A nice old town - we walked around town on our own, and saw the lovely old buildings. The day we were there was Sunday, so all the churches were open and we could peek in. The Norman fort was interesting but most of it was not open to the public. No need to take a ship's tour for this place.
Dubrovnik's charms are well known. This walled city is easily walkable on your own. We visited the Monastery and several churches before taking time to shop, listen to folk street musicians, and eat at an outdoor cafe. The transfer from the ship to the town was ï¿½10 and the MSC shuttle service was excellent. We didn't walk along the top of the walls although many were doing so. It was quite a hot day, so we stayed in the shade as much as we could.
What can I say about Istanbul that others haven't. This is an amazing city. We contacted the Ephesus Shuttle folks once we got back on the ship after Izmir. Immediately they responded and we had our private tour arranged. Our guide was great, and right there when he said he'd be. We saw the Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, then had lunch of local food and tasted Raki. After that some of us did private rug shopping, while others shopped in the Grand Bazaar. The price for the ship's tour was US$211 pp, and we paid US$80 pp. It was fabulous. I can't say enough good things about the wonderful day we had, and our terrific guide, Umit.
We took the ship's tour to Ephesus. Since the lady we received as our guide spoke Spanish and some English, most of the best commentary was in Spanish which we couldn't really follow. Also there were 4 ships in port so the site was jammed with people. It was difficult to hear what our guide said over the hubbub created by the other guides and tourists all talking at once. However, it is an awesome site! Please be sure to go, if you have never seen it. Another time, if there is another time, I would contact an excellent private guide service instead of doing the ship's tour. Many CC members have used them and been very happy (www.ephesusshuttle.com).
The ship's tours are expensive, and the taxi fares at over ï¿½100 are prohibitive. So we did what one CC member suggested and walked off the ship and into town. Just to the left as you exit the port is a little office that says GeoTravel. We went in there and bought ticketw for their bus to Olympia at ï¿½10 pp round trip. They took us to the old site of Olympia, and brought us back in excellent time to get back onboard. Unfortuately the Museum which holds the major finds of the excavation was closed the day we were there.
At the end of the cruise we had about 4 hours available before we had to go to the airport for our flight home. We had a private tour arranged with a guide we found recommended in a CC forum. Her tour was fine, but not quite as smoothly organized as the one we had with Ephesus shuttle. Two members of our group had to miss the first hour of our tour because they had to stand in line to get our luggage stored at the railway station. One nice thing she did is to take us around the quiet backstreets and see parts of the city other tourists never see. She also arranged a private water taxi so that we could go through the less known canals and see some very old canal houses. Venice can be a real tourist trap and trinkets, Mardi Gras masks, etc. were everywhere for sale. The area around St. Mark's square was absolutely packed, so was hard to get a good view of the buildings and at the same time keep our small group together. But St. Marks is breathtaking - don't miss it!