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Home > Member Reviews > timber1's Port Reviews of Athens (Piraeus), Taormina (Messina), Palermo, Sorrento, Naples, Capri

timber1's Port Reviews of Athens (Piraeus), Taormina (Messina), Palermo, Sorrento, Naples, Capri
Aegean Odyssey cruise in September 2010
Member Name: timber1
Cruise Date: September 2010
Embarkation: Athens (Piraeus)
Destination: Western Mediterranean
Member Review: timber1's Aegean Odyssey Review
Athens (Piraeus)
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
General comment: The entire voyage was quite port- and shore-excursion intensive. There were very few at sea days as the ship sailed at night. Most shore excursions were at least half day, with some options for full days. (Thus, no earlier review of the pool area, etc as we made the most of the port time rather than stay aboard).

The Athens shore excursion covered the Acropolis and the recently opened Acropolis Museum. We had been to Athens before, but this time there was hardly any scaffolding covering the Acropolis structures and the Temple to Nike was now viewable (lovely). Also, the new museum was very nice to see. The guide was knowledgeable and the Quiet Vox system let me roam around a bit while still able to hear our guide. The crowds were terrible, surprising to us for this time of year (end of Sept). We spent the morning there with the afternoon free to explore on our own. We sailed at night to Nafplio, a lovely Greek harbor town. From Nafplio we had a shore excursion to Mycenae (@1600-1300BC), city of Agamemnon and mentioned in Homer's Illiad. Though we had been here before on our own, the guide was excellent and we learned a great deal and appreciated the site much more through this excursion. We also visited the so-called tomb of Agamemnon, a wonderful beehive structure with towering dome. The afternoon was spent visiting the Archaeology Museum in Nafplio and wandering around town. Highly recommended.



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Taormina (Messina)
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
This Sicilian town is really beautiful and interesting. The walking tour included the cathedral,15th century palazzo,a Greek theater(3rd century BC) and first view of Mt. Etna. The day continued strolling narrow, medieval streets, visiting the San Domenice Palace garden, tasting the local cannoli (yum..) and checking out the colorful ceramics.

Midnight sail to SYRACUSE. From there -excursion to the Greek theater, Tomb of Archimedes, Roman amphitheater, and the Archaeological Museum in the morning. In the afternoon, excursion to the island of Ortygia where we viewed the Temple of Apollo and a Norman cathedral built into a Greek temple.

Sail to AGRIGENTO: Excursions to breathtaking sights in the Valley of the Temples of virtually intact Greek temples about 5thC BC. In afternoon, cruised the Sicilian coast, viewing Eghadi Islands and arrived at TRAPANI in pm. Next day excursions to Segesta, Selinunte and Marsala, where we viewed temples, cathedrals and had a lovely lunch and wine tasting at the Florio winery. Great guide all day, fantastic sights, esp. in Selinunte with its 8 Greek temples and ancient fortification systems. Highly recommended.


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Palermo
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
Palermo has many interesting things to see, but the extreme traffic and crowds make it difficult to enjoy walking around much. The Museum of Regional Archaeology was undergoing repairs, but much of the artifacts were still on view and we thought it had a very nice selection of Greek vases. Also, if in town, recommend highly the Norman Royal Palace and exquisite Byzantine Palatine Chapel there. We were going to have dinner at a pizza place recommended to us, but after walking around and around trying to find it, we found it had been closed for 2 weeks and would not be open until the next day.

Overnight in Palermo, next day excursion to Monreale and the Cathedral with its 12thC mosaics covering over an acre of wall space. Lovely cloister also. Also be sure to view the bronze doors behind the church.

Overnight sail to CEFALU. Really pleasant holiday hill town located on a headland overlooking the sea. Lots of Byzantine sights including a couple of impressive cathedrals. Stroll through the narrow streets, but beware of cars even on so-called pedestrian avenues. There are some very nice shops for surprisingly high-end fashion, shoes, kitchenware and jewelry.



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Sorrento
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Anchored at Agripoli, along the Amalfi coast where we explored Paestum, ancient city reputedly founded by Jason and the Argonauts. Lovely ruins with temples to Hera and Poseidon very impressive. A very good museum on-site, as well. Highly recommended.

Due to weather conditions, was unable to visit Sorrento as tendering was not safely possible. The ship relocated to Naples instead.



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Naples
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Full day excursion to Pompeii and Herculaneum. I had been to Pompeii previously. This tour was rather hurried and the local guide rushed us. I felt we missed some of the highlights as he insisted on concentrating on sites of interest to him (plumbing, stepping stones and ancient politics), rather than on visiting the houses such as the House of the Tragic Poet or the House of the Vettii, which I had wanted to see. We did get to visit the "Supermarket" and see the body casts of unfortunate ancient Pompeiians visible in glass cases. However, I was disappointed that so many of the wall paintings had faded into practically nothing..just mushy pale colors on the walls. A fine lunch with wine was provided at a local restaurant before continuing on.

The visit to Herculaneum, despite protestations of the guide to the contrary, was much better in terms of what we got to see. Maybe that's because it's a much smaller area to see(Pompeii is over 160 acres, visible excavation in Herculaneum are so much less because the new town is built over most of the ruins)and the upper stories survived, unlike in Pompeii. But, the wall paintings and mosaics were much better preserved. Plus, by this time, we ran around seeing as much as we could, whether our guide was going there or not! I highly recommend Herculaneum and be sure to visit the House of the Mysteries for wonderful wall paintings.



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Capri
Port Rating: 5+ out of 5+
A free day. We really loved Capri, despite the crowds. We were actually still docked in Naples and the ship provided ferry tickets back and forth to Capri (about 45min.). Get there early in the morning because by about 1pm, several cruise ships had come and it got very crowded in the upper town and especially down at the piers. Taking the funicular up to the town of Capri from the pier area was terrible for me as I am somewhat claustrophobic. They squeezed so many people into the small car and then sat awhile before starting up. From the upper town, we saw the gardens of Augustus - wonderful views, lovely gardens- and then hiked up to the Villa Jovis. It is quite a hike, very steep uphill at times and fairly lengthy...about 45min each way at a good pace. We toured the villa, which was built by Augustus and enlarged by Tiberius. The ruins are in ok shape, but the magnitude of the palace and the setting is just magnificent and worth the walk in itself. Also, you can see the fabled "Tiberius Jump", where it's rumored that if someone displeased Tiberius, he just had them thrown off the cliff onto the rocks several hundred feet below. We ate lunch at Al Grottino, recommended by a guide book. The setting was pleasant and I had some of the best gnocchi in my life. I'd recommend just staying with that and maybe a salad or soup as the "second" we had (fish) wasn't that successful, but expensive. Afterwords, we walked around just a bit- it is a lovely town to just stroll, if the crowds aren't too bad. Lots of high-end shops and prices to match in the upper town (e.g. Hermes, Prada, Gucci, D&G, etc.) So, we decided to go down the steps (rather than take the funicular) back to the harbor/dock area and wait for our ferry. This takes about 10 minutes down steps that are fairly easy to manage. Once down, there are reasonable souvenir shops and places to get a coffee, etc. for less than in the upper town of Capri. Oh, we didn't go to the blue grotto, but some of our fellow passengers did and they were highly disappointed. Expensive and couldn't see much, they said. Capri- highly recommended.



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Rome (Civitavecchia)
Port Rating: Not Rated
Disembarked at Civitavecchia, port of Rome. Ship's trip over, but we stayed in Rome another night before flying home (Hotel Delle Nazioni, good location, ok room). We've been to Rome before, but highly recommend those who have not been here before to stay at least a week to see everything. Oh, and visit the Trevi Fountain about 6 am to really get a magnificent view without the crowds and still lit from night time! And right around the corner is a bar just opening for the day with cappucino and fresh, warm cornettos.

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