Not sure how to answer. We have been on more than 20 cruises in the Med including quite a few that bagan and ended at Civitavecchia (port city for Rome). So I guess I would answer your question with a question, what can we do to help?
Thanks, yeah sorry for not asking a question, there are so many...
We are thinking of flying into Venice and staying couple days, then taking the train to rome... have you done this? if so, how did it work? We are going to stay in rome for two nights at the end of the cruise.
I would like to get your ideas on excursions, etc... would you feel comfortable sharing your personal email? I can send you our itinerary. There are 3 of us that are friends that are taking this. We are pumped up about all the stuff to see.
Let's keep this conversation in public view so that all can benefit.
One of our Members, ftroute, has put together an excellent Web site on train travel in Italy, located HERE. That should get you started on your Venice-to-Rome trip, but please continue to ask any questions.
What is your itinerary? And, what types of excursions interest you? (General touring, history, architecture, for example.)
I am a big supporter of this site and agree with Lisa that its more fun to share. It is probably better if the port info be posted on the European Port board since there are a few other active folks here that will weigh-in and give you help. But, we will start here. When flying in to Venice you need to make some tough decisions if you are on a budget. Venice hotels can by very pricy (but you do want to stay in Venice as opposed to Mestre on the mainland) and transportation from airport to hotel and hotel to train station can also be price (a water taxi from the airport can cost nearly 100 Euros). You might want to consider staying close to the Piazzale Roma, which although a bit out of the way, gives you easy access to the vaporettos (water buses). You can take a cheap land bus (3 Euros) from the airport direct to the Piazzale Roma, which is also a short walk to the train statin. As to trains to Rome, you can travel on one of the modern fast ES trains, but you will need reservations. Its a good idea to buy those tickets in advance (you can do it online) although you would probably be OK if you bought them as soon as you arrive in Venice (but in the busy season you might have to be flexible with your time if trains are full). A ticket is about 56 Euros (2nd class) and 81 Euros (1st class). Keep in mind that when you travel around the country on your own you need to be able to handle your luggage. I do think that we should move further discussions over to the Europe board (I think Lisa would agree) where you can ask specific port info.
Very interesting itinerary. I guess my "claim to fame" on this site (and a few others) is giving advice to those that want to do things independent of tours. A couple could easily spend over $2000 just taking tours in all those ports. So here is my quick take on where you must have a tour vs where you have options. In Kusadasi (Ephesus) you will want a tour whether its the cruise line or a private tour. One major private tour operator here is an outfit called Ekol. Although we have never used them (we even do this port on our own) they come highly recommendd by many cruisers (try Google).
Its the same for Alexandria. We spent 2 weeks in Egypt on our own (2 years ago) and loved the country. But, Alexandria was our least favorite city so you want to take a tour to Cairo. Your cruise should offer a tour that includes the Great Pyramids at Giza (a suburb of Cairo), the Egyptian Museum (King Tut), and probably a few other sites such as the Stepped Pyramid. You should take that tour unless you find a good private tour...but you must be real careful with private tours unless they use guides licensed by the Egyptian government. Keep in mind its about 1 1/2 to 2 hours each way from Alexandria to Cairo. I would strongly recommend against anyone leaving the environs of Alexandria on their own! On our drive between Alexandria and Cairo we were stopped 3 times by goverenment road blocks. We were in a private car (we had our own driver) and our driver was a government licensed guide, so we were quickly passed through the road blocks. Many tour buses actually use armed security on this route although we never thought there was any danger in this part of Egypt (South of Luxor is a whole different story).
All your other ports give you options of tours or independent travel, so you need to do some homework on what interests you in these places. Mykonos lends itself to independent travel better than any of your other ports, and we love to use this place as a beach day (1/2 of our day) and than spend some time in Mykonos Town shopping and enjoying a waterfront cafe.
Naples - Many many options (both tours and independent). Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Herculanium are all options. You cannot do it all so this is a place you must make tough choices.
Rhodes - A very civilized island where you can explore Rhodes Town on your own. Many also like to take a tour (or a taxi) and go to Lindos. This island also has some very nice beaches and its possible to travel on their public buses (cheap) or even rent a car.
Corfu - This is a major island for European yachters and is the gateway to the many islands in the Ionian chain which are off limits to big cruise ships (we once spent a week cruising some of these islands on a 150 foot yacht). Corfu Town is easy to explore on your own, but to really enjoy this island (outside of Corfu Town) you need a tour or you can simply rent a car (its easy to drive here when you are outside Corfu Town).
Athens - Its possible to take the subway from Pireaus to Athens and do "your own thing" but most first time visitors book a cruise or private tour that includes the Acropolis, Syntagma Square, and the Plaka (shopping area).
So that is your simple primer on these places. The best way to do your "homework" is to use the internet and also spend some time at a large bookstore (like Borders) where you can sip some coffee and read through many of their travel books (this is cheaper than buying everything).
I just came back from Carnival Spendor 12 days Eastern Med. Cruise. There were 5 of us range in age from 30-80 yrs. old traveling. Before we left we read a lot of advices from this site and found it to be extremely helpful. Thus, I want to return the favor to the next traveler.
This is what we did in each port:
Naples, Italy - we got instruction from this site how to train travel to Pompeii and Sorrento. However, when we got out of the port, a taxi driver with a van approached us and offer his services. We negotiated $225 Euros for all 5 of us to go to Pompeii, Sorrento, and Amalfi Coast for the day. We only had to pay once we finished the tour and he takes us back to port timely. The driver also took us to a Cameo factory and showed us where to eat, with good food and good prices in Naples. (It was recommended to eat Pizza in Naples.) We had pizzas, beers, wines and paid only 60 Euros for all of us. When we went to Sorrento, we also had snacks at an Italian cafe. We ended up giving him 25 Euros extra for tip. I think the ship excursion was about $200 pp for what we did and they didn't get to try the local food.
Mamaris, Turkey - We took the ship excursion to Rhodes, Greece since we had to use the hydrofoil and didn't want to risk not coming back on time.
Izmir, Turkey - We took the ship excursion to Ephesus. I highly recommended.
Istanbul, Turkey - We walked about 2 miles from port to all the major sites. Since we've been eating too much and wanted the exercise, it took us 45 min to cross the bridge to Topkapi Palace. We walked to see Hagia Sophia and then the Blue Mosque. We had a nice Turkish lunch after and then went shopping in the Grand Bazaar. We took a taxi back to port and since it was 5 pm it took the taxi 1 hour to get us back to port (it costs us $25 lira). I would highly recommend taking the taxi to the Topkapi Palace instead then walk to the rest of the sites. BTW, the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia only takes Lira at the ticketing office. It costs 20 lira to get in at each places. The Blue Mosque was free and the rest of Istanbul takes dollar and Euros. Remember to negotiate with the taxi before getting in.
Athens, Greece. We also got instruction from this site how to train travel from Pireaus port to Athens. However, we took a taxi from port to the Acropolis instead b/c we didn't want to walk uphill. It costs 20 Euros for 4 of us (1 of us stayed on the ship). We got maps and walked to the rest of the tourist sites. We had a nice lunch (60 Euros) and went souvenir shopping in the Plaka. We walked to Athens train station and took the train back to Pireaus then walked from Pireaus station back to ship (20 min. walk). the cost of the train oneway was 0.80 Euros. Doing it on our own allowed us time to have a nice lunch and shopping time. Others who took the excursion did not.
Katakolon, Greece - It was recommended that we stayed in Katakolon and have a nice lunch by the seashore. This is exactly what we did. We also did a little souvenir shopping. It was a perfect day!
Livorno, Italy - We also had instruction how to take the train to Florence and Pisa from port on this site. However, we found a Taxi van again as we left the ship and negotiated 350 Euros for all of us to go to Tuscany country side, Florence, and Pisa for the day. We lucked out b/c our taxi driver speak very good English and was very knowlegeable about the history of the region so he was telling us all kinds of information on the way to Florence. As soon as we got to Florence, he gave us a map and highlighted the route that we should take. He told us to eat in restaurant in small street/alley way rather than in the piazza. We had great pizza, spagghetti, beers, wine, and cappucino in this wonderful restaurant that had english menus and waitress. We paid ~60 Euros total for our lunch. When we got tired of walking we stopped by a cafe and had cappucino, tiramisu, and gelato. We arranged with the driver where to meet and what time to meet at each places. As we were leaving Florence, we were eating gelato in the taxi, Andrea Bocelli was playing on the radio and it started to rain...perfect!! (You have to eat gelato b/c it was invented in Florence in the Renaissance period according to the taxi driver). We ended up giving the taxi driver 20 euros for tip (that's was all we had left). We started at 8:30 am and ended our day at 5:30 pm b/c our dinner seating was at 6 pm. I think the ship excursion was around $200 and they didn't get to see the Tuscan country side or eat the local food or try gelato.
Rome, Italy - We followed the instruction how to take the train from Civitavecchia port to Rome per this site. It was very helpful, we went to St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican museum, had a nice lunch, and then we took the metro to the Colosseum. We didn't go to the Spanish Step or to the Trevi fountain b/c it was rainning and we had to walk back from the train station to port.
Over all I couldn't ask for a better trip. Like they say "Prepared for the worse and hope for the best". I am looking into Europe River Cruise for my next trip. Any advice or suggestion???
Civitavecchia port is not much to look at in the city itself since it was bombed badly during the last war. The area nearby has wonderful medieval towns and Etruscan sites to visit. If you have already been to Rome this would be the best bet: Tarquinia, Tuscania, Vetralla, Viterbo or any combinationn of these towns.