondola ride for $119/pp and while it was nice there are m4-6 people in each Gondola and not very romantic. You are better off taking a private one through the channels on your own. The next day we took the ship tour Murano & Burano for $64/pp - was nice but you can save money if you arrange this tour on your own and take the waterbuses over to the islands for the day.
Split Croatia – We did nothing in this port – but others we meet told us that they did took the on/off bus for a city tour and it was great. Not much to see in town but we heard the castle was beautiful.
Piraeus (Athens) Greece - We took the Ancient Olympia and Mercouris Vineyard for $109/pp through the ship and it was not worth it in my book. The ruins were great but at the Vineyard you share a table with 6-8 people with a small platter of cheese, salami and bread and 2 bottles of wine after a brief tour of the winery
Istanbul Turkey - Start off by taking a taxi to the Spice Market when the ship docks it was wonderful and a must see. We then had hired a private guide for the next day and it was amazing. www.Istanbultoursonline.com and trust me you will not be disappointed. If you combine this tour with one in Kusadasi you will get a 10% discount. We had 3 people for full day tours with lunch and it was $500 for both tours
Mykonos, Greece – We did not do a ship tour here but instead took the local bus to the beach it was very easy to do and it only cost us a few Euros for the bus ride and the buses run every hour.
Kusadasi (Ephesus) Greece We again took a private tour. www.istanbultoursonline.com - it is faster and you will not have to constantly wait on the others in the group to catch up - it is at your own pace and well worth it.
Thira (Santorini) Greece - We took the Panoramic Santorini tour from the ship for $79/pp and it was OK not great but if you have nothing else planned it can be a good tour.
Katakolon Greece - We took a private tour with people we meet online with cruisecritic through Spiros at www.athenstaxi.net and it was a great excursion. He took us to all of the main sites, had water waiting for us in the van and was a great tour guide. We had 9 people on this tour and it was 50 Euros/pp where as through the ship it is $200/pp. You will not be disappointed in this trip.
Interesting review. You are probably aware that we are somewhat "tour adverse" and spend a lot of time helping folks do their own thing. We big HA fans but seldom use their tours. In fact, on a recent 41 day Prinsendam cruise we managed to escape without a single excursion. Regarding the prior review here are a few thoughts for future cruisers.
Venice- It is very easy to hire your own Gondola at any of many gondola docks. The going rate is about 90 Euros total and for that price it can be just the two of your (or 4). We will usually buy a bottle of wine before getting on a Gondola and have the cork pulled. Then, we glide through the canals sipping some nice wine. For those that spend one or more nights in Venice it really pays to buy a vaporetto pass (they sell them for 24, 36, 48 and 72 hours) which give you unlimited use of the vaporettos. You can then ride out to Lido, Murano, Burano (our favorite), etc and around Venice for no additional charge. With the new people mover providing cheap transportation between the ships and the Piazale Roma (where there is a main vaporeto dock) it is easy to get around.
Pireaus - We assume the cruiser had been previously to Athens and was looking for something different. When in this situation we like some of the boat options right from Pireaus where you can easily grab a boat to Aeginia or perhaps Hydra. The high speed boats are within walking distance to the cruise ships and the islands are a change from Athens.
Istanbul - We agree that a good guide can be real helpful here and would always recommend hiring your own guide or just going it alone over an overpriced, overcrowded ship excursion. This city is actually pretty easy to do on your own if you like to walk (best way to see any city). There is a handy tram line that can take you from the just outside the port into town for about $1.
Santorini - We have never seen the need for any tour or guide on this island. Its easy to see both Fira and Oia on your own (cheap bus runs between the towns) and a rental car is a great way to explore the island for those that want to get out of the towns. They actually have some nice beaches on this island too.
Mykonos - Totally agree with the previous post. We usually tell folks to take the local bus to Paradise Beach and also spend some time exploring Mykonos Town.
Katakolon - This port drives us a bit nuts. Having seen Olympia there is no reason to return and this part of Greece is not full of good tourist destinations. If we ever return for a full-day we would probably opt to rent our own car since there is a rental car place close to the pier and they are pretty cheap.
Kusadasi - We always recommend hiring a private tour here which should include the "Terrace Houses" as part of the Ephesus visit.