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AvisonNewbee

First time - Shore excursions??

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Hey all!

 

My fiancee and I booked our first cruise for our honeymoon in May and I am having a difficult time with booking shore excursions. The ones offered by the ship seemed to be VERY expensive (especially in Rome!!) so I am looking for suggestions on what might be worth the money vs. cheaper alternatives.

We are sailing with Royal Caribbean and these are our ports:

- Leaving from Barcelona (we have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

- Cannes (Monte Carlo), France

- Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy *** here is where I am having the most trouble. We would like to go to the colliseum and the Vatican, and there are tours not offered by the cruiseline that offer 'skip the line' so that you can see both attractions, but no way to get from the ship to Rome, and the ones offered by the cruiseline provide transportation but no 'skip the line' option and therefore we won't have time to see both I don't expect.

- Amalfi Coast (Salerno), Italy

- Catania (Sicily), Italy

- Zadar, Croatia

- Ending in Venice (we also have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

 

Thanks so much!!

 

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First, have you joined the Roll Call for your cruise. There is one for nearly every cruise and it lets you get together with people sailing with you. Some people may be organizing tours to some of the highlights.

Second, the cruise line excursions are expensive. However, Rome is a good ride from Civitavecchia,  so you will have trouble finding an inexpensive tour there.

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45 minutes ago, AvisonNewbee said:

Hey all!

 

My fiancee and I booked our first cruise for our honeymoon in May and I am having a difficult time with booking shore excursions. The ones offered by the ship seemed to be VERY expensive (especially in Rome!!) so I am looking for suggestions on what might be worth the money vs. cheaper alternatives.

We are sailing with Royal Caribbean and these are our ports:

- Leaving from Barcelona (we have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

- Cannes (Monte Carlo), France

- Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy *** here is where I am having the most trouble. We would like to go to the colliseum and the Vatican, and there are tours not offered by the cruiseline that offer 'skip the line' so that you can see both attractions, but no way to get from the ship to Rome, and the ones offered by the cruiseline provide transportation but no 'skip the line' option and therefore we won't have time to see both I don't expect.

- Amalfi Coast (Salerno), Italy

- Catania (Sicily), Italy

- Zadar, Croatia

- Ending in Venice (we also have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

 

Thanks so much!!

 

"The Med" is usually a standard set of itineraries where choice of start/end ports are extremely important. IMO, if it's a first visit to Rome, that should be your start/end port with a minimum of three days land touring. Had you chosen that route, your Rome hotel could arrange a private transfer and guide (often at a price below internet outfits).

 

Whatever you do, you need to understand that 9/11 and other terrorist events have changed a lot regarding Roman antiquities. For the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum in particular, the "no cut" security line BEFORE the line to get inside may easily exceed 1 hour.

 

In addition, the Vatican really needs at least a half day of your time and IMO is best done with a well respected licensed guide and private tour. The Colosseum is worthwhile. But, since you're going to Sicily, an excursion from Catania to Taormina, where you can wander through the similar Roman theater there, may take care of your need for "gladiators.". Check out "Sicily with Mario" (great guide at a great price). 

 

Given your existing commitment, your best bet may be to "bite the bullet" and go with a full day ship sponsored Rome tour that includes transport, Vatican, etc.

Edited by Flatbush Flyer

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Flatbush flyer, thanks for the information.\

We have already booked the cruise, so I don't quite understand why you are talking about starting and ending in Rome, we specifically chose against this as we wanted smaller/quieter cities to stay an extra day in.

 

The issue I have with 'biting the bullet' and going with the cruiseline tours is we will not get to go INTO anything - in the fineprint it says if the line to get in is longer than 45 minutes, instead of going in we just look at it from the outside, which I think is a huge waste of $1000.

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12 minutes ago, AvisonNewbee said:

Flatbush flyer, thanks for the information.\

We have already booked the cruise, so I don't quite understand why you are talking about starting and ending in Rome, we specifically chose against this as we wanted smaller/quieter cities to stay an extra day in.

 

The issue I have with 'biting the bullet' and going with the cruiseline tours is we will not get to go INTO anything - in the fineprint it says if the line to get in is longer than 45 minutes, instead of going in we just look at it from the outside, which I think is a huge waste of $1000.

Yes, I understand that you've already booked a cruise. My comment extends to a suggestion for "next time." Also, recognize that not all cruise lines' excursion programs are created equal. Like the passenger load, some ships may have far smaller groups on their tours and that saves considerable logistical time. 

In any case, another possibility might be to connect with whatever Italian cultural center may be near your home. Many of them offer travel packages to Italy and might be able to provide you with contact info for a driver and licensed guide to handle your custom Rome tour. 

But, again, in this day and age, trying to mix Vatican, Colosseum and other Roman antiquities plus to/from ship transfer in the high season is wishful thinking.

BTW, Barcelona is far from smaller/quieter.

Edited by Flatbush Flyer

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I have answered the Rome question on many occasions with the statement that trying to do both Ancient Rome, the colosseum, the Palatine hill, etc. and the Vatican in the same day will leave you unsatisfied on both counts.  Pick one of the two for emphasis and add a few other sites nearby to fill the day.  Leave the other for a future visit.  My personal choice would be the ancient ruins but either works and your own interests should dictate.  Once that decision is made you can look at a variety of options for Civitavecchia to Rome, including OYO by train.  

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I HIGHLY recommend using Italy Tour Sharing for your stops in Italy. We used them for three of ours this past spring and they were fantastic. Better prices, smaller groups, and more personalized service than what you will get with the ship’s excursions that will be packed with people on huge tour buses. 

 

https://italytoursharing.com/

 

As for your one day in Barcelona, my recommendation would be the Sagrada Familia. Even if you are not religious (we are not), the place is phenomenal from an architectural and artistic standpoint. You can easily do this and Park Guell in one day. Or, you could venture out of Barcelona to Monserrat, which is more of an all day place to visit. 

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Posted (edited)

Rome

Buy Colosseum tickets in advance over the internet to avoid horrendous lines, but I don't think there's any way to cut into the line for security. It's a 3-site ticket, Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. You certainly won't have time for Palatine Hill but mebbe for a quick recce of the Forum - it's across the road fro the Colosseum & normally no line.

 

For a decent chance to see both Vatican and Colosseum for sensible money, take the train to Rome. Free shuttle to port gate, shuttle (nominal cost) from port gate to station, then train to Rome (about an hour, about €12 return).

Which way round to do it will depend on your beat-the-line tour timing and/or which of the two you are most keen to visit - this for Colosseum first (just reverse it for Vatican first)..........

Get off the train at Ostiense, follow the signs for the adjacent Piramide metro station (metro - and buses - are free with your rail ticket) & take the blue line in the direction of Corca D'Oro or Rebibbia. for two stops to Colosseo.

https://freetoursbyfoot.com/use-rome-metro-bus-services/

From Colosseum go to the Vatican - various means, but taxi is quickest.

From Vatican it's a 15 minute walk to San Pietro station for the train back to Civi.

 

I have no doubts that you'll have time to see both, but whether you'll have the time for a proper tour of both is more debatable, hence my advice to visit your primary choice first.

Go armed with return train times from San Pietro (or Ostiense), and a wise cruiser will aim to take the second-from-last train back.

Trains will be packed, you'll probably have to stand, you'll certainly have to stand if you take the train back from San Pietro. But everyone manages to squeeze on.

 

Barcelona

Barcelona also suffers from lines, for the excellent ho-ho buses and especially for Sagrada Familia.

Consider those two plus a walk down Las Ramblas

 

Cannes (Monte Carlo)

Not sure which of those you actually port at. But you can take the half-hourly coastal train between the two. You might actually port at Villefranche, a tender port between the two - and on that same train line. I'd be inclined to visit Monte Carlo, others (eg Hank :classic_tongue:) will disagree.

 

Salerno.

I suggest along the coast by ferry as far as Amalfi - or Positano if timings work out - then for a different perspective the bus back to Salerno along the high coastal road with panoramic views. 

Or the other way round depending on ferry and bus timings. 

Walking down from the bus stop on the high coast road to Positano harbour is a lot easier than walking up from harbour to bus stop, but timings may not allow you the choice.

In Amalfi the road runs alongside the harbour.

 

Zadar

I don't know the town.

Sibenik and Krka Nat Park are about an hour away, tho' I personally don't rate either. 

Split is a little under two hours away, but if you can manage it I reckon it worthwhile. It might be on the ship's excursion offerings.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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On 12/31/2018 at 11:04 AM, AvisonNewbee said:

Hey all!

 

My fiancee and I booked our first cruise for our honeymoon in May and I am having a difficult time with booking shore excursions. The ones offered by the ship seemed to be VERY expensive (especially in Rome!!) so I am looking for suggestions on what might be worth the money vs. cheaper alternatives.

We are sailing with Royal Caribbean and these are our ports:

- Leaving from Barcelona (we have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

- Cannes (Monte Carlo), France

- Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy *** here is where I am having the most trouble. We would like to go to the colliseum and the Vatican, and there are tours not offered by the cruiseline that offer 'skip the line' so that you can see both attractions, but no way to get from the ship to Rome, and the ones offered by the cruiseline provide transportation but no 'skip the line' option and therefore we won't have time to see both I don't expect.

- Amalfi Coast (Salerno), Italy

- Catania (Sicily), Italy

- Zadar, Croatia

- Ending in Venice (we also have a free day here if suggestions for things to do here)

 

Thanks so much!!

 

 

There is a port of call section for CC. Go there and look up your ports you will find many recommendations for private guides that are much less expensive and a much better value than you will find from the cruise lines.

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Welcome to Cruise Critic and CONGRATULATIONS!

Yes, it can be overwhelming,…first your wedding, now you have to plan for your honeymoon…as they say, planning is part of the fun.

 

Here’s a few of our personal experiences…all DIY…lots of walking but we lost all the calories.

 

Barcelona: We got around by using the metro/subway.  Purchased the ticket in front of one of the metro entrances. T10 ticket good for 10 rides.  We were able to easily visit a few places in one day…Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, some of Gaudi’s buildings, and a long walk through Las Ramblas.

 

Cannes (Monte Carlo): Not sure exactly where your ship will stop but these towns, (Cannes, St. Tropez, Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo) are short train rides apart.  When we tendered into Nice, we first enjoyed a leisurely walk around the beachfront area.  We then walked up the train station and it took us approximately 15 minutes to get to Monaco/Monte Carlo.  The views were breathtaking.

 

Civitavecchia: We purchased the BIRG ticket good for roundtrip train ticket from Civi to Rome and trains/subway in Rome…very convenient).  The Civitavecchia train station is a short walk from the cruise terminal. Find your correct platform, validate your ticket before boarding.  It can take approximately an hour to get to Rome depending on the train you take (many stops versus express)…but enjoy the wonderful scenery.

We usually get off at San Pietro station.  Outside the station, simply look up and you’ll see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica…walk that way.  (Note: To realistically visit the Vatican Museum, you’ll need at least half a day to a full day.)  Our DIY walking tour starts here.  We visit St. Peter’s square and inside the basilica. We walk across the Tiber River via Castel Sant Angelo and our second stop is Piazza Navona.  Then to the Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain. 

From the Trevi Fountain,  we take the subway to the Colosseum and the nearby Forum.  We walked leisurely and took time for a quick snack, gelato, or cappuccino…But please be very careful of your time and make sure you make it back to the ship on time.  Note: If this is your first time in Rome, this will be just a “taste”…you can spend a week in Rome and not see everything.

 

Venice: From the cruise terminal, we took the people mover to Piazzale Roma…perhaps a 5 minute ride.  From Piazzale Roma, we simply walked to all the sights and didn’t even mind getting lost.  Another option is to take the water taxi.

Congratulations again and happy sailing! :classic_smile:

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The problem is, EVERYONE wants to see those same things.  So the lines are long.  And Rome is NOT close to the actual port.

 

The ship is in port for X hours.  Take out the time to get off the ship and together, travel to Rome, travel back from Rome, and get in the ship before it leaves.   


That leaves you with a limited amount of time to see things in Rome.  Add in long lines.......

 

Maybe just bite the bullet, go to Rome, wander around and enjoy it, and plan to come back when you can spend some time to SEE Rome.

 

Personally, I have no desire to do a Med cruise for this reason.  Most of the stops are good for a week or more.  And you will have a few hours.  Just not enough time to see and enjoy them.

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I would not go to Rome with only a few hours on site. If I were forced to do such a quickie visit, I would spend the time wandering around the area near the Trevi, the Pantheon (a really fine gelato shop close by), Spanish steps. Maybe go into a few of the larger churches, all with magnificent artwork. Then go back to Rome when you can spend 3-4 days, at least. Meanwhile, from Civitavechia, there are excursions to some nice hill towns, gives you a more rounded view of Italy. From Zadar there are some reachable parks with nice waterfalls etc (no personal experience with this option). May not be doable if your time in port is short. It is a nice town to just go walk around and explore.

Stan

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1.  JOIN your roll call !! Since you are embarking on the "off" day you might have to join the one that starts in Rome for your sailing.  Find out if there are people who are looking to fill private tours ....these will be a lot cheaper than anything the cruise line is offering and you'll have a small group and have more time to see the sights.

 

2.  Be sure to visit the PORTS OF CALL boards here on CC for EUROPE you can get all kinds of advice on what to see how to do things DIY and how to use public transportation.  

 

Another thing to be aware of is that this is a very port intensive cruise.  Try to schedule at least one day for a 'relax day' where you can stay on the ship or stay near the port to have some down time so you are not worn out by the end of the cruise.

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Rome is a challenge to see in a short time so, as others have advised, decide what is most important to you and focus on that.  My last trip to Rome was also in May and it was very crowded.  We were herded through the Vatican and Sistine Chapel.  I got some great photos but did not really enjoy it, my husband hated it.  The Trevi fountain was also mobbed but a couple of blocks away the streets were much quieter and we enjoyed the walk to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona (my favorite spot in Rome).  The Forum and Colosseum were not as impacted, impressive and much more enjoyable.

walks you can do yourself:  https://www.rometoolkit.com/walks/trevi_to_navona_walk.html

For examples of shore excursions see Viator.com.  Not endorsing but it will give you info that might be helpful.  You can also search for "driver guide Civitavecchia to Rome.

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Barcelona - you can pre-book Ho-HO tickets online, a whole round trip takes about 90 minutes if i remember right. You can get off at Sargada Familgia (again pre book tx on-line) and Gaudi's house.  It gives a good overview. 

 

Rome i would agree with other posters to leave it for when you have more time there and concentrate on a walk covering Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon and if time go to the Il Vittoriano monument(big white typewriter/wedding cake) the views from the roof are spectacular.

hth

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Look for independent tour operators in each of the ports. They are usually less expensive than the ship and can take you the same places - and you aren't crammed in with 30-40 other people. The groups are usually a lot smaller. It's well worth it. And all of the good independent operators will get you back to your ship on time. Their jobs depend on keeping travelers happy, and if you miss your ship, you won't be happy 🙂  Trip advisor always has some pretty solid reviews on each of the tour groups. 

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just a note. ALWAYS book a shore excursion either with your travel agent or the cruise line only. If with the travel agent you usually get a discount on some of the excursions. make sure the cruise line accepts. If for some reason you are delayed past the time for final boarding delayed, they will hold the ship for your return. Otherwise you are our of luck. Worth the extra money. If you decide to do it on you own. make sure you have your passport if you miss the ship.

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1)  They will not necessarily hold the ship for you.  They will get you to the next port to rejoin the ship.

 

2)  Some 3rd party tour operators provide the same service.

 

3)  Very seldom do 3rd party tours get back late.  They would not have any customers if they did.

 

MANY people book 3rd party tours without incident every year.  But yes, some people are happier with only booking ship excursions.  But they can be a good bit higher price, for the same tour.

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First of all, I am going to disagree with twodaywonder about only booking through the ship or your travel agent.  I generally book my own tours directly.  First of all, go to the Ports of Call section, and you can get some good ideas there.  Read a bunch and get the general drift, do not just go by one comment.

 

Do not worry about missing the ship, the tour operators know the ships' schedules better than the cruise lines almost, and they never miss a departure -- their livelihoods depend on it.  You can find what you want to do, then go to the Roll Call for your cruise and find some other people to join you.  Private tours are quite expensive if there are just two of you, but with six or so, they become extremely affordable, and you can add and subtract things that they have on the list of things to do.

 

In Barcelona, there is a good HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) bus service that will give you a quick tour.  Other than that, do not miss the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi cathedral) under any circumstance.  I am not a big one on visiting churches, but this one is incredible.  There are some other great art museums in Barcelona, depending on your time availability.

 

In Monte Carlo, we booked Sylvie DiCristo, who is a fantastic guide.  She took us all of the way to Nice and back and found a couple of very quaint little towns to see along the way. 

 

You don't say how much time you have in Rome.  If it is just one day, you are going to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth.  If you do have a whole day available, we used astheromansdo.com for two and a half days, and they were beyond fantastic.  Alan Epstein used to be the guide for them, but passed away a couple of years ago.  His son is doing it now, and the depth of knowledge, and the depth of explanations of everything about Rome were the best tours we have ever had.  They are a bit pricey, but worth every dime if you have the time available.  Again, you need several couples to defray the expense.

 

On the Amalfi Coast, we used Bob's Limousines, or something like that.  I got the recommendation from the Ports of Call section.  They were great, meeting us in Naples at the last minute due to weather issues rather than the town we were supposed to stop in.  Had a great guide.  I think we were going to use them in Sicily too, but bad weather prevented the entire stop. 


We did not visit Zadar.

 

We used someone we found on the Ports of Call section in Venice.  It's a fun city to visit, and there is way too much to do, but a tour guide will make it easier.

 

Enjoy.

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On our first ever cruise we booked every excursion through the ship.  Nowadays we book every excursion independently.

 

We have never ever had difficulties with timings or been fearful of late returns. We once got very slightly nervous when stuck in a traffic jam in Bangkok, but noticed that the bus alongside ours was the ship's excursion - in any event we all got back onboard in plenty of time.

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Posted (edited)

Sometimes folk do miss their sailing. Google "YouTube pier runners" for a good laugh :classic_biggrin: or a good cry :classic_sad: depending on your temperament.

 

But those folk have gone off the ship DIY, not on private organised tours. And they probably spent a good deal of time at Senor Frog's.

We mainly DIY, and have never come close to missing a sailing. It's perfectly fine if you research, have a Plan B, keep an eye on the time, allow a margin for delay getting back to the ship, and generally use common-sense.

 

And I've never heard of anyone on an organised tour missing their sailing from any port - not first-hand, not second-hand.

Nor even on the pages of Cruise Critic - and I feel sure that anyone who missed their sailing from on a private tour would have told us all about it !

 

We've only very occasionally taken ship's tours - when there's no alternative or when timing is very very tight, or any very specific circumstances.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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