Anyone have any advice on the shore excursions for the 12 nite Mediter. sailing of the Brilliance of the Seas? ( Villefranche,Rome,.Naples,Santorini,Mykonos) With all of the different choices I am wondering if it is better to use the ships excursions or not? We are new to cruising AND Europe so want to get the best out of this cruise. Any help at all woudl be appreciated...Thank You!
My husband & I will be cruising on Brilliance of the Seas this August as well. We've cruised many times with RCL (7-8 times) but this is our first time to Europe (very excited). We're doing a pre & post cruise. We're considering signing up on the ship's shore excursions as we don't know what to expect if we were to go on our own. We've been happy with the ship's excursions for all other itineraries, I can't imagine why we wouldn't be happy for the Europe cruise.
If this is your first time cruising, you may want to experience the ship's excursions as they will give you your money's worth AND they always make sure that you'll get back to the ship on time....guaranteed !!
Your best bet for Rome and Naples is to either 1) book an excursion through the cruise line, or 2) To look up local tour companies/guides. There will typically be people on the cruise willing to "go in together" on such excursions in order to lessen the cost (which tend to be MUCH more economical than those offered by the cruise line). My wife and I used the cruise line for both of these (it was our first cruise) and had a great time. We opted for the 1/2 day guided tour, 1/2 day wander on your own. As the port (for both of these) is far from the city center, you're pretty much forced to look at one of the two above options (unless you feel daring and want to use mass transit)
As for Villefranche and Santorini, I'd HIGHLY recommend getting a guide book (ahead of time) and doing them on your own. I've been stationed in Europe, so getting around isn't very daunting to me:
Villfranche: Take the bus over to Nice (can remember the number, but it's very inexpensive and only takes about 25 minutes-ish), wander around town, grab a bite at one of the cafe's, lay out on the beach, etc. It's VERY easy to find your way around. The wife and I even caught the bus back over to Monaco later in the day and wandered around there as well. There's a "mini-train" tour up by the Castle/Cathedral which give you a quick/cheap overview of Monaco/Monte Carlo. Think it takes about 40 minutes, and is well worth the couple of Euros.
Santorini: Take the mule ride up the hill to get up to the main town of Fira. Spend a bit of time wandering around, checking out the shops (very touristy). Rent a small jeep/moped and take in the sights on your own. The wife and I got a suzuki samurai (with another couple) and headed down the southern part of the island. We checked out some of the archeological sights, then wound our way along the eastern coast (found some of the more seculded/less touristy beaches). We wound up the day driving to the northern town of OIA, probably the most picturesque on the Island. It is the PERFECT place to take in the sunset, before heading back down to FIRA, turning in the car, and hopping the tender boat back to the ship. Note: Santorini is a SMALL island, and you can pretty much get across it in 45 minutes-ish.
Hope this helps!! It was a bit scarce of specifics (as I'm at work and would have to check my material at home), but if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to shoot me an email.....firstname.lastname@example.org