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notentirelynormal

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  1. This is the one I will be using. She was recommended to me by someone else on CC so I can't speak first hand but she sounded pretty good. tour.designer@provence-travel.com www.provence-travel.com
  2. I agree. I would book now. They are extremely popular and booking a year in advance with them is the norm rather then the exception. I was 1-1/2 years out when I booked my tours. They customize for you so sometimes there is some back and forth to get is just like you want. I know a lot of the tour companies that I have contacted are getting extremely busy.
  3. Yup, we are also going to have lunch in a medieval village but I forgot the name. Was yours near Pisa?
  4. Yup - Montserrat is Day 1 and Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia is Day 2. Barcelona Day Tours has worked super hard for me too. We plan on going to a Chocolate Factory and the kids will be taking a lollipop making course there. It hasn't been easy to find not just kid stuff but educational and something they wouldn't normally do back home and not repetitive. Swimming every where we go doesn't make it special but booking our own boat instead of a group tour boat does make it more special. Add a little dip in the Mediterranean and you have a lovely few hours in Istanbul before touring the underground cistern .
  5. BennyBear – Yes – we will be going to the museum in Knossos. I have to take back the stupid things I said about the Greek guide recommendation. It was user error. Apparently I was too stupid to scroll down. I was looking at the cover page. DUH!! She came up with incredible ideas. The tour of Athens will be phenomenal and I can’t wait to do it. Her name is Anthia with Athens Insiders. She is putting together tours for all four cities: Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete. Each tour is unique. Crete will be the Knossos Palace, Cave of Zeus & Local food and wine tasting shore excursion. Then Mykonos will be a farm visit with lunch from the fields, wine tasting, cycling (for the kids), Mykonos town and Delos. Then we have Santorini: Akrotiri guided tour, Lost Atlantis Experience, Tomato factory and Fira exploration. Lastly, we have Athens: We visit the Acropolis visit & guided tour with a short panoramic tour. On to the Athens Treasure hunt using I-Pads. After lunch we visit the New Acropolis Museum before heading back to port. I forgot which port but pottery making will be involved. As for Turkey, I used a guide recommended by someone here (I think) called Ephesus Shuttle. He also put together unique tours including a swim off our private boat. I contacted George the Taxi Driver but the response I got back was right off their website. There was no thought put into it and nothing for the kids. Plus he was booked one of the two days. The suggestion for George came at the same time as Ephesus Shuttle and since he gave me great ideas I went with him. I made sure that all suggestions given to me are included in the tours. So, thanks for that. I also bought 5 movies today: Immortals, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Hercules, Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans. I figure the kids can watch them before we leave, at the airport or on the plane. Since we are starting in Barcelona we will have two days of touring with the first day ending with a Flamenco dinner. These kids will have the times of the their lives.
  6. By the way, I agree with the planning is fun. It is for me, anyway. I have the spreadsheet and binder to prove it. 🙂 Also, though, I get a lot of satisfaction over seeing everyone having fun. I have been planning group cruises for family and friends for over twenty years. Up to 26 people. They all just let me plan and they show up, I tell them how much and they pay. We are leaving when? Okay. See you at the airport. Most of those cruises were the Caribbean so easy because it was one water event or another. The catamaran or the speed boat. Europe though. That is a whole new ball game because every single port is unique. And the same. History. Lots and lots of history. But not all history will be interesting for the kids. For example, in Turkey, visiting the site of the Virgin Mary just has nothing that makes it worth visiting with the kids. There are other ways to spend the day to make Turkey more enjoyable and still learn. They know the rules.
  7. I tried that. I asked each kid to come up with something to do in one port. I didn't care which port or what to do. Only the 16 YO responded. Of course, the 13 YO is autistic so she really has no opinion. Her reasoning doesn't work that way. You have to say "do you want to do this" or "do you want to do that" and then she can decide. The younger two, like I said, live in Seattle so the parents need to get involved and they did/will not. So, it is all up to me.
  8. Unfortunately we can't watch movies as two kids live in Seattle and two in Greater LA area. We will have one day together before the trip. BUT - we did watch Mr Peabody last summer. It was an awesome movie for visiting Europe. It was filled with history and we watched it together and the kids were laughing and looking forward to seeing those sites. The two sets of kids are very different. The two oldest are very much into live theatre with devoted parents that spend a LOT of time with them. Dad works two jobs but he is still up close and personal with them. Mom also works two jobs so that the second job pays for their theatre time. These past months they built a "she-shed" for mom. They used plans and Michael learned how to read them and was in charge of the roof. His bones will heal - dad's not so much. They will now work on crafts together. The two younger kids have divorced parents. Dad (my son) gets them on the weekends and they live with mom during school. The oldest girl is very smart. She potty trained herself at two and was reading adult books at the age of six. Paperback novel kind of books. The younger one is average learner and spoiled and everything she learns is from her older sister. Mom and dad are both very involved with LARP. Live Action Role Playing. That gets much more of their time then the kids do. Don't get me wrong. The kids aren't abused or neglected in any way. It is just if there is spare time, if people come around - it revolves around what the parents are all about. Mom has made them some very cool cakes and they do all the kid stuff it is just a very different atmosphere. The one thing they really have in common is their love for each other and Grandma and Grandpa. They will have a blast with what I organize be it learning or playing. I make everything fun for them. I tell them that they have to kiss Grandpa good night or the big guy will cry like a baby. They laugh and run in and kiss him so he doesn't cry (insert pretend crying from Grandpa here). That goes for everyone from the 16 YO to the 8 YO. If we go to ten museums I can make it fun if that means doing a "find this", "find that" kind of thing. I am trying to fit something fun in the day for every day. Gladiator school, chocolate making, flamenco dancers or pizza class. I don't mind them doing the museums but I really want to know more about what "it" is. It just takes time and I do have other stuff going on. Thank goodness my husband waits on me hand and foot, laundry, cooking etc. My son cooks too, I'm in charge of the dog 🙂
  9. Great. I will give them an email and see what he/they have to say. So far the recommendations for Greece have not been helpful. One that was highly recommended by Mladan gave me a tour suggestion like this: Crete Heraklion - A family-friendly Knossos guided tour followed by a pottery class with a local clay artist. You may then enjoy some free time in Heraklion or extend your tour with a food tour or a visit to the Heraklion museum. This is useless to me. There is no time limit, no price and what exactly does "family-friendly" mean? What are you showing me? She gave me exactly nothing as far as information. Her other three Greek tours were the same. I told her I can't decided what tour to take until I actually know what they are. I'm told that once I decide what I want that she will give me a price. Well, you know, price matters. Their website is the same. No price until you decide to book. Well, it might be a great tour for 200 Euros and not so great for 900 Euros or for an hour or ten. How long is it supposed to be? It took her two days for the first response and so far it has been three days on the comeback to my request for more info.
  10. Love the pictures. It gets me excited to see this cute city.
  11. Okay BennyBear Are you happy now! (just kidding here). I contacted your guy Mladen at mtours in Montenegro. I gave him the same spiel that I give all my guides. Our ages, our restrictions and the kid friendly part. Usually I get a response of the guide simply copying and pasting directly from their website. It makes me crazy. So I have to write back to them and ask them to read the email I sent again and can they offer me what I've asked. But not Mladen. He immediately came back with a response that I absolutely loved. He suggested we take a boat ride around the island then a swim. A tour suggestion I had seen. BUT BUT then he suggested we do this zip line thing. Normally I would say no but I would love to do it. I just can never convince anyone else to go with me. Losers! But, I've decided that that is what we are going to do. Boat, swim, zipline. His prices were in line with everyone else. But it is his responses that I love. It is the fact that he LISTENED to me. So, he is booked. I can't tell him who recommended him except for your screen name but you could send him an email and mention it to him if you want him to know the recommendation came from you. As far as your others - you said three. I must have missed the third one. I know this one and the one in Turkey. He was busy the one day and told me to "check out his website" for the second day. He did give me a private tour idea but there was nothing in particular that was appealing to kids. Basically he just took things from his website and mixed it up a little. However, Mladen did give me a suggestion for a tour guide for Athens. He said he has a trusted guide list that he has used before. So, I will contact her today and see what I can learn. I know that the trip is a long way off but I like to get this done and out of the way so I don't have to think about it. Also, as we all know, the good ones go quickly. Plus, some want cash and some will take credit cards before and some after. I need to make sure I have the money situation in place long before we go. We are talking a lot of money. Think about it. Seven people and 19 ports. Each tour is between 700 Euro or as much as 900 Euros plus food, admissions, tips and spending money. That's well over 16,000 Euros not including the week afterwards in London. I don't like to use ATMs (I don't care if others like it I just don't want to spend even a minute of my time stopping to get cash or using my card in a foreign country). I prefer to carry the cash with me and just say "here" at the end of the tour. I put the money in an envelope and I just pull that envelope the day of and off I go. Add to that we are going to spend a week in London afterwards. Sure, some companies take credit cards but I would prefer not to have to pay off a huge bill when I get home. The money is only on my person for the flight. After that it goes directly in the hotel/ship safe and I just bring out the envelope for the day. Easy Peasy. Anyway, bottom line. I loved your Kotor, Montenegro suggestion. Thanks. My next biggest port challenge is Gibraltar and Genoa Italy. No one seems to have a guide idea for Genoa. Why! Why? (insert crying here)
  12. I promise I will check out Levant Solmaz in Kusadasi. Also m tours. Montenegro is a port I know nothing about. They are already on my list for tomorrow.
  13. I may have over simplified. After the last cruise it has been difficult to find people currently booked or actively posting in ports. I believe I looked up the ones you suggested but you will have to remind me. It is like I am starting over every time. I really do read every post, copy it to my xcel spreadsheet and then one by one go through the comments. If you gave it to me, I checked it out. I was able to transfer some of my tours such as my Marseilles tour. I forgot which one I lost that I really liked but I got him from a recommendation. Can you remind me which ones you gave me? I guarantee if someone gave me a name I checked it out. If there are common ports from my last cruise I have booked a tour using a recommendation. However, the "vans" I was talking about above was from my home to LAX and return. As far as checking out the London transfers, I checked out every single one. Three of the companies (I believe Smith's was one of them) was owned by the same company and just used different names with the exact same prices. I just dived deeper until I got my questions answered. In London I needed to book two vans, one for people and one for luggage. Most hold seven people but not an additional 9 suitcases with 7 carry ons and 7 personal items and possibly a scooter. That's why two vans were needed. I spent over two solid weeks before I booked my trip. It took me several emails to most of those companies before I got responses and I had to ask over and over for that response. Finally I started getting answers. Possibly they were on lock down when I started because the responses seemed to have started around the same time. Once I booked with Blackberry I deleted all my information as I no longer needed it. I sure didn't mean to insult you and if I have I apologize. I don't take any recommendation lightly. I really do take all recommendations seriously.
  14. I have tried searching the boards. The problem is - no one is cruising and so no one is posting hardly. I have spent many hours just trying to find threads, let alone ones that have any info that I need. That is why I have to come right out and ask for help when I find a CC name that I know and trust. One recommendation from someone like Cruisemom42 is worth more than 10 from someone that is either new to the boards, has only traveled once or not at all. I already know their standards. Just because there is someone on my roll call - doesn't mea they know what they are talking about. Of course THAT has changed 5 times too. Even finding the current cruise is difficult and did they book before or after and have they cancelled again comes into question. I know their knowledge doesn't but there are SO MANY companies that have gone out of business it is frightening. I must have called well over 20 companies in LA to find a limo company to take us to/from LAX. Some didn't answer. Some were really really rude when they did. One guy told me that "they do have washer and dryers in Europe you know" because I said with 7 people there will be 7 suitcases and 7 carry ons. One had Grandpa answering and his response went like this: What kind of car would we be going in? A Van. What kind of Van? A VAN! Yes, but I would like to know what kind because there is a difference in how different kinds can hold how many people and will fit with our luggage. I can't give you a price so far in advance. But it is only 5 months away. No it's not, it's next year. Um, no it is in a few months. Well, it's a van. hang up here. I asked one guy, why does he think so many limo companies have gone out of business since they still had all their many cars. He said, it is because we can't pay our insurance bills so we can't do business. Ahhh. I forgot about that. Now it makes total sense. I have sent many emails to guides that never answer and I'm sure it is because they are out of business. I wish these companies would put some kind of message on their website that they are temporarily not doing business or answering requests and save everyone time and effort.
  15. Which is what I learned after countless hours going back and forth with several companies. It is why I went with Blackberry. Since they also go to Southampton and their price was almost exactly the same I saw no reason not to stay with them.
  16. Any help would be appreciated. I've only been to Kusadasi and Athens once before and that was 25 years ago and we used a Princess tour. We still need guides for: Genoa, Italy Crete (Heraklion), Greece Kusadasi, Turkey (for Ephesus) Istanbul, Turkey Mykonos, Greece Athens (Piraeus), Greece Santorini, Greece Kotor, Montenegro
  17. I just kept getting told they don't normally book in just London which is why I ended up booking Blackberry. Not through Smiths but their other company (there are three that are owned by the same company but different names) even though I thought the interaction I had with them was great, helpful and polite. I just felt that if I was going to use Blackberry for the 3 London trips I might as well use them for the Southampton part as mostly the prices were the same.
  18. That is so cute. Seeing things through the eyes of the kids is so fun.
  19. I have read way too many of your posts. I know that you are passionate about history. I know that if someone asks a question your are not likely to make a mistake so thank you for not commenting on mine (in a bad way). As far as I am concerned you know your stuff. I am working really hard getting the kids to learn but in a fun way. Staring at ruin after ruin is not the way so every place we go I am trying to make it happen. Some of the extras I have lined up is a pizza making class (who doesn't want to say they learned to make pizza it Italy?). There has to be kid stuff thrown in. Unlike you, I hire a private guide in each port. I have mobility issues but that doesn't mean we can't go somewhere where the kids can climb stairs and laugh as they go. After all the cruise changes we are now booked on a 21 day cruise with 16 ports. Greece and Turkey are mostly new to me and I'm having a little trouble finding a tour/guide that caters to the kids. Going to a winery of shopping won't be fun for them - or me either. We will then spend a week in London exploring. I had hired one that I lost because of the change to a new cruise that had told me "the kids will think they are Indiana Jones". Yup, that's what I'm looking for. Also, though, the ages of the kids. The youngest will be 12, then 13, 14 and lastly the boy will be 17. The likelihood of the kids getting back to the Med anytime soon is next to nil and like you said, maybe, just maybe they will love the history they learn and keep it with them for a long time. The two oldest are heavy into live theatre so I want to get them to see one when we hit London. I am setting up a Flamenco dinner in Barcelona. What better way to see Flamenco then Spain? If you happen to know any good guides in Greece or Turkey I'm all ears. CC is where I get my best leads. I know the suggestions are coming from people that understand the one day in port thing and have actually used the company and can give me an honest recommendation. p.s. I also know that you aren't a mean person, just passionate.
  20. The problem for me was I was not going directly from the airport to the port or back. I was going to be staying a week before the cruise and a day afterwards. That is where they became not the best choice. Their specialty is not a local stop. They even told me that. They told me that they would be more expensive then other choices. We are talking a car taking me from Point A to Point B. We aren't doing a tour so we didn't need a knowledgeable guide. Just someone to drive. Frankly anyone can just drive. That doesn't mean I don't want a recommendation for the drive but....it ends up being about the price at that point. I contacted them (and their other companies) and even they suggested they weren't the best choice. I ended up booking Blackberry Cars. Their prices were cheaper for the London to the airbnb part. They were great to work with. We went back and forth several times. I had 5 trips I needed to book and I needed two cars for all but one of those trips. I had even planned a stop over on the way to the pier. That was 9 cars I was paying for. They allowed different prices for the people and luggage cars. I mean my suitcase doesn't need a Mercedes, right? And then our cruise got cancelled AGAIN. So after spending all this time, getting everything arranged AND paying for it through Paypal our cruise got cancelled. Insert heavy heavy frustrated sigh here. I have rebooked our cruise for 2022 but instead of leaving out of Southampton we will be doing a 21 day round trip from Barcelona. After the cruise we will fly to London for a week. I will most definitely be booking Blackberry Cars again. It will be the to/from but also the one day trip I had planned before.
  21. LOL - every time I read this I start to giggle.
  22. LOL - I know, I know .... and that is why I need an additional guide to tell the kids everything that I don't, which apparently is a lot. I think my knowledge was better when I was younger. You sometimes need to hold my right ear as you talk into my left ear so it doesn't go in one side and out the other. I remember when we were there before and yes, you could read all about it. But, that isn't the same as someone who is passionate (like you) who could describe the world back then. Explain what this and that is. Unlike you I haven't immersed myself in history which is why I need someone smarter. Say, you aren't available are you? 🙂 Seeing ruin after ruin will quickly just become another pile of rocks. I want them to look at the Colosseum and have their faces light up as they describe a typical day. Telling their friends how it was. I was able to sign them up for Gladiator School. It sounds like so much fun. They get to wear the clothes and they teach them how to fight and explain the history behind it. I even signed up my son who will be having his 54th birthday that day. HeeHee - Surprise!
  23. I haven't used them but I just put together a great tour with RomeInLimo and it is designed just for the kids. well, okay, we get to come to but I've designed it for them in mind. I have used RIL before and they are a superb tour company. My grandkids will be 10, 12, 13 and 16. I currently have 5 tours booked with them with the kids being the focus. I want them to learn and have fun. I mean kids can only look at so many pieces of rocks before they don't want to anymore. To give you an idea, after we do Pisa we are going to a medieval village to explore. Another tour we will hire a guide as well as the guide/driver (yes they are two separate things. the main driver/guide can't leave his vehicle while the guide can come with you as you tour). In Rome they will join us for the Coliseum so they can make the kids envision the chariot races. RIL had a great suggestion for the kids to do Gladiator school too. Once it gets closer we will book that for them too. Check out their website. They have tours just for kids on it.
  24. I'm also a RIL cheerleader. They are just awesome to work with. Jany - the office Goddess - is the best. I go back and forth several times until I get it perfect. The first time we used them for four separate days and all the tours were wonderful. This cruise I will be using them for several tours. It will be 7 of us including 4 kids 11, 13, 14 and 17. I want our tours to be wonderful for the kids. After all, there is no point taking the kids and having them miserable. I want them to have fun but learn. All the arrangements are made and ready to go. Today's suggestion is to go to Gladiator School. I can't speak more highly of any private tour guide/company we have ever used and I use private every port we go to. My only annoyance with them is that they don't go to all the Italian ports - like Genoa. You simply can't go wrong with them. Oh, we used them for transfers from the airport to the hotel. Our guy was standing there with our name as we left the airport. You simply can't go wrong and don't feel reluctant to ask for what you want.
  25. the problem with email where they auto fill in the sender, i only use the email address for Microsoft and never ever use it for anything else. I don't even have the account set up in my emails. I did learn lots and lots. Most of the ones being recommended are actually located in the Southampton area. the one I did find that was based in London and would work is Blackberry Cars. I finally bit the bullet and booked them two weeks ago. Just in time for the cruise to be cancelled. I had 6 separate bookings too. Their location was important as I wasn't going directly to/from the port but rather staying in London. Oh well. I have already rebooked for June 2021 and I will use them then, I also found out the two of the recommended companies are the same ownership so the same price. thank you everyone for the help though. Like I said, I will use them the following summer.
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