Posted July 27th, 2004, 02:55 PM
Just got back from the Celebrity Galaxy Eastern Med trip and wanted to pass along my evaluations of private guides we used:
Rome-We used Max Leotta. He arranged all of our airport transfers and gave us a great one-day tour of Ancient Rome. We used Max's driver Rinaldo for several days and he was great--a real gentleman who went out of his way to be helpful. He found out I was interested in ancient sites so on the way back from Civatevecchia we went to Tarquinia to see the Etruscan sites and then went to Rome's ancient port, Ostia, which made for a really interesting day. Then, the next day, Rinaldo took us to Hadrian's Villa, Villa D'Este (near Tivoli), and then to the catacombs. I highly recommend Max and Rinaldo. All transfers were reliable and efficiently arranged.
Naples-We used Gennaro at SorrentoLimo. Also a fantastic driver and great gentleman. We used him to do the Amalfi Coast drive and go to Herculaneum. We saw so much more than the ship's tours did and Gennaro made us a reservation at a restaurant in Ravello that must have the most beautiful view in the world. I highly recommend him and intend to use him in the future.
Santorini-There is a lot of talk on the board about not using a guide here and I agree that if you just want to see a little scenery and visit a few shops you probably don't need one. But if you are like me, and want to really see the island and its archaeological sites in detail, you will find them well worth the money. We used Nikos at Santorini.us (arranged for us by Markos and his wife Anna) and they also arranged for an archaeological guide named Katherina. Akrotiri is becoming one of the most important archaeological excavations in the world but it is a complicated, hard to visualize site and you might as well not even go see it if you are not with a competent guide.It was a fabulous day and Nikos said at the end that we had seen more in that one day than most people do in a week. We went to Akrotiri, Oia, climbed the mountain to Ancient Thera, visited the main museum, a winery and some Byzantine sites and generally hiked and drove all over the Island. The archaeological guide was really great and even my seven year old son loved the day. Nikos also brings his camera and takes pictures of your family all day and hands you a CD at the end with really great pictures on it. This is probably controversial but we really enjoyed our guided tour of Santorini and I think they are well worth the money if you want to really see the sites in a day.
Athens-We went with Spiros of Spiros Taxi service. We decided not to do Sounion and to instead concentrate on Athens. We saw so much I couldn't believe it, and Spiros also steered us to a great restaurant in the Plaka. We did the Acropolis, Byzantine Church, changing of the guard, Olympic Stadiums, temple of Zeus, Roman Forum, Greek Forum, and Archaeological Museum, all in one day. And the price of 200 Euros was the cheapest service we could find. I liked Spiros a lot and would definitely use him again.
We did not use private guides on Mykonos, Rhodes, Dubrovnik, or Taormina, but instead took the ship's tours. I did not see much value to the ship's tours on Dubrovnik or Taormina. Our guides on Mykonos and Rhodes was good and were probably worth the time and money. From what I could tell, a private guide would not have enabled us to see materially more. Thanks to everyone who helped us find and use these guides.