Public buses between the train station and port are €2, not €1 as stated on the Cruise Critic forums. Buses run very sporadically so you will need to plan on standing around waiting for a while. The shuttle runs far more frequently from port gate to the check-in area but still plan a little extra time. Also, hold onto your bus tickets if you don't validate on the way there. They didn't check or ask for ours so we used them on the ride back.
We self-debarked with our luggage at 6:30am and got to the train station at 7:30. Our train left at 10. Next time I would book an earlier train.
We booked Rhapsody of the Seas, 9-nights out of Rome, because of the excellent itinerary. We booked the cheapest inside cabin (Category Q) because we wanted to spend more of our money in port and on the land portions of our trip. Based on recommendations from friends, we booked through www.CruCon.com and were able to combine a previously purchased Next Cruise voucher (terms have since changed since 2012) and the CruCon incentives. I put down the deposit of $250 in early April 2014 and received $75 OBC from CruCon and $100 OBC from Royal (NCV). The next week, I bought our travel insurance, again using www.InsureMyTrip.com to search for policies. Cost of the interior room including taxes and port fees for both of us was $1661.08. Not too shabby for a 9-night!
The ship is older and smaller but was perfect for this trip as there were only two sea days. Service was fantastic, and food was very good overall. There were some misses but they didn't overshadow the generally good quality.
We were completely unprepared for the lack of television. The same shows were set on a loop and shown EVERYday. They were only a couple other channels in English. It was truly awful when we just wanted to relax before bed or while getting ready. Major fail.
The shows and live music were of high quality, but overall there wasn't a lot to do most times unless you wanted to play BINGO or trivia. It wasn't a high energy ship.
Souda (Chania), Crete, Greece
I was pleasantly surprised by this port. We took the public bus from port for about €3 per couple. It reminded me of a Greek cross between New Orleans and Key West. It is a big shopping area for olive wood and leather as well as olive oil-based products. We had a nice lunch on the harbor at 4 Seasons. This stop is very relaxed and easy to DIY.
|Bus stop location from port to help you get your bearings.|
Easy to do on your own, and you will find lots of jewelry and clothing shops here in this quaint little town. Just as photos show, the walls of the buildings are white-washed and the paths meander with no pattern. The town was purposely built this way to discourage and confuse pirates and looters who would quickly become lost. There are a lot of restaurants and bars with great views of the water. We had a fantastic lunch at Katerina's.
Santorini, Greece - A group of 10 of us formed up and booked NST Travel for a private tour of the island. Highly recommend NST travel as a tour company. We arrived an hour early for our tour, my mistake. Our guide, Elisa, arrived within 40 mins of my phone call although the bus did take a bit to arrive. The van could easily fit 16-20 people so we had plenty of room for our group of 10. The Mercedes is almost brand new with cream leather seats- very comfortable! Tour cost €500 for group - €100 per couple.
The cable car to the top of the cliff after tendering in from the ship (the town of Fira) is €5 pp one way. ar: €5 pp one way. We took the cable car up with no problem and no wait since it was early in the morning. Coming back the line was so long we decided to walk down the donkey path. It takes 20-30 mins and is not an easy walk. I don't know that we would do it again because of dodging donkey dung, rough patches, and donkeys. We were quite sore and tuckered out from the journey down.
The winery, Venetsanos, was very good with gorgeous views. Oia, the postcard town, is really spectacular but the shopping is better near the port. We had an incredible lunch at Skala, recommended by our tour guide.
|View from Venetsanos Winery on Santorini - incredible place for wine tasting!|
We bought our tickets into the Acropolis using our credit cards for about €11/12 each. It is definitely a must-visit but there is still a lot of excavation and restoration to be done. Be cautious of the very slippery marble throughout the site. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with good traction.
The Plaka is a wonderful place for shopping and eating. I bought a beautiful pair of leather sandals at a shop there. It's a very cool place to walk around and enjoy the leisurely shopping.
Katakolon (Olympia), Greece - We booked a private tour for the four of us with Taxi Katakolon. Our tour was about 6 hours and included a stop off at ancient Olympia and Olympia Land Winery. Total cost was 180 euro. Our driver, Takis, will take over for George, the current owner who requires major medical procedures. Takis is a wonderful guide and let us run our day. He took us to this cute bakery and bought a small box of pastry for us. The baklava there was the best I've had, but the pastry he sent with us was not spectacular.
Ancient Olympia is not labeled that well as far as telling you what you are seeing so you may want to preview information about it prior to your trip. Takis gave us a nice guidebook to use, but the large site can still be confusing.
Olympia Land Winery was €8 per person for the tasting, which included 4 wines and a small plate of snacks. The wine wasn't good at all but the winery itself is cute.
Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey - Our foursome joined up with another couple for Tour 5 by Ephesus Shuttle. Emre was our tour guide, and he was so friendly and knowledgeable. He made us all feel very comfortable right away, and was a fount of information throughout the day. We had full control of our day, which is extremely important because many of the tour companies will take their tourists to a Turkish carpet demonstration/factory where they are subjected to hard sales tactics. There was no pressure whatsoever from Emre to go to any of the outlets, which was completely refreshing. At the end of our trip, we asked where we could get an authentic Turkish lunch, and he brought us to a restaurant he knows well right by the port.
Ephesus, only 18% excavated, is absolutely incredible! Words cannot possibly describe what a fantastic historical site it is, and I highly recommend including the Terrace Houses in your tour. There is so much to see and appreciate, and I think it would be great to revisit this site in 20 years after more of it has been excavated. If you have a choice of cruises and Kusadasi is on the itinerary, take it!
|Library of Celcus - Ephesus|
We bought €1000 to take with us from Wells Fargo in our home town. The small fee is included in the exchange rate, but our bank always has foreign currency on hand so we didn't have to order, and there were no additional fees. Be sure to keep euros on hand when you go ashore because several places we went to were having technical difficulties with their credit card machines.
Resources for Pre-Cruise Research
Rick Steves' 2013 "Mediterranean Cruise Ports"
Rick Steves' 2014 "Italy"
Rick Steves' amazing website:
Cruise Critic Port of Call Message Boards