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About cruisemom42

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  1. I find Athens quite easy to do on your own. There are very good options from the port in Piraeus including a HOHO bus, dedicated express bus, and the metro. A taxi into Athens is about 25 euro and well worth it if you want to get to the Acropolis early, ahead of the crowds. Yes, tour guides are available at the gate -- I have generally seen a few waiting near the ticket kiosk, but of course it is luck of the draw. Most of the licensed guides are very good (may even be too much detail for some, but I enjoy a thorough grounding). They have a fixed rate -- you can opt to pay it all and have a private tour or wait until the guide can gather a small group, making it less expensive per person. Getting around the rest of the historic area is quite easy on foot; many of the streets are pedestrianized and there is good signage. I highly recommend visiting the Greek and Roman agoras, in addition to the Acropolis, also the theatre of Dionysus if not included in your tour. The Acropolis museum (located at the foot of the acropolis) is very modern and an excellent complement to the other sites. More unsolicited advice: I find the changing of the guard to be no big deal unless you are there on a Sunday morning when they put on more of a show. Do make time to see the Temple of Jupiter, the scale of it is incredible. The Panathenaic stadium is also pretty if you are into Olympic history. The little museum in the Greek agora is lovely; I really enjoyed seeing the pottery shards (ostraka) that were used to ostracize political leaders, even the most famous were not immune (like Pericles). And it gives a great background on how democracy worked in action in ancient Greece. Finally, the temple of Hephaistos (at the far end of the Greek agora) is amazing and far more complete than the Parthenon.
  2. Souda is sort of a low-key port. I've enjoyed (well, relatively enjoyed -- I normally like stops where there is more history/ruins to explore) just exploring Chania. It's a small place, I cannot see need for a tour. Easy to find eateries if that's your desire, some pretty cafes with seating open to the Venetian harbor are a good place to start. Don't miss the small but interesting Archaeological Museum located in what was a Turkish-style hammam (baths). Fun shopping too, there are still some real artisans such as leather workers, and the covered market near where the shuttles/buses drop off and pick up has some interesting food items although the crafts are mostly mass manufactured.... Med cruises can be intense; sometimes it is good to have a day that is more low-key to recharge the batteries. On the other hand, having been to Chania three times, on my upcoming cruise in October I am looking at a tour that goes to Aptera (Greek/Roman/Byzantine ruins) and also visits a couple of old towns, presumably atmospheric.
  3. Scotland tends to have some of its best weather in August and September, and the days are reasonably long. I think the fall foliage is beautiful in September. Spring isn't bad either, particularly early to mid-May -- the weather is fresh and there are fewer tourists than the summer months. May is also fantastic in Ireland -- very lush and green, with lots of wildflowers.
  4. I'd look at it in a different way: look for itineraries that you like first, then at the ship. I'm not sure any ships do itineraries that are JUST Italy, so you will probably have some additional ports, either on the eastern side (Greece, Croatia) or Western (France, Spain). Also, keep in mind that Italy really isn't best seen on a cruise. While Venice and Naples are pretty easy, Rome and Florence are each more than an hour away from their respective closest ports. And some of the best experiences in Italy are being there in the evenings, to eat at a local trattoria, enjoy the evening atmosphere when many of the 'daytripper' tourists have gone... Have you considered a land trip, either on your own or via a tour?
  5. Thanks for the extra details --- much appreciated!
  6. November is going to be far less crowded than the peak season, which increases the likelihood of being able to find a seat at Garibaldi. But a lot of the folks who ride these trains are local commuters, so the trains are rarely empty. And they can be absolutely packed during high season. Once, returning from Pompeii in May it was not just standing room only but we were packed in like sardines!
  7. Yes, ferries to Sorrento leave from the same place. It is quite easy. For me, I'd wait until the day to buy tickets UNLESS you are looking at a particularly tight timeframe from the time your ship arrives to when the ferry departs. You can see the ferry schedules online (for example: https://www.naplesbayferry.com/en/t/napoli/sorrento) but just remember this is the off-season schedule and more routes will be added in April.
  8. It's possible, but I would recommend choosing one rather than trying to do two. Capri has a lot of variety -- there are areas for nice walks (including up to the Villa Jovis, the ruins of a Roman villa, for great views), shopping, a chair lift, good food, and of course the Blue Grotto if you wish. My sister and BIL made the mistake of going to Capri in the morning and then heading to Sorrento. They found quite a few shops in Sorrento closed in the afternoon for the "siesta" -- sometimes not reopening until 3pm or later.
  9. If you are willing to walk a bit or utilize public transportation to a certain extent, AND/OR if you are going to be using the train to get to the port, consider looking at hotels around the Termini (main train station) area. Prices are more reasonable and it's safe, although not the prettiest part of Rome. You're more likely to find something in your desired range. It's a little less convenient, walking-wise, but you can take the metro a couple of stops to the Colosseum, take a different line to the Vatican; it's pretty easy. There are a number of recommended hotels around Termini that are more reasonable. I have liked Hotel Una (great included breakfasts and very convenient to Termini) but have also stayed in Hotel Sonya. Hotel Canada is also often recommended. For reasonable prices in a more central area you might try Hotel Smeraldo or Hotel Navona (both near Piazza Navona/Campo dei Fiori -- but neither are very large. If you need five rooms, you might also try contacting the hotel directly -- they may give you a slightly better rate if you're booking multiple rooms. For example, try Albergo Santa Chiara.
  10. I have met with other CC'ers off-line and not on a cruise. I've also traveled with persons I've met on CC (not on a roll call but through other boards); not cruise travel but land travel.
  11. Quite a number of people do this, judging by reports I've read here. It's not difficult to arrange, just understanding that most Europe-bound Trans-Atlantics are in the Spring and most western-bound are in the Fall, due to cruising seasons. A lot of people will take the TA to Europe (which has a number of sea days and relatively few ports usually) then may even stay aboard for the following cruise. Or the opposite case -- they board for the next-to-last cruise of the European cruising season and then take the TA back. A number of folks have expressed a preference for the west-bound trips due to the fact that you are gaining an extra hour most nights as the time zones change. (The opposite is true, obviously for the east-bound trips). Also, if you've been intensively touring, you may enjoying the relaxing cruise back home even more. That wouldn't be enough to deter me from an east-bound trip, however....
  12. Give us an idea of what "reasonable" means for you -- Rome is expensive. And what area do you want to be in? Do you like being in the center of things when you step out the door? Do you want peace and quiet and an out-of-the-way location? Also -- do all 5 couples need to stay together? If so, you definitely need to think about reserving soon as a number of interesting and well liked hotels are not huge...
  13. As a solo traveler, that's interesting (and good) news. How do you reserve for additional nights via sharing a table (or do you just show up and hope)? What's the process?
  14. Q: How many cruise passengers monitor Cruise Critic? A: 42 (You're welcome.)
  15. How much of a relationship does one need or want with the wait staff? I could understand this if one had strict dietary guidelines to be followed, or a special diet, but for most people? I do not want my waiter to have a drink waiting for me, as I often drink different things depending on the dinner menu, on how I feel, on whether I've already been having a cocktail, etc. I'm not particularly in a rush, so I don't need to have my meal expedited. I would hope, if I have a question about the menu, any waiter would be well versed to provide the needed answer. Most wait staff these days seem to have so many tables to take care of that I feel guilty stopping one and having a conversation in the midst of his duties anyway.... Regarding dinner timing: I work until 6pm (and sometimes later) and have a commute home that is more or less an hour. So -- there are many nights when I am eating at 8pm.
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