Personal Background Information -- Our cruise in May of 2011 was to leave from Civitavecchia with stops in Dubrovnik, Kerkyra/Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Thira (Santorini), Kusadasi (Ephesus), Piraeus (Athens), Messina/Sicily but first I met my husband who was working in Sorrento so I flew into Naples and while in Sorrento we took the local train to Pompeii. We left Sorrento and met the ship in Civitavecchia and the following is our travel itinerary. Travel To Port of Embarkation -- Taking the Bus from Naples Airport to Sorrento -- If you're flying into the Naples Airport, bypassing Naples entirely, and want to get directly to Sorrento, there's a coach service that goes from the airport (50min should be plenty of time to collect luggage & catch the Curreri Viaggi bus to Sorrento, it leaves from just outside the main door) to Sorrento (leaves you right outside the Stazione Circumvesuviana train station, plenty of taxis there if your hotel is not within walking distance). Buy your tickets on the bus, €10 pp one way from airport to Sorrento train station about 1.25 hour trip and runs every day 6x per day (though the frequency and departure times vary with the season). The day before we left Sorrento to board our ship we decided to go to Pompeii -- Getting to Pompeii and/or Herculaneum is very easy and inexpensive by train from Sorrento (we did) or Naples. Go to the station and ask for round-trip tickets on the Circumvesuviana. It'll cost about 4 euro or so from Sorrento and a little more from Naples, I believe. You'll want the Naples-Sorrento line. Trains run roughly every 30 minutes or so and the trip will take about 40 minutes from either place. If going to Pompeii, you'll want to get off at the POMPEII SCAVI-VILLA DEI MISTERI station (scavi means ruins), which is about 50 yards or so in front of the Porta Marina entrance. The POMPEII stop is for the "modern" city and it's a longer walk, although do-able, to an entrance from there. We had bought Rick Steeves book and also downloaded his free audio walking tour of Pompeii for our ipod. You should make sure to ask for the site map when you buy your ticket as they won't offer it to you. Canadians should note, that if you present your Canadian passport, seniors are not charged admission at Pompeii. I don't know why that is the case. Apparently it is an arrangement between Canada and Italy. We found our admission fee waved to the Greek Theater in Taormina in Sicily as well. Our American companions were charged. I don't know about Naples but we purchased our tickets from an office on the ground floor of the Sorrento station (just off Corso Italia on Via Marziale) and all we had to say was "Pompeii." They handle thousands of people doing the Scavi Shuffle! Do make sure your ticket is a return (round trip) unless you are traveling on to another location. Circumvesuviana trains don't have restrooms so you might want to visit facilities at the station before you board. When you get off the train turn right and you'll find the main entrance to the ruins just a couple of minutes' walk along the road. You'll pass several cafes here if you're looking for refreshments either before or after your visit. Circumvesuviana from Sorrento to Civitavecchia The circumvesuviana only runs between Sorrento and Naples. Book Circumvesuviana at the station, it is only a commuter train, no reservations are necessary. It lets you off in Naples downstairs from the Trenitalia tracks that will take you to Rome. We checked the train schedule to make sure we could get a direct train from Naples through to Civitavecchia so that we wouldn't have to change trains in Rome. The Circumvesuviana Piazza Garibaldi Train Station is downstairs from Napoli Centrale FS Train Station. Once your Circumvesuviana Train arrives at the stop at Piazza Garibaldi, you'll need to walk up two flights of stairs and then head left several corridors to Napoli Centrale FS Train Station. There's an information booth nearby when you reach the ground floor up the flight of stairs and you can ask for directions in case you need them. Time from Sorrento to Naples is approximately 70 minutes and Naples to Rome is 1:45 to2 hours depending on the train, Euorstar, IC etc. Total time from Sorrento to Rome is about 3 ½ to 4 hours if you take into account some time to transfer in Naples. We departed Napoli Centrale at 7:17am and arrived Civitavecchia at 10:35 am. We chose the IC train (direct, no connections) in second class "MINI" fare purchased online in advance and paid EUR 26 for 2 adults (purchased in March for May 2011). We knew we had one stop before ours, and we knew when our train should arrive in Civitavecchia, so ten minutes prior, we began staging our luggage near the exit door. We did have two flights of stairs to negotiate, but they were both short staircases. We met two other couples emerging from the stairs, realized we were all going to the same ship so we trundled along together the short 10 minute walk to the ship that others on these message boards talk about. The cab ride costs about five Euros each. At the gates there is a port shuttle bus. Embarkation -- We have travelled on two other cruise lines but Holland America's embarkation was the best organized and quickest we have participated in. Our bags were handled quickly and before we knew it we were attending a welcome luncheon in the dining room. Our cabin steward was the best so far as well; always unobtrusively keeping the room spotless. The food and dining rooms were very nice and the servers were professional without intruding on your dining experience. On one ship we were on it was obvious that the passengers' comments at the end of the cruise played heavily on the staffs' bonuses and therefore the staff were continually trying to engage you and trying to outdo each other in order that you would write down their names. There was none of this on HAL much to our relief. The activities and entertainment offered were very good. We opted not to take any ship excursions but either did each port on our own or took a tour arranged through the cruise critic roll call for our ship. Port Info Dubrovnik -- Following information we found on these boards and much reading, we decided to walk the walls surrounging the old city of Dubrovnik. We took the local bus (look for 1A, 1B, or 8; you don't have to walk far) to the Pile Gate 15 minutes; the conductor took our money (10 kuna one way) EUR 1pp, gave us change, and validated our ticket. The walls were not crowded. Some say you can use Euros for admittance but we were told no when we were at the ticket counter so went back outside the gate and purchased a small amount of kuna at the bank machine outside the port gate and up the hill a little way. We paid 70 kuna (9 euros) each to walk the wall, and this was an absolutely charming walk. Access the walls, climb the steps immediately to your left after paying at the Pile Gate. While there are plenty of stairs, we did not find them strenuous, and the views of the red-roofed buildings, narrow alleyways, and the sea made for gorgeous photos. Once you complete the circuit, you can go into the town and visit the Franciscan Monastery (20 kuna each). The cloister is peaceful, and the pharmacy there (no longer used) is supposedly the oldest in Europe. We strolled down The Stradun and you can follow a walking tour available on the internet. "DubrovnikTravelady" on these boards is a wealth of information also. A few souvenirs and a gelato later, we managed to spend the last of our kunas. The city wall is 2 kilometers long and there are a total of 650 steps spread throughout. We retraced our steps back to the ship arriving for a late lunch. Kerkyra, Corfu -- We took the bus from the cruise terminal to Old Town which cost something like 1.5euro each. Very easy. The bus is right at the cruise terminal parking lot. We walked along the bay to Kanoni. The trip from the town to the Kanoni peninsula is the ideal scene for a walk all along Garitsa Bay up to Mon Repo Estate and continuing on to the Kanoni peninsula. We took the #2 bus back from Kanoni to Old Town and then walked back to the ship (20-30 min. walk which is flat and even) after exploring some of the shops. Along the walk you will come to the Mon Repos Palace which belonged at one time to the Greek royal family and is now a museum and houses many artifacts from Roman times to the 19th century. You cannot see it from the street, but you can see its pillared entrance gate. The entrance to the estate and gardens is free; you only need to buy a ticket if you want to visit the museum inside the Mon Repos Palace. Over the years the gardens have been let go but you can tell they were once very grand. Prince Phillip was born at the Mon Repos Palace in 1921. Iside the estate the road continues after the palace and leads to the Sanctuary of Akreas Iras. The original temple was built around 600 BC and is somewhat large in size (20m x 43m). It was gradually destroyed by civil wars and by successive conquerors of Corfu, who used the building's materials in constructing the walls of the new town. Southeast of the Sanctuary was an open-air archaic shrine dedicated to Apollo of Korkireo and the Doric- styled Temple of Kardaki (6th C. BC). The temple is the best preserved building of its kind on Corfu. Continuing on the road, we end up at the edge of the little peninsula - at Kanoni. The Halikiopoulou Lagoon empties directly at our feet and there is an air corridor and immediately opposite is the much-photographed Pontikonisi (Mouse Island), Corfu's trademark. At the Kanoni peninsula you will find those two tiny islands you often see on pictures: one is the islet of Vlaherna and the other one is Pontikonisi or Mouse Island. The view from Kanoni over these two islands with Corfu in the background is the most famous in Corfu; you'll see copies of it everywhere on postcards and in magazines. Katakolon, Greece (Olympia) -- We decided to rent a car with another couple from our roll call board due to strikes with public transit. We learned that the route was straight-forward, 38 km and only took 25 minutes. The rental companies are AVIS or the one we used was DIAS rent-a-car (Dionysios Diplas -- only 3 minutes walk from the port to the office). Rental for a fiat panda (manual 5 speed) 40 Euros per day with insurance and taxes. Free parking at Olympia site. Fuel needed is about 10 Euros. The museum and ruins were about 9 Euros combined. We stopped at a winery on the way back to the ship which was fun and interesting as they had wild peacocks walking/flying freely around their property. We had also downloaded Rick Steeves audio walking tour for Olympia which was helpful. Thira (Santorini) Greece -- Another easy port to do on your own. From where the ships dock, you tender in to shore and then have to ascend a steep hill to the town of Thira. You can do this by funicular or by riding a donkey up the hill or walking. (Funicular and donkey cost about the same -- a few euros each). Once at the top, we caught a local bus to Oia (pronounced "Ee-yah") where the beautiful views are. This is where you'll see the white buildings with blue roofs beautiful sea views, etc. To return to the ship, just reverse the process. You can take a taxi to Oia rather than the bus for a few euro more. Be sure to allow PLENTY of time at the end of the day to get back; the lines for the funicular can get quite long..... We had planned to walk along the Caldera to Oia which would have been a beautiful walk however it was a rainy day. If we return, we will certainly do the walk. Frommer'sGuide says "The path from Fira to Oia (10km/6 miles) follows the edge of the caldera, passes several churches, and climbs two substantial hills along the way. Beginning at Fira, take the pedestrian path on the caldera rim, climbing past the Catholic Cathedral to the villages of Firostephani and Imerovigli. In Imerovigli, signs on the path point the way to Oia; you'll be okay so long as you continue north, eventually reaching a dirt path along the caldera rim that parallels the vehicular road. The trail leaves the vicinity of the road with each of the next two ascents, returning to the road in the valleys. The descent into Oia eventually leads to the main pedestrian street in town. Allow yourself at least 2 hours." Kusadasi, Ephesus, Turkey -- We found a group on our roll call and booked a 4 hour tour with Ephesus Deluxe for $30US pp (we paid the day of the tour -- 18 in our group). Tour included p/u in an a/c bus with English speaking professional guide to Ephesus including the Odeon, Temple of Hadrian, Roman Baths, Celsius Library, the Theater, the temple of Artemis and entrance into the Terrace Houses. All entrance fees and parking fees included - no hidden charges. You must see the Terrace Houses. We did stop at a rug factory on the way back which turned out to be very educational (we even saw live silk worms) - there was no pressure at all either to stop there (we wanted to) or to purchase. It was the perfect amount of touring time. Piraeus (Athens) Greece -- Another very easy port to do on your own. From the ship we walked toward the left to the subway train (30 minutes) and went to the Acropolis. Breathtaking. There is a good, safe sidewalk, and as long as you keep the water on your left and keep walking past all the ferry piers, you can't miss seeing the escalator and overhead walkway that lead across the main street to the metro stop. Fare is 1 €, or 3€ for an all-day pass, and the metro was very efficient since it is not affected by traffic. There is only one subway line at Piraeus (Green line). The Green line is also called the Electric Train; it's not considered the "metro" as the Red and Blue lines are. Beware of pickpockets on the trains. Take the Green line to Omonia station (Omonia square) and transfer there to the red line. Travel on red line to Akropolis stop. When you get off the metro, look around to get your bearings. First, visit Hadrian's Arch (at the entrance of the Temple of Zeus; Amallias Avenue) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus (completed by Hadrian around 130 AD). The Temple opens at 8am. You can buy your 12 € combo ticket here and use it at most of the places visited this morning. If time permits, visit the new Acropolis museum, close to the SE entrance of the Acropolis. Next, head for the southeast entrance of the Acropolis (included in your 12 € combo ticket). There is so much to see there, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus. We bought the Rick Steeves book but also downloaded his free walking tour of the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis for our ipods. It was perfect. Messina, Italy -- We took a 5 hour tour for 40 Euros pp. 8 people in our group. Castelmola, Taormina and the Greek theatre and we were at the Church tower for the 12 noon astronomical clock display -- the ship was a 5-10 minute walk from there but our driver drove us up to the ship. Disembarkation and Summary -- Civitavecchia to Rome -- When you leave the ship you will take the free shuttle to the port entrance. Exit the port and walk along the main road for 8/10 minutes. Walk along the water (keep the water to your right) for about 4 blocks and you will see the small train station right off the sidewalk on the left side of the street The train station is on the left (you will need to cross the road from the sea-front to get to it). Taxi drivers will not be happy to take you from the port to the station as it is such a short fare for them. When you enter the station go to the desk and buy a BIRG ticket for 9 Euro. This ticket includes round trip on the local trains (not on the less frequent IC Plus trains) This allows you to get the train into Rome Termini and then you can use it on all public transport in Rome for the day (Great value - but don't forget to validate the ticket on the platform before using it). The local train takes about 80/90 minutes. The train should not be too busy when you board - it does fill up as it approaches Rome. If you are lucky you will find seats at the end of a carriage which will allow you to place one suitcase in front of you while you sit. You could bring a bike lock and feed it through all the luggage handles and it should be secure! We stayed in Rome at theUNA Hotel Roma. The hotel is located 1 block from Stazione Termini on a quiet street (about 5 minutes walk, even with luggage). We haven't wandered around the neighbourhood much, though we seem to be on the "nicer" side of the train station. We felt very safe walking to the hotel at any time of the day. The hotel itself was pretty new, so the decor is pretty clean and modern. Our general impression is that the place was very nice and clean and the staff were quite friendly. Breakfast was included in the room rate and it was very good. Train from Rome to Naples. Because we flew into Naples to begin our holiday, we decided to fly out of Naples for our return home. We prebooked a ticket from Rome to Naples and the 2nd class "mini" fare was only 18 Euros for 2 adults. It took 2 hours. To get from Roma Termini, Rome's main train station, to Napoli Centrale, Naples' main train station, there are several train options. Trains run directly between the two stations so most trains don't require a change at another stop. You can check schedules and ticket prices on the Trenitalia.com web site (this is the official site for train travel in Italy). Outside Napoli Centrale we caught the Naples Airport "Alibus". The Alibus (tickets €3, from the driver) runs in a fixed loop - every 30 minutes from the airport to Piazza Garibaldi (for "Napoli Centrale" railway station), and then on to its terminus near Piazza Municipio, for the city's main port.

Eastern Med - Wonderful Ports to DIY

Noordam Cruise Review by helmslady

Trip Details
Personal Background Information -- Our cruise in May of 2011 was to leave from Civitavecchia with stops in Dubrovnik, Kerkyra/Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Thira (Santorini), Kusadasi (Ephesus), Piraeus (Athens), Messina/Sicily but first I met my husband who was working in Sorrento so I flew into Naples and while in Sorrento we took the local train to Pompeii. We left Sorrento and met the ship in Civitavecchia and the following is our travel itinerary.
Travel To Port of Embarkation -- Taking the Bus from Naples Airport to Sorrento -- If you're flying into the Naples Airport, bypassing Naples entirely, and want to get directly to Sorrento, there's a coach service that goes from the airport (50min should be plenty of time to collect luggage & catch the Curreri Viaggi bus to Sorrento, it leaves from just outside the main door) to Sorrento (leaves you right outside the Stazione Circumvesuviana train station, plenty of taxis there if your hotel is not within walking distance). Buy your tickets on the bus, €10 pp one way from airport to Sorrento train station about 1.25 hour trip and runs every day 6x per day (though the frequency and departure times vary with the season).
The day before we left Sorrento to board our ship we decided to go to Pompeii -- Getting to Pompeii and/or Herculaneum is very easy and inexpensive by train from Sorrento (we did) or Naples. Go to the station and ask for round-trip tickets on the Circumvesuviana. It'll cost about 4 euro or so from Sorrento and a little more from Naples, I believe. You'll want the Naples-Sorrento line. Trains run roughly every 30 minutes or so and the trip will take about 40 minutes from either place. If going to Pompeii, you'll want to get off at the POMPEII SCAVI-VILLA DEI MISTERI station (scavi means ruins), which is about 50 yards or so in front of the Porta Marina entrance. The POMPEII stop is for the "modern" city and it's a longer walk, although do-able, to an entrance from there. We had bought Rick Steeves book and also downloaded his free audio walking tour of Pompeii for our ipod. You should make sure to ask for the site map when you buy your ticket as they won't offer it to you. Canadians should note, that if you present your Canadian passport, seniors are not charged admission at Pompeii. I don't know why that is the case. Apparently it is an arrangement between Canada and Italy. We found our admission fee waved to the Greek Theater in Taormina in Sicily as well. Our American companions were charged. I don't know about Naples but we purchased our tickets from an office on the ground floor of the Sorrento station (just off Corso Italia on Via Marziale) and all we had to say was "Pompeii." They handle thousands of people doing the Scavi Shuffle! Do make sure your ticket is a return (round trip) unless you are traveling on to another location. Circumvesuviana trains don't have restrooms so you might want to visit facilities at the station before you board. When you get off the train turn right and you'll find the main entrance to the ruins just a couple of minutes' walk along the road. You'll pass several cafes here if you're looking for refreshments either before or after your visit.
Circumvesuviana from Sorrento to Civitavecchia
The circumvesuviana only runs between Sorrento and Naples. Book Circumvesuviana at the station, it is only a commuter train, no reservations are necessary. It lets you off in Naples downstairs from the Trenitalia tracks that will take you to Rome. We checked the train schedule to make sure we could get a direct train from Naples through to Civitavecchia so that we wouldn't have to change trains in Rome. The Circumvesuviana Piazza Garibaldi Train Station is downstairs from Napoli Centrale FS Train Station. Once your Circumvesuviana Train arrives at the stop at Piazza Garibaldi, you'll need to walk up two flights of stairs and then head left several corridors to Napoli Centrale FS Train Station. There's an information booth nearby when you reach the ground floor up the flight of stairs and you can ask for directions in case you need them. Time from Sorrento to Naples is approximately 70 minutes and Naples to Rome is 1:45 to2 hours depending on the train, Euorstar, IC etc. Total time from Sorrento to Rome is about 3 ½ to 4 hours if you take into account some time to transfer in Naples.
We departed Napoli Centrale at 7:17am and arrived Civitavecchia at 10:35 am. We chose the IC train (direct, no connections) in second class "MINI" fare purchased online in advance and paid EUR 26 for 2 adults (purchased in March for May 2011). We knew we had one stop before ours, and we knew when our train should arrive in Civitavecchia, so ten minutes prior, we began staging our luggage near the exit door. We did have two flights of stairs to negotiate, but they were both short staircases. We met two other couples emerging from the stairs, realized we were all going to the same ship so we trundled along together the short 10 minute walk to the ship that others on these message boards talk about. The cab ride costs about five Euros each. At the gates there is a port shuttle bus.

Embarkation -- We have travelled on two other cruise lines but Holland America's embarkation was the best organized and quickest we have participated in.
Our bags were handled quickly and before we knew it we were attending a welcome luncheon in the dining room. Our cabin steward was the best so far as well; always unobtrusively keeping the room spotless. The food and dining rooms were very nice and the servers were professional without intruding on your dining experience. On one ship we were on it was obvious that the passengers' comments at the end of the cruise played heavily on the staffs' bonuses and therefore the staff were continually trying to engage you and trying to outdo each other in order that you would write down their names. There was none of this on HAL much to our relief. The activities and entertainment offered were very good.
We opted not to take any ship excursions but either did each port on our own or took a tour arranged through the cruise critic roll call for our ship.

Port Info
Dubrovnik -- Following information we found on these boards and much reading, we decided to walk the walls surrounging the old city of Dubrovnik. We took the local bus (look for 1A, 1B, or 8; you don't have to walk far) to the Pile Gate 15 minutes; the conductor took our money (10 kuna one way) EUR 1pp, gave us change, and validated our ticket. The walls were not crowded. Some say you can use Euros for admittance but we were told no when we were at the ticket counter so went back outside the gate and purchased a small amount of kuna at the bank machine outside the port gate and up the hill a little way. We paid 70 kuna (9 euros) each to walk the wall, and this was an absolutely charming walk. Access the walls, climb the steps immediately to your left after paying at the Pile Gate. While there are plenty of stairs, we did not find them strenuous, and the views of the red-roofed buildings, narrow alleyways, and the sea made for gorgeous photos. Once you complete the circuit, you can go into the town and visit the Franciscan Monastery (20 kuna each). The cloister is peaceful, and the pharmacy there (no longer used) is supposedly the oldest in Europe. We strolled down The Stradun and you can follow a walking tour available on the internet. "DubrovnikTravelady" on these boards is a wealth of information also. A few souvenirs and a gelato later, we managed to spend the last of our kunas. The city wall is 2 kilometers long and there are a total of 650 steps spread throughout. We retraced our steps back to the ship arriving for a late lunch.

Kerkyra, Corfu -- We took the bus from the cruise terminal to Old Town which cost something like 1.5euro each. Very easy. The bus is right at the cruise terminal parking lot. We walked along the bay to Kanoni. The trip from the town to the Kanoni peninsula is the ideal scene for a walk all along Garitsa Bay up to Mon Repo Estate and continuing on to the Kanoni peninsula. We took the #2 bus back from Kanoni to Old Town and then walked back to the ship (20-30 min. walk which is flat and even) after exploring some of the shops.
Along the walk you will come to the Mon Repos Palace which belonged at one time to the Greek royal family and is now a museum and houses many artifacts from Roman times to the 19th century. You cannot see it from the street, but you can see its pillared entrance gate. The entrance to the estate and gardens is free; you only need to buy a ticket if you want to visit the museum inside the Mon Repos Palace. Over the years the gardens have been let go but you can tell they were once very grand. Prince Phillip was born at the Mon Repos Palace in 1921.
Iside the estate the road continues after the palace and leads to the Sanctuary of Akreas Iras. The original temple was built around 600 BC and is somewhat large in size (20m x 43m). It was gradually destroyed by civil wars and by successive conquerors of Corfu, who used the building's materials in constructing the walls of the new town. Southeast of the Sanctuary was an open-air archaic shrine dedicated to Apollo of Korkireo and the Doric- styled Temple of Kardaki (6th C. BC). The temple is the best preserved building of its kind on Corfu.
Continuing on the road, we end up at the edge of the little peninsula - at Kanoni. The Halikiopoulou Lagoon empties directly at our feet and there is an air corridor and immediately opposite is the much-photographed Pontikonisi (Mouse Island), Corfu's trademark. At the Kanoni peninsula you will find those two tiny islands you often see on pictures: one is the islet of Vlaherna and the other one is Pontikonisi or Mouse Island. The view from Kanoni over these two islands with Corfu in the background is the most famous in Corfu; you'll see copies of it everywhere on postcards and in magazines.

Katakolon, Greece (Olympia) -- We decided to rent a car with another couple from our roll call board due to strikes with public transit. We learned that the route was straight-forward, 38 km and only took 25 minutes. The rental companies are AVIS or the one we used was DIAS rent-a-car (Dionysios Diplas -- only 3 minutes walk from the port to the office). Rental for a fiat panda (manual 5 speed) 40 Euros per day with insurance and taxes. Free parking at Olympia site. Fuel needed is about 10 Euros. The museum and ruins were about 9 Euros combined. We stopped at a winery on the way back to the ship which was fun and interesting as they had wild peacocks walking/flying freely around their property. We had also downloaded Rick Steeves audio walking tour for Olympia which was helpful.
Thira (Santorini) Greece -- Another easy port to do on your own. From where the ships dock, you tender in to shore and then have to ascend a steep hill to the town of Thira. You can do this by funicular or by riding a donkey up the hill or walking. (Funicular and donkey cost about the same -- a few euros each). Once at the top, we caught a local bus to Oia (pronounced "Ee-yah") where the beautiful views are. This is where you'll see the white buildings with blue roofs beautiful sea views, etc. To return to the ship, just reverse the process. You can take a taxi to Oia rather than the bus for a few euro more. Be sure to allow PLENTY of time at the end of the day to get back; the lines for the funicular can get quite long..... We had planned to walk along the Caldera to Oia which would have been a beautiful walk however it was a rainy day. If we return, we will certainly do the walk. Frommer'sGuide says "The path from Fira to Oia (10km/6 miles) follows the edge of the caldera, passes several churches, and climbs two substantial hills along the way. Beginning at Fira, take the pedestrian path on the caldera rim, climbing past the Catholic Cathedral to the villages of Firostephani and Imerovigli. In Imerovigli, signs on the path point the way to Oia; you'll be okay so long as you continue north, eventually reaching a dirt path along the caldera rim that parallels the vehicular road. The trail leaves the vicinity of the road with each of the next two ascents, returning to the road in the valleys. The descent into Oia eventually leads to the main pedestrian street in town. Allow yourself at least 2 hours."

Kusadasi, Ephesus, Turkey -- We found a group on our roll call and booked a 4 hour tour with Ephesus Deluxe for $30US pp (we paid the day of the tour -- 18 in our group). Tour included p/u in an a/c bus with English speaking professional guide to Ephesus including the Odeon, Temple of Hadrian, Roman Baths, Celsius Library, the Theater, the temple of Artemis and entrance into the Terrace Houses. All entrance fees and parking fees included - no hidden charges. You must see the Terrace Houses. We did stop at a rug factory on the way back which turned out to be very educational (we even saw live silk worms) - there was no pressure at all either to stop there (we wanted to) or to purchase. It was the perfect amount of touring time.

Piraeus (Athens) Greece -- Another very easy port to do on your own. From the ship we walked toward the left to the subway train (30 minutes) and went to the Acropolis. Breathtaking. There is a good, safe sidewalk, and as long as you keep the water on your left and keep walking past all the ferry piers, you can't miss seeing the escalator and overhead walkway that lead across the main street to the metro stop. Fare is 1 €, or 3€ for an all-day pass, and the metro was very efficient since it is not affected by traffic.
There is only one subway line at Piraeus (Green line). The Green line is also called the Electric Train; it's not considered the "metro" as the Red and Blue lines are. Beware of pickpockets on the trains. Take the Green line to Omonia station (Omonia square) and transfer there to the red line. Travel on red line to Akropolis stop.
When you get off the metro, look around to get your bearings. First, visit Hadrian's Arch (at the entrance of the Temple of Zeus; Amallias Avenue) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus (completed by Hadrian around 130 AD). The Temple opens at 8am. You can buy your 12 € combo ticket here and use it at most of the places visited this morning. If time permits, visit the new Acropolis museum, close to the SE entrance of the Acropolis. Next, head for the southeast entrance of the Acropolis (included in your 12 € combo ticket). There is so much to see there, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus.
We bought the Rick Steeves book but also downloaded his free walking tour of the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis for our ipods. It was perfect.

Messina, Italy -- We took a 5 hour tour for 40 Euros pp. 8 people in our group. Castelmola, Taormina and the Greek theatre and we were at the Church tower for the 12 noon astronomical clock display -- the ship was a 5-10 minute walk from there but our driver drove us up to the ship.

Disembarkation and Summary -- Civitavecchia to Rome --
When you leave the ship you will take the free shuttle to the port entrance. Exit the port and walk along the main road for 8/10 minutes. Walk along the water (keep the water to your right) for about 4 blocks and you will see the small train station right off the sidewalk on the left side of the street The train station is on the left (you will need to cross the road from the sea-front to get to it). Taxi drivers will not be happy to take you from the port to the station as it is such a short fare for them. When you enter the station go to the desk and buy a BIRG ticket for 9 Euro. This ticket includes round trip on the local trains (not on the less frequent IC Plus trains) This allows you to get the train into Rome Termini and then you can use it on all public transport in Rome for the day (Great value - but don't forget to validate the ticket on the platform before using it). The local train takes about 80/90 minutes. The train should not be too busy when you board - it does fill up as it approaches Rome. If you are lucky you will find seats at the end of a carriage which will allow you to place one suitcase in front of you while you sit. You could bring a bike lock and feed it through all the luggage handles and it should be secure!
We stayed in Rome at theUNA Hotel Roma. The hotel is located 1 block from Stazione Termini on a quiet street (about 5 minutes walk, even with luggage). We haven't wandered around the neighbourhood much, though we seem to be on the "nicer" side of the train station. We felt very safe walking to the hotel at any time of the day. The hotel itself was pretty new, so the decor is pretty clean and modern. Our general impression is that the place was very nice and clean and the staff were quite friendly. Breakfast was included in the room rate and it was very good.
Train from Rome to Naples. Because we flew into Naples to begin our holiday, we decided to fly out of Naples for our return home. We prebooked a ticket from Rome to Naples and the 2nd class "mini" fare was only 18 Euros for 2 adults. It took 2 hours. To get from Roma Termini, Rome's main train station, to Napoli Centrale, Naples' main train station, there are several train options. Trains run directly between the two stations so most trains don't require a change at another stop. You can check schedules and ticket prices on the Trenitalia.com web site (this is the official site for train travel in Italy).
Outside Napoli Centrale we caught the Naples Airport "Alibus". The Alibus (tickets €3, from the driver) runs in a fixed loop - every 30 minutes from the airport to Piazza Garibaldi (for "Napoli Centrale" railway station), and then on to its terminus near Piazza Municipio, for the city's main port.
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