We took a Celebrity organized excursion to Mount Etna and Taormina. The bus ride to the volcano was long - about 2 hours. Seeing the volcano was amazing, though, and we especially enjoyed having a cannoli as we looked out into the craters. From there, we drove about an hour to Taormina. This would have been enjoyable, however after 3 hours on the bus at this point, and a fellow passenger becoming physically ill, we had had enough. Taormina was beautiful, but really hot. In hindsight, we would not choose this excursion again as it included 4 hours on the bus. We would just visit Taormina and enjoy a more relaxed day in this adorable little town.
In Athens, we hired a private driver through Nikos Loukas, Private Greek Tours. Our driver, Manos, was fabulous! He met us right at the port at 8 a.m. and took us all over town. He spoke perfect English and told us all about Athens and its history. It really took the hassle out of planning and gave us a private, specialized excursion day without doing the big group thing with the ship. We were all over town from the Acropolis to the Temple of Zeus to the first modern day Olympic stadium to the ancient agora and, of course, gyros for lunch. Athens is a great city, with much to offer. Having a private driver allowed us to make the most of our day and really take advantage of the city.
We spent the day at Elia Beach in Mykonos. To say it was breathtaking doesn't do it justice. This beach was perfectly gorgeous. Front row beach chairs with an umbrella cost 16 Euro and an iced coffee on the beach cost another 5 euro. Well worth it for several hours of pure relaxation with a priceless view.
We took a Celebrity excursion in Santorini with plans to visit a winery, the village of Oia and end in the main village Thira (Fira.) We tendered to a different port than the rest of the ship and hopped on a bus for a quick ride to Santo winery. The views were striking. There is nothing better than sipping wine and eating cheese while looking out onto the cliffs and bright blue waters of Santorini... Except when you arrive at the village of Oia, and the views become even more beautiful. Oia is a cute little town with a picturesque, postcard look. Great for strolling around. Just watch out for the donkeys. You don't want to lose a foot. Finally, we ended in Thira, and enjoyed lunch overlooking the water. Pork souvlaki and a Mythos made for the perfect Santorini afternoon. Then, enjoy a cable car ride back to the ship. Hold on tight, it's quite an experience going straight down that cliff!
Perhaps we should have taken an excursion in Rhodes, because doing it on our own left us less than impressed. We walked around Old Town, but didn't seem to get much out of it. It was hot, and there are a lot of vendors trying to sell you things. We could take it or leave it.
Wow! The ancient city of Ephesus is not to be missed! This city has so much to offer if ruins and the ancient way of life interest you. We booked a bus ride through Celebrity with and iPod tour, and then headed off for time to explore on our own with the audio guide. It was extremely interesting and the most well kept ruins we saw the entire trip. The communal toilets and terrace houses were our favorite things, but the library will take your breath away. Bring water and lots of it. We'd never felt heat like that before... better yet, don't go in mid-July!
We docked in Naples and headed to Pompeii as our last excursion. We took a group tour through Celebrity and were happy to do so. We felt as though we learned a lot and our tour guide "Julius Cesare" was fabulous. Pompeii is very interesting and an important site to see for any history buff. The plaster casts of human victims are particularly unforgettable and also sad. After the tour of Pompeii, we enjoyed some pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, so it was a must have. 3 big floppy slices later, we were plotting how we could buy more and take it home with us. Truly, nothing else compares.