Best Way to See Italy & Greece?

Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 07:51 AM
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Best Way to See Italy & Greece?

My husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in September 2017. We are looking to book a special trip to Italy and Greece. We have never been on a cruise before and have heard a lot of great things about them--both big cruise ships and river boat cruises. Any recommendations on the best way to see these two beautiful countries over a two-week period?

We realize we won't be able to see all of these places in two weeks but the most beautiful in Italy we would love to see are Venice, Rome, Naples, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Portofino, La Spezia, Sorrento and Positano. In Greece these would be at the top of the list: Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Parga, and Zakinthos. Any recommendations on how we can narrow the list or better yet, see all of them?

Many cruises I have looked at have cities on their itineraries which I am not interested in or ones that I want to see are missed altogether. Is it better to do a bus tour for say one country and do a cruise for the other?

Any ideas you might have would be most appreciated.

Thank you!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 08:11 AM
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>>>Venice, Rome, Naples, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Portofino, La Spezia, Sorrento and Positano. Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Parga, and Zakinthos <<<

This is quite a list and certainly impossible for two weeks. It is rather a program for three months. In any case, you have to skip at least two thirds of the destinations on your list. Travelling to Europe simply does not work like this - unless you are a millionaire and have a private helicopter.

There are two things what you can do:

1. You stay for one week in Italy with Rome, Naples and Amalfi Coast. Sorry, no time for Venice. Then you fly to Greece and stay for one week in Greece. I would suggest a few days in Athens, a trip to Delphi and a few days on the Peloponnese. No island.

2. You do an 11-day Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, e.g. with Royal Caribbean. They have a fantastic itinerary which includes Kusadasi/Ephesus (probably the best stop in the Eastern Med), Santorini and other good ports. You either start or end in Venice, so you have a few days left for Venice.

Sorry, but I don't see any other option that would work within your timeframe.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 08:51 AM
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The problem with ANY cruise in europe is that you are spending the bulk of your time on a boat and not IN europe.

River cruses are not a bad since they at least move slowly - but the areas you are interested in don't have appropriate rivers.

A Med cruise would be - for me - a total exercise in frustration - since you may end up with 6 hours or so in a city by the time you get there from the crus port (which may be a far distance) and then get back before the boat leaves.

The way to "see" the most (although a lot of the "seeing" will be drive by) is on a bus tour - but possibly the least pleasant way with very long days sitting on a bus.

IMHO the best way to see a few of these places is to plan your own trip. But if you have 14 days how can you possibly see 20 places?????

IMHO you need to pick 4 or 5 (at most) places and then see at least a little bit of each one.

But first you need:

A good map of europe to locate the places you want to see and the distances between them

To consult bahn.de for info on length of time for train trips between them (but you would have to fly from Italy to Greece if you try to see 2 places in each country)

Read a couple of good guide books. I suggest the Michelin green guides - since they rate sights by number of stars and also tell you how long it tales to see them (the Vatican takes the best part of day - not an hour; the Roman Forum is not30 minutes it's 3 hours)
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 08:58 AM
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Forget most bus tours - rushed, crowded, over scheduled, no more choices than a cruise.

It takes time to get from place to place, especially in the Greek Islands, fly and/or take ferries between - requires planning.

You already realize you can see only a few places, two or three in each of two countries or five or six in one country with day trips.

Two weeks in Italy and you could see a lot of what you want to see, easy using trains.

It is highly unlikely to find any cruise that does exactly the cities you want. No bus tour would either. Even on your own, you can't see all of exactly what you want.

What is important is your travel style and current needs. Both can be wonderful.

Advantage of cruises:
Unpack once, seeing many great places, easy and less planning, being on the water, usually good food, pools for evening, etc. Some ports are very close to major sights (Barcelona, Rhodes, etc.). Meeting people from all over the world. Great for seeing specific sights.

Disadvantage of cruises:
Not a lot of time in any one place - fine for seeing churches or a museum or archeological site, but little time to experience local culture, sitting in a plaza, having dinner, listening to music. Some ports are not close to major sights and takes time to get to them (i.e. Rome, Florence,) Some places do not have ports so you must be tendered. You have to pick from available itineraries.

Advantage of DIY:
Pick specifically what you want most with variety of options.
Long, leisurely evenings and dinners in your choice of places and restaurants.
Choose the amount of time you want in each place, museum, cafe.
Option to rent apartment, cook a bit, explore from one place and relaxing.
Making last minute plans for day trips, etc.

Disadvantage of DIY:
Moving around from place to place on trains or by car on your own.
More planning and research on your part, decisions to make, booking hotels, museums, transportation, etc. yourself, etc.
Carting your luggage from place to place.
Checking into and out of hotels can get tiring.

For lots of info on cruises, go to vacationstogo, cruisecritic.com and cruise.com.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 09:02 AM
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I don't think nytraveler has ever been on a cruise since she posts so much about how easily she gets sick in boats and buses, etc. I don't know why she is posting opinions about cruises if she's never been on one.

I don't know if you are familiar with the Cruise Critic message forum, but you might ask posters on that forum for some help. Most of those people have taken many cruises and know all the cruise companies.

I am thinking you might be able to find a cruise for Venice + Greece and then a different one that stops at many ports along the western Italian coast of the Mediterrnean. But I am not sure.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 09:07 AM
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Suggestion - this is rushed, but you seem to be OK with a crowded itinerary:

-- first week:

-- Rome 4 nights (4 days)

-- early morning train to Florence

-- Florence 1 night (the better part of one day and another half-day)

-- early evening train to Venice

-- Venice 2 nights (1.5 days)

-- late afternoon flight from Venice to Greece

--second week: Greece (I don't know enough about it to discuss transport between cities.)
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 09:11 AM
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I agree that Cruise Critic would be a good place to post your question.

Here at Fodor's, we also have a cruise forum. I would also try posting there.

Good luck!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 09:19 AM
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I have nothing against cruises, but have never taken one because that's not the way I like to travel. I suppose it's a good way to visit a number of different ports in a short space of time, and I have friends who really enjoyed their cruises.

Personally I like to spend at least a few nights in each place I visit, enabling me to get to know it better, and go out to restaurants in the evenings to sample the local cuisine.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 10:14 AM
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>>in Italy we would love to see are Venice, Rome, Naples, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Portofino, La Spezia, Sorrento and Positano.<<

That is two weeks by itself (and a fairly rushed two weeks at that)

>>In Greece these would be at the top of the list: Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Parga, and Zakinthos. << That plus a couple of days in Athens would be another two weeks.

So . . . either 1) take a four week trip, 2) do JUST Italy or JUST Greece, 3) cut your wish list waaaay back and do something like what ssander suggests, or 4) take a cruise which would be lovely but you won't be 'seeing' Italy or Greece, you'd be seeing several ports/islands for a few hours each.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 10:22 AM
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I have done DIY travel, a couple of bus tours and a few cruises in Europe and the Greek Islands. There are several people on the cruise forum who have much more experience than me, but I do get creative with combos of cruises and DIY, so looked up one idea for you, based on what experience I have and trying to find a way to see a lot of your wish list.

Looked for cruises with long stops in ports, none of the off at 8:00 back by noon kinds of things which is kind of nuts.
Looked for good ship and cruise company. I will go on just about any boat, but your first cruise should be chosen more carefully.
Looked for departure and end-of-cruise ports that are interesting and worth spending time on your own at each end of cruise.

Ship: Royal Princess. Large, beautiful nearly new ship, excellent food and service. I just finished a cruise on her sister ship, Regal. Just a tad big for my taste, and a couple of small design flaws, like location of elevators, IMHO, but no biggies really. Overall, a Fantastic ship, and great for first cruise.

Itinerary: 7 nights
Athens, departs afternoon
Kusadasi (Ephesus) all day, so you can tour several places
Santorini (Royal stays until 10:00 pm, a big advantage) all ships tender here.
Malta (no experience with port)
Messina (no experience with actual port, but love area)
Naples (Pompeii, Positano, Capri or Amalfi Coast)
Rome

Arrive in Athens two days early. See Athens on your own
Cruise
Stay two days in Rome after the cruise.
Train to Venice. Stay two days in Venice. Fly home.

Now, for a variety of ransoms, I have gotten off cruises early a few times. Yes, I lost the last night on ship and had the cost of a hotel instead, but it met our needs/wants.

In Naples, you could depart the ship and spend a couple of days on the Amalfi Coast, seeing Positano and Capri or Pompeii, then take the train to Rome. All you would actually lose is sleeping the last night on the ship, so a six night rather than seven night cruise. You would be getting up early the next morning anyway for the hour or so trip into Rome. You would still have the same amount of touring time. I would consider it since you would be near the AC and it might be some time before you could return.

Hope this gives you some ideas.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 10:26 AM
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For a variety of "reasons" though ransoms is kind of funny.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 10:37 AM
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If you decided to go to Greece for 2 weeks, you could fly from Athens to Mykonos or Santorini - stay a few days and then fly to Corfu via Athens and go to Igoumenista (1-1/2 hours by slow ferry) and then rent a car and drive to Parga.

If you were going to Parga, I would also suggest going to Meteora and Ioannina because both are very interesting. Parga is charming but very laid back and I would be bored if I stayed there more than 2 days. You could easily spend a week exploring Corfu. Corfu Town is very charming and there are local buses but some places are remote and you would need a car rental.

To get to Zynkathos you would need to drive down to Kylini and get the ferry across (very short trip). You can check ferries.gr for details.

Mykonos and Santorini are picture worthy but so touristy that the charm wears off fast. But every American wants to go but if you want to go to both islands, you would need to do that by ferry.

Don't sell Athens short either. The New Acropolis Museum is spectacular and there are lots of sight seeing opportunities including a great food tour.

Haven't been to Italy in a while but your list of places is easily a hurried two week trip for Italy alone.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 12:47 PM
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>> But every American wants to go <<

Sometimes, I really wonder where you get your advice from.

Mykonos would be the very last destination in Greece where I would go unless I would be gay and keen on partying.

There are so many places in Greece which are more beautiful and more interesting, but why do all the Americans want to go to these boring islands? Is is Rick Steves? Or hearsay? - I really would like to know, because EVERY American Fodorite has the same list of want-to-go-places while those who have been to Italy and Greece prefer other places.

Sorry, this is not meant as an insult. I am just curious.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 07:30 PM
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traveller1959, I went to Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes on my last trip. I had been to Santorini 20 years before and wanted to go just to take photos, which I did very successfully in two days, and I was delighted to leave then as I found the island unbearably touristy. I went to Mykonos <u>only</u> because it is the easiest jumping-off point for Delos. I went to Delos two of the three days I was there (water was too rough to go the first day). I was there in May and it was cold and unbelievably windy. I thought the old town was pretty, but then I was there out of high season and there were no cruise ships in port the first two days I was there, so I had it mostly to myself. Rhodes was my pick of the three. Spent five days there, could have spent two weeks.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2016, 10:29 PM
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<i>"Mykonos would be the very last destination in Greece where I would go unless I would be gay and keen on partying."</i>

I am neither of those, but still enjoyed my visits to Mykonos. Most of the partying goes on after midnight, and that's too late for me. At any rate, September is outside the party season. Like artsnletters, my main reason to visit Mykonos is for Delos, but love wandering around the beautiful chora too. There are some nice sandy beaches, my favourite being Agios Ioannis, featured in the Shirley Valentine film.

If there is a gay scene on Mykonos it isn't in your face. Mykonos has a normal Greek population with families who raise children. There is a large primary school right in the middle of Mykonos Town, between the harbour and Lakka Square.

It's unfair to stereotype Mykonos, because it gets all kinds of visitors, including university students on their spring breaks, cruise ship passengers, and families with young children. Many British and other Europeans fly into Mykonos as a base to visit other Cycladic islands.
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Old Mar 5th, 2016, 08:09 AM
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Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my questions. As you can see, we are not big travellers and have very limited knowledge on what can be accomplished in a two-week period. All of you have given us much food for thought and I truly appreciate that! A special thank you to sassafrass for even putting together a suggested itinerary!

I have joined Cruise Critic online and through Facebook. We live in a time where there is so much information available to us (sometimes overwhelmingly so!) but it's all good!

Thank you again. You have all given us much to talk about and new ideas to think about. I will post on the Cruises section as well.

<Mwah>
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Old Mar 5th, 2016, 09:27 AM
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Since you are looking at cruises, look at vacationstogo.

It is one of the easiest cruise websites to navigate. Don't look just at the 90 day ticker. Specify some particulars. If you find a ship you like, see all of the itineraries for it. If you see an itinerary you like, see what ships to do it. It also has photos and specs of all the ships.

Cruisecritic has reviews of every ship, itinerary, cabins, food, kids programs, ports, etc.

Compare times in port. Some are there only three or four hours. Look at stops that are at least 6-8 hours or more depending on the port.
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Old Mar 5th, 2016, 12:55 PM
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You have two posts going at once on the same topic. Perhaps you could ask moderators to remove the shorter one or cross reference so people are not confused by the posts.
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Old Mar 10th, 2016, 09:05 AM
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Topping
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Old Mar 10th, 2016, 09:59 AM
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I don't think lilmaple said she wanted to see <b>all</b> those places. She was just hoping to find a cruise that hit a good many.

My husband and I did a Mediterranean cruise once, similar to the one mentioned by Traveler1959. It was interesting, and Ephesus was really wonderful; Olympia, likewise. We enjoyed it, but I haven't much desire to do another cruise. (Maybe when I'm old and tottering.) There was too little time at most of the stops.
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