Does anyone have the options and $ of the shore excursions for this cruise. We are planning the Golden for 2002 and need an idea of the cost of the trip as there will be 5 in my family to pay for and 2 relative who also want to know. Also anyone who did plans are there own and has advise would be appreciated. Beth
The options for shore excursions in Europe and the Mediterranean generally are more limited than in, for example, the Caribbean because there are very few outings for sports, etc. Most of the ports have perhaps half a dozen tours that visit various attractions, some of which typically are "half day" (3-6 hours) and some of which typically are full day (8-12 hours, with lunch included). The "half day" tours typically cost about $40 to $60 while the full day tours generally cost about $100 to $140 per person, including lunch. In my experience two years ago, the included lunches generally were at nice restaurants and their menus did include local cuisine. On the "Venetian Explorer" itinerary (which encompasses the same ports of call as the "Grand Mediterranean" itinerary but in a different sequence), two years ago, I spent about $750 (total) to take a tour in each port of call.
I have posted comments about the excursion options for the ports of call on the "Grand Mediterranean" itinerary on the "Europe" message board, and also on this message board, so I won't duplicate them. If you look through previous threads, I'm sure that you will have no trouble finding them.
BTW, I neglected to mention that Princess offers a tour with a name like "Easy Tour of..." or "Leisurely Tour of..." in almost every port of call. Anybody who cannot walk at a normal pace for moderate distances should choose these tours instead of the others. Most of the standard tours,require walking moderate distances, possibly on uneven ground, with perhaps a couple flights of stairs at a time. Most of the tours in Europe do require moderate walking.
In places where the primary attraction is some distance from the harbor, Princess also offers a tour called "(Destination) on Your Own" that provides bus transportation between the pier and the destination but little else. When the bus arrives at the destination city, the guide designates a time and place to meet and turns the group loose for independent exploration, shopping, etc. I generally recommend this approach only for those who are either (1) intent on shopping the whole time or (2) reasonably familiar with the destination. The regular tours generally have special arrangements to tour the various attractions, and thus move to the head of the line when they arrive. If you go to the attractions on your own, you have to wait.
Princess is very good about delivering the package containing tour and other cruise information to travel agents about sixty days before the start of each cruise. If you involve your children in picking the tours, they probably will be pretty enthusiastic about taking the tours when you actually go. If you find that there are divergent interests within your party, it might be fun to split into smaller groups that take different tours and then to "compare notes" over dinner.
Went on the Grand 2 years ago (maiden voyage) so this may have changed, but go on your own in Istanbul (get a good guide book and take cabs). You can easily see the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia in a half day, then go to Topaki museum in the afternoon.
I would recommend taking an AM tour for Ephysis (it only gets hotter later in the day). Walk around Kusidasi on your own after going to Ephysis in the AM. Be sure to visit a carpet factory. Athens is full of traffic, best to take a tour here as you could really get lost or miss the boat using cabs. Skip the ones that include a meal. The promised "authentic" Greek lunch was less Greek than what I can get a home.
In Naples we took an AM tour to Pompeii, and some in our group then took the afternoon tour to Herculenium, but we walked around the downtown/port area in the afternoon and found many photo ops, and visited the old Crusader castle there.
In Venice you can see most things on your own with a guide book if you take the water taxis or don't mind walking. We took a tour to Murano and Burano, but next time I would do it on my own. The tour guides moved to fast for our picture taking interests. The gondola trips are a rip-off. Either do this on your own, or skip it (and just take photos of others spending all that money!).
In Livornio I took one of the tours to Florence which had a walking tour and then afternoon on your own. This was a big mistake as I was not aware that most of the art museums, churchs, etc. close after 1PM. Take the trip that just drops you off and picks you up with no tour. Get a guide book that lists the museum closing times and hit the museums first. You can shop, eat, or just walk around later after the museums are closed. Eat lots of gelato (I had this 4 times instead of lunch!!)
If you want to see Monaco, walk around. If you want to go into France, take a tour. In Barcelona I took the walking tour of the old city and enjoyed it, but then had no time for the Picasso museum, which I would have liked to have seen.
I am not a shopper, so if you are not either, be very careful about taking any tours that mention shopping. They often spend inordinate amounts of time at shops and cut your times short at historic sites or museums.