Port and Shore Excursions
Only in port for about 4 and half hours, took approximately 10 minutes to walk into the town. Not that much to see, looked at few shops, stopped for a quick drink.Back on the ship.
We had to get a tender (supplied cost free by the cruise ship) to Dubrovnik and found ourselves in a square that led onto lots of small streets filled with restaurants and small shops. You're not allowed to walk around the streets with your shirt off (can be fined, hubby not me!) as there are a lot of religious monuments in the area. Apparently a walk around the walls of the city is recommended but after buying a few small souvenirs we decided to spend our time on one of the cities many beaches. After walking for a while we came upon Banje Beach, a small pebble beach and paid Â£14 for two sun loungers, bit more than I expected especially as we could only stay for 2 hours max but it was in front of a hotel and a waiter came round to take orders for a welcome couple of cold beers.
The water was lovely,nicely cooling but not cold. It dropped away quite steeply within a few feet of the shore.Would have liked longer at this port.
I did a bit of research prior to the cruise to find out if it was possible to get into the center of Istanbul without having to take the as usual expensive ship tour(started at 59 Euros each for the most basic tour ) and found that you could walk from the port to a tram stop. I typed "one day in Istanbul" into a search engine and got detailed instructions about what to see and how to get out of the port to the tram stop (http://www.letsgoistanbul.com/1day.htm.) You basically walk out of the port turn left and walk a short distance to the tram stop. You have to purchase a ticket prior to boarding by putting money into a machine (takes Turkish notes and coins), 1.5 TL each (you want the tram going in the same direction as you walked to the stop and from memory I think it's 4 stops). We managed to check that we were in the right place and heading in the right direction by asking 2 helpful guys who were sweeping the road, they helped us get the tickets. The trams are modern and although busy and we couldn't get a seat the tram ride was a pleasure.
Istanbul is very clean and you didn't go too far without coming across someone planting or tidying the gardens or picking up litter, we had a full day there and decided to try to visit the recommended tourist spots. No sooner did we head towards the Blue Mosque we encountered the first tormentors, trying to sell tourist guides. I thought a guide was probably a good idea anyway and after bartering down from the ridiculous to a reasonable price I bought one and it turned out to be worth it's weight in gold. Not to direct us to the various locations but we only had to wave the already purchased booklet to the other touts to stop them giving the hard sell and we walked around the city virtually pester free! We were followed by one guy who owned a ceramic shop but he eventually gave up. The entrance to the Mosque was to my surprise free, we bypassed the Hagia Sophia had a massive queue and the Royal Palace was also busy with an entrance fee.
We decided to have lunch before hitting the Grand Bazaar and have lunch, hubby wanted a kebab but again had to dodge the waiters who pounced as soon as we even glanced in the direction of the menu. The prices on the front seemed a bit steep so we took a side street and came across what we thought was a restaurant and was given time to look at the menu without too much hassle. I noticed that the kebab was 38 TL approx Â£13 , a bit steep and more expensive than those on the front.I tried to dissuade my hubby from eating there,thinking this wasn't your typical donner kebab but he wouldn't be swayed and seduced by the more laid back attitude of the staff we sat down. I don't like kebabs anyway and chose the steak again 38 TL but I was looking forward to a lovely juicy steak (I've had steak in Turkey before it was scrumptious, cooked on a grill).
His kebab came and was as I expected a selection of meat kebabs with salad, no nan bread or donner meat with chilli sauce as he thought ( he should have listened to me). My steak came it was served with a bit of rice and salad, was about quarter of an inch think and dry as a bone ! Had it cost a fiver I'd have eaten it and said nothing but at that price I wasn't happy and sent it back after refusing the offer of having it lathered in butter to moisten it up ? Hubby eat his kebab and as I sat there twiddling my thumbs I realised we were sat in a restaurant attached to what looked like quite an upmarket hotel(explains the prices).
We headed off to the Grand Bazaar which is a maze of shops and we did get a few bargains but with one eye on the time to make sure we got back to the ship we didn't get to look all the way round. We managed to get off the return tram a stop too early but it was a happy accident and led us onto the waterfront for a pleasant stroll back to the ship.
The optional tour was for Ephesus which we've seen before on a previous holiday to Turkey and it was very interesting but we didn't really need to visit again. Usual experience for Turkey,pester, pester, pester. Had to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers at the port exit who despite hearing you tell the guy 3 feet away that you didn't need a taxi or a guide, they persisted in trying to get your custom and followed you for a good while until they realised that you wouldn't give in. This doesn't bother me so much but absolutely infuriates my hubby so if you're like him stay on the ship.
We decided to bypass the market (to my disappointment) which was over a half hour walk away and settled on a coffee instead.
Both a bit miffed at our experience we didn't take all the allocated time and went back to the ship early hoping to catch the sun on deck to be caught in a heavy shower. It obviously wasn't our day. Fellow cruisers enjoyed their time in the port though so our experience is necessarily typical.
Optional tour to Olympia, was tempted but due to amount of coach travel we'd already done to get to Venice to board the ship just didn't fancy it and again the stop was relatively short so opted to walk around the town ourselves. Did intend going to the nearest beach but by the time we'd looked in a few shops, found our bearings and sat in a taverner for a coffee it was time to get back to the ship.
Our tour of Venice happened after disembarking from the ship and before going to Lake Garda for 4 days at the end of our two week Coach and Cruise holiday. We had about 5 hours to spend in Venice and took a water taxi into the center. We walked through a busy St Marks square first before seeing the first of many gondolas. I was content to just look at them and not too keen to get in one especially after hearing the excited screams of girls wobbling about as they tried to sit down in one. I didn't see anyone in the canals though so I'm sure they're perfectly safe.
We walked what seemed like endless streets (didn't notice many places where you could sit down for free in Venice and many of the restaurants charged a service charge on top of the cost of what you'd eaten/drunk although not all charged this extra. We found a nice cafe on a side street and had a very nice toasted sandwich.
The shops sold lovely soft leather bags/purses etc but they weren't cheap, many were designer shops stocking quality but very expensive goods. Murano glass was everywhere, beautiful but expensive and then there were the trinket shops selling the much more affordable tourist souvenirs. An enjoyable day, tired feet though.