In May 2010, five friends and I had the pleasure of going on a Mediterranean cruise, with two days pre-cruise in Venice, and a four days post-cruise in Barcelona. Through Holland America, we prebooked tours in all but two ports. Each tour was fabulous and flawless, and even the weather was perfect, although it rained one day in Venice, but that just made it more fun.
The Westerdam had been beautifully re-decorated since I had last been on it, and the staff were as warm and curtious as ever. Our room was a little small for the three of us, but the excellent service from our cabin stewart made up for this.
When we disembarked in Barcelona, Spain, we had hired a private company to pick us up (immaculate, comfortable van); take us on an extensive City Tour; then up to the amazing Montserrat Monastery; and drive us to our hotel. Carlos, of Barcelona Great Tours, was prompt, professional, well-grommed, and delightful.
Our room could accommodate up to four people, sleeping. But too difficult when everyone is trying to get ready to go out or get dressed for dinner.
Location was fine, quiet, calm, close to elevators.
I had a fantastic special on Dubrovnik, Croatia before I left on my cruise. I was not disappointed. My friends and I took the shuttle from the ship, and walked all around the walled city (Old Town) on top of the walls. Exquisite views of the city and surrounding scenery. As we climbed higher and higher we were amazed to see people actually living in the small houses at the top of the walls. Back down in the city square, we visited beautiful churches and markets. Had a the best pizza ever at a little cafe.
Some of our travel mates took a drive to see the beautiful "Croatia Riviera". The combination of palm trees, old relics, and gorgeous flowers make this a must see port.
From Naples, we had booked a coach tour along the Amalfi Coast, and the town of Sorrento. Words fail me to adequately describe the beauty of this coastline. The town of Sorrrento was quaint and great shopping, especially a Wood Works store with authentic Murano Glass necklaces at good prices and lovely staff. Had a delicious lunch with wine, fancy carbonated water, around the corner, cloth linens, very picturesque, and included in the price of the tour.
Cannot imagine why anyone would ever move away from these towns along the Amalfi Coast. The beauty I will never forget.
My heart was set on seeing Florence and all its treasures. Our coach stopped at a huge photo stop, with washrooms. The panoramic view of the entire city was simply breath-taking.
This was not a tour, only a transfer to and from Florence. Actually, we were given a map with all the sites on it which are within a shot walk,(5-10min) from each other. Also, a Hop On Hop Off bus system is available to purchase.
The Duomo, the Town Hall square with the copy of David, the Accademia with real David, and Santa Croce church are very close together and there is great shopping, stalls and fine shops too. The Duomo is huge, and pictures do not do it justice.
I unfortunately did not go inside the churches or museums as I was afraid there was not enough time, and I was afraid of getting lost. That is why I would highly recommend buying admission tickets on line, and going on the Hop On Hop Off bus.
I so very much want to return to Italy.
From Holland America, and months before the cruise, we booked "The Eternal City and Vatican Museums" tour because it might get booked up. We started a stop at Trevi Fountain, and after throwing in your coin, you must buy a gelato (ice cream cone). Then there is a long walk along the ruins with our wonderful and witty guide explaining each ruin in detail. After reaching the Coliseum, we had a great lunch, price included, and then we entered Vatican City and the museums. Absolutely indescribable. Then on to St. Peter's Basilica for time on our own inside. A perfect day, long, but not long enough.
Everyone must go to Santorini, and then go back again. It is everything you saw in all those pictures with white stucco houses and blue domed churches.
Because my friends and I are seniors, we neither climbed the stairs nor rode the donkeys up the cliff to get to the villages of Fira and Oia. We were on a coach tour with a handsome guide, Marco. He loved his island, and proudly showed the town where he lived as we drove by. After the site seeing we arrived a some great shopping areas, at the end of which was the cable cars that would take us back down the cliff, close to where our ship was docked.
While waiting at the cable car station, we saw about eight donkeys and their owner stroll by after a long day's work. The donkeys looked healthy and well cared for.
I am definitely going back some day.
My friends and I flew into Venice Marco Polo Airport to begin our two day pre-cruise. I strongly suggested visitors check out the Internet to get directions from the airport to catch a ferry, or water taxi, to Venice, and even directions to their hotel. It helped us a lot.
Our hotel was just off St. Mark's Square, which made it so easy to walk to all the sites, shops and restaurants. On a small canal,Gondoliers were right outside our hotel. For a few Euros, you can take a local ferry, Alilaguna, to the island, eg. Murano etc. and for 10Euros you can ride up or down the Grand Canal on the public water bus to see the houses of the once rich and famous.
We walked all over, up to the Rialto Bridge (1st.built over Grand Canal), down to the Hard Rock Cafe, and lots and lots of fine stores too. All the buildings are gorgeous, especially St. Mark's Basilica, Doges Palace (Bridge of Sighs) and the houses along the alley ways. April and May is a good time to visit,because it was not hot, so only once or twice did we notice and unpleasant odour.
We found the cruise terminal easily via the Alilaguna ferry. It was a very long walk to get to the embarkation building for our ship, so my four wheeled luggage was a blessing. Loved Venice.