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MG16

Excursions In The Med

29 posts in this topic

Looking for some advice on excursions round the Med, I have only cruised round the Caribbean before and never gone for the cruise lines excursions. I think they are so overpriced, if we wanted to do anything (other than going to the nearest beach) we would walk off and speak to a local tour guide/taxi and get an amazing tour for a quarter of the price!

 

I understand if I want to visit places like Rome, Florence and Pisa it is worthwhile doing a ship organised tour, but for other ports will I be ok doing it on my own? We are pretty confident travellers and I refuse to pay through the nose for a tour a local can give me for much less. I also hate the thought of coaches of tourists travelling round in herds and a tour guide with a mega phone.

 

Any advice would be welcome

 

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Hi  I totally agree with 2torts if you wish to have a city centre tour the HOHO buses are a cost effective option.  If you wish to visit sites further afield I usually book the ship's excursion tours I don't have the worry of missing the ship's departure.  In contrast to the Caribbean the local tours are only a little cheaper than the ship's tours but for two passengers they can work out more expensive but for larger groups they can be better value.

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Yes the med is quite easy to do on your own apart from some of the ports, like you said for Rome I would definitely do a shore excursion. however for places such as naples, you can walk into the centre or get the local train to Sorrento, Pompeii. Dubrovnik you can do on your own as well! ask your travel agent who you have booked through im sure they will have abit more information on this smile.png

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Hi MG16, whereabouts in the Med are you due to visit? It would help to have a few examples of the ports of call to narrow down suggestions for you. You will almost certainly be fine to do your own thing in most destinations other than the ones you specified before. The hop on hop off buses are an excellent tool for getting around a wide range of cities but sometimes I do thing certain tours are worth considering. I completely agree with you about the megaphone frustration, I cannot stand that and having to huddle round so you can listen. Fortunately on the past few tours I booked we were provided with headphones and the main guide communicated with us through those meaning you could always hear them without needing to be right next to them all the time. 

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thank you for the replies, I will definitely look in to the ho-ho buses.

sammy sun I am visiting Gibraltar, Ajaccio, Rome, Livorno, Marseilles, Barcelona and Lisbon. If there are any particular things you think are not to be missed let me know!

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Looks a nice itinerary MG16 and I hope you have a lovely time. For Ajaccio, I would say you could easily do this independently, I have done multiple times and have enjoyed myself very much. As for Rome and Livorno, if it's your first time then yes I would look to do a tour as they are very good but if you prefer to do your own thing, you could just opt for the transfers to and from Rome and Florence, giving you a full day on your own to do as you wish. I've done both tour and free time options, both of which I enjoyed. Barcelona is very easy to do on your own and here alongside Lisbon are two ports that are very well served by hop on hop off bus tours. Usually with Barcelona the ship will offer a shuttle to the nearby world trade centre. Here is where you'll find the hop on hop off buses but it's also just a short stroll to the foot of Las Ramblas if you just fancy having a nice walk around. 

 

The last time I was in Marseilles was with P&O Cruises and we did a wine tour which was excellent. I've done both independent and tour in Gibraltar but did enjoy the tour last time as it was more organised and simple without the hassle of doing it yourself. The price was also pretty good and it left us plenty of time afterwards to do our own thing as well.

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Looking for some advice on excursions round the Med, I have only cruised round the Caribbean before and never gone for the cruise lines excursions. I think they are so overpriced, if we wanted to do anything (other than going to the nearest beach) we would walk off and speak to a local tour guide/taxi and get an amazing tour for a quarter of the price!

 

I understand if I want to visit places like Rome, Florence and Pisa it is worthwhile doing a ship organised tour, but for other ports will I be ok doing it on my own? We are pretty confident travellers and I refuse to pay through the nose for a tour a local can give me for much less. I also hate the thought of coaches of tourists travelling round in herds and a tour guide with a mega phone.

 

Any advice would be welcome

 

Good morning MG16.

 

I find it's always a case of what you personally want from a port visit and as such I have used ship's excursions, private excursions and a sometimes I've just 'done my own thing'. (I don't really like that expression but I'm sure you will know what i mean)

 

I look upon ship's excursions as the 'market norm' where price is concerned. I have done countless and cannot for the life of me say I haven't enjoyed them or found them value for money.

 

You will always find folk on forums who will say they can 'do it cheaper'. Often though they do not have the services of a guide and therefore they don't get the level of information on a port/tour that a ship'd guide will give. ( back to my opening statement about what individuals particularly want)

 

I have also taken 'private' excursions with companies like Cruising-excursions who generally offer a cheaper deal but do have more limited itineraries. I have also done many private excursions with companies like 'Tours by Locals'. They are always far more expensive than the ship's ones but cater for your specific needs and really go in depth. 

 

Then of course there are those you can easily do yourself and research thoroughly on the internet before you go.

 

So that is where i am coming from and hopefully give you, and other members of this forum, the benefit of my experience.

 

Here goes...

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Ajaccio.

 

Along with Cartagena Ajaccio has to be one of the easiest ports to see under your own steam.

 

The ship berths in the heart of the town...

 

VenturainAjaccio_zpsce569d57.jpg

 

If you do have mobility issues there is an excellent tourist transport system called Le petit Train...

 

LePetitTrainOptionsboard_zps3d1e71f1.jpg

 

Napoleon features a lot there, after all, it was his birth place...

 

NapoleonLittleManStatueatlaPlacedrsquoAu

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Lisbon.

 

A great place to visit but unlike Ajaccio it is spread out a little. 

 

If you aren't keen on the ship's tours I would suggest the Ho Ho bus is a good start point...

 

14749288878_950ec7a53f_z.jpg

 

There are of course some 'tourist landmarks not to be missed...

 

 

14932818431_dab307c085_z.jpg

 

My favourite place there was the Castle of São Jorge...

 

14749246000_ea278d2102_z.jpg

 

If nothing else, for the great views over Lisbon...

 

 

 14944293562_70888f7118_z.jpg

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Great advice as always Solent Richard and some great pictures to accompany!

 

 

Thank you Cast ashore, very kind.

 

And now for Gibraltar.

 

Cruise ships berth a fair way from the centre of Gibraltar. I'd say it's about a 20 - 30 minute walk.

 

However, right outside the terminal gate are a multitude of shuttle buses and taxis...

 

ShuttleService_zps4a0c5526.jpg

 

Without any doubt, if you haven't been to gibraltar before then a visit to the top of the Rock is a must.

 

The buses and taxis at the gate all offer a drive to the top or one could choose the Cable car, which operates from the other side of the town...

 

CablecarBase_zpse0986063.jpg

 

 

There are some great views to be had, across to Africa...

 

EuropaPointandAfrica_zps58da8bd7.jpg

 

 

 

and from the top, down over your ship...

 

GibraltaroverviewcopySolentRichard_zpsb4

 

 

My wife and I actually did it on foot. A great challenge with the benefit of being able to explore the old defences on the route back down...

 

DefenceBattery_zps6a87f427.jpg

 

 

Gibraltar is also one of the better places to pick up that odd amount of duty free. Main Street is a good destination for shoppers...

 

 

MainStreetGibraltar_zpsd4a0affe.jpg

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Gibraltar often gets a lot of hammer for regularly popping up on Mediterranean itineraries. I can understand this from one point of view as it would be nice to see cruise lines vary it up a little but if you have never been there before then it is actually a nice port of call to visit. I've heard it be described as "horrendous" and even "one big construction site" but I would strongly disagree with this. I think it has some lovely attractions and if given a chance, is in fact a nice place to see. The Rock itself is very impressive and definitely worth doing, either independently or through an excursion. We did an excursion which was excellent with P&O and also allowed us plenty of time to ourselves to do a little shopping and walking around afterwards. 

 

For shopping, sightseeing and some incredible views, Gibraltar is a nice place to see. 

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Can vouch for the tours that are available outside the terminal they are cheaper than ships excursions and we had a great tour of the rock took us everywhere and wasa very knowledgeable and then they drop you off back at the ship or in town if you have time for shopping depending how long you are in Gibraltar for.

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What Richard omits to say is the cable car queues are usually horrendous when ships are docked..so get there early.

 

My camera clock tells me it was 9.45 am when I took that photograph of the cable car and there were no queues: even the actual car only had what looks like 4 passengers.

 

Bearing in mind we had walked there that's not too bad.

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Gibraltar often gets a lot of hammer for regularly popping up on Mediterranean itineraries. I can understand this from one point of view as it would be nice to see cruise lines vary it up a little but if you have never been there before then it is actually a nice port of call to visit. I've heard it be described as "horrendous" and even "one big construction site" but I would strongly disagree with this. I think it has some lovely attractions and if given a chance, is in fact a nice place to see. The Rock itself is very impressive and definitely worth doing, either independently or through an excursion. We did an excursion which was excellent with P&O and also allowed us plenty of time to ourselves to do a little shopping and walking around afterwards. 

 

For shopping, sightseeing and some incredible views, Gibraltar is a nice place to see. 

 

Your right Sammy Sun. I always enjoy a visit to Gibraltar.

 

There are plenty of things to do including the War Tunnels, St. Michael's Cave, the Moorish Castle, Europa Point and the challenging 'Mediterranean Steps' walk long the Eastern Cliffs.

 

And if that lot bores anyone they can always have a pint in the 'Angry Friar' and read today's Daily Mail.wink.png wink.png

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And so for MG16 onto the next port of call on his list, Livorno.

 

I don't think MG16 has mentioned yet what ship he is on: that often makes a difference when calling into Livorno.

 

For those who have never visited here Livorno is the 'gateway' port for Pisa and Florence.

 

My wife and I visited when cruising on 'Independence of the Seas' and I considered it very important that I not only visited those two places but also made the most of the experience.

 

To that end we hired, through the internet, a private tour...

 

PapillonService_zps813dbc43.jpg

 

with a company called...

 

https://www.papillonservice.com

 

 

So we got to visit Pisa...

 

LeaningTowerandPiazzadelDuomo-Pisa_zpsa4

 

and Florence...

 

PonteVecchio-TheOldBridge_zpsb0ea03ef.jp

 

...in comfort, with a most knowledgeable guide who tailored our day to our needs, interests and requirements.

 

Of course one can do these two places on one's own using public transport. But I doubt whether both could be done in a day and as I keep saying, the local knowledge and historical information given by a guide is priceless.

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There was an added bonus to our Livorno tour by Papillon. I mentioned it being tailored to one's interests and that's what we got.

 

I have an interest in Chianti and it just so happens that the area between Livorno and Florence has some of the finest Chianti producing vineyards.

 

Needless to say a visit was programmed in once we had completed the Florence tour...

 

PureHeaven-acellarofChianticopy_zps61519

 

 

ChiantilifeistooshortcopySolentRichard_z

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My camera clock tells me it was 9.45 am when I took that photograph of the cable car and there were no queues: even the actual car only had what looks like 4 passengers.

 

Bearing in mind we had walked there that's not too bad.

Hi Richard

Shame you and your famed camera weren't in Gibraltar when I and many others stood in the queue for nearly an hour in blazing heat on one of my few cruises to get on the cable car.

Many folks more elderly than I gave up as it was all too much and with no seating as well it was an experience I wouldn't want to go through again.

Just remember..just because it hasn't happened to you doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

wheels36 likes this

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We did a ships excursion that was Florence and Pisa on your own very reasonable. Really want to visit Sienna but can only find private excursions at nearly 700 euros. I am sure i had seen this on ships excursions in the past.

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We did a lovely P & O tour to Pisa last year. We were taken to a boat & sailed along the river to Pisa where we went on a mini train to the Field of Miracles. After some free time we took the mini train to a coach & so back to the ship. When we arrived the street sellers were out in force selling camera selfie sticks but on the way back to the train it rained & they all immediately changed to selling umbrellas!

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Looking for some advice on excursions round the Med, I have only cruised round the Caribbean before and never gone for the cruise lines excursions. I think they are so overpriced, if we wanted to do anything (other than going to the nearest beach) we would walk off and speak to a local tour guide/taxi and get an amazing tour for a quarter of the price!

 

I understand if I want to visit places like Rome, Florence and Pisa it is worthwhile doing a ship organised tour, but for other ports will I be ok doing it on my own? We are pretty confident travellers and I refuse to pay through the nose for a tour a local can give me for much less. I also hate the thought of coaches of tourists travelling round in herds and a tour guide with a mega phone.

 

Any advice would be welcome

 

My advice would be to work out what you would like to do in each port and then decide on the best way to achieve it.

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