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Other Mediterranean PortsDubrovnik, Gibraltar, Istanbul, Kotor, Kusadasi, La Goulette (Tunis), Lisbon, Madeira (Funchal), Malta, Odessa, Sevastopol, Varna, Zadar
I am going on the millie in a few weeks, Barcelona to Venice. I am looking for some advice on the best ways to reach my destinations from the ship. I am not interested in guided tours. My options seem to be to pay $130(2 of us) for the "see it on your own" shore excersion. Basically it's a $65 pp bus ride into and out of the city...Other option seems to be train or taxi. Any advice on the best options for these ports: Villefranche, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Athens? How close are the train stations? Will I end up spending more on a taxi than just paying for the bus ride in the first place? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
Ok.. lets take them 1 at a time. Keep in mind that in some of these ports you have a lot of options as to where you want to go for the day. Villefrache, You will tender in here to a small pier. Its an easy walk to the train station which is to your right (along the water) a few blocks than up the steps (on your left) to the station. This train line spans the entire riviera from Cannes to Menton and many points in between. You can easily get to places like Monte Carlo, Nice, Antibes, or even Cannes. Smaller towns (my style) such as Eze and St Paul de Vence take a little homework (we can help here).
Livorno - You can get to Florence on the train (the cheapest option). You will need to be fast off the ship, and grab a taxi to the Livorno train station. Buy a one-day return ticket and remember that you must validate your ticket in the machine as you enter the platform (true for all European trains). In Florence, you can walk everywhere from the station except for the Academia Museum which is a very long hike or short taxi ride.
Civatavecchia - This is the port for Rome. You can walk from the ship to the station by walking out of the main port gates, cross the street, and walk to your right. After a few blocks you will come to the smallish station (its a small entracne on your left). The train to Rome takes about 1:15. Make sure you check the return schedule and give yourself a good extra hour. We used to catch a 3:30 train back to the port. The station in Florence is large and very busy, so give yourself a little extra time when you return to get your bearings and find your train.
Naples- Many many options here including Capri, Amalfi Drive, Pompeii, Sorrento, etc etc. We have been here 6 times and never did the same thing twice. Its possible to get to Pompeii on your own (train) and/or go to Capri (hydrofoil near the ship). The Amalfi Drive is best accomplished on a tour unless you know the territory.
Athens - You can walk to the Green Line, which is like a train/subway. It will get you into Athens in about 20 min where you can get to most everything on foot. Personally, I think the Acropolis is best seen with an English speaking guide. You can pick up a tour at the entrance or possibly find your own private guide (for a price).
This is just a quick snapshot for you! We have traveled for over 20 years in Europe and never use tours or guides (we are in a minority) and have always had a great time. The real trick is to do a lot of pre-trip homework (bookstores are good study halls) and know your options. Also, its a good idea to head for your furthest point early in the day, and work yourselves back to the ship so that you don't have to worry about missing the ship. You will also get some good info from crew on your ship! We particularly like to chat with some of the cruise director staff who often have some good ideas. Just keep in mind that trains do sometimes run late (dont catch the last train to the ship) but you will save lots of money. A ships bus to Florence is more than $70 per person as compared to about $20 for a train (not exactly sure of this years fares).
Naples train station is too far to walk from the Port. (You can do it, but will waste alot of time.) Personally, I think it's too dangerous with the crazy traffic. Take a cab to the station. Once on the train, remember the stop for the Pompeii ruins is NOT Pompeii, but "Pompeii Scavi".
In Athens (as with most ports) there are TONS of cab drivers who want to work with you for the day. Just walk right past them and take the journey to the station on foot. It is a pleasant, urban walk. Just keep veering left...if you have doubts, merely ask a local "Metro?" They will steer you. Study the maps beforehand. We thought we knew where we were going, but a kind local advised us to get off & transfer in mid-trip.
Livorno is a very industrial, non-touristy port, I don't recall seeing any cabs here without walking out of the port area. Take Hlitner's detailed advice about this port, or ask ship personnel.
Villefranche is a great place to "play it by ear". You can take a train as Hlitner recommends, or a public bus, which is like a luxury motorcoach in this wealthy area. We took a bus to Monaco, then returned to the Eze Sur Mer stop where you can get a shuttle bus to the perched village of Eze. Get your shuttle timetable in advance from the shore excursion desk (it's not a ship sponsored shuttle). There is a time midday where the shuttle does not run for a couple of hours and you don't want to be stuck (like we were) paying 25-30 Euros for the taxi ride.
Venice has a free shuttle boat from ship to San Marco. Walk everywhere from there. Whatever you do, don't wait until the last shuttle to return to the ship. It will be crowded with a long wait to get on.
Barcelona is a 15 Euro cab ride from port to Las Ramblas, where you can walk or take the Bus Turistic on an all-day get-on-get-off tour for 15 Euro.
Also note: The shore excursion desk has train schedules for most ports. Ask them at the beginning of the cruise for these. They usually pass them out as you get off the ship each day. If you can get them ahead of time, you can do a little refining of your plans in advance.
HAVE A GREAT TIME! We were on this sailing last summer and it was the trip of a lifetime.
I would agree with the last post except in regard to Livorno. We have always found plenty of taxis on the pier next to the ship,, but keep in mind that most will be looking for a full day fare (often about $300). Our technique is to be one of the first off the ship (a good idea to get the earliest train) and than ask the drivers for someone who will take us to the "Stazione" (station). As to Naples, my wife and I have walked from the port to the train station, but it did take about 30 minutes and crossing the main street that runs in front of the port can be a challenge for those not used to busy city streets.
Re your Villafrance question, I have always been reticent on a specific recommendation. The problem is that what one likes, another dislikes. For example, my wife and I do not particularly like Monte Carlo, but you will find many here who love that city. This being said, of the major cities on the Riviera we would list Nice and Cannes as our favorites (in that order). However, our true love of this area are the smaller villages and towns (many of them are inland) which is why we generally rent a car. If you are going to explore on your own, take the train to either Nice or Monte Carlo and enjoy the city. Than, you will have plenty of time to take another train to one of the other coastal towns. If you want to sample a smaller town (its an old walled village) you can go to Eze (this is between the port and Monte Carlo). You can find some other posts on this board regarding Eze and how to get to that hilltop town. It would be possible to do Monte Carlo, Eze, and Nice in one day. This itinerary keeps you relatively close to the ship (within 30 min) and minimizes travel time.
Naples is another of those places where everything depends on your interest. Pompeii is truly one the great "ruins" on earth and if this is of interest its probably one of those "don't miss" places. Pompeii is generally one of those 3 hour kind of places which leaves you 1/2 day go to another place. It is possible to combine Pompeii with a than too quick excursion to Capri, but this does require some planning (and homework) to do on your own. The cruise ship will probably run a tour that goes to Pompeii, than down to Sorrento, across to Capri (hydrofoil) and than back to Naples. This is a pretty good itinerary for a first time visitor, and many would say you should spend the money and take the tour (it can be duplicated on your own for less money, but its a bit complicated).
By the way, I did forget to include Barcelona and Venice in my earlier post. Barcelona is a very modern friendly city and easy to do on your own. Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced and the center of town (The Ramblas) is a short (less than 10 min) cab ride from the pier. Venice is a place that should only be explored on your feet. You can also use the cheap Vaporettos (water buses) than run everywhere in Venice and the other islands out in the Lagoon (Lido, Murano, Burano, etc).
You will find lots of detailed information and maps in the various guidebooks at your library and bookstore (I live in Borders before trips).
Thanks again Guys, your posts are very helpful. I spent 2 semesters of college in Spain so I am familiar with Barcelona. Have never been to Italy, Greece, S. of France, or Croatia though. This is my honeymoon trip so we want to just relax and have fun. We are not going to be trying to cram weeks of sites and museums in a 12 hour day. So Barcelona is set. I think I am going to go to Nice first, then if I have time go to Eze or Cannes. I plan to just wander around Florence, and take in the city. I need to do more research on Rome...Naples, I will look into the ships excursion to Pompeii, try to make it to Capri if I have time. I plan just to hang out at the beach on Mykonos. I have heard Santorini is fairly easy to get around so I am not worried. I signed up for a 4 wheel drive off road excursion in Dubrovnik, not sure how good this will be, but it is something different. I end up in Venice with a few days to relax so I will have some time to explore the city. Thanks again guys, any other tips or reccomendations?
Mike,, Congrads on the marriage! My wedding present is some advice (probably not needed). We have traveled extensively for many years, and have learned to relax and enjoy. We love to spend time at well-placed outdoor cafes and watch the crazy tourists rushing to and fro! They rush, we relax and sip cafe au lait, wine, or beer. In Rome, we can spend hours just sitting at one of the two large cafes that face the fountain in the Piazza Navona. Its a good spot for morning coffee, lunch, or even an evening snack. This is a well known piazza, and we just think the whole atmosphere is very romantic. And the fountain is a pretty amazing work of art.
Thanks for the info. We will be on the Splendour in June and will try to do our own thing where possible.
Being English, we are very accustomed to travel in France but not so experienced in Italy. I am a little nervous of trusting the train to Rome as I am well aware of just how quickly the Italians will go on strike.
Also, as Rome is so large, is it possible to see enough without a guided tour? We are thinking of the one that gives you 3 hours alone and then a guided walk as well. It is however still an expensive option for our budget.
From Livorno, we are torn between a trip to Florence which is very crowded and going to Lucca instead. We are pretty much art philistines, so would not miss the galleries too much. Our preference is to see the buildings and just soak up atmosphere. We also love to sit in cafes and watch the world go by.