Steve and Cyndi,
Originally Posted by You
My wife and I have never been to Europe. We are concerned about understanding the language and have no idea what to do with the shore excursions in each port. On previous cruises we often booked excursions on our own or rented a car and explored on our own. My wife doesn"t seem to trust me in a foreign country even though we have never had a problem. She thinks we will get lost and miss the ship. We know in a day one can not see all the highlights of a city but would like to visit as many as posible. We need your help on the following ports: Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens(Piraeus), Ephesus(Kusadasi), Naples/Capri, Sicily(Palermo), Rome(Civitavecchia), Florence, Nice(Villefranche), and Barcelona. In Barcelona we are staying overnight at the Majestic Hotel, hopefully this is a decent hotel and safe area? Can we do any of these ports on our own? Which ones should we plan excorted tours? Would you suggest renting a car at any of the ports. My wife and I are avid walkers. We often go on 10 mile walks with our dog. Thanks for all your help. Have Blessed Holiday Season and healthy and happy 2007.
That's a fantastic ship on a fantastic itinerary!
I highly recommend booking one or another of ths ship's shore excursions, especially if it's your first visit to a European port. The tours will be in English, the guide will look after you, you'll have reserved tours of the major attractions on your excursion so you won't have to wait in the queues -- often two to three hours -- for general admission, and you'll see all of the major highlights and experience some of the local culture (most shore excursions in Europe include a nice luncheon featuring the local cuisine). You'll also have no worry about the ship leaving port before its excursions return because it's the ship's responsibility to get you back aboard if your excursion is delayed due to traffic or some other problem.
If you have cruised to other destinations, I should forewarn you that a cruise to Europe is a very different experienc. Most shore excursions are "whole day" events that leave the ship at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning and return to the ship around 5:00 or 5:30 in the afternoon, with lunch included, so they really do maximize your time in the destination cities. Also, the major attractions tend to be art, architecture, culture, and historical sites rather than the great outdoors. Expect to be "on the go" whenever the ship is in port, and to welcome those couple sea days as a chance to rest fot he next round of ambitious sightseeing.
Finally, I should also mention that most shore excursions do visit churches that have fairly strict dress codes by American standards. You'll need clothing that covers the shoulders and the knees completely and everything in between. Also, many churches require that women wear a hat or a kerchief of some sort on their heads.
Finally, the Mediterranean tends to be quite hot in July and August. The best time to go there is in late September, October, and early November.
Have a fantastic cruise!