Odd ,but I ll be in same area but different ship, I HOPE if volcano stays quiet right? I always looks at cost of shore excursion and weigh that against doing it on our own...such as taking taxi at port, walking from ship,etc...I always get a guidebook to find out what I want to see...one thing to remember is,,,if you go with ship excursion and are late getting back to ship,,,for whatever reason,,,the ship won t sail without you...but if on own,,,its up to you...We always carry cell phone and ships number,just in case, but never had to call yet,,,thankfully....I hate the "herding" of guides,so usually go on our own,but just my opinion....aren t we lucky though?
We are generally outspoken in our dislike of organized shore excursions preferring to do our own thing. However, on your itinerary there are some good reasons to do certain excursions. This is particularly true in Kusadasi where you should book a private excursion which you can do on-line in advance. Kusadasi has some excellent tour companies that will do a much better job then the cattle-call cruise line excursions for about the same or less money. You should go to Ephesus and a must-see are the amazing Terrace Houses (usually not covered by most cruise line tours). We strongly recommend a company called EKOL who has been in business a long time and uses very professional guides. They are a little more money and do require deposits. Another popular company is Hello Ephesus who recently underwent a corporate shake-up..so we are not sure about their current situation. A relative newcomer that has gotten some decent reviews is a company called Ephesus Deluxe. Any of these companies will have a guide meet you at the port. But, whatever excursion you choose, make sure it specifically includes the Terrace Houses (EKOL normally provides this on any Ephesus tour as an add-on).
We are doing a tour with EKOL in Turkey and added on the Terrace House's. For 4 the cost is $360.00. About 90.00 each. Not bad for having your own private tour with knowledgeable guide who picks you up at the ship when you decide and will end when you are ready!!! So, far corresponding back and forth with this company has been a great experience. Our trip is in 3 weeks, when we get back I will let you all know how wonderful EKOL was.
If your experience is similar to ours you will be very pleased. When you consider that we normally dislike any kind of "tour" but loved ours with the Ekol folks, it is rare for us to admit we enjoyed a tour. EKOL is an interesting company and operate in multiple cities. In Kusadasi they own their own vehicles and employ professional drivers (ours spoke some English). As to the guides, they have some on their payroll and also supplement their guides by hiring other independent guides on contract. In our case our guide only worked part time for EKOL and spent a few months a year working as a guide in Russia and perfecting is Russian language skills (this guide was quite educated and had lots of language skills). During our visit to the Virgin Mary House we met another EKOL guide (a delightful lady) who was quite impressive with her knowledge and language skills. We will look forward to reading your review. I should add that our guide did offer to take us to the usual rug "factory" place and we politely declined. But we later ask him to take us to a good pottery factory since my wife wanted to pick up some pottery. The place he took us was really terrific and a real factory (we went into the workshop) where my wife negotiated a good price on a few pieces.
HI Hank, thanks for always replying fast!! You're right, we are docking in Villefranche. On our itinerary it says Villefranche(Nice). So, how do you suggest getting to the market from the port?
Thank you for always being so helpful!!
Villefranche is a tender port so you can count on it taking some time for you to get ashore. Most cruise lines give folks on their excursions tender priority and unless you are a in a frequent cruiser with your cruise line you will be stuck in the usual queue. Most have you report to a lounge early in the morning and line up for tender tickets and you want to be there early. You have two ways to get out of Villefranche, one being the train and the other the bus. If you are going to the Flower Market you want to take the regional bus line towards Nice to the last stop (the Gare Routiere bus station) from where you can walk through the old town to the flower market. The main bus route is the #100 bus but there are also a couple of other lines that stop in Villefranche on their way to Nice (we think the #82 is another). You really do not care which line but just want a bus going to the Gare Routiere (just ask the driver). The bus fare is only 1 Euro per person paid to the driver..so you do want to have some Euros. You do have to walk a few blocks (some of it is uphill) from the port to the bus stop and you should just ask the tourist folks on the pier or any local to point you in the right direction. We like the bus better then the train because it runs more often, is cheaper, and that bus station is much closer to the old town then the train station. The buses do run about once every 10 or 15 min so you do not have a long wait. It is easy to get lost (not a bad thing) trying to walk from the bus station to the Flower Market (the streets in the old town are anything but straight) so you do want to download a street map of Nice...and do not hesitate to ask locals for help (most are friendly). You are going to the "marche" on the Cours Saleya so if you ask somebody that speaks no English just smile, look helpless, and ask for Cours Saleya