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Quality of Seabourn shore excursions - Mediterranean


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I usually book my own excursions or do my own thing when I am on cruises (or land vacations for that matter). Some of the excursions for our Italy/Greece/Turkey cruise look pretty good though. Can anyone comment on the quality of the shore excursions they have taken through Seabourn? Are they big or small tours usually? Are the guides decent?

 

The ports that I am specifically considering taking Seabourn excursions in are Syracuse, Crotone, Patmos and Cesme. For Syracuse I am also considering various Sicily tour operators if anyone has any recommendations.

 

Thanks for any feedback!

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We did 21 days on the Odyssey last July in the Mediterranean. Greece, Italy, Croatia. Only did Seabourn tours as they were moderately priced and didn’t leave too early. We took mostly am 4 to 5 hour tours. Doing the Encore in July, and will again use Seabourn . 

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We usually take Seabourn's tours and find them to be very good. The buses are seldom more than about 1/2 tp 3/4 full, and the guides are generally fine, although we have had some dullards. They are always well organized with very little waiting. I know this isn't very specific, but your enjoyment is so dependent on your fellow passengers, the weather, etc. In summary, unless you have some reason not to book Seabourn's tours, do it.

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1 hour ago, ibnoland said:

your enjoyment is so dependent on your fellow passengers

 

This is so true. We have had tours made or broken by others on the tour many times. We are generally glass half full people who enjoy just about anything, but obnoxious, overbearing or otherwise difficult tour group members are the worst.

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4 hours ago, lisa6191 said:

 

This is so true. We have had tours made or broken by others on the tour many times. We are generally glass half full people who enjoy just about anything, but obnoxious, overbearing or otherwise difficult tour group members are the worst.

We've never had a SB tour RUINED by fellow passengers but we have seen some things that would make your hair curl (passengers telling the guide they were ready to leave when other passengers were still enjoying their lunch, a passenger refusing to give the tour guide the front seat on a bus because HE wanted it).  But, we have enjoyed wonderful well informed tour guides and enjoyable fellow passengers.  We still book SB tours because, more often than not, they are quite good.  A FEW of them have been too large, but only a few.  

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It's the luck of the draw as to whether you have a fellow passenger who seems to ask silly questions, wants to be the "life of the party" or is just plain boorish and domineering. We have gotten OBC from Seabourn for terrible tours.  We have had the ship held until the tour arrives back.  In summary, the SB tours are interesting and safe, and that's the most important, and IMHO are worth the extra price of the tour.

Edited by cuddles115
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I definitely don't think we are any more likely to have a horrible tour-mate on Seabourn as opposed to any other tour. (other than a private one, which is mostly out of our budget.) I was more interested in how people have found the Seabourn-run tours to compare to other tours by independent operators or doing a port themselves. I would definitely do a ship tour if I had any timing concerns about getting back to the ship, but most of what I am looking at is half day tours.

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In Syracuse in July we did shopping with the Chef to an interesting little  market in the old part of town which we enjoyed for a couple of hours. Then we wandered through this old section including visiting an interesting Leonardo da Vinci Museum. 

 

Sorry I can't help with the others.

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Can only help with three of the ports.

 

Siracusa is a lovely little city, and you could do worse than walk around the town, and visit the market (where they may do Shopping with the Chef) and also the cathedral. Looks like standard Italian baroque outside, but once you get in, you realise it is a fully intact Greek temple, with the gaps between the columns filled in. However, the tours to the Greek and Roman theatre and the mines/caves are worth doing. Some way from the city, although you might find a taxi. Think some people reported favourably on the tours up into the small baroque towns in the hills.

 

Patmos only has a few things to do. We took the less strenuous trip to the  church of the Revelation. It was interesting. There is a more strenuous tour which also goes up to the monastery. My brother and friends managed to walk from ship to the church of the Revelation, but it was quite demanding a hike. 

 

In Cesme, the harbour is a long thin U shape. It is totally flat, so walkable. I can’t tell you anything about tours, as we merely meandered from ship around the harbour, as far as tha castle which houses a small museum with some nice objects and lovely views, and then meandered back, stopping a couple of times for beers. Sorry I can’t help you with tour insights. Can’t even remember what was offered, but we were very happy with a DIY day.

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I’d like to offer a different response to this question. We almost never do ship tours - especially in the Med. (and I don’t count Shopping with the Chef,, which we do always do, As a ship tour because that is not a tour you can book in advance).  I always do extensive research for each port so I have a good idea of what my options are. Depending on the result of that research we either DIY where we  wander around or book a private tour. And by private tour, I don’t mean a tour with other strangers - which I would call not a private tour but rather a non Seabourn tour. There are many  reasons we book private including  :1) you can control/create  the itinerary according to your interests and spend more or less time at each stop according to your whims, 2) you are not stuck with people who are “problematic”, and 3) you are not riding in a bus but rather in a comfortable car or minivan. Yes, I know many people are very concerned about missing the ship if they book a private tour but in 18 years with dozens and dozens of private tours I have never come even close to missing the ship. Is there a first time for everything? Of course.  It if you do your homework by developing a doable itinerary and picking a reputable tour guide you substantially minimize the risk. That said, I can appreciate how some people might feel out of there comfort zone booking a private tour in some of the more exotic parts of the world but the ports in the Med mentioned by the op don’t fall into this category. To my mind, this is one place where  by doing a little homework in advance you can come up with some great options in these ports whether you just decide to wander around on your own or book a private tour. 

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Thank you all so much for the feedback. While I would love to arrange private tours at all of our ports, this cruise is already stretching our budget so I don't think we will be able to do that, at least not in more than maybe one or two ports. I am looking at a private boat excursion in Corfu to Paxos and Antipaxos which looks amazing, so that will probably be one private tour. There are 8 ships in port the day we are in Corfu so that seemed like a good day to prioritize for a private tour.

 

Is shopping with the Chef something you won't know about until you get on board? We would love to do that. But if we've already booked an excursion for that day could we cancel it? If it's in Syracuse, that's our first port so we will definitely be past the cancellation window.

 

Has anyone gone to Mt. Etna? That's another thing we are considering in Syracuse. If we do that we would definitely do it with Seabourn since it's a very long day. I'm not sure if we want to do something that major the first day of the cruise though.

 

 

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I understand your concerns about the cost of a private tour. However, you can trade off and do a DIY in some ports and then book a private one in a few others. For instance Patmos, we walked to the monastery (yes, up a hill but if you are fit it really is not a big deal). We enjoyed a drink at a taverna up there and enjoyed the views before we then walked back down. 
 

As to Siracusa, we also went Shopping with the Chef and then wandered around the old town. We considered taking a taxi to see the ruins but so enjoyed our scenic walk that we de decided we would do that on a future visit there. As to Mt Etna, we did a private tour which included a hike on the east side of the volcano , a wander through some small hilltop towns and a visit to a winery  but we did this from Messina not Siracusa. And to answer your question about Shopping with the Chef it is not something you can book until a day or two before. In fact there is not even a guarantee that it will take place there or even at all on your cruise. It is announced in the Herald (the newspaper) a day or two before and is always fully booked very quickly. There is no charge for this excursion. And so no, if you booked a Seabourn tour you would not be able to cancel as the cutoff time for cancellation is usually more than two days prior to the tour. 
 

i have not been to Cesme (plan on going this September) but I will use a private guide I have used in that part of Turkey on  prior visit to that part of the country. 

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We have not yet been able to enjoy a shopping with the chef tour.  As Chairsin said, they are offered shortly before they happen, and the groups are small and fill up fast.  If you don't happen to find out about the tour at the moment it is offered, you may be out of luck.  So--don't count on it. 

 

I want to say that we have never been on a terrible ship's tour.  While there have bene irritating factors upon occasion, even that is fairly rare.  Read the descriptions carefully, understanding that "panoramic" means a sightseeing bus tour.   Even so, I totally enjoyed a few bus tours---to see things we would not have seen otherwise.  You will have fun no matter what.  

 

We have taken private tours and yes, they are often wonderful.  On one private tour, my girlfriend and I had to convince our husbands AND our tour guide that we COULD NOT do more more stop as we needed to be back at the ship.  We skipped that stop (it was during the stop at Ephesus etc) and made the ship.  Another couple on a private tour did not make the ship--and were left behind.  

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Look on your roll call.  There may be people looking for others to join private tours they have already organized.  We do this all the time and have never been disappointed. Plus, the per person cost is often much, much less than what you would pay for a Seabourn tour. Also, you may find people on board who are looking to add people to private tours they have already booked to cut costs.

 

Another option is that in a lot of ports, there are taxis waiting to take you to the same places a Seabourn tour will go and again, for a lot less and you will often have a more interesting day.  For example, in Montenegro, we spent a great day with a taxi driver, who at the end  of a comprehensive tour around the area, took us to his home and we drank wine on his balcony, enjoyed the view, and continued discussing local life, politics and customs.

 

If the destination is very far from the ship [e.g., Petra], or somewhere closer by but too complicated to get to [e.g., the non-Ephesus ruins outside of Kusadasi] we do take Seabourn tours and have generally been satisfied.  We had an awful Seabourn tour on our recent Miami-Santiago cruise [an itinerary I would not recommend], complained, and received a refund of half the cost of the tour. On our upcoming Australia cruise, we have booked a number of Seabourn tours, have joined  two tours another couple organized that sound fantastic, and will wonder on our own in a few ports.

 

Mediterranean ports are usually very easy to do on your own.  Also, Seabourn usually provides a shuttle to the center of town.

 

Have fun!

 

Linda

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Thank you Linda! I checked and there is no roll call for our cruise yet, I guess I will start one. It's not till October, so I may be a bit early. I have been checking the Royal Caribbean roll calls for similar ports just to get tour ideas.

 

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On 12/30/2019 at 9:50 PM, Chairsin said:

I understand your concerns about the cost of a private tour. However, you can trade off and do a DIY in some ports and then book a private one in a few others. For instance Patmos, we walked to the monastery (yes, up a hill but if you are fit it really is not a big deal). We enjoyed a drink at a taverna up there and enjoyed the views before we then walked back down. 
 

As to Siracusa, we also went Shopping with the Chef and then wandered around the old town. We considered taking a taxi to see the ruins but so enjoyed our scenic walk that we de decided we would do that on a future visit there. As to Mt Etna, we did a private tour which included a hike on the east side of the volcano , a wander through some small hilltop towns and a visit to a winery  but we did this from Messina not Siracusa. And to answer your question about Shopping with the Chef it is not something you can book until a day or two before. In fact there is not even a guarantee that it will take place there or even at all on your cruise. It is announced in the Herald (the newspaper) a day or two before and is always fully booked very quickly. There is no charge for this excursion. And so no, if you booked a Seabourn tour you would not be able to cancel as the cutoff time for cancellation is usually more than two days prior to the tour. 
 

i have not been to Cesme (plan on going this September) but I will use a private guide I have used in that part of Turkey on  prior visit to that part of the country. 

 

I would love to get the contact information for your private guide in Cesme as that will be one of our stops in October on Encore. I completely agree with your assessment of using privately guided tours.  2018 we did all private guided tours on a 12 nt Med cruise & our traveling companions (that normally go thru the ship) were so impressed with the quality of being only a group of 4! The cost many times is less than those tours for the cruise line & we've never even come close to missing a ship sailing!  TIA for your information! 

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4 minutes ago, texswamper said:

 

I would love to get the contact information for your private guide in Cesme as that will be one of our stops in October on Encore. I completely agree with your assessment of using privately guided tours.  2018 we did all private guided tours on a 12 nt Med cruise & our traveling companions (that normally go thru the ship) were so impressed with the quality of being only a group of 4! The cost many times is less than those tours for the cruise line & we've never even come close to missing a ship sailing!  TIA for your information! 

 

Which cruise are you on? We are on the Encore 10-night Valletta to Athens, 10/10-10/20. Are you on the same one?

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41 minutes ago, texswamper said:

 

Encore 10/3-10/20  Rome to Athens   🙂

 

So this is my first time on Seabourn. As far as I can tell, there is a 7-night Rome to Valletta and a 10-night Valletta to Athens, and then they combine the two for the 17-night that you are on? So you will already be on the ship when we get on in Valletta? That's interesting. I wonder if you will have to disembark in Valletta and go through embarkation again? Not that you wouldn't get off in Valletta anyway, but I just wonder if it is treated as a B2B or as one cruise.

 

Anyway, I'm glad to find someone else on our cruise! I started a roll call for the Valletta to Athens portion. Not sure how roll calls are handled when there are separate segments like that. Hopefully we can help each other with port touring  plans. The one thing I am already trying to work out is a cruise to Paxos and Antipaxos blue caves when we are in Corfu. There will be 8 ships in port that day so I think it would be good to get out of the main area for at least part of the day.

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12 minutes ago, lisa6191 said:

 

So this is my first time on Seabourn. As far as I can tell, there is a 7-night Rome to Valletta and a 10-night Valletta to Athens, and then they combine the two for the 17-night that you are on? So you will already be on the ship when we get on in Valletta? That's interesting. I wonder if you will have to disembark in Valletta and go through embarkation again? Not that you wouldn't get off in Valletta anyway, but I just wonder if it is treated as a B2B or as one cruise.

 

Anyway, I'm glad to find someone else on our cruise! I started a roll call for the Valletta to Athens portion. Not sure how roll calls are handled when there are separate segments like that. Hopefully we can help each other with port touring  plans. The one thing I am already trying to work out is a cruise to Paxos and Antipaxos blue caves when we are in Corfu. There will be 8 ships in port that day so I think it would be good to get out of the main area for at least part of the day.

 

Our first Seabourn cruise as well.  Our itinerary was on their website as a 17 night cruise, so I'm not anticipating having to do anything during the 17 days lol.  Certainly haven't heard anything from Seabourn to that effect.

 

 I hadn't yet checked on how many ships would be in port at all of our stops but I can't believe there's 8 in Corfu!  That sounds terrible and I agree that getting out of the city area will be best.  I will definitely look for private tour for that stop!  I used to join roll calls years ago but I must say that I haven't done so in over 10 years.  We are looking forward to trying Seabourn!  

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28 minutes ago, texswamper said:

I hadn't yet checked on how many ships would be in port at all of our stops but I can't believe there's 8 in Corfu!

 

I didn't believe it at first either - I checked several calendar sites just to be sure LOL. I don't even know where they will put 8 ships! But Corfu is the only troublesome port, at least on our segment of the cruise. Most of the other ports have just us, or maybe 1 or occasionally 2 other ships. I think Corfu is the only port we will need to take crowds into account.

 

 

Edited by lisa6191
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