Port and Shore Excursions
We got a tour on our own and went to the Corinth ruins for morning and the Acropolis and some free time in afternoon. I really enjoyed seeing the ruins of Corinth and where the Apostle Paul lived for three years. There is a lot to see there and if you’re into Greek/Roman history, you won’t be disappointed. The Acropolis was crowded, and we enjoyed seeing the ruins there as well. Our guide was fluent in English, but had a very strong accent, so at times it was hard for us to keep up with all she was saying. If you hit the Acropolis early in the day, it is not as crowded.
Covered in previous stop.
This was our favorite destination of the cruise. We had three and a half days in Israel and two and a half of those were in Ashdod/Jerusalem. We caught a minibus the first half day into Jerusalem for some walking around time and the driver drove us there and picked us up for 25 euro's each (round-trip, six to the vehicle).
We entered the old city at the Jaffa gate and toured the Tower of David complex. A couple of guidebooks from Barnes and Noble that I'd brought along helped us know what was where. We shopped for trinkets, and some ended up spending hundreds on olive wood carvings and having them shipped home. My suggestion to you would be to wait to buy and not get to impulsive early. The shops closest to the main gates may not discount as much and I was told by one merchant close to the gate that he would only take shekels. Interestingly, there was a money changer next door that he recommended. Later, I found that most merchants take dollars and euros as readily. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shops in the old town, so shop around before spending at the first shop. The better deals seemed to be away from the gates. Just for comparison, I bought several diet cokes in the old city (over two days) and the prices ranged from 3 shekels to 14 shekels (or roughly $1-$3+ dollars each). So prices vary widely. (The sheckel is worth about $.27- $.28 each right now).
My best suggestion on shopping is to prepare to ignore the peddlers. If you make eye contact or do too much window shopping, it become difficult without being rude to break away. One merchant that had a sign that he sold stamps refused to sell me stamps unless I bought something else. I walked away. By the way, you can mail from the ship while you’re in port without buying postage locally.
It did not seem that the churches inside the old city were enforcing the dress code as strictly as we thought they might. There were good sized crowds and many women had bare shoulders and knees and were not stopped. Out of respect, our group did conform to the recommended dress codes. There is a lot to see in the old city and it would probably be easy to get lost.
Our guide service on the second, third and fourth days was “No Limits Tours” by Ahalan Olympus and could not have been better. Our guide was Yahav Zohar and what an energetic, well spoken, educated and informed Israeli guide! This firm used a newer, well equipped, air conditioned 20 passenger bus and charged by the tour, not by the person. So our friend Doug who we met through Cruise Critic was able to get us on the bus and we had a great group. The price was significantly lower than if we’d booked by the person on the cruise and I figure for what we got, my wife and I saved at least $1500 over the price of the cruise sponsored excursion.
I noticed that as we passed by many guides used by larger groups (particularly in Israel, Greece, and Italy) had poor English skills and would have been hard to understand. Also some of these groups were much larger than our 16-18 person contingent. The places we visited are too large to mention here, but the Mt. of Olives, Via Delarosa, Garden of Gethsemane, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Garden Tomb, the Western Wall, Masada, Dead Sea, Nazareth, Galilee, Mt. Carmel were particularly meaningful to us.
Everything regarding the tours went well. We were extremely satisfied with our experience (even the mud and floating in the Dead Sea!).
A nice little island that caters almost exclusively to tourists. We really had a good time just walking around the port city and having a relaxing lunch. It’s a bit expensive, so if you’re out for Greek gifts, save it for Athens. It was very pleasant but windy and it was the only port where we used the tenders to get on shore. We took a lot of pictures and did a lot of walking. It’s really easy to get lost in this small town.
We took the train to both Pompeii and Herculaneum and did not get a tour. It cost just a few Euros for a round trip and the train station is probably a half a mile from the port where the ship was docked. You can save a bit of money if you’re seeing more than one ruin within three days, so we saved a couple of Euros on our pass. We have no regrets about skipping the guided tours here, as most prominent spots were well marked with information in English on what we were looking at. I’d done some research beforehand and knew the main attractions of both sites. The one train line stops at both sites and goes on to Sorrento if you’d like. We found another couple to pal around with on this excursion and were glad we got to Pompeii early. When we were leaving the lines were pretty long to get into the site.
We arrived in Italy a day early and were able to spend the night at a nice hotel near the forum in Rome (The Forum Hotel). We followed Rick Steves advice and used the "white taxi" cab from the airport. The cost to Rome from FCO airport was 45 Euros for both my wife and I and took almost an hour in heavy traffic. No regrets about the cab ride. It got us to our destination point to point after a long flight and was well worth the expense. We were tired from the trip but got an early check-in at about 10 am (we'd planned just to drop our bags off for storage) and we napped for an hour before our journey to the Forum and Palatine Hill. I'd been to Rome once before (many years ago) and we decided to explore on our own. We had no regrets about this decision. I'd read up on the sites before we left and was fairly familiar with the history and most of the ruins. There are ample signs for tourists at the significant points and all are in English and Italian. We saw much more of the area than we would have with a tour. We ate that night at a small outdoor Italian restaurant called Mario's near our hotel. It couldn't have been better, a bit crowded and on a small busy street, but it was Rome and what we wanted to experience.
The next morning we toured the Coliseum again on our own. We got there early, right after opening and spent a couple of hours. We noticed the entry line was pretty long on the way out and were glad we got an early start. The Coliseum is like a museum with exhibits and historical information posted all over, so unless it's what you like to do, there is no need for a tour guide. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the older part of the city before getting a cab from our hotel in Rome to the Port. We may have spent more than we should have on this one way trip, but again it was point to point and the taxi had permits into the Port so it saved us a 15 minute walk with baggage from the gate. The books say 110-140 Euros for this trip and we paid at the higher end of the range.