We are booked on a RCCL cruise with 3 generations of our family for a group size of 14. Never having traveled overseas, we would love ideas for the following ports. We want to see as much as possible while still getting a good value.
Thanks for your ideas!
In Rome we caught the hop on hop off bus at the Termini train station. The bus is a double Decker bus and takes you all over Rome. There are headphones with an audio tour. I enjoyed it very much. You can get off the bus and look at the different places. Here is the information on the buses. We went on Line A. City Sightseeing Worldwide - Rome Open Top Bus Tour
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PART 1 of 2 - I hit the maximum number of characters allowed in the box, so had to split reply into 2 ;o)
Okay 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.
Take special note in Gibraltar, as this is OFTEN a half day !!
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. If you are interested in seeing something more glamourous, we would suggest the train to Monaco/Monte Carlo, they run quite regularly & are easy to use. Once in Monaco you have all the glamour of this world famous principality from it's F1 race course, to it's history (palace, guards, Princess Grace etc), to it's wonderful shops & Casino, and of course the harbour which will be filled with very expensive yachts.
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 (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 City Sightseeing Worldwide - the world's leading open top bus tour operator
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
Gibraltar: 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 Interactive Map of Gibraltar , 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)
Last Cruise: Queen Victoria November 2014
Next: Queen Elizabeth December 2014
Followed by: Minerva April 2015
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, Make sure you are on deck for the sail in/out under the main road bridge. We have been to Lisbon several times and are still finding different things to do each time. The ships tend to dock in 1 of 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. Last time we were there we took a ships tour to the walled town of Obidos, a great trip - as long as you aren't scared of heights, as the walls were VERY uneven & high. My sister was with us on that cruise, and went off to Sintra & Cascais and thought that trip was excellent.
Vigo, it always rains in Vigo - well that might be an exageration, but we've 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 that we've done, and by most other returning passengers is to be to the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela with it's gothic cathedral, There may be 3 versions of this tour, one with lunch, one without lunch, and one 'on your own'.
Well, hopefully I've managed to give you a few ideas, without totally losing you on this whirlwind overview of the Med. if having 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.
Alan & Katrina
Last Cruise: Queen Victoria November 2014
Next: Queen Elizabeth December 2014
Followed by: Minerva April 2015
All this is wel and good, but you have a group of 14 which may not be that manageable on the cruise/tours.. May I suggest y ou bite the bullet and hire guide drivers/guides and you can see what you want to see at the pace y ou would like to go.. We just did tour Romolimo tours in Italy and i is exhausting.. The great vans c an take 8 people, we also had a rollator with us.. Parrot Pop is 79..Depending on the ages of the youngest.. the Colluseum was a hoot...The older generation like myself were taken aback by the beauty of the Trevi Fountain.. Lisbon is best seen gong to Sintra...also private tours.. I think the organization we used and I can find out the name ...we used a bus and it was very inexpensive.. Lisbon is btw a surprisingly beautiful and clean city and the tour we took to the outskirts was magnificent.. If you need more info please write me at email@example.com. I can't imagine herding and keeping up with 14 people. You might need your own tour director.. One thing we did do in Florence was go to Cinque Terrace.. a walk through 5 village...pretty strenuous.. Now, older folks might like a visit to the Tower of Pisa and the sights of Florence.. You canl't please all fourteen...remember.
What can I say but thank you, thank you for all of the wonderful detailed information. You have helped us beyond what I had ever hoped for when I posted on this forum. Wow-I am totally blown away by your kind hearts. Thanks for taking the time to help us.