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What was your most memorable independent/DIY experience in port?


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I asked a question about best port tours and some posters replied with some unique experiences they did independently without any organised tour or guide so I thought it would be interesting to make a topic on independent/DIY experiences cruisers have had a port. What would be your most memorable experience you had at port that didn't involve a tour? It could be something you organised yourself, something you stumbled upon on your wanders or maybe just wandering around itself. I would love to hear your stories 🤗

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Ours was on our first D.I.Y. in Europe in Athens we got off the ship early walked to the train got off at the stop for the Parthenon .We were so early the streets empty and all the tourist shops were closed and boarded up ,we got lost in a very nice park somehow walked through some woods and the entrance was right at our feet. Paid our 11 euros and had the whole place to ourselves (except for some loose dogs) for an hour or so . Then all the tour groups from our ship and others showed up and in a few minutes it was a nut house(an amazing one) . We left walked the same way, everything was open ,had a great lunch did some shopping and made our way back to the ship. It was a great day we have D.I.Y.ed  many ports since . One more thing about the Parthenon it is great to look at but the view from there of the city is one of the things I will never forget.

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Many experiences come to mind but here are a few favorites:

 

Livorno:  A travel mate and I left the ship early and walked out of the port (small ship was parked close enough that we were allowed), got a taxi to the train station and got to Florence. Once there, we walked to the nearby bus depot and took a local bus to Fiesole to see the Roman and Etruscan ruins and museum there. It was a gray, rainy day -- so much so that we had to put our cameras and our notes in plastic bags to keep them getting ruined -- but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless and felt a real sense of accomplishment on our return.

 

Naples:  I've been many times to both Pompeii and Herculaneum on my own via the local train. But another, equally easy to reach site that blew me away is just one stop from Pompeii and is called Oplontis. It is a huge villa in remarkable condition with the most fantastic in situ frescoes I've ever seen anywhere. There is an excellent map and guide in English at the ticket window, but I came with my own, more extensive notes and had a wonderful day. I had grabbed a sandwich on my walk to the site and had an impromptu picnic in the garden (which is in the process of being replanted based on research into what was originally there).

 

When I have more time I have more to share...

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It was pre-cruise in London but I took a number of sites from TV shows and movies my sister watches and mapped them out.  Then created a whole day of getting to these places on the underground.  I didn't tell her so she was surprised to get to see a Dr. Who blue police box, the house where Sherlock Holmes "lived" and other sites.  We rode on a canal boat and then went to the Camden market.  It was a great day.  

 

While on the cruise we had planned to go to the Tattoo in Edinburg using the ship's tour.  The ship docked in Greenock about 2 hours away and they took you to Edinburg on buses.  Except I didn't get online to book the tour before they were all sold out.  OK, plan B.  I bought tickets for the Tattoo directly from the Tattoo website.  Then researched how to get there and back.  Going there we took a train and coming back I hired a private car since I was afraid we would miss the ship by having to go all the way back to the train station during such a crowded time.  It worked out perfectly and actually cost less than two tickets purchased from the cruise line would have.  

 

I don't mind a good ship's tour and have also hired independant tour guides which have always been good.  Sometimes we just wing it, walking into the town and maybe checking out something we read about.  But, generally those DIY days are my favorite.  

 

 

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Probably my best independent experience was in Auckland. A small group of us chartered a small plane and flew down to Rotorua. Arranged for a driver/guide to pick us up and take us around Rotorua for the day.

 

Back to the airport, flew back to Auckland and sailed for Sydney that evening. Brilliant day.

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Posted (edited)

Iguazu Falls.   Flew up for two nights from BA.   Made our own air/hotel arrangements.  Very easy, very straightforward to do.  Stored most of bags in our BA hotel.

 

We almost did not go. So glad we did.  It was the highlight of a combined land and SA cruise.

Edited by iancal
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I've had a couple of great DIY days in Istanbul, after my first visit there on a cruise ship was a disaster due to taking one of the ship's tours....

 

Once I hopped on the tram and headed over the bridge to the Sultanahmet area where most of the historic sites are grouped. I spent a lovely few hours in the Archaeological Museum, then visited the remains of the Imperial Palace nearer to the southern tip (only a small portion can be visited but has some fantastic mosaics).  Finally I had lunch at a favorite restaurant overlooking the old Roman "circus" and then went to Haghia Sofia to see all the parts I had missed (to my extreme irritation and chagrin) on my first visit which didn't even arrive at this site until after dark and did not even allow us time to go upstairs and see the mosaics there...

 

On another day, a friend and I had mapped out a route through the city that took us to some scattered remains of Istanbul's "Roman" past, including the Valens aqueduct with its giant arches marching through the city, the old city walls, Chora church, and the Column of Constantine. We walked and used the tram to get around from place to place.

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8 hours ago, iancal said:

Iguazu Falls.   Flew up for two nights from BA.   Made our own air/hotel arrangements.  Very easy, very straightforward to do.  Stored most of bags in our BA hotel.

 

We almost did not go. So glad we did.  It was the highlight of a combined land and SA cruise.

Iguassu Falls was our favorite DIY tour too.  Absolutely spectacular scenery. 

 

I found it very easy to make reservation in advance for the hotel (2 nights) and the flights.  Drivers were arranged through our hotel once we were on site. 

 

We flew in from and back to Rio de Janiero following a Los Angeles to Rio cruise.  We stored our bags at the Rio airport.  When we returned to Rio we picked them up and went to check-in for our flight back to the States. 

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1997 we did a Baltic cruise, when we got to Gdansk Poland, negotiated with a taxi driver in the port to take us to old town,  we had a very nice time, we did not speak much Polish and driver not much English but we managed to communicate.  He was very proud to show us some sites along the way, stopped at a couple of Catholic Churches along the way, since Pope John had just visited his home country.  We visited the old town of Gdansk for a couple of hours on our own and then had the driver pick us up and we stopped for lunch with the driver before returning to the ship.   We returned to the ship feeling relaxed and recognizing that we had a very pleasant time with this total stranger.  Connecting with locals is what travel is all about. 

 

We have had other experiences on independent trips that did not involve a cruise, that come to mind.  Once in Paris, while on a local bus, driver mentioned to my DH he really loves western cowboy boots - my DH asked what size he wore, because we had a pair in our luggage.  We arranged to meet the driver at a later time and sold him the boots for a small amount, they were brand new.  Driver was so happy.   Another time we were walking through a street market in Haifa Israel, a vendor commented on the cologne my DH wore, my DH had a sample of the cologne in his pocket which he gave the vendor.   You would think we gave him a million dollars.   Once we were in Cabo  in Mexico, we saw a young women with 2 small kids she was trying to sell some bracelets.  My DH gave one of the kids some money.  The mother had the older child go buy some water.  Experiences like this make travel real and down to earth experiences. 

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I could list about twenty superb DIY experiences but here's a few:

- taking day trip on a train from Gdansk to Malbork, the largest castle in the world

- a bus trip to Zakopane (mountain village in Poland

- a group of CCs taking train from Dover England to Canterbury

- a group of CCs on a van to Granada in Spain

- a group of CCs on a 3 day excursion around Israel (went back to ship each evening)

- a group of CCs on a day trip to Ephesus

- a group of CCs who visited a three hour church service in Suva Fiji (we were their honored guests- I made the arrangement before the cruise)

- hired a taxi driver on another island in Fiji- he invited us after the trip to his home for tea and desserts.

- But my favorite is a private excursion to Hobbiton, the Hobbit movie set in New Zealand. It was like being in a fairytale.

 

Hobbiton Mark and Donna at Door.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Another favorite of ours was spending a few days post cruise in Cappadocia, Turkey.  Fascinating trip. Easy to organize.  

Edited by iancal
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I've also had a number of "independent" experiences in Rome either before or after a cruise:

 

I've studied Italian for the past 6 years and have learned enough to be able to take "regular" tours given in Italian. I have to say that I really enjoy the ingenuity and tenacity that is sometimes needed in order to be able to figure out the right contact or website, make reservations, and get to the right place. The coopculture website provides some interesting opportunities. Through them I was able to actually get INSIDE the pyramid-shaped Roman tomb near the train station at Ostiense (there are frescoes inside!), as well as inside both of the temples at the Forum Boarium - the Temple of Hercules (the round one) and the Temple of Portunus.

 

The Pyramid in Rome: Restored, Clean and Now Open - Revealed Rome

 

 

Temple of Hercules Victor and Temple of Portunus located in the Forum  Boarium, Rome.: ancientrome

 

 

Probably the most satisfying planning odyssey was making arrangements to tour the usually off-limits areas of the catacombs of San Sebastiano in order to see recently discovered/published Roman tombs there. For the "cost" of a long correspondence (in Italian) and a small fee, a friend and I were able to take a two-hour tour WITH the archaeologist who actually published the find for a very modest fee. 

 

Another good website when looking for archaeological or ancient sites in Rome -- what to see beyond the "basics" -- is this one. The number and variety of opportunities around Rome and environs is practically endless:

 

Archaeological heritage / Cultural heritage / Culture and leisure - 060608.it

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Totally unplanned - on one of my pre-cruise days in Istanbul we went to the spice market and then decided to wander across the bridge to Galata - where we accidently found the lower station on the Tunel line - the oldest subway on the continent of Europe (circa 1875) -- taking it up to Pera (the heart of the old European Quarter) we stopped at the Pera Palace Hotel - where Agatha Christie did some of her writing, and was where travellers on the Orient Express stayed before boarding the train.  A tangential slice of Istanbul, but a memorable unplanned day.

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Nothing as exotic as what others have posted. We hope to go overseas at some point after we retire but one thing we did on our own was take the public bus in Antigua to Nelson's Dockyard. We walked to the bus station and the bus is more like an oversized van and found the right bus. Enjoyed the drive over as people got on and off for work and school. My husband ended up on a jump seat! We were at Nelson's early and were able to wander around, do the museum and talk with both boat owners and people setting up for an event. When we were ready to leave we just waited for the bus to come around again- and the large buses from the port were just showing up.

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A visit to George Town (Penang, Malaysia) where we walked through the city and discovered the wonderful and fun street art.

Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.

 

Fascinating Street Art in George Town, Penang

 

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44 minutes ago, hallasm said:

A visit to George Town (Penang, Malaysia) where we walked through the city and discovered the wonderful and fun street art.

Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 by the Penang Municipal Council to create a street art project in Georgetown called ‘Mirrors George Town‘ which consisted of painting several large scale murals in different location of the old town.

 

Fascinating Street Art in George Town, Penang

 

 

I find it very enjoyable seeing a place while on a quest like this.  If it can be as part of a self guided walking tour, so much the better.  

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1 hour ago, ldubs said:

I find it very enjoyable seeing a place while on a quest like this.  If it can be as part of a self guided walking tour, so much the better.  

Yes, It was a self guide walk - found the route at the web. Very enjoyable.

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A very early in my cruising experiences was a day trip from Copenhagen to Odense to visit the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.  We traveled by Danish Rail, my first experience traveling on a European train.  It was a delightful day and found that DIY trips are not that difficult to do.  

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LOVED LOVED LOVED day we spent in Orvieto. Rented a car in Civitavechia and drove there. Best day ever and best pasta carbonara ever. Had spent time in Rome previously so was so grateful that we chose to do this.

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I have been holding off on answering this topic because I have a terrible memory for specific excursions. I know I always loved doing excursions with our kids and seeing them enjoy themselves.

The one excursion I can remember was a couple of years ago at St. Thomas, that was a walking and food tour. My wife booked it as just something to do and it was cheap, $30-$40 pp. It was a lot of fun and the guide was fantastic. I believe there were only four other folks with us, very relaxing.

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OK, now that I am home, let me get this on the right thread. It was our very first cruise, very first port, and who knew what was ahead for us. The port gave you access to Cannes, Monaco, or Nice. We did the latter.

 

DW is both an art teacher and an avid swimmer. We went to the Matisse and Chagall Museum. Afterwards she swam in the Mediterranean. Our future as cruise passengers was off to a great start. This was in 2002, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

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Some other easy DIY days that I have done in ports or during pre- or post-cruise stays. I usually do these things without a guide but armed with a good guidebook or a lengthy set of notes to get the most out of it.

 

  • From Rome:  Took local train and bus to Tivoli, to Hadrian's villa (with another CCer!)
  • From Rome:  Took local train to Prima Porta to visit remains of the villa of Empress Livia (wife of Augustus)
  • From Rome:  Used local metro and bus to get to the old Appian Way (on a Sunday) and walked it for some distance including visiting the two Roman villas situated along it.
  • From Naples:  Took the ferry to Capri (several times), took the Circumvesuviana to Herculaneum, Pompeii and Oplontis on various visits (not all the same one)
  • From Athens:  Took a local taxi to Elefsis (Eleusis), site of the ancient Eleusinian mysteries -- very interesting (and uncrowded) ruins and a small museum
  • From Barcelona:  Took the local train to Tarragona to visit the Roman sites there.
  • Crete:  Arranged with a local taxi to take us to Gortyna (Greco-Roman site) and Phaistos (remarkable Cretan palace similar to Knossos but not ruined by one man's silly fantasy of how it "should" look...)

...and many other, lesser-known "off-piste" places of interest only to advanced Roman history buffs -- in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Turkey, Israel and even in Egypt and Tunisia (where I walked INSIDE a Roman aqueduct!)

 

 

 

 

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