We know nothing about them despite having been pretty active on various travel boards and having visited Kusadasi on 4 ocassions (most recently this past April). Probably the oldest best known (and highly respected) tour company is EKOL. They are reliable and use excellent guides. However, the one negative is that that insist on a deposit (we actually pre-paid our most recent tour with them and got a 25% discount). The other company, who is the new player in game, is called Hello Ephesus. Although this company is new, it has been getting rave reviews from cruisers for the past few months. Hello Ephesus does not require a deposit which is a real plus. We do strongly recommend doing a private tour and avoiding the cruise line tours to the ruins because the cruise line tours do not generally include the Terrace Houses. The Terrace Houses are not to be missed and are simply amazing.
Thank you so much for responding to my e-mail. You've actually been the inspiration for me to post my question. I've been reading all the reviews to get more familiar with the different options for our excursions and it's been so helpful. I have e-mailed Hello Ephesus but have not heard back yet. We may just end up going with Ekol and faxing them our credit info. Did you deal with Ekol via phone or e-mail? Did you get the 25% off because you paid in advance or because you are a long time patron?
We faxed EKOL credit card info last Nov to book a tour for April 08. In late December we recieved an e-mail from EKOL telling us they were starting a sale (Jan 1) that would give a 25% discount to anyone paying in full (in advance). We did not respond and received two more friendly e-mails in Jan telling us of this sale...which we verified on their website. In late Jan we authorized them to charge the full payment (about $165). We were 100% pleased with our guide and service. As to Hello Ephesus, they are the new player and, at first, we were a bit skeptical because their prices are lower than EKOL and they do not care about deposits. But, as I said, they have been getting rave reviews on-line from quite a few who have used them in the past few months. The only negative about Hello Ephesus seems to be that some have trouble getting a response to their e-mails. Unless your cruise is in the very near future, you might want to be a bit patient and perhaps send them a follow-up e-mail. I should also mention that EKOL is more than a local (Kusadasi) company and also provides tour services in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey. We would deal with either of these companies with no hesitation.
Hank - I can't thank you enough for all your wonderful tips. Hello Ephesus has responded to our inquiry and we have decided that we will do the Ephesus & Terrace Houses with them. You are correct, they don't ask for payment until the end of the tour. After reading and reading the many reviews and getting good tips on what to do in each port, I think we are ready for our cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas (RCCL) on Oct. 1, 2009. Thank you and keep on providing all of us with your cruise tips and experiences!
Glad you got your tour all arranged. When Hello Ephesus seemed to appear out of nowhere last winter, I was very skeptical and would not recommend them to anyone. In fact, when we took our most recent trip we used EKOL although they were a bit more expensive. However, after seeing dozens of postive reviews of Hello Ephesus they seem to have created some real competition, We are also now aware that some of the guides used by Hello Ephesus are also used by EKOL. Both companies have some full-time guides, but they both also use independent guides when they need extra help. It is quite an operation in the small port of Kusadasi where they now get more than 1000 cruise ships a year. We think the Turks and port folks in Kusadasi deserve a lot of credit. Over the years we have heard very few reports of bad guides and the port is now a first class operation with excellent security, and a decent terminal building. Another plus is that the port is right across the street from town and its bazaar/shopping area which has grown from a sleepy place with dirty walkways to a modern shopping district with lots of shopping, cafes, restaurants, etc. We also think the Turks have done a wonderful job with the ruins which seem to be well organized. With several archeological teams working in the ruins a few months a year, they expect to continue to expand their site for at least another hundred years. We could contrast this with the horror stories at Pompeii where the Italian government has let the site deteriorate to a point that it has now become a scandel in Italy and been the focal point of several Italian newspaper articles.