Rome was our embarkation port so we arrived 4 days earlier to see as much as we could. Really happy we had more than just one day to explore it all. We had prebooked our own tours to Pompeii and the Vatican and then we walked to the Colisseum where we picked up an English speaking tour really easily outside the entrance.
THis was our main reason for booking the cruise and we were just happy that it was not cancelled due to the political climate. We had a great guide however the horrible, intimidating vendors at the Sphynx and Pyramids almost ruined our whole experience. Even trying to ignore these rude and deceitful people was impossible. Best thing to do is not utter a word and do not let them know what language you speak. We tried to take a photo with us standing next to a camel which they were walking around offering for one dollar. That was a lie and a ruse to get you in, like all of their other tricks. We were then pushed and man handled by two men when they said we had to pay them fifty dollars. We had to yell at them that we would call the police over. If the vendors were honest and gave a price for their items with out trying to con everyone I would have bought a lot of things. We were still thrilled to see the Pyramids and take in the atmosphere before we literally had to run to the bus to get away from all of the people hassling us. Lunch was a tasty buffet at the absolutely beautiful Mena Oberoi hotel. That was wonderful. The Cairo museum was also amazing although would love to see the new one to be built in it's place. Really could not believe how filthy Egypt is even though we had been warned. So glad I have been but would never ever be tempted to return
Mykonos is soo beautiful and I squealed with delight when I woke up and went out on to our balcony for our very first glimpse of this magical island. Unfortunately it poured with rain for most of the few precious hours we had here but we still enjoyed just wandering around and taking in the whole atmosphere. Would return here in a heart beat. Really glad we did not book a tour as I think it would have been a real waste of money.
This was a good tour to try to gain a small understanding of Turkish culture. The Mosque is beautiful and well worth the visit.
Grand Bazaar Rating:
We booked a tour that really gave us a taste of Istanbul and some of it's culture, which was great because it was a port we would never have thought to go to ourselves. The bazaar is unbelievably huge with 4,000 shops and stalls and we would have loved many more hours to peruse and bargain here.
Hagia Sofia Rating:
This is also a beautiful place and with the right guide is very interesting as well.
This was the most amazing place and we had the perfect guide to tell us all of the wonderful history. We actually were more in awe of this ancient city than we were of Pompeii. The scenery on the bus trip here was spectacular too, which made it a very enjoyable trip all up. So So glad we came here. We finished up with a trip to the bazaar that had lots of good quality leather at good prices and beautiful scarves that I wish I'd bought many more of for gifts at home.
House of the Virgin Mary Rating:
This is such a special place with so much meaning to so many people. Such beautiful country side surrounding this amazing sight makes it that much more spectacular. This was a real highlight of our trip.
This tour was to take us to the Acropolis and then time on our own at the Plaka. I would have preferred to do the hop on hop off bus as I had a hard time understanding our guide and he then spent most of the Acropolis tour standing in the same spot next to the Parthenon and talking about a lot of technichal details that were interesting for about ten minutes. I then got a little bored and wandered off on my own to just soak up the atmosphere of this ancient spectacle.The Plaka was nice to stop and have a leisurely greek lunch of Souvalaki and appreciate being in this beautiful. We did a little shopping but it was like shopping in any city.
We took the ships shuttle which I think cost us about $17 each and just explored the streets and sights of this spectacular city. I didn't see the need for any organised tours but we did want to track down our hotel that we would be staying in after disembarkation. So glad we did that before the added weight of all of our hand luggage. The ship did deliver our main luggage to our hotel the next day however we still had a number of things as hand luggage. Venice really is a maze of winding alleyways and canals and it is way too easy to get lost without a really good map which was not what the shuttle people gave us. I had read that Venice is smelly and expensive yet although there was the odd unpleasant odour it was not an issue and as for expensive, that's only if you shopped and ate in San Marco Piazza. I actually found this the least expensive place to shop for quality leather goods and genuine Murano jewellery and figurines, amongst many other things. I'm not usually a keen shopper but at the shops around the Rialto bridge I could have spent days and days both admiring and purchasing so many wonderful things . Would return to Venice in a heartbeat. LOVED It!!