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Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Secaucus, New Jersey
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Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Hi, We are going on a Meditarranean cruise on the Holland America crusie liner MS Rotterdam .. anyone have any experience about venturing on your own , take sightseeing tours form private companies and not the ones offered by the cruise liner. would love any advice.

Thanks

Urmi

Chatham, Ontario
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1. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Hi, Urmi - are you cruising out of Piraeus, Venice, Harwich or Lisbon? If you care to share the date of your sailing, posters here can comment on your exact itinerary (and private tours/operators they recommend!)

As a sweeping generalization, I wouldn't want to try to pick up a private tour at the dock. I'd want to research and pre-book. If you just take a taxi from your pier, you could be lucky, but are more likely to get a treatment than a treat.

The cost of some HAL (and every other cruise line) Med excursions can border on the ridiculous. So, the key advantage of a private tour is $$. However, in ports like Civitavecchia (Rome) and Piraeus (Athens) where the "real" destination is so far from the pier, you have to balance the savings against the very real risk of literally missing the boat.

Another risk of booking private excursions is when the ship changes its plans at the last moment - rearranging ports, altering times...very common. When you've booked with a private company, there's seldom a way to adapt plans at the last moment, or refund a "lost" tour.

Sometimes a private tour is the only way to get exactly what you want. If you're an art/archeological nut like me, you won't be caught dead on a Vatican tour that features a 90 minute wait for a 2 minute peep at the Sistine chapel - and nothing else.

Personally, I wouldn't book exclusively HAL, or exclusively private excursions, but a mix. Please post again for advice on specific ports/tours!

Escondido...
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2. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

We've been on 14 cruises and most always venture out on our own. Sometimes we use a private company, other times just take a cab to where we want to go. Although you can save a lot of money "freelancing", it's important to know that if you book through the cruiseline, you're guaranteed that the ship won't sail without you; not so if you're on your own.

Secaucus, New Jersey
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3. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Thanks. a lot guys.. we are saiiling out of Piraeus, Athens.. and head on to Kusadasi, Malta, Civitavecchia, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Cadiz and finally Lisbon. The cruise leaves on the 22nd and is a 10 day crusie

This is the first time I will be touring Europe using a cruise liner and hence am a bit apprehensive.. Also since my husband and I are taking my parents along with us I would like to pick tours which give us atleast some feel of the place.. esp the culture, history and archaeological aspects{ all 4 of us love anything ancient and are obsessed with historya and art } . We may go back to revisit these places but I dont think my parents will have a chance to go back [they live in India].. So I have to strike a balance between getting a moderate to reasonable feel of the above places while trying not get completely broke!!!.. which of course is not easy to say the least. More importantly I would like any help from you guys about the kind of excursions I should think of booking [either from the ship or private].

Any other tips as to what I should watch out for while on the cruise liner would be helpful. Thanks,

Urmi

Chatham, Ontario
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4. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

I'm more familiar with the east Med than the west, so I hope you have at least a day before your cruise in Athens. If you do nothing else you must see the Acropolis, and (unless one of you simply cannot handle the climb) go all the way up to see the Erechteum and Parthenon. The *new* Acropolis museum (nearby) won't be finished until next year, but the *old* Acropolis museum (on site) is tucked in a corner easy to miss, and full of amazing treasures. Also worth a visit in Athens itself is the National Archeological museum. Sit in or near Plateia Syntagma (Constitution Square) and drink a Greek coffee, walk the streets of the Plaka. If you're considering booking a tour out of town, I'd heartily recommend Delphi, or a trip to the Peloponnese: Epidaurus, Corinth, and Mycenae. I place Cape Sounion at the bottom of my list - very pretty, but not for a first or only visit.

At Kusadasi, I recommend a tour of Ephesus/terrace houses/museum and resist any side excursion shopping for carpets. I realize many Roman Catholics and some other Christians want to visit to the final resting place of Virgin Mary, but if you are not of that faith, I would spend my time elsewhere. You are in port 11 hours, which is plenty of time for Ephesus and (if you wish) Miletos as well.

I'll let someone more familiar with the West Med give you advice, there, except to say that although Civitavecchia is 90 minutes from Rome (75 minutes by train) you seem to have long enough in port to arrange a private tour.

Chatham, Ontario
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5. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Forgot to mention...try dining in the Pinnacle (extra charge) restaurant if you enjoy beef (or like the special for that night) and try the creme caramel for dessert.

Secaucus, New Jersey
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6. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Thanks Fannish, for all the great tips. Yes I do have a day and half in Athens before the cruise. We acttually reach Athens on friday evening and the cruise starts at 6pm on sunday.

So we definitely will be going to the Acropolis..

And where is Pinnacle? in Athens?

Thanks, Urmi..

PS: looking forward to more suggestions from the forum :)

Chatham, Ontario
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7. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Sorry - Pinnacle is the extra charge restaurant on the Rotterdam - $30 per person dinner extra charge, $10 for lunch

The regular dining room is just fine :-) but if you would like to try something different, it is quite good

Secaucus, New Jersey
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8. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Thanks Fannish for all the tips ...

we are actually thinking about taking a tour out of Civitavecchia ..plan to take the train to Rome and then take a tour out of there since my parents have already been to Rome.. any suggsetions?

Urmi

Surrey England
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9. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Hi there Urmi,

Valetta is so easy to do alone.You will sail right in to the Grand Harbour which is amazing.You can walk along the walls and get some great views.Then in minutes you are right in the town centre.Don't miss St.John's Co-Cathedral with its wonderful Caravaggio painting "The Beheading of St John the Baptist".You should also visit the Palace of The Grand Masters.Maybe start off with the audio visual show "The Malta Experience" which will give you all the history of the island.However, you do need to be fairly fit to explore some of Valetta as streets can be steep with many steps.The places I have mentioned as far as I remember are all on the flat (ish)

Hoe this is of some help

Chicago, IL
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10. Re: Venturing out on your own sightseeing when Cruise ship Docks

Sorry to add that we dined at the Pinnacle and were persuaded by the waiter to select the beef rather than fish which I thought we'd get while cruising the Pacific NW. While it was definately good we are from the midwest and can get good cuts of beef anytime. The prep was not anything spectacular either and it was paired with the usual baked potato and followed by a huge chocolate dessert. The amount of food was a big waste too. We were looking for a gourmet experience or at least approaching that and instead it was a meal for the gourmand. We DID have one spectacular appetizer on this cruise in the regular dining room and that was the salmon tartare. Other than that the food was strictly average cruise fare.