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Greece Ports Athens, Corfu, Crete, Katakolon, Limassol, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Volos

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  #1  
Old August 11th, 2011, 01:23 PM
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Default DIY or Book Tours-MED

What are the pro's and con's of booking tours either through Princess or private versus touring on your own in the bigger cities such as Athens?
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Old August 11th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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If you are going to DIY, you really need to have it planned out. If youjust get off the ship and then try to figure out how to get to the first sight, you will be wastingmuch of your time.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 01:38 PM
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A lot of people will say private tours are much less expensive than the cruise line tours - so far we have always gone through the cruise line, mainly because we know the ship will wait for us if the tour is running late. We also had one instance when the tour was absolutely horrible, Princess refunded 100% of the cost for the six members of my family on that tour, we appreciated that Princess stood behind what they sold us.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by vantec View Post
A lot of people will say private tours are much less expensive than the cruise line tours - so far we have always gone through the cruise line, mainly because we know the ship will wait for us if the tour is running late. We also had one instance when the tour was absolutely horrible, Princess refunded 100% of the cost for the six members of my family on that tour, we appreciated that Princess stood behind what they sold us.
Well said! I completely agree, I would do it through Princess. Everything is taken care of and planned out. And for whatever reason the excursion may need to be refunded, you will get $100% refund. Plus I like the fact the ship will wait for you if running late...major plus.

Have fun in the med!!!! I spent an entire month in Europe this summer and loved ever second in the med.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 01:53 PM
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We did private tours in Italy and Turkey. In Italy we used romeinlimo.com for a Rome tour and a Florence tour. There werre six of us. They used vans. The advantage was the vans could get a lot closer to the ruins and the sites we wanted to see. At the Vatican the driver gave us a cell phone and told us to call him when we were finished. Because we could get closer to what we wanted to see, we saw a lot more then the Princess bus tours. In Turkey we used Ekol tours. No upfront $$$ was required by either tour company. I highly recommend you look into these two compaines.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 02:22 PM
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If you were to list the ports of call on your itinerary, you may get some responses specific to each port.

As for us, we have done ship sponsored, private, and do it yourself excursions throughout the Med.

Since you mentioned Athens...we did it ourselves. We walked to the train station in Piraeus and took a train from there close to the Plaka neighborhood of Athens where we enjoyed browsing the shops and then lunch. We then walked to the Acropolis where we explored before heading back to the ship.

Piraeus is one port where you do not want to hire a taxi for a tour. You're much better of with an organized excursion or doing it yourself.

Enjoy your cruise...

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Old August 11th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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Old August 11th, 2011, 02:42 PM
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Hi There

Some rules we use

Do they speak english if not Ships tour

Is it many miles away from the port Ships tour

Is there a high risk of missing the port Ships tour

If never been to a major city before Ships tour

If well known local tour companies book local

If low risk item local tour company high risk ships just for safety

If going with foks who have been before local company

If visiting an island by ferry boat etc ships tour

If just going to a museum etc local company

If just touring local company

yours Shogun
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Old August 11th, 2011, 03:11 PM
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Get a copy of Rick Steves' new book Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports. He covers most of the ports and tells you how to get from the gangway to the transportation, how long it will take, what it should cost, where the tourist info sites are, where the bathrooms are, what to see and how long to spend there as well as cost, where the budget eats are...And how to catch up with the ship should it leave without you. I have had trouble finding it in bookstores, I think it is too new for them to acknowledge the value - or they can't keep it in stock. I pre-ordered mine from Amazon, and have about read it twice already! EM
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Old August 11th, 2011, 03:17 PM
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Get a copy of Rick Steves' new book Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports.

I have this book, that is why I am thinking we might be able to do Athens on our own because of the great information Steve gives. Thanks for all the great input from everyone.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 03:23 PM
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We rarely take a ship's tour. I guess about half the time, we join a private tour, usually one organized by someone on our Roll Call. The rest of the time, we just get off and do our own thing. Sometimes, we just walk or take a shuttle to town. As mentioned above, Athens is a great DIY port. We ran into a number of people from the ship on the Metro as we all headed to the Acropolis and the Platka.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 03:24 PM
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I think Shogun's post illustrated it best. They are just all kinds of factors to consider.

You can save a lot of money and see more on a private tour weighed against the risk of something going wrong and not making it back to the ship on time. Princes will wait for its tours. Also Princess will refund your money if you cancel up to about 24-36 hours before the tour and you cannot say the same for some private companies.

I have done both private and ship's tours. It just depends on the port, what you want to see, and the cost. Sometimes if you want to see something special and the Princess tours do not go there, you have no choice but a private tour. Is the private company reputable? Check out your roll and the shore excursions area for suggestions on private tours that others have taken. If you do miss the ship, how difficult is it to get to the next port of call? These are all things to consider.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 04:01 PM
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The good news is, whichever method you use, you are in for some great sight-seeing! The Med is fantastic.

On our Med cruise we did all private tours with the exception of Messina. We decided to do the ship-sponsored tour to Mt. Etna there. Mainly as something different from all those cool ruins we saw. We did Rome on our own two days pre-cruise and one and a half days post-cruise. All of our privately booked tours were great. We have no regrets and the personal attention was great. I'm usually not happy to be part of the giant tour with the brightly colored sticker on my shirt so I don't get lost from the group. Choose the method of touring you're most comfortable with.

Have a great time!
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Old August 11th, 2011, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Princess Patches View Post
I think Shogun's post illustrated it best. They are just all kinds of factors to consider.

You can save a lot of money and see more on a private tour weighed against the risk of something going wrong and not making it back to the ship on time. Princes will wait for its tours. Also Princess will refund your money if you cancel up to about 24-36 hours before the tour and you cannot say the same for some private companies.

I have done both private and ship's tours. It just depends on the port, what you want to see, and the cost. Sometimes if you want to see something special and the Princess tours do not go there, you have no choice but a private tour. Is the private company reputable? Check out your roll and the shore excursions area for suggestions on private tours that others have taken. If you do miss the ship, how difficult is it to get to the next port of call? These are all things to consider.
Rarely have we made any advanced payment for private tours.

On our Ocean P cruise in April and May you had to cancel ship's tours at least 60 hours in advance.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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We have done 3 European cruises, two in the Med and one in the British Isles. On all 3 we did mostly private tours. IMHO, the ship's tour is usually the worst option, because (1) it is usually the most expensive option, (2) you are crowded onto a bus with 50 of your closest friends, (3) everyone moves at the pace of the slowest person, so you will have to sit on the bus waiting for the slowest person to get out of the bathroom or the gift shop, (4) they usually involve unwanted sales "opportunities" such as the infamous Turkish rug demonstrations.

Our private tour guide in Istanbul started his career as a guide on the cruise ship tour buses. He says those guides are paid a fixed amount per bus (e.g, 100 Euros) plus the guide shares with the cruise company in the kickback from the retail shop they force you to visit. On our cruise, an entire busload of passengers came back complaining because their Bosphorus cruise excursion was cut short so the the bus could have time to stop at the cruise-line-approved jewelry store.

I suggest you join your Roll Call and see if others are researching private tour and DIY options. And research the ports of call boards for your stops. There are lots of very helpful regulars on those boards.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 04:44 PM
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There are many reputable companies doing private tours in the Med and know that their reviews on Cruise Critic are very important.

A lot depends on the specific ports and the days you'll be arriving there. For example, the Vatican is closed on Sunday and some museums in Florence are closed on Monday. If you join the roll call for your cruise, you'll find that a lot of people are doing research and/or may have been to the ports before. If you've got a good roll call going (or at least one I consider good), different people will organize tours for different ports of call, sharing the labor and the cost.

Something we like to do if using a private tour is to be off the ship early so that we get to the tourist attractions before the ship tours and are reboarding at least an hour or two before the posted return time. That way we build in some time for potential travel delays on our way back to the port. If doing a half-day tour, schedule it for the morning.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 04:50 PM
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I remember one private tour we took in Iceland (for $US60 vs. the ship's $US229). The ship's tour did include lunch. Our guide skipped the first two photo ops to get well ahead of the ships buses. We then stopped for those photos on the way back.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 07:16 PM
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Private tours usually will cost less than a ship's tour, but will sometimes cost more.

I have been on private tours with from four to 28 people. The advantage is that you will usually see more than if taking the equivalent Princess tour. The good guides will have you at the sights at times the various cruise ship busses are not there. You also will not go to any shopping stop that you do not want to.

One advantage of some Princess tours is that they can sometimes go to museums or some other places that are closed to the general public that day. As an example, on a cruise of the Greek Islands, many people said they would take a ferry from Mykonos to the Island of Delos and visit Delos for much less cost that the Princess tour. It turned out that day was the day of the week the island is closed for the general public and only the Princess tour was able to go there. Those expecting to do Delos on their own were then mad at Princess for not telling them before the cruise they would not be able to go to Delos unless they signed up for the now full Princess tour. So, if you are planning a private tour, be sure in advance that the places you want to see are open when you want to see them.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 07:25 PM
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Absolutely, if you are going on either a private tour or a DIY tour, you MUST do your homework.
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Old August 11th, 2011, 09:10 PM
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I would suggest the following

Look at the ports of call, lots of info and opinions there.

DIY is always cheapest but requires you to figure out travel time, deal with foreign country and foreign public transportation etc. etc. In many ports its easy in others the best sites are far away.

Cruiseline tours are easy, the cruise company takes a huge cut. Think how much you pay for a soda and that is the kind of premium you are paying. If you are really rich see how much the private car thru the line cost

SO for most its the big bus tour with 30-40 other strangers doing the tour at the slowest pace for the slowest tourist who can't keep time.

If you do private you can taylor the tour. You will almost be in a small private car with 4-8 people. That means much smaller group, faster and more efficient.

I highly recommend if you do tour go private and or tourshare for not the cost but for the best experience. For the price of a big bus cruiseline you get a private vehicle and tour share for 8 people will be similar cost but sooo much better experience.

If one doesn't have time and infinite budget, go private car thru the cruiseline. If you got some time and want to be smart do private non cruiseline. If you are adventurous and not in a hurry, DIY.



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Originally Posted by somogirl View Post
What are the pro's and con's of booking tours either through Princess or private versus touring on your own in the bigger cities such as Athens?
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