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Ships Tours or private guides from Mediterranean cruise stops?

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Message: I need opinions. We are 2 families with teens doing a Mediterranean cruise in summer with stops in Istanbul,Kurdasa, Cyprus,Alexandria,Athens, Civitivecchia (Rome)(spelling?), Naples,Villefranche,and disembarking in Barcelona. We want to make the most of sightseeing time in each port. The tours offered by the cruise line are obviously expensive. Are we better off paying up and doing the ships' tours or should we make prior arrangements with local tour guides and get minibuses in some places to take us on tour? If the latter is advised, whom do we trust????

I have seen recommendations for tourguides in Ephesus. I'd like to hear from those who have chosen this option.
My feelings are that in Alexandria, we are probably better off taking the ships tour.
Villefranche, we could probably do on our own and take public transport to Nice.
Any thoughts On those ideas and on the other tour stops.

I dont want to jeopardise sight-seeing for the sake of economy and also don't want to miss the boat in questionable ports.



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    Hi Lisa:
    We have cruised many times and done some of the stops you are doing. It's all a matter of opinion of course but in Civitavecchia for Rome just hop on the train into the city.Easy as anything and cheaper. Plan your route, what you want to see and take underground (subway) where you want to go. Just watch your bags etc and leave valuables onboard except what you need for the day.
    The problem with taking the ships tours is that they usually include things you don;t really need. After all that food on board having to sit down to lunch while on a coach tour when you could be wandering the sites was a frustration to me. I just wanted to be on my way. Also a drive past some of the spots you dreamed of walking around and actually visiting is aggravating. Granted you aren't going to see everything no matter if you take their tour or your own but at least on your own you can change plans if you see something you just can't leave.You can always go back to Europe. That's the fun of it, it pulls us back again and again.
    The trains back to the portfrom Rome were frequent when we went, so just make sure you have the train schedule and you should be fine. Just don't plan on too much on your own.
    Saying all that I feel that in some places where the ground transportation isn't as good as Rome you would be best to take the ships tours or go ahead and negotiate with a local guide. Just make sure you have the price up front, ensure it's for all of you and that it's there and back and for the time the driver spends waiting for you.Maybe arrange to pay half of the money at first and half at the end. Knowing which one to trust isn't always easy, but to tell you the truth I have never had a problem if we arranged all the things I just mentioned before getting in the cab.
    Some places you can just get off the ships tenders and wander. In Athens (Piraeus) we took a tram into the city then walked around. We had time to see the Parthenon and the shops below and wander the streets before heading back.
    Just remember it's very hot in some of these places and your pace might be slowed by this. Best to always have a large bottle of water with you, hats and lots of sunscreen.
    Barcelona just get off the ship, take a shuttle or taxi into town which isn't far away. Get off at the bottom of the Ramblas and walk it's length first. Your kids will love it. Then see what you want around the area.

    Have a great time.
    Regards,
    Lynn

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    If you want to go on your own, make sure you have plenty of time to get back to the ship. The ship will definately wait for a delayed excursion bus but not a taxi...
    Be very cautious about that in Istanbul as most taxi drivers there don't speak a word of English and have trouble understanding maps. Also in Rome make sure that there is no strike going on (very common). Besides, Civitacecchia is about 2 hours drive from Rome.
    Cyprus, depending on what you want to do and how much time you have at that port of call, you can either visit the capital, Nicosia (about an hour away) or go downtown (not very interesting) or visit the monuments around there (Currium etc). The last choice would be advisable.
    Barcelona, depending on where the ship docks, you might even find yourself right at the Rambla. Barcelona would be a good place to do a city tour with the ship's excursion. You get to see the Gothic square, Sagrada Famiglia, the view from Montjuic and the Spanish Village, stuff that you wouldn't manage to see on your own in such a little time and so thoroughly explained. If you stay there for more than half a day and the tour is half a day you can take a walk up and down Las Ramblas (beware of pickpockets there).
    The Ship's tours are a great way to get a good idea of the place you are visiting. Don't hesitate to ask the reception staff about tips on what to do at those places. The excursion staff will recommend the excursions, but the reception staff will tell you about the other possibilities you have. Most of the staff have been to those places countless times so they know the best tips.

    Have an awesome time in Europe

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    Lisa,

    The ship tours with large numbers of people can be a real expense. I know because I was the "tour organizer" for my family of 13 on three cruises. Read the offerings of the ships tours, and then ask yourself if that is what you want to do at each port. READ READ READ ahead of time, and look at maps to figure out the distances from the port to the sites (very important). Also once you are on the ship there will be lectures (and repeats shown on the in house TV) about what to see at each port. The cruise staff will also aprise you of the logistics at each port. I have little to no experience with most of the ports you list, but at all ports I have been to there is ALWAYS abundant taxis that are willing to drive you anywhere, and for much cheaper than the tour companies. These personal types of tour are very last minute and can be a real adventure!

    At Ephesus, I imagine there are tour guides waiting at the entrance, this is the way we handled the Parthanon (sp?) in Athens. We met a guide waiting at the entrance who showed our group around.
    In Alexandria, if you want to just go to the museum, then take a taxi there. It depends on what you want to see. It is a good idea to arrange for the taxi, to come back at a certain time to pick you up. They are more than willing as they want to get the fare.
    Lynn and Chryssa both gave very good advise, give your self plenty of time and remember the ships last boarding time (usually 30 minutes before departure), they change at each port.

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    There are tour guides at the gate of Ephesus but generally they are very fast and do not speak good english.]
    Beware it is better to arrange before with a guide of recommendations.
    Nejat Incedogan

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