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tbae

Advice please: tips for port-intensive Itinerary & first time more than 7 days (12)

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Hello fellow travelers! We are going on the NCL Epic for the 12-Day Grand Mediterranean in Nov. out of Barcelona. We have been on 8 (I think) cruises before, mostly on NCL - but never more than 7-days. And never with the back-to-back port days we will have on this itinerary--our last 6 days are port after port. My husband is a go-go-goer on the ship wanting to maximize every moment - including late nights drinking, visiting and dancing! He has promised to curtail that (YKES! LOL) so we can really maximize our time in Italy especially. Any tips you have for managing the longer time on ship and the port intensive nature? I assume getting to bed early... any advice you can offer is much appreciated! 

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We did the 12-day Grand Med cruise a few years ago and enjoyed every moment. You will have so much fun! 🙂 My advice is to plan, plan, plan... we had the Rick Steves' Med Cruise book- and I stalked each of the port boards here on CC- which helped us to plan for each port. Figure out what you really want to do in each port- and know that you can't do it all.

 

We also took a few ports 'off'... we didn't plan to do much so that we could rest a bit in between some of the busier ports (e.g. we went to the beach in Toulon and took a relaxing NCL excursion in Civi because we had spent three days pre-cruise in Rome).

 

I booked private excursions with people on the Roll Call board, which allowed us to personalize and do a lot more each day. I was really glad that we did that.

 

Enjoy the planning (it's my favorite part!) and enjoy the cruise! 🙂

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Lucinaeri - many thanks! I am a planner, so that's good. 🙂 I like the notion of "taking a port off" - that may be just the thing. We were planning to book all our excursions through NCL, as we are super paranoid about not being back on time! LOL I know that is a bit more expensive, but worth the peace of mind. But here is a question, I have heard many of these ports, especially in Italy are extremely crowded and that smaller tours are the way to go. Do you kn ow if the NCL offerings are good in that regard--or should I maybe live "dangerously" (LOL) and look into private tours? 

Just now, Lucinarei said:

We did the 12-day Grand Med cruise a few years ago and enjoyed every moment. You will have so much fun! 🙂 My advice is to plan, plan, plan... we had the Rick Steves' Med Cruise book- and I stalked each of the port boards here on CC- which helped us to plan for each port. Figure out what you really want to do in each port- and know that you can't do it all.

 

We also took a few ports 'off'... we didn't plan to do much so that we could rest a bit in between some of the busier ports (e.g. we went to the beach in Toulon and took a relaxing NCL excursion in Civi because we had spent three days pre-cruise in Rome).

 

I booked private excursions with people on the Roll Call board, which allowed us to personalize and do a lot more each day. I was really glad that we did that.

 

Enjoy the planning (it's my favorite part!) and enjoy the cruise! 🙂

 

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5 minutes ago, tbae said:

Lucinaeri - many thanks! I am a planner, so that's good. 🙂 I like the notion of "taking a port off" - that may be just the thing. We were planning to book all our excursions through NCL, as we are super paranoid about not being back on time! LOL I know that is a bit more expensive, but worth the peace of mind. But here is a question, I have heard many of these ports, especially in Italy are extremely crowded and that smaller tours are the way to go. Do you kn ow if the NCL offerings are good in that regard--or should I maybe live "dangerously" (LOL) and look into private tours? 

 

We rarely take the ship tours, so I can't comment on them with any expertise, but I do know that we booked private tours in Kusadasi, Mykonos, Naples, and Livorno (and in Barcelona, but that was the last port, so we didn't have to make it back). They were all great and we got back to the ship with plenty of time in each port. We booked with companies that had good reputations and I was never worried that they wouldn't get us back in time.

 

The only ship excursion we took was in Civi and it was fine- but we did feel like sheep being herded around. But it was great for a low-key day, but I definitely preferred the private tours we did. Incidentally, we walked around on our own in Istanbul and Athens, so I'd recommend that as well in the easier ports. Definitely take a look at the port boards here on CC- there are great ideas and recommendations there.

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1 hour ago, tbae said:

Lucinaeri - many thanks! I am a planner, so that's good. 🙂 I like the notion of "taking a port off" - that may be just the thing. We were planning to book all our excursions through NCL, as we are super paranoid about not being back on time! LOL I know that is a bit more expensive, but worth the peace of mind. But here is a question, I have heard many of these ports, especially in Italy are extremely crowded and that smaller tours are the way to go. Do you kn ow if the NCL offerings are good in that regard--or should I maybe live "dangerously" (LOL) and look into private tours? 

 

 

To help with your peace of mind if you do live ‘dangerously’ by going with private tours or DIY Many of the European tour companies will guarantee to get you back to the ship on time.  But even without that, keep in mind that in the unlikely event that you miss the ship, getting to the next port in Europe is not necessarily difficult, perhaps a relatively short and inexpensive train ride. Even with the Greek islands it is much easier to get from one island to the next that what you might face if you missed the ship in the Caribbean.

 

Personally I love private and DIY in Europe, but whatever you decide for yourself no doubt you will have a fabulous time. Enjoy your cruise!

 

Rochelle

 

 

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Be sure to schedule "down" days, you will be exhausted.  You will also find that most people go to bed early on such port intensive itineraries.   Don't try and pack too much into sightseeing or trying to see "everything".   Pace yourself.

Booking private company tours is the way to go.  Have a look at the PORTS OF CALL board for Europe and you will get an idea of companies to use or how to do many places on your own. 

 

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Start your research now and find out what ports are diy ...Mykinos can easily be done on your own if that is one of them ...it makes it not so go go go if you can lazily get off the ship for a few of them ..you still get to see a new place without the rush ..

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We found that after such busy port days we were actually too tired to stay up late which is what we usually do on Caribbean cruises.  We took a 7 day Rome/Rome in 2015 and this October we are taking a 14 day from Rome.  Have fun planning - we used tours and not the cruiseline excursions and are doing the same again.  If you are on your roll call it can save $$ joining a tour with others 

As others have posted enjoy and don't take on so much that you can't enjoy...

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We have done many 10-12 night European cruises the last few years because I love port days. Lots of planning is involved to make it fit the experience that you want. We never miss going to a port even if it’s just a stroll down the Main Street or promenade. I’m in Europe to see sites and will save the cruising for North America. Because we’ve done it so many times, we typically don’t get off the ship till after 10 and get back to the port area at least a hour before all aboard. We generally choose 1 must see site and consider any extra as gravy.  We diy or use private excursions that meet our time requirements when ever possible. We have only booked ships excursions if the travel time to the site is over an hour. The only time we stay up past 11 is if the next day is a sea day. 

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We've done a 12 day cruise with 6 ports and a 15 day cruise with 9 ports (but late departure cut first port so it was 8).

 

Your intuition is right - and the other responses agree - later starts and earlier nights becomes the norm.  I tried to plan some ports to be a bit less energetic than others.  Also made sure fewer ports had do-it-yourself stress so we booked more ship tours than usual for us.  And don't underestimate the value of a nap!

 

Lastly, manage your sun exposure.  Hats, liquids, sunscreen, don't get sunburned.  If the sun gets to you it can ruin a few days.

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