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Old March 4th, 2008, 02:35 PM
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Default Best Western Mediterranean Shore Tours?Norwegian Jade

I'm heading out on the May 17th, 13 day cruise on Norwegian and I'm overwhelmed by all the choices of shore excursions. Any must do recommendations? (Ports Nice, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Cagliari/Sardinia, Malaga, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon, Vigo, ending in London.)
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Old March 4th, 2008, 04:32 PM
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Hi there, and welcome to the board.
It is very difficult to make any reccomendations without knowing anything about you, if you were to post a few of your interests, age bracket, how adventurous you are, then I will look back over all the tours we've done to see if I think any would suit you.

Are you looking purely at ship organized tours, or wanting to do your own thing?

Alan & Katrina
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Last Cruise: Azamara Journey August 2014
Next: Queen Victoria November 2014
Followed by: Queen Elizabeth December 2014 and Minvera April 2015

History :
Golden, Grand(2), Caribbean, Sea(4+1 aborted)
Adonia(4+2), Arcadia, Artemis(2), Aurora(5), Azura(2), Oceana(3), Oriana(11), Ventura(2), Victoria(5)
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Old March 4th, 2008, 04:44 PM
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I'm 49, my husband is 52. We're pretty adventurous, not climbing Mt. Everest adventurous, but we're able bodied and want to experience the best of's. Since we only have a day in each port we just want to enjoy the high points each port has to offer without being stuck in transport all day long. We're thinking about doing the cruise ship tours, just because the thought of trying to book tours for 11 different ports is overwhelming, unless you have any hot tips, of course. We would also want to forgo a tour if it's something that we could do just as easily on our own. Having never been to any of these ports keeps the exploration possiblities wide open. Thanks!
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Old March 4th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Hi again, it's just turned 11pm here (UK) so I'll have a think about the ports, dig out some of our notes from previous cruises & messages & see what we can come up with during tomorrow. Hope that's ok,

We've not been to Cagliari/Sardinia or Naples (sore point), but the rest are regular ports of call.

One quick question, are you happy to use hop-on/hop-off tour buses with running commentary, as Rome, Malaga, and Cadiz all have good ones.

Alan & Katrina
__________________
Last Cruise: Azamara Journey August 2014
Next: Queen Victoria November 2014
Followed by: Queen Elizabeth December 2014 and Minvera April 2015

History :
Golden, Grand(2), Caribbean, Sea(4+1 aborted)
Adonia(4+2), Arcadia, Artemis(2), Aurora(5), Azura(2), Oceana(3), Oriana(11), Ventura(2), Victoria(5)
QM2(2), QE2(9), QV(5), QE, Caronia(2), Minerva II, Fred.Olsen(8), NCL Jade, =X= Eclipse, HAL Ryndam, Aza.Journey
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Old March 4th, 2008, 06:26 PM
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Thanks for the reply, yes we are willing to do the hop on hop off if that's the best way to go. We end up in London and will be spending the day we get off of the ship and overnight there, before we head back home to San Diego, CA. What would suggest are must do's for London as well? Thank you for taking the time to help me plan this trip
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Old March 6th, 2008, 03:54 PM
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Default Got there in the end ;o)

Apologies for the delay, hopefully the info below was worth the wait ......

Let's start off with the standard warnings & disclaimers ;o)
Remember most of Europe speak pretty good English, but this is not guaranteed, so try not to go too far off the beaten track. If you are not comfortable in unusual surroundings, then you may be better off sticking with the ship tours which will give you a good overview of the ports of call. If you want to go further a field, then make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship, or can easily catch up with it at the next port of call. We normally start at the furthest point so all travel is back towards the ship.
Always take the daily newsletter with you as it will have the name, address & contact number of the Cruise lines agents for the port, they
will usually bend over backwards to help you, should you need them

The comments below are from our personal experiences, we are in our mid-40's and well travelled & are therefore not going to get into a
panic if we were to risk missing the ship, or having to paying out for a taxi to get back to the ship in time.

Right, now onto the interesting stuff ....

Nice, we were very disappointed with Nice, it markets itself as an elite city full of glamour & glitz, but when we have been there, the beaches were mostly covered by private areas reserved for the hotels, and the public areas were full of people trying to squeeze into their space. The town itself was nice to walk, but nothing that is going to take more than an hour or so.

Livorno: For Florence etc. The tours office will sell a combined Florence & Pisa trip, but it really is a lot to take in one day, especially in the Italian Sunshine, but as you are travelling a long way for this cruise, you may feel it is worth the effort, just make sure you are ready for it. Livorno itelf is an interesting town to wander around, but you will probably be back on the ship within a couple of hours, so we would definitely recommend Pisa, Lucca, or Florence. Using the train is perfectly possible from here, if you are ready to grab the first shuttle bus, have your Euros ready for the bus ticket & happy to explore. To get to the station walk back to the busy square near the drop off point, & you will see various bus shelters, in these shelters you will find the ticket machines - buy your tickets from these machines, should be 1 Euro (buy one for your return journey too, and keep it for later - DON'T frank it now). You can buy tickets on the bus, but they are a LOT more expensive. I'm pretty certain that it is still bus #1, but the locals are very helpful so check with them. When you board the bus, you MUST put the ticket into the franking machine for a date/time stamp. Each ticket lasts 1 hour from the time you frank it.
You can get a bus to Pisa, but it stops everywhere & takes a couple of hours. The train journey to Pisa is only a short run. We have taken a train to Florence (Firenze) in the past, but wouldn't really recommend it as you have to change trains in Pisa both ways, and only have a couple of train times to hit, or you will miss the ship.
The Italian railway website is http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html

Civitavecchia for Rome, again this is one of the cities where we are more than happy to use the train to get to/from Roma, but is one where you really need to plan ahead in case your return train lets you down. It costs around €9 for a return ticket on the train. We always go for the earliest train possible and start making our way back to the ship no later than 4pm. This gives you about 6 hours in Rome.

There are hop on, hop off buses with commentary that go to most of the tourist sites in Rome. Katrina's aunt & uncle did this last year.
They paid for the Rome Alone tour frmo the ship were but slightly little concerned about the amount of free time that they had, so didn’t get off the bus, and instead were happy to sit on it for the whole loop. It takes in all the main sites, including the Vatican, the coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the pantheon etc and they thought it was worth the €15.
There is a route map on the web at http://www.city-sightseeing.co.uk/Im...Rome_Map07.jpg
If you do take the Roma Tour bus, check the back of the ticket for other offers (see more details in the Cadiz notes below)

To get to the train station, hop on the shuttle bus, this drops you at the port gates. Come out of the gates, turn right & keep the water to your right as you walk about 400 yards along the road. On the other side of the road you will see a wall that will increase in height (there were also signs for a hotel – I think it was called Hotel Sport). At this point cross the road and follow the wall for about 50 yards. There are some steps in a gap in the wall here and they lead straight up to the railway station. The train took about 45 minutes to the St Pietro station (Vatican) and they run about every half hour with some strange gaps so best to check the timetable. The Italian railway website is http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html

Naples, as I said this one is still on our to do list, as we were supposed to be there last year, but the ship we were on broke down even before setting sail. So we spent a wet weekend sat on the ship docked in Southampton, some 6 miles away from home ;o) Princess were very good in trying to get people onto other ships that were sailing, or flown down to pick up ships in the Med. It was a real shame for those who had flown over to the UK and weren't able to switch cruises, but they seemed quite happy with everthing that was tried in order to make amends.
However what we had planned for Naples was to forego the ship tour to Pompeii as this gets VERY crowded, and instead take a tour to Ercolano (Herculaneum) and then up to Vesuvius itself. If the ship isn't doing this tour & you fancy it, you are talking less than 10 miles each way, with regular trains, and taxis if need be. You will also find some very glowing reports for a private car company (www.sorrentotopcar.com) who operate out of Naples.
Useful webistes include : Mount Vesuvios website http://www.vesuviopark.it/grancono/index.asp
and Pompeii/Herculaneum excavation website
http://www2.pompeiisites.org/databas...A?OpenDocument

Cagliari/Sardinia, sorry haven't got there yet. One to add to our 'to do' list.

Malaga, it's been a long time since we've been here, so hopfully I've got the right on in mind. We did a half day coach/walking tour here, so spent the morning in the town & beach, then took the tour up to the castle above the town for some fantastic views, followed by a guided tour of the old city, cathedral, the old back streets & so on. It did get VERY warm, so definitely take something to drink. You can get up to the castle yourself, but we thought that the guided tour was well worth the cost even without the castle visit. Malaga also has hop-on/hop-off tour buses of the same group as Roma & Cadiz

Gibraltar,Obviously this stop is for all your duty free shopping (remember there may be limitations on what you can take back into your country). The main town is quite small, but you have a good choice of activities. There is a cable car up to the apes’ den, the siege tunnels are worth a look, both the ship & local companies offer dolphin watches (but there is no guarantee you will see any). To get into the town, you can either stroll the miles, or take one of the many minibus taxis at the dock gates - they charge around £1pp each way to take you to the edge of the town, which is about 1 mile from the ship. They will also be more than willing to try & sell you tours of the island, but we've heard mixed reports on these. The main town runs from Casement Square, which is lively down through a narrow & busy street lined with drink, perfume & electrical stores. At the other end of town, you will find a Botanical Garden, small beach, the history of this British outpost, and the cable car.
We found a good map on website http://dotcom.gi/map/wholemap.htm , you should dock to the bottom left of the image. The long straight looking road with sea at each end, to the left on the map, is the airport. They close the road each time a plane has to land. Very unusual to watch the planes coming arod the ship to land. If this is your first time here, then we would certainly reccomend a general overview tour by coach (the rock is climbable, but very steep in places & the locals aren't too worried about where abouts on the road they drive)

Cadiz, there are a couple of bus tour companies located just outside the dock gates, you buy the tickets from a white tent at the gates.

We opted for the cheaper of the 2 companies as the queue was quite long for the other one, and this turned out to be the better option as it included the beach as well. The tickets last all day, you have headset commentary, and can hop on & off as you like. The route takes you around the city, then out to the beaches. We also discovered too late, that the ticket also allowed you to join a walking tour of the inner city, starting just in front of the Cathedral, as well as some discounts in stores, bars & restaurants. The tour bus website is http://www.cadiztour.com/cadiz_ing.html. Hang on to your ticket when you leave, as other cities will give you discounts on their tours if you have been on one already (there should be a full list on the ticket)

Lisbon, We have been to Lisbon about 5 times and still finding different things to do each time. The ships tend to dock in 3 different locations, the best in our view is just next to the road bridge, which is a smaller span version of the Golden Gate bridge. It is a nice walk along the waterfront (away from Lisbon) to the Monument to the Discoveries and a little further on to Belem Tower & Jeronimos Monastery, it takes about an hour to walk each way but all on the flat and a few photo stops along the way. The noise of the traffic going over the bridge is deafening and makes interesting video and pictures.
If you take the ship's shuttle bus, you will be dropped off near or at the main square where there are a lot of shops, and wide open plazas.
As you walk the main drag from the drop off point, you will find a very strange metal elevator which takes you to a viewing platform & cafe,
and a very ornate church, which lost its roof in an earthquake and was never replaced. Something else which is worth the experience are the trams, and in particular tram no.28. This is an old wooden tram & it's route climbs some steep hills afording you lovely views out over the river & back across the city. This tram terminates a mile or so away a small square full or genuine locals sitting, sipping drinks, and soaking up the sun.
You can buy tram passes for the day, but the booth for these is quite hard to find as it's back towards the railway terminal - i.e. in the opposite direction to everything else. As I said we still haven't finished exploring the Lisboa area on foot yet, so haven't actually tried any organised tours there yet.

Vigo, it always rains in Vigo - well that might be an exageration, but we're seen it wet more often than dry, hope you get the sunny day.
The town itself is quite run down, although undergoing regeneration. There is a nice fort above the town with good views, but nothing to get
excited about, so yes, this is a good one for an organised tour. The most popular one by returning passengers appears to be to the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela with it's gothic cathedral, we haven't been on that one yet, but are looking at it for our visit on Ventura which is coming up in May - P&O do 3 versions, one with lunch, one without lunch, and one 'on your own', so we haven't thought that far yet.

London is one of the growing number of cities which has 'duck tours'. These are converted landing vehicles which take you on a tour of the city by road, and, then take you up & down the Thames so that you can see the city from there as well. They are great fun & a change from the usual open top bus tours, and of course the city-sightseeing company have their buses here as well they were including a river cruise in the price last year, so that's worth checking. Whilst I think of it, here is their website http://www.city-sightseeing.com/ which has all the cities covered listed with highlights, maps & prices.

London really has so many things to do that if you are only around for a couple of days, you are pretty much forced to take one of the bus tours - oh that's a point, DON'T but tickets on the street corners stalls, however authentic they look. There have been scams where you are sold a ticket, told to return in 45 minutes & when you get back there is nothing there, no bus, no ticket agent & no stall. Most of the buses allow you to pay when you join the bus, rather than in advance. There a hundreds of museums dotted around London, from art to technology, to the natural history museum, which everyone rates highly, especially as it's free to visit. There are loads of open green parks, enough shops to keep you busy for years, some excellent theatres, and of course Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, The War Rooms, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye and on and on and on. Most of these historic buildings are actually within easy walking distance of each other, so if you have any energy left after your cruise, have a think about that.

Well, hopefully I've managed to give you a few ideas, without totally losing you on this whirlwind overview of the Med. if havnig read it, you have any specific questions, or if something doens't make sense, please feel free to ask, we'll be more than happy to elaborate or clarify.

Please keep in touch & let us know how it all goes,

Alan & Katrina
__________________
Last Cruise: Azamara Journey August 2014
Next: Queen Victoria November 2014
Followed by: Queen Elizabeth December 2014 and Minvera April 2015

History :
Golden, Grand(2), Caribbean, Sea(4+1 aborted)
Adonia(4+2), Arcadia, Artemis(2), Aurora(5), Azura(2), Oceana(3), Oriana(11), Ventura(2), Victoria(5)
QM2(2), QE2(9), QV(5), QE, Caronia(2), Minerva II, Fred.Olsen(8), NCL Jade, =X= Eclipse, HAL Ryndam, Aza.Journey
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Old March 6th, 2008, 07:55 PM
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Thank you sooooo much!!! That was so incredibly infomative-you are an angel to take all that time for a perfect stranger! I'm actually going to print this out and take it with me on our cruise. I so appreciate the advice and good wishes. We are really looking forward to this trip, and with your help, we will feel a little more confident in making our plans. Thanks again!
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Old March 7th, 2008, 07:42 AM
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Always a pleasure to help.

Something I did mean to pick up on was that you are in San Diego. I was working out there a few years ago for a company called Wesley Jessen and they put Katrina & I into an apartment overlooking Mission Beach, happy days. Katrina used to love the idea that I was off to work every morning whilst she could watch the male life guards !!! What is she like ;o)

Hope you have a fantastic & memorable cruise,

Alan & Katrina
__________________
Last Cruise: Azamara Journey August 2014
Next: Queen Victoria November 2014
Followed by: Queen Elizabeth December 2014 and Minvera April 2015

History :
Golden, Grand(2), Caribbean, Sea(4+1 aborted)
Adonia(4+2), Arcadia, Artemis(2), Aurora(5), Azura(2), Oceana(3), Oriana(11), Ventura(2), Victoria(5)
QM2(2), QE2(9), QV(5), QE, Caronia(2), Minerva II, Fred.Olsen(8), NCL Jade, =X= Eclipse, HAL Ryndam, Aza.Journey
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Old June 16th, 2008, 08:00 PM
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If your cruise stops in Malaga, Spain and you’re interested in a personalized tour of Grenada and/or some of the fascinating and picturesque villages along the Andalusia coast, I’d highly recommend Dave Riordan [davidwriordan@gmail.com]. Dave is an America transplant who has lived near Malaga for many years – so is fluent in both English and Spanish and knows the area well. (He is also recommended by travel writer Rick Steves in his book on Spain.)

I had the opportunity of being in a group hosted by Dave recently. We had seen Dave recommended in an online post by another satisfied customer and made contact by email.

Dave offered us a number of options then customized a tour to suit our interests and available time. He meticulously crafted an itinerary that maximized our time while allowing flexibility. He also coordinated the advance purchase of tickets to the key attraction, Alhambra. (Many are disappointed to discover that the number of visitors to Alhambra is carefully controlled and tickets can sell out weeks in advance – especially at the times sought by cruise passengers.)

While Dave offered us a variety of options, we chose to see Granada – including the exquisite 14th century Arab fortress of Alhambra, the Generalife gardens, the Cathedral and the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella (the Spanish Catholic monarchs who commissioned Columbus’s trans-Atlantic voyage and initiated the Inquisition). Of the several towns we saw, the highlight was Frigiliana, one of the “white villages” and Dave’s home town. In a quick, hour-long walking tour of this beautiful village, Dave imparted a tremendous amount of historical information particularly related to the Inquisition.

In retrospect, we may have tried to pack in too much, and would have enjoyed a bit more time for shopping and just enjoying the gorgeous views of the Mediterranean coast. Dave is very flexible and will adjust your itinerary to your preferences, so be sure to let him know your interests and how much time you want to allocate for various activities. And, without giving away any of Dave’s secrets, I’ll just say, be prepared for some fun surprises along the way.

Dave picked us up right at the dock and entertained us during the hour-long trips to and from Grenada with stories and information about Andalusia and the history of the area. While Dave is not a government-registered tour guide, he is a great host and offers excellent value compared to the cruise excursions – allowing you to see more in the time available and, depending on the size of the group, at a lower cost per person than the cruise excursions. He has several vehicles so is able to accommodate groups of up to eight.

We found Dave to be personable, reliable and fastidious about getting us back to the boat in good time.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 08:10 PM
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If your cruise stops in Malaga, Spain and you’re interested in a personalized tour of Grenada and/or some of the fascinating and picturesque villages along the Andalusia coast, I’d highly recommend Dave Riordan [davidwriordan@gmail.com]. Dave is an America transplant who has lived near Malaga for many years – so is fluent in both English and Spanish and knows the area well. (He is also recommended by travel writer Rick Steves in his book on Spain.)

I had the opportunity of being in a group hosted by Dave recently. We had seen Dave recommended in an online post by another satisfied customer and made contact by email.

Dave offered us a number of options then customized a tour to suit our interests and available time. He meticulously crafted an itinerary that maximized our time while allowing flexibility. He also coordinated the advance purchase of tickets to the key attraction, Alhambra. (Many are disappointed to discover that the number of visitors to Alhambra is carefully controlled and tickets can sell out weeks in advance – especially at the times sought by cruise passengers.)

While Dave offered us a variety of options, we chose to see Granada – including the exquisite 14th century Arab fortress of Alhambra, the Generalife gardens, the Cathedral and the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella (the Spanish Catholic monarchs who commissioned Columbus’s trans-Atlantic voyage and initiated the Inquisition). Of the several towns we saw, the highlight was Frigiliana, one of the “white villages” and Dave’s home town. In a quick, hour-long walking tour of this beautiful village, Dave imparted a tremendous amount of historical information particularly related to the Inquisition.

In retrospect, we may have tried to pack in too much, and would have enjoyed a bit more time for shopping and just enjoying the gorgeous views of the Mediterranean coast. Dave is very flexible and will adjust your itinerary to your preferences, so be sure to let him know your interests and how much time you want to allocate for various activities. And, without giving away any of Dave’s secrets, I’ll just say, be prepared for some fun surprises along the way.

Dave picked us up right at the dock and entertained us during the hour-long trips to and from Grenada with stories and information about Andalusia and the history of the area. While Dave is not a government-registered tour guide, he is a great host and offers excellent value compared to the cruise excursions – allowing you to see more in the time available and, depending on the size of the group, at a lower cost per person than the cruise excursions. He has several vehicles so is able to accommodate groups of up to eight.

We found Dave to be personable, reliable and fastidious about getting us back to the boat in good time.
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