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Private Guides-Rome, Naples, Santorini and Athens

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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.

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I forgot to mention that the service in Rome used a minivan to transport us to Civatavecchia. That came in handy because of our large and heavy luggage. I am going to remember to request a large vehicle for all transfers from now on.

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Can you share with me how I can get in touch with the private drivers that you used in these ports and also approximately how much each one cost? We have not used private guides in the past but are thinking about giving it a try on our cruise in 5/05. Thanks for your help.

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We used Salvatore in Naples (Pompeii and Amalfi coast) and I can't say enough good about the experience. We also had a wonderful view in a restaurant in Ravello with great food and great prices. We loved the private service and the fact on those narrow step roads I can't imagine being in a tour bus. In addition, if anyone gets car sick definitely do the private tour because you have a little more control and can see where you are going. Salvatore's address is driveamalft@hotmail.com I can't remember the price but he coordinates if others join and we had four others and the cost was less than 100 euros a piece.

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As I understand it, the board rules provide that we are not supposed to post the website addresses for these companies. because too many commercial firms are trying to do that as free advertising, but you can get in touch with all of the people I described at their websites which any good search engine will produce (e.g., Spiros has an Athens Taxi website and Gennaro has a SorrentoLimo website). The prices are in the process of changing so you would need to get current quotes from all of these people but a day of touring will range from a low of about 200 Euros (for Spiros in Athens) to a high of around 400 Euros (for a full day of touring around Rome with Max Leotta or his drivers). The prices sounded high to me until I started calculating what we would pay for the ship's tours as a family of 3 and then also took into account the fact that in places like Athens we ended up doing the equivalent of 2-3x what the ship's tours were doing. Also, on Santorini we came home with more than 60 photographs of our family courtesy of Nikos, and they were far superior to the photos we were routinely buying on board the ship for $20 a piece. So, in touring as in everything else, you get what you pay for and I felt the money was well worth it for each of the guides we used.

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Thanks for the tip on finding them. I will spend some time online and am sure I will be able to come up with the contact info. I agree with you about the price. Also, another advantage would be not having to be on a bus and being on your own schedule rather than someone elses. Thanks again.

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We used Giovanni Lerusce in Naples and had a wonderful day. He is a great driver, which is important when driving on those winding roads. He took us to places with such fantastic views, that it will be a day that my family will always remember. His e-mail is giovanni.lerusce@tin.it We went to Pompeii, Positano and Amalfi.

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I agree. Of all the places we toured in the Med I think the Amalfi coast was probably the most important place to have a good private tour guide. You can see a lot of things that way, like the Emerald Grotto, that you wouldn't get to see in a bus. Plus, some of the buses can't even stop in some of the most charming and interesting of the small towns. They can't even get up the roads into some of the neat places. So, if you are only going to go for one private guide on your Med trip I would definitely say that the Amalfi Coast drive is the place to do it. I was just looking at the pictures today and the scenery is just almost unbelievable. Makes me want to go again.

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We did the Amalfi Drive on our Med cruise in May. It definitely was some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever experienced. I wasn't planning on doing it again on our 05 Cruise, but maybe I should put more thought into it if the driver can take us to places that we didn't get to see on the bus, such as the Emerald Grotto. I've not heard of that. What exactly is it? Also, we weren't able to stop in Amalfi because there was no where to park a bus. It looked like quite an interesting little town to spend a while in. Maybe the driver would be able to stop there too. Hmmmm.....more to ponder.

Shirley

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Emerald Grotto is a cave. You go down an elevator from the main road and then go into the cave at sea level. You go around the cave in a small boat and it is pretty dark except for the beautiful glow coming up from a hole in the wall where the light comes up through the water and illuminates the cave. Really pretty. Just a brief stop. Takes about 30 minutes to see.

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Another thing that you can do with a private guide is go to Ravello, a beautiful hilltop town with some of the most fabulous views of the entire coast. You can take about a 15 minute walk to the Villa Cimbrone, which has some marvelous gardens and views. A photographeer's dream.

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We have a scheduled tour in Naples with Salvatore from driveamalphi and driverinrome for Rome and Florence. Will these drivers escort you into the church or museum and explain things as you walk or do they stay in the car the whole time. We are trying to find out if the ships tour would be more indepth because sometimes they send a guide into the place of interest.

If anyone has insight on this I would appreciate it. Thanks

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The drivers do not go into the churches or sites with you. They generally tell you about them before you get there. Most churches don't allow guides to lecture inside anyway.

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There are not many churches to visit on the Amalfi Coast (St Andrews Cathedral in Amalfi,the Cathedral in Ravello,the chuch of St Maria Assunta in Positano) it is more of a driving and scenic tour and is a where private tours come into their own with the narrow roads and lack of parking for limiting access for large tour buses.

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In Athens four of us used Paul at *****. He speaks excellent English and is probably the only adult male in Greece who doesn't smoke! (He said there was one other.) You travel comfortably in a new Mercedes.

 

He will offer suggestions or you can design your own day-long itinerary. He's very friendly and easy to get along with.

 

We spent the morning seeing the ancient sites in and around Athens. After a quick lunch, we headed to Cape Sounion. It was a wonderful day.

 

For our stop at Kusadasi we used Meander Travel. Excellent guide and driver in a new Audi. Since we'd been to Ephesus before, we went to the three ancient cities. Loved it!

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we will be travelling as a group of around 40 in july/05 in the meds - does anybody know if i will be able to find nice and dependable private buses for private tours? should anything go wrong with any of these arrangements, i shall have 39 people on my back!

 

thanx:confused:

 

grand princess 13/7/05

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I just want to say what a wonderful experience Salvatore Lucibella provided for my group and myself when our ship visited Naples. The tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi coast were far beyond our expectations. I found Ravello to be very nice but, the Amalfi coast tour has been the best shore excursion we could have taken. The restaurant Ristorante-Pizzeria S. Giovanni provided a wonderful afternoon lunch at a very resonable price, service was great and I thank Drive Amalfi Company for doing such a good job. The views were breathtaking and we will remember them always. Our driver and tour guide Roberto added a very special touch to this experience. I would strongly encourage using this tour company you can contact them at:p ***** you will have the best experience of you life in Naples.

 

Thanks:D KNC

Voyager of the Seas 9/19/07

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I just want to say what a wonderful experience Salvatore Lucibella provided for my group and myself when our ship visited Naples. The tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi coast were far beyond our expectations. I found Ravello to be very nice but, the Amalfi coast tour has been the best shore excursion we could have taken. The restaurant Ristorante-Pizzeria S. Giovanni provided a wonderful afternoon lunch at a very resonable price, service was great and I thank Drive Amalfi Company for doing such a good job. The views were breathtaking and we will remember them always. Our driver and tour guide Roberto added a very special touch to this experience. I would strongly encourage using this tour company you can contact them at:p ***** you will have the best experience of you life in Naples.

 

Thanks:D KNC

Voyager of the Seas 9/19/07

 

 

Thanks for the great recommendation. I have booked Salvatore as well. I was curious about the restaurant they always take you to. Many thanks. Maria

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We have just returned from 10.09.07 Millennium out of Barcelona. We did a combination of ships and private. I got all my info from these boards and I truely have to say private tours for us was the way to go. If we return to the Med I would do private for most and on our own for the others. I suggest you start by talking on this board and your roll call board. Most of those spoken of on here are either great or excellent. We used Dream Tours - Nice, Spiros - Athens and Naples -Marcello, we had drivers from each of these companies and I would give them a rating of 98%. One mistake we made was not getting a private quide at Pompeii site its self, or even better leave Pompeii until another visit to do it justice and just do Amalfi. Enjoy, its such an exciting time, each day seems to be better. :D

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We used Spiros - Athens Taxi - he was wonderful. I would definitely recommend him! We used Marcello in Naples and he arranged for us to have a guide in Pompeii. If you do go to Pompeii, use a guide. It is better to have one arranged in advance, but there are guides usually available outside.

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I'll add my voice to the votes for a private tour. We've reseached them and used them in several cities we where we really wanted to see as much as we could in a short span of time (Rome and St. Petersburg). We used driverinrome for Rome and the service was excellent. They have "plants" at the sites that radio in with information on the lines etc. so we never really stood in line. Saw everything we wanted to see and still had a little free time to shop (or rather drool into shop windows!) and eat ice cream.

 

A.

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I'll add my voice to the votes for a private tour. We've reseached them and used them in several cities we where we really wanted to see as much as we could in a short span of time (Rome and St. Petersburg). We used driverinrome for Rome and the service was excellent. They have "plants" at the sites that radio in with information on the lines etc. so we never really stood in line. Saw everything we wanted to see and still had a little free time to shop (or rather drool into shop windows!) and eat ice cream.

 

A.

Did you actually have a guide in Rome or do they just drop you off at the main sites? Were you taken to the front of lines? (since you didn't stand in line). Was looking at their websight and couldn't tell if they had a driver plus a guide. How far in advance did you book with them? We are going in October, 2008. Any ideas will be appreciated. Thanks for your input.

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Did you actually have a guide in Rome or do they just drop you off at the main sites? Were you taken to the front of lines? (since you didn't stand in line). Was looking at their websight and couldn't tell if they had a driver plus a guide. How far in advance did you book with them? We are going in October, 2008. Any ideas will be appreciated. Thanks for your input.

 

We did have a guide in Rome, but they do drop you at the main sites -- they don't come in, but they do tell you a ton of info about what you are going to see as you are going from one site to the next. They drop you near whatever entrance you will use and tell you where you'll exit and where they will meet you. The driver and the guide are one and the same - though they do have some drivers who are NOT guides -- when you hire them to just take you somewhere (ie: to pick you up at the pier and take you to Florence) you will only get a driver. I understand that some will provide some info on the way, but don't count on it. I think we booked about 6 months or so in advance. If you can, request Daniele or his father or one of the other guides that folks here mention by name. And tell them you heard about them on Cruise Critic. I think that probably goes for all of the guides -- they know how many people monitor these boards and how many referrals they get this way.

 

As to the lines, they timed it so we really never saw one. Going into the Vatican Museum, we could tell they were prepared for long lines, but there was no one waiting ahead of us. I would feel incredibly uncomfortable with a guide who somehow got us in ahead when lots of others were waiting -- and never had to experience that. I don't know if our experience was typical or unusual --- my sense is that it's typical for them... and I would think in October the crowds would be smaller. We were there in mid-July.

 

Have a great time!

 

A.

 

PS -- Daniele is really cute! Plus he spent his early years in Canada and speaks perfect English with a yummy Italian accent.

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We also used driveamalfi (website) for our excursion from our ship. We had emailed several other drivers, and although several seemed OK, Salvatore's professional and organized replies to us as well as responses on the boards by other people who had used his service really gave us the confidence to select him. We were not disappointed. Salvatore sent Roberto as our driver and he was amazing. His English is excellent and his driving is cautious along the steep narrow roads. He actually lives in the town of Amalfi and has a wealth of knowledge about the coast. He made suggestions as to how we could spend our time effectively, but was always flexible and never pushy. We have wonderful photos and memories of the spectacular coast and can't wait to go back. We managed to see everything that we had hoped for and even arrived back to the ship in time!

Ciao, 180743

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The amalfi coast private tour sounds wonderful. Can you get a private driver for 3 people or do they add people to your tour? I don't care either way. What are the sites to see on this tour? What can you expect to do in the time alotted? Can I see Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello and Pompeii? which would you eliminate and which are the "must sees"?

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One more question. I am very apprehensive about getting from the airport to a hotel in Rome and then getting from the hotel to the port and from the port to the airport. Would it be possible to use a private driver to do this as well as give us a tour in Rome? Would the price be astonomical for 3 of us or do they pick up others to lower the price? Has anyone done this or have you used different travel arrangements for the tour of Rome? Are there any other easy ways to do this without me feeling so anxious and not spending a fortune?

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We are just back from Galaxy and used Francesco Marapese (his full name plus dot com is his website -- very entertaining site). He was excellent at customizing a day to fit all our needs. We arrived at 7 am but needed time for ship's clearance. We met him at 8 am. Ship sailed at 6 pm, but we (two) needed to be back by about 4:30, since we had early dinner seating (at 6). We didn't get as far as Amalfi or up to Rafello, but we had a wonderful tour of the Amalfi Drive, Positano, and Sorrento (with lunch right on the water). Had enough time for just under 2 hours at Pompei. There four of us used an audio guide I purchased at audible.com. It's called iJourneys, and we found them excellent. Also purchased and used for Coliseum and Forum and Pantheon areas in Rome. At audible.com they are only about $10 each; work on any iPod or MP3 player.

 

Heartily recommend Francesco. Great English. Compfortable Mercedes minivan for up to 6. (He also quotes for 4; not sure price for 3.)Very personable and humorous (also, girls, handsome!).

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C-breeze, if you use Salvatore from driveamalfi the places you named are exactly where you will go only he will take you to the heart of these beautifull towns and to see personal places and local restuarants. We were fortunate to request Salvatore and did get him as a guide. He was fabulouse, freindly, courteous and a gentleman. He knew how to get around the traffic so the time in the vehicle was all quality. As far as only three on the tour thats no problem but you will pay the same or almost the same as for six or eight. When we were booking our trip I asked on CC if anyone else would like to share this experience and did get a couple to share one one trip and a family on another. This made the price much more reasonable and actually made some good friends and it was much more fun. Good luck but if I were you I would make a reservation asap! Chow!!!

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Can you share with me how I can get in touch with the private drivers that you used in these ports and also approximately how much each one cost? We have not used private guides in the past but are thinking about giving it a try on our cruise in 5/05. Thanks for your help.

 

Just make sure he is the real deal. Nikos gave us a stand in who couldn't speak English. He took us all around the island, but without any conversation except a few words in English and talking on the phone constantly. His Mercedes was an antiquated dinosaur, not the new one he promised. Very, very sad day for the four of us! I even wrote the real Nikos and he promised to check in to it, but didn't! He just pulled a fast one on us!!!:eek:

Edited by YouGo Girl

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