Ship's shore excursions in Med-which ones?

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#1
334 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Hello!
Getting crazy excited for our 50th anniversary celebration cruise with mom and dad, me and hubby, and our 2 little ones.
We're on the Grand Med tour April-May.

With the demographic of our group, we're interested in a few private excursions. That way we can go at our own pace, take breaks if needed, etc. I'm thinking this would be good for Athens, and Ephesus.

We go to Rome and Sorrento, which we already know our way around very well. We go to Istanbul, no tour needed there bc we're going days early. Mykonos, Taormina, and Barcelona. Don't think we'll need tours in Barcelona-we're ending there and adding days on.

I'd like to TRY to do Mykonos and Taormina without tours guides. Hubby and I are well traveled and figure we can probably swing it. The biggest obstacle I can think of is finding taxi's at both ports that will hold all 6 of us, plus the stroller.

So any thoughts or suggestions on which ports to pick here? I'm thinking the 2 ports that will have the most to see, but will also provide the biggest obstacle with our party type are Ephesus and Athens. An airconditioned private van would be of use here I'm thinking.

Would you splurge the extra for the ships tours? They are pricier, which I had guessed.
#2
4,474 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
If you are only looking for the types of tours that would use large buses (city highlights), then the ship's tours would be easiest. The stroller will go in the lower luggage compartment. If you are thinking smaller (limited participation) group tours, then private tours probably would be better, just because you CAN set your own pace. I do NOT mean this as a criticism, but, on a small group tour, waiting while you are getting the stroller out and set up would be a hindrance to the rest of the group on a ship's tour.

A thought on Ephesus. Having been there, I really cannot see you doing it with a stroller. Leaving aside the incredible crowds, the terrain is really rough and the most interesting parts are either severely uphill or severely downhill. And some are very, very narrow. You will probably be finding yourself carrying the little one AND the stroller!
#3
87,644 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
Originally posted by scarlett81
Hello!
Getting crazy excited for our 50th anniversary celebration cruise with mom and dad, me and hubby, and our 2 little ones.
We're on the Grand Med tour April-May.

With the demographic of our group, we're interested in a few private excursions. That way we can go at our own pace, take breaks if needed, etc. I'm thinking this would be good for Athens, and Ephesus.

We go to Rome and Sorrento, which we already know our way around very well. We go to Istanbul, no tour needed there bc we're going days early. Mykonos, Taormina, and Barcelona. Don't think we'll need tours in Barcelona-we're ending there and adding days on.

I'd like to TRY to do Mykonos and Taormina without tours guides. Hubby and I are well traveled and figure we can probably swing it. The biggest obstacle I can think of is finding taxi's at both ports that will hold all 6 of us, plus the stroller.

So any thoughts or suggestions on which ports to pick here? I'm thinking the 2 ports that will have the most to see, but will also provide the biggest obstacle with our party type are Ephesus and Athens. An airconditioned private van would be of use here I'm thinking.

Would you splurge the extra for the ships tours? They are pricier, which I had guessed.
If this was me I would not use a tour guide in Taormina. It is one of the most beautiful/quaint towns we have visited and it is easily seen on foot. There are many cafes, restaurants and shops in the town and the April/May time frame is just a fantastic time of the year for a visit.

Keith
#4
Northern CA
140 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Hi Scarlett81--
Had to chime in. I've done Ephesus twice in the past. It is very worth seeing, but it would be difficult with the stroller. When we went with NCL a few yrs ago, the tour we went on was difficult for 2 mobility impaired people who accidentally took the same tour. If you can wear the kids, that might be the way you need to go, otherwise, skip some of the sites there. The Celsus library was amazing. The amphitheater was gorgeous. We did not see the virgin Mary house that time but it is also one of the sights there but a little further on. The terrace houses were great but lots of stairs. I don't know how the stroller would do. Unless you got a maclaren lightwt one or an uppababy g-lite maybe.
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#5
334 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
THanks alot!
Yes I could tell from my reading so far that a stroller will be out of the question for Ephesus. I'll backpack the baby and 5 yo DD can walk. I'm more worried about my Dad here. With 2 knee replacements, he can get alot of pain with stairs.
This is another reason I'm thinking the private tour would be better here. We can probably see more in less time, and if my dad, or one of the kids needs a break, they can go to the car while others continue. Sound about right?

This way I'll also be able to leave baby's stroller in the car, and then have it later on after touring the ruins for other things.

I wouldn't want to hold a big tour group up either, with the stroller or with my dad's limitations. And lets face it, kids have a meter that runs out eventually, so I'd like to see the highlights but then be able to stop at a cafe if we see one, or stop for my dad, or stop to nurse the baby, etc.

I wish I could get a sense for the lay of the land though. Especially at Ephesus. Is there a village/town other than the ruin area that we'll probably being walking through, or touring? So, after we see the ruins, would the stroller come in handy for the kids? I'll want to know, so if we do get the private car/tour, then I can keep all that stuff in there.
#6
Northern CA
140 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
From what I remember of Ephesus, it's pretty remote. The first time I went with a college roommate and we did the budget after college trip to turkey. We walked up the mountain to Ephesus, crawled under a shortcut hole in the fence (for distance) and made it there by mimed instructions from a Turkish older lady--what an adventure. There is a town we originated from where we got a refreshing Pepsi after our long trek, but I can't remember more details than that.

This last time, we got bused in. There's a bunch of souvenir places outside of the main gates and probably a place to drink also.

I worry abut your dad, but with the private tour, it can be at his own pace and what you want to see, not what everyone else wants. I think they'll have more current info on the destination Mediterranean boards-- than what this old mind can recall...

Here's one thread --seemed appropriate for your q...http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1329967
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#7
Moon Township, Pa
23,168 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
There's an inherent problem with the Ephesus tour and your dad--and I'm disabled, and experienced Ephesus. The tours are dropped off at the main ticket gate, and then the vehicles must go to a loading area where they wait for people to finish their tour, so there's no going back to the entrance--you really have to do the tour. The ruins are mostly a downhill walk on very slippery stones and marble that are very dangerous because they're covered in sand and dirt. While some people have used wheelchairs for the tour, I don't recommend it as its a VERY tough push. I used canes at that time, and fell down because the canes slipped out from under me because of the sandy stone walkway. I didn't get to see much because I had to be so very careful, looking down most of the time, so as not to fall again.

It's a very long walk, and is hot and dry. Seriously, it's not at all an easy tour, and even doing a private tour, it won't change the difficulty factor.
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Darcie
#9
334 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Thanks for your very frank replies-this is really helpful. I think what we'll do then is, reserve a private tour with car. My dad has days where he's totally fine, and days where he's in agony.
If halfway through the tour he wants to stop, maybe he can head back or we can just sit and take a break, even if its sitting on a rock, until he's ok. With a group tour we can't do this at all.
I'm going to remind him that with this port he'll have to see the day of how he feels and if he can really handle it.
Stroller/kid wise, no stroller is needed. We've done plenty of long hikes without one. But by hour 2, DD is tired so we'll have to keep any eye on that.
The main issue is that my son will be a year, so he really needs to be in a carseat for the drives in these ports, at least if they're more than 15 mins or so. So I'll need somewhere to keep this carseat while we're touring!-Another reason for the private car.
#10
4,474 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
Originally posted by scarlett81
Thanks for your very frank replies-this is really helpful. I think what we'll do then is, reserve a private tour with car. My dad has days where he's totally fine, and days where he's in agony.
If halfway through the tour he wants to stop, maybe he can head back or we can just sit and take a break, even if its sitting on a rock, until he's ok. With a group tour we can't do this at all.
I'm going to remind him that with this port he'll have to see the day of how he feels and if he can really handle it.
Stroller/kid wise, no stroller is needed. We've done plenty of long hikes without one. But by hour 2, DD is tired so we'll have to keep any eye on that.
The main issue is that my son will be a year, so he really needs to be in a carseat for the drives in these ports, at least if they're more than 15 mins or so. So I'll need somewhere to keep this carseat while we're touring!-Another reason for the private car.
My original comments about Ephesus concerned your infant and it seems you are good with that. We did Ephesus (with a private tour) a year ago and, to be honest, unless your Dad is having a GREAT day, I think he might be better to skip Ephesus. Kitty9 is not kidding/exaggerating about the terrain, and it is a one-way trip, all very downhill and the terrain is rough and slippery. We were travelling with friends and one of them is visually impaired (20/200 vision) and he had a really difficult time with the parts of the walk down. And that is with two good knees!! I also don't recall anywhere along the way where your Dad could sit to rest, other than on a rock, and the bottom line is he would still need to be able to get to the bottom of the hill. As I recall, it took us a good two+ hours, and we didn't see everything.
#11
Alberta, Canada
657 Posts
Joined Nov 2002
Hi Scarlett. I tend to be in agreement with the posters that might be discouraging you from doing the Ephesus tour with your Father. As others have stated, it is one way in and another way out. It is very uneven terrain and the terrace houses have lots of stairs. Hopefully, your timing for your cruise will lend itself to some cooler weather on your Ephesus tour. There was hardly any shade.. anywhere....and I like the sun! We engaged the services of Ekol Travel (which we highly recommend as they had a brand new Mercedes van)) for our private tour. We were one of the first groups of people off the ship and we still encountered crowds (but we were also travelling during summer peak season.) This will be a difficult tour for your DD (although she may be kept busy checking out all the cats that roam the area) and a most difficult tour for your Father if he has any mobility issues. As for Athens, the Acropolis is an uphill climb with uneven stairs at times. It too, may present some challenges for your Father. Your daughter may be kept busy counting the dogs that inhabit the premises! We used a private tour and guide in Athens as well. Good luck with your plans.
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#12
334 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Thank you all for the replies thus far-I appreciate it.

Good tips Dr. Pam...though I'm not sure I want my daughter playing with all the feral cats around Epehsus.

Back to my OP-Are there any Crystal excursions that you recommend? Or ones you'd suggest skipping?
There prices are quite high, which I expected but some are outrageous. I was given a quote of $125 per person transfer fees from Civitavecchia to Rome and that is in a bus with 40 others. For 6 of us that would be over $700.
I could hire a private mercedes round trip for less.

So that begs the question, not with the bus transfer obviously, but if Crystal is charging so much for their tours, are you getting more for your money?
#13
4,474 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
Originally posted by scarlett81
Thank you all for the replies thus far-I appreciate it.

Good tips Dr. Pam...though I'm not sure I want my daughter playing with all the feral cats around Epehsus.

Back to my OP-Are there any Crystal excursions that you recommend? Or ones you'd suggest skipping?
There prices are quite high, which I expected but some are outrageous. I was given a quote of $125 per person transfer fees from Civitavecchia to Rome and that is in a bus with 40 others. For 6 of us that would be over $700.
I could hire a private mercedes round trip for less.

So that begs the question, not with the bus transfer obviously, but if Crystal is charging so much for their tours, are you getting more for your money?
I agree, that transfer charge is rather ridiculous for Rome!

What do you get on a Crystal tour? If you have been following Keith's World Cruise thread you may have noticed his comment about the 60 passenger buses to Beijing that only carried 30 guests. This is quite common for Crystal. With few exceptions, Crystal only allows half to two-thirds the number of passengers as seats on a bus. Most other lines pack them full.

Crystal's tours are always escorted by a member of the staff to ensure there are no issues and to help keep the groups together. On more than a few occasions, in our experience, this escort was responsible for keeping a tour "on the rails" so to speak. Also this tends to prevent "sales pitches" from the tour guide.

Often Crystal's tours go to places other lines can't. In St. Petersburg last summer we took a tour that included the Repository of the Hermitage, where the vast majority of the collection is kept and where the restoration work happens. Our guide told us this was the first time she had ever seen a ship's tour allowed in the Repository.

That same cruise we did the full day Moscow tour. It was VERY expensive, but it included almost a full afternoon in the grounds of the Kremlin, including the Kremlin Palace which is normally not open for tours. And this Cold War kid never in his wildest dreams ever thought he would find himself in Red Square!

Where tours includes meals, these are normally in top quality restaurants/hotels and include wine/beer.

Are all Crystal's tours this exotic or even "fairly" priced? Not by a long shot, but many of them are unique and unusual experiences you will not get on other lines. We do a simple calculation; is the tour unique or exotic enough/once-in-a-lifetime-enough to justify the cost? If the answer is yes, we go and if it's no, we don't. Only you can make that decision for your situation.
#14
334 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Originally posted by Roland4
I agree, that transfer charge is rather ridiculous for Rome!

What do you get on a Crystal tour? If you have been following Keith's World Cruise thread you may have noticed his comment about the 60 passenger buses to Beijing that only carried 30 guests. This is quite common for Crystal. With few exceptions, Crystal only allows half to two-thirds the number of passengers as seats on a bus. Most other lines pack them full.

Crystal's tours are always escorted by a member of the staff to ensure there are no issues and to help keep the groups together. On more than a few occasions, in our experience, this escort was responsible for keeping a tour "on the rails" so to speak. Also this tends to prevent "sales pitches" from the tour guide.

Often Crystal's tours go to places other lines can't. In St. Petersburg last summer we took a tour that included the Repository of the Hermitage, where the vast majority of the collection is kept and where the restoration work happens. Our guide told us this was the first time she had ever seen a ship's tour allowed in the Repository.

That same cruise we did the full day Moscow tour. It was VERY expensive, but it included almost a full afternoon in the grounds of the Kremlin, including the Kremlin Palace which is normally not open for tours. And this Cold War kid never in his wildest dreams ever thought he would find himself in Red Square!

Where tours includes meals, these are normally in top quality restaurants/hotels and include wine/beer.

Are all Crystal's tours this exotic or even "fairly" priced? Not by a long shot, but many of them are unique and unusual experiences you will not get on other lines. We do a simple calculation; is the tour unique or exotic enough/once-in-a-lifetime-enough to justify the cost? If the answer is yes, we go and if it's no, we don't. Only you can make that decision for your situation.
Great post! Thank you. Based on that, I think we'll pick that one special port and try a Crystal tour there. We have so much ship credit as it is, this would be a good place to use it.
#15
Chicago, IL
211 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Definitely hire a private van for your party. Contact RomeCabs and they will give you an estimate. They are very reliable and will meet you at the dock. Be sure to tell them the number of passengers, amount of luggage, etc.
#16
176 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Originally posted by silverfoxxy
Definitely hire a private van for your party. Contact RomeCabs and they will give you an estimate. They are very reliable and will meet you at the dock. Be sure to tell them the number of passengers, amount of luggage, etc.

I love to research my vacations.After 40 + hours, over the last few months, of tiptoeing through numerous tour guides and tours in Rome I totally agree a private tour is more cost effective for a large group.Unfortunately for the two of us the cost per person is very high for a private tour.

As far as quality /guides - research John Fort.

I have never been to Rome but it seems to me you have to be very well organized if you only have one day or else you will waste a lot of time.

I believe there is a high speed train you could also research.

Good luck with your travel plans.

Rich
#17
1,557 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Another note about Ephesus: check whether Crystal will again be offering two options for Ephesus. The first is the day trip with the attendant difficulties, hot, uneven surfaces, etc. The second option (and we did both) is the evening classical concert in front of the library facade.

The bus took us to the bottom of the hill, where the walk to the library is much shorter and more level. It is cool in the evening and your group will likely be the only people there. Young women dressed as Greek goddesses serve hors d'oeuvres, grapes and wine.

The library at sunset - guests have yet to fill the chairs. No crowds, no heat, just peace and beauty.



The library during the concert: the moon and Venus are just visible through the window.



The evening concert ranks as one of our top 10 shore excursions ever.
#18
Sonoma County, CA
207 Posts
Joined May 2006
Scarlett, my hubby and I (Dave and Kathleen) are on the April 27th cruise with you. I look forward to meeting your family. What a wonderful celebration for your parents.

We will also be arriving early in Istanbul.

Regarding Ephesus, I also recommend the evening concert. We did the daytime tour last time we visited Kusadasi and heard wonderful things about the concert and regretted not going. Seeing these beautiful pictures, I know we made the right decision to book it this time.

Perhaps you could even coordinate babysitters on the ship for the little ones?

See you on board!
#19
Columbus, Ohio
18,605 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
The below pictures gives a little better idea of the slope downhill and pavement at Ephesus. It's a super great and historic place. And at night, if you can to the evening concert, it can be very charming and dramatic.

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 71,160 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:
http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/s....php?t=1426474

For details and visuals, etc., from our July 1-16, 2010, Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise experience from Copenhagen on the Silver Cloud, check out this posting. This posting is now at 64,386 views.
http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/s....php?t=1227923


Looking downhill towards the library and other ruins from when Ephesus, along the Turkish Coast, was Rome's capital of Asia Minor. The history here is real and totally amazing!:




We enjoyed a night concert in front of the historic library at Ephesus:




The outdoor theater at Ephesus is fully lighted for events in the evening. This famed outdoor theater hosted Saint Paul preaching, plus rock stars, etc., in the current era. At this site in the 1st century AD, the Apostle Paul spent over three years in Ephesus preaching the Gospel. This included a sermon condemning pagan worship in this theater:




At night for a concert, the Ephesus library is dramatically done in its lighting and visual impact:

#20
Texas
3,993 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Thanks, Terry, for your photos of Ephesus. I'll be there on the 24th of this month and have booked both the day and evening excursions. Your photos make me more excited!

Patty