We had a wonderful time on the cruise! I will point out what our likes and dislikes in each port were and hopefully this will help you with your planning! We had a group of 10 which included my elderly parents, my family-2 adults and 2 teenagers and our friend who included 2 adults and 2 teenagers. So we had a wide variety of experiences! The cruise itself was wonderful...but most of our disappointments occured with the Princess tours and the logistics of getting from the ports to the sites!
Rome-We arranged transportation for 6 of us through the Rome in Limo Company (www.romeinlimo.com
) I did alot of research and they were the most economical (170Euro for 6 of us from airport to Port) The driver was wonderful and right outside customs when we arrived. Very courteous and pleasant! He took us right to the door of the building you enter to embark on the cruise. Highly recomended!
Monte Carlo-My parents took the "Old Monaco & Royal Palace" tour through Princess which they said was ok but the tour guide left them at the end and they had to find their own way back to the ship which was a very long, downhill walk. It was not cheap @ $118 each. I will be contacting Princess as we were disappointed that they left my parents at the end. The rest of us took the train to Nice as an adventure for the teenagers. We enjoyed our day by strolling the streets & visiting the beach (we forgot to have the kids bring their bathing suits so they did not swim-just a reminder these are topless beaches-we kind of forgot about that!)
florence-This was a huge disappointment! We decided to take the train to Florence which is way too far from Liverno to even make this stop worthwhile! Princess had a shuttle at the port (at 5 euro per person) but it took you to the center of Liverno...which is not near the train station. You have to then take a bus to the train station! Instead we opted for a taxi from the port to the train (about 20 euro for a 10 minute ride) Of course we missed the train and had to wait for the next train (they run every hour-but not on the hour. Once we got to
Florence it was late morning and EVERYTHING was very crowded. We waited in line for over an hour to see Michaelangelo's David (10 euro each) had time to walk around a little and see the outside of the Duomo...but that was it. We decided not to take the latest train back to Liverno as we were told it was difficult to get a taxi at the train station...which was true. Once we arrived in Liverno, it took us about 1/2 hour to get a taxi! A better choise may have been to go to Pisa on the train...but I heard people were not able to get into the Leaning Tower due to the crowds. You may be better off taking one of the Princess options...not sure...but we had a very hectic day and saw very little!
Santorini-my parents took the Princess EZ Santorini Drive tour through Princess which they enjoyed. The rest of us too the Princess Cruise and Hiking:Santorini Volcano tour which we all loved! The ship is tendered in Santorini, so we were met by a lovely wooden boat which brought us to the volvanic island. It is a hike too the top, but well worth the incredble views! I did not really smell the sulfur that was mentioned in the Princess literature. In the afternoon, we took the tender transfer into Thira. To get to the town you either take a gondola (5 euro) or a donkey (4 euro). Everyone but me took the donkeys up and down and just loved it (one of the highlights of the trip for the teenagers)! Once we arrived in THira we took a bus to the black sand beach. While the kids lounged on the beach and swam in the sea, the 4 adults had drinks at a beachside restaurant. It was a lovely afternoon! (and very inexpensive) There was a fee to rent the beach umbrella and 2 chairs for the kids (7 euro).
Naples-my family and my parents chose to stay on the ship as we had all been to Capri and Pompeii a couple of years earlier. It is easy however to get to Pompeii on the train and very cheap. The stop for Pompeii is very close to the entrance of the site. Our friends opted for Capri and they had a lovely day. They took the hydrofoil right near the port and even managed to get to the Blue Grotto which they loved. They had plenty of time to do this excursion on their own. On Capri they took the Finicular to Capri and wlked down. They did not however have enough time to take the gondola to the top to Anacapri.
Kusadasi Turkey- We had a private guide who was absolutely wonderful. I did a lot of research and found him to have wonderful references and a very reasonable price ($35 US per person)
HIs name is Bekir Ucarkus @ Celsus Travel. www.celsustravel.com
He met us at the port and the 10 of us traveled all day with him and a driver on an airconditioned mini bus! He gave us a private tour of Ephusus which was incredible, we went to the house of the Virgin Mary, we were to go to St John's Basilica but it was closed due to a fire. The price included the admissions and a lovely lunch at a local rug coop...we were shown rugs, but there was no pressure to buy.
Mykonos-There is a shuttle from the port to the town...not sure how much...I think it was 5 euro but the 8 of us chose to walk...beautiful views but a little dangerous! We decided to take the bus to one of the beaches so the kids could do some water sports. The bus signs were a little confusing and the buses did not run very often...but the bus ride enabled us to see alot of the island. The beach (Elia Beach) we went to was lovely, however we got ripped off renting a jet ski. My husband and I both asked independently what the price was and were told 40 euro or 50 euro for 50 minutes depending on the size of the jet ski we rented. Unfortunately, after 15 minutes the kids were told their time was done. The proprietor insists he told us 15 minutes which of course he did not as I would have never agreed to 50 Euro for 15 minutes.
Athens-We walked from the port to the train station (20-30 minutes) and took the train to the Accropolis! It was very easy & inexpensive to take the train! The Accropolis was incredible (it is a very steep walk to get there however). Once again, we did not have time to do much else...
Olympia-We all took the Princess "A Glance at Hidden Greece" tour which was very expensive and an absolute waste of money. The museum was small but nice but the ruins were very disappointing. In fact, Princess charged the same amount for the kids as adults & we found that the site does not even charge for kids (the adult admission was 9 euro per prson) So Princess charged us over $80 a person for a bus ride, a guide with a very heavy accent that spoke to fast for us to understand, and admission to the site. THis may be a day you choose to rest on the ship!
Corfu-We walked from the ship to the town (about 2 miles) ...nice little town...not that much to do with the teenagers.
Venice-we arrived at 8:30 pm and Princess offered a boat ride into St Mark's Square for $15 per person which the 8 of us did....this is worhwhile if you are not staying any extra time in Venice (our friends left the next morning.
Transportation at the end of the trip.-Princess offered transportation to hotels which included getting your luggage to the hotels. Our hotel was the Hilton which was not on the same island as St Marks Square, but instead accross the canal. The Princess Literature said the transportation would bring you into the vicinity of your hotel...since our hotel was on a separate island one would naturally assume you would be brought to that island. But Princess excursions being what they are, the water shuttle passed by our hotel (which was less than a 10 minute ride from the ship) and we were brought to St. Mark's Square and dropped off along with other bewildered passengers who were staying at the Hilton. Turns out there was another shuttle back to the Hilton which came an hour later. On top of this our bags did not get delivered to our hotel until the evening. This transportation cost the 6 of us $234. The reason we did not just take a water taxi from the ship to the hotel is because we thought it would be easier to not have to deal with luggage with my elderly parents. Instead, princess charged us an incredible amount and we lost most of the morning trying to actually get to our hotel. This was a complete ripoff by Princess!
Hopefully this helps with your choises at the ports. Once again, I must say that the cruise itself was great. the ship was beautiful and the food was wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the Movies Under the Stars in the evenings. All in all a great trip!
Please let me know if you have any other questions!