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View Full Version : Just back from the June 29th Med - tips for cruisers still to travel


sinnika
07-12-2011, 05:00 PM
We just returned from the 10 night June 29th Med cruise and had an amazing time! Great weather, amazing ports and had almost as much fun as last years 10 night Med cruise (though that one was hard to top as we stayed on for the 7 nt repo!). I wanted to offer up a few tips and precautions for those still yet to leave.

10. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and drink lots of water. The sun was a lot stronger than when we went in May last year.
9. Either wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees or bring a wrap if you plan to go into churches in the Med, not just the Vatican. At every port, we visited amazing churches, even just a quick visit at some. Many of the churches had someone at the front door monitoring if you were properly covered.
8. At most ports, it was easy to arrange a taxi to tour. Malta had several companies offering set tours, or you could create your own. Pricing was reasonable. 66 euro for a 3 hour tour in Malta.. Taxis hold 4 and many are BMWs. In Naples, you can negotitate a price depending where you are going and for how long. Taxis in Villafrenche were expensive. DH paid 40 euro to go from Villafrenche to Eze. The train was easy and ran frequently in the am and later afternoon. It took 7 min from Villafrenche to Nice by train, plus a 10 min walk to the train station from the port.
7. If you are planning to go to Cinque Terre by train, you may want to get a tender ticket before they call for open tendering at 9am. We were on the first open tender which waited to fill, and just made the 10:01am train to Monterroso. There is another one at 10:07am that stops in all the towns on the way. Suprisingly, there was no line in the Cinque Terre ticket office but if you are just taking the train and not hiking trails, buy your tickets in the automated machines. You will need smaller bills or coins. One way was 2.4 euro to Monterroso. We ferried all the way back to La Spezia with a change of ferries in Portoverne for 12 euro one way. The ferry trip and the stop in Portoverne was spectacular!
6. Be extra careful of your belongings esp in Barcelona. We witnessed a backpack theft in progress. We saw two boys running with a backpack, then a moment later, a family running around the corner very upset trying to find them.
5. Always make sure you are getting back correct change for your purchases. And ask for the price before you buy if its not well marked. Just speaking from experience here.
4. The free port bus in Civitavecchia did not start until 8am. We got off the ship at 7:40 am before they even announced the all ashore. The Navigator says approx 7:45am for all ashore. We were one of the first ones on the bus. As soon as we got off at the entrance of the port, there was an information kiosk that sold BIRG tickets (for the train back and forth and all metros and buses in Rome for 9 euro pp). There was a sign that mentioned Vatican tickets but I did not inquire pricing. We caught the 8:40am train that put us into the Termini station (the last stop) at 9:50 am. You can also buy the BIRG ticket at the train station or at Tobbachi booths on the 10 min walk to the train station.
3. If you are trying to decide between visiting the massive ruins the size of a city in Pompeii or the smaller ruins in Heruclaneum, I would highly recommend Herculaneum, esp if you are touring with older adults or young children. We hired a private guide right at the entrance after you pay to get in at Herculaneum for 55 euro for just the 4 of us. Its the same price if you have a larger group. There were lots of places to find shade in Herculaneum and much more to see mosaic tiles on floors, frescos on walls, statues and marble tables still there.
2. If you are still looking for a hotel in Barcelona, I highly recommend the Fira Palace hotel. The rooms were huge! We booked from Hotels.com and were able to sleep 4 to a room. The hotel website will only let you book 3 to a room. The Magic Fountains were a 5 min walk, and the Palace, now the National Museum of Catalunya is right there too. It was less than a 10 min walk to Placa Espana where you catch the train to Montserrat. Poble Espanol was also nearby as was the cable to go to the Castle at the top of Montjuic. Lots of restaurants and convienece stores in the area too. The room had 2 double beds pushed together plus a love seat that opened into a twin bed. The bathroom was huge with a separate shower and a tub.
1. And the most important tip: Mickey bars made by Nestle were still available! You can order them from room service (they are not listed on the menu) or in the dining rooms. Have a great cruise! :goodvibes

woody73
07-12-2011, 05:49 PM
Good tips.

Woody

lat
07-12-2011, 06:54 PM
Thanks so much for the tips!! We are leaving in 2 days!!

How do you get a tender ticket before open tender?

Good to hear that Mickey Bar is still available. My younger DD is allergic to nuts, the only dessert they offer her is Mickey bars.

Thanks

sinnika
07-12-2011, 07:03 PM
Thanks so much for the tips!! We are leaving in 2 days!!

How do you get a tender ticket before open tender?

Good to hear that Mickey Bar is still available. My younger DD is allergic to nuts, the only dessert they offer her is Mickey bars.

Thanks

You will have tendering info in your stateroom. Basically your whole party goes to the Buena Vista theatre and you wait till they gather you in groups in order of arrival, then they give you tendering tickets as you exit the theatre to go down to a waiting tender as a large group. We tendered in Villafrenche. We were only in the theater maybe 5 or 10 min before we went down to a tender.

mkmommy
07-12-2011, 07:28 PM
Is Peter still the CD?

Did you take a taxi to or from port to Fira Palace, if yes how much was a taxi?

Thanks for the great tips!

lat
07-12-2011, 07:58 PM
That was how we tendered last time. So this is not open tender?

sinnika
07-12-2011, 08:03 PM
Is Peter still the CD?

Did you take a taxi to or from port to Fira Palace, if yes how much was a taxi?

Thanks for the great tips!

Yes, Peter is the CD.

Another family of 3 arranged a car service and our family joined them for a total of 7 people for 60 euros total including luggage to the Fira Palace.
It was a large van with plenty of room for all of our luggage. Here is their website: www.autosvilar.com
I am so glad they did this as the taxi line was horrendous when we exited the ship around 9:15am. The car service was scheduled for 9:30am and the driver was already there! If your ship is arriving in Barcelona on Saturday, I would strongly recommend hiring a service if you don't want to wait. That seems to be a busy day as many cruise ships sail on Saturdays.

sinnika
07-12-2011, 08:07 PM
That was how we tendered last time. So this is not open tender?

Open tender means you go straight to the tender, either forward or aft. No stopping at the Buena Vista theatre to que. They will announce overhead when open tendering starts, and will also announce when they run tenders from only one place, either forward or aft.

lat
07-12-2011, 08:43 PM
Got it. We will get to Buena Vista as soon as after breakfast. Thanks!!

Anal Annie
07-12-2011, 10:07 PM
You will have tendering info in your stateroom. Basically your whole party goes to the Buena Vista theatre and you wait till they gather you in groups in order of arrival, then they give you tendering tickets as you exit the theatre to go down to a waiting tender as a large group. We tendered in Villafrenche. We were only in the theater maybe 5 or 10 min before we went down to a tender.

What time would we have to get to the theater if we're in a hurry in La Spezia to get off early? Will we even have time to eat? I was still kicking around the idea of doing Pisa AND Cinque Terre on our own but a 10:00 train doesn't sound too promising. Was the timing the same for Villefranche? Would it be 10:00 before we got anywhere if we wait for open tender there too?

sinnika
07-13-2011, 06:08 AM
What time would we have to get to the theater if we're in a hurry in La Spezia to get off early? Will we even have time to eat? I was still kicking around the idea of doing Pisa AND Cinque Terre on our own but a 10:00 train doesn't sound too promising. Was the timing the same for Villefranche? Would it be 10:00 before we got anywhere if we wait for open tender there too?

La Spezia all ashore is 7:30am. Breakfast at Topsiders starts at 6:15am so you will have plenty of time to eat. I saw the tenders at 7:20am waiting to attach to the ship when I went up for breakfast so I'm not sure what time the first passengers got off but if you want to get off extra early, then go to the Buena Vista as soon as they open at 7:30am. We wanted a more leisurely morning esp after Rome so we waited till they called for open tendering at 9am and DH slept in till 8:45am! :rotfl: Annie, if you guys want a nice beach day, I recommend going straight to Monterroso before the crowds. DS 14 rented a 2 person kayak with another friend, and they also swam. Water was cold but swimmable.
Villafrenche tendering also started at 7:30am. Topsiders opened at 6:45am. We only waited a few min in the Buena Vista before we got onto a tender. I think we went up around 8 or 8:30am. It was a 10 min walk to the train station and as we were trying to buy tickets in the automated machine, a train pulled up and we were able to buy tickets from the ticket collector after we boarded the train to Nice. We never saw any ticket collectors on the Italian trains.

Anal Annie
07-13-2011, 08:04 AM
La Spezia all ashore is 7:30am. Breakfast at Topsiders starts at 6:15am so you will have plenty of time to eat. I saw the tenders at 7:20am waiting to attach to the ship when I went up for breakfast so I'm not sure what time the first passengers got off but if you want to get off extra early, then go to the Buena Vista as soon as they open at 7:30am. We wanted a more leisurely morning esp after Rome so we waited till they called for open tendering at 9am and DH slept in till 8:45am! :rotfl: Annie, if you guys want a nice beach day, I recommend going straight to Monterroso before the crowds. DS 14 rented a 2 person kayak with another friend, and they also swam. Water was cold but swimmable.
Villafrenche tendering also started at 7:30am. Topsiders opened at 6:45am. We only waited a few min in the Buena Vista before we got onto a tender. I think we went up around 8 or 8:30am. It was a 10 min walk to the train station and as we were trying to buy tickets in the automated machine, a train pulled up and we were able to buy tickets from the ticket collector after we boarded the train to Nice. We never saw any ticket collectors on the Italian trains.

Interesting that Topsiders doesn't open at the same time every day. I didn't realize that the time fluctuated. Might order room service for the La Spezia morning to save some time. We're on one of the 7 night cruises so our port order goes in reverse of yours. Villefranche is first then La Spezia the next day. So did you rent chairs & umbrellas at Monterosso too? Do you know how much they are? What time did you finally get to Monterosso and what time did you leave for Vernazza? Where did you have lunch?? I was debating between Monterosso & Vernazza. I had thought we'd try to take the ferry on the way back if it's running. Was the 12 Euro pp?? Don't they sell a ticket that covers the ferry AND the train?? I had not thought of taking the ferry to Portoverne too. Is that on the way?? Did you get off there & explore too?? Thanks! Sorry I'm asking so many rapid fire questions but my clock is ticking!! 30 days from today until the cruise leaves!! :goodvibes

biomechgirl
07-13-2011, 09:21 AM
Great tips! Thanks so much for posting them!

We're planning on going straight to Monterosso from La Spezia too so I'm looking forward to the answers to Annie's questions. Right now we're thinking about taking the train to Monterosso, starting at the beach, sightseeing there, eat lunch, then Vernazza, and then possibly hike between the last 2 villages depending on the time and how tired/cranky the kids are.

sinnika
07-13-2011, 01:34 PM
Interesting that Topsiders doesn't open at the same time every day. I didn't realize that the time fluctuated. Might order room service for the La Spezia morning to save some time. We're on one of the 7 night cruises so our port order goes in reverse of yours. Villefranche is first then La Spezia the next day. So did you rent chairs & umbrellas at Monterosso too? Do you know how much they are? What time did you finally get to Monterosso and what time did you leave for Vernazza? Where did you have lunch?? I was debating between Monterosso & Vernazza. I had thought we'd try to take the ferry on the way back if it's running. Was the 12 Euro pp?? Don't they sell a ticket that covers the ferry AND the train?? I had not thought of taking the ferry to Portoverne too. Is that on the way?? Did you get off there & explore too?? Thanks! Sorry I'm asking so many rapid fire questions but my clock is ticking!! 30 days from today until the cruise leaves!! :goodvibes

The opening time differences for Topsiders is probably because they have to feed alot more people getting up super early for La Spezia DCL tours. Some groups had meeting times of 7:15am (the ones doing Pisa and Florence). The tours did not start quite so early for Villafrenche.
So here's the 101 for getting to Monterosso. The first train you can realistically catch leaves La Spezia at 10:01am. It has a travel time of 16 minutes to Monterosso arriving at 10:17am. Its stops in Riomaggiore first. If you miss that train, there is one that leaves at 10:07am with a 24 minute travel time as it stops in all 5 Cinque Terre towns. You will arrive in Monterosso at 10:31. There's another train at 10:40am and 11:10am. The train before the 10:01am leaves La Spezia at 8:12am. There are no others in between that time posted on the trenitalia site. Even if you were on the very first tender, which takes about 15 or 20 min travel time, then another 15 min fast walk to the train station, I don't think it is very likely to make that train, then you are stuck waiting for almost 2 hours for that 10:01am train.
The beach is pretty expansive in Monterosso. We rented 2 chairs and an umbrella for 17 euro for the day. Two loungers and an umbrella were 19 euro I think. DS rented a 2 person kayak for 1 hour for 12 euro. DH ate an early lunch at a nearby restaurant as he missed breakfast (sleep was more important for him :thumbsup2). DD and I walked to the end of the new town and had 2 foccaccias for 5.44 euro total. She had a cheese and basil, I had the pesto. Both were amazing! :goodvibes We had water already with us. The place was called Il Fornaio di Monterosso on Via Fegina 112 in case anyone is looking to find it. For those with small children, there is a nice playground at the end as well. After, we walked along the main road and visited the old town of Monterroso on the other side of the town - that is where the ferry leaves. The train station is in the center. We used Rick Steve's guide to sightsee in the old town. There were lots of shops too and you can sample pestos and olive oils at various places. There was also a nice children's playground in the old town as well. This was our second visit to Cinque Terre so we opted for the ferry to take us to Portoverne, then on to La Spezia. The ferry stopped at Vernazza, Manarola,and Riomaggiore before arriving In Portoverne. We left Monterroso at 14:30 (2:30pm) and arrived in Portoverne at 15:40 (3:40pm). The views of the towns from the water were spectacular! If you want to catch an earlier ferry to Vernazza, there is one at 11:30am and 12:10pm for 3.50 euro one way to Vernazza. The ferry takes 10 min, but get to the ferry 15 min early as there will be a que.
When we got off the ferry in Portoverne, the last stop, another ferry was leaving for La Spezia at 16:15 (4:15pm). We decided to catch the 17:15 ferry to spend more time in Portoverne. Not much sightseeing, but great shopping and even better pesto than in Monterosso! And that pesto was amazing! There were also very few tourists, as Portoverne is not accessible by train. There is a bus that runs every 30 min to La Spezia though with a 30 min travel time. That was our backup plan if we missed the ferry or if the seas were rough. We also had some great frappucinos (they don't call them that - we saw someone enjoying this amazing chocolate/coffee/gelato concoction and just pointed and ordered it! :cloud9: We were back in La Spezia around 6pm and very close to where we catch the tender for the ship!You can buy a ticket from the Cinque Terre office that includes the trains, trails and ferries, but I don't know if it includes that ferry from Portoverne to La Spezia or just the ferries between the 5 Cinque Terre towns. It was alot cheaper for us not to buy the Cinque Terre card as we were not hiking any of the trails or taking other trains other than the one to Monterroso for 2.4 euro pp. HTH! :goodvibes

Anal Annie
07-13-2011, 02:54 PM
The opening time differences for Topsiders is probably because they have to feed alot more people getting up super early for La Spezia DCL tours. Some groups had meeting times of 7:15am (the ones doing Pisa and Florence). The tours did not start quite so early for Villafrenche.
So here's the 101 for getting to Monterosso. The first train you can realistically catch leaves La Spezia at 10:01am. It has a travel time of 16 minutes to Monterosso arriving at 10:17am. Its stops in Riomaggiore first. If you miss that train, there is one that leaves at 10:07am with a 24 minute travel time as it stops in all 5 Cinque Terre towns. You will arrive in Monterosso at 10:31. There's another train at 10:40am and 11:10am. The train before the 10:01am leaves La Spezia at 8:12am. There are no others in between that time posted on the trenitalia site. Even if you were on the very first tender, which takes about 15 or 20 min travel time, then another 15 min fast walk to the train station, I don't think it is very likely to make that train, then you are stuck waiting for almost 2 hours for that 10:01am train.
The beach is pretty expansive in Monterosso. We rented 2 chairs and an umbrella for 17 euro for the day. Two loungers and an umbrella were 19 euro I think. DS rented a 2 person kayak for 1 hour for 12 euro. DH ate an early lunch at a nearby restaurant as he missed breakfast (sleep was more important for him :thumbsup2). DD and I walked to the end of the new town and had 2 foccaccias for 5.44 euro total. She had a cheese and basil, I had the pesto. Both were amazing! :goodvibes We had water already with us. The place was called Il Fornaio di Monterosso on Via Fegina 112 in case anyone is looking to find it. For those with small children, there is a nice playground at the end as well. After, we walked along the main road and visited the old town of Monterroso on the other side of the town - that is where the ferry leaves. The train station is in the center. We used Rick Steve's guide to sightsee in the old town. There were lots of shops too and you can sample pestos and olive oils at various places. There was also a nice children's playground in the old town as well. This was our second visit to Cinque Terre so we opted for the ferry to take us to Portoverne, then on to La Spezia. The ferry stopped at Vernazza, Manarola,and Riomaggiore before arriving In Portoverne. We left Monterroso at 14:30 (2:30pm) and arrived in Portoverne at 15:40 (3:40pm). The views of the towns from the water were spectacular! If you want to catch an earlier ferry to Vernazza, there is one at 11:30am and 12:10pm for 3.50 euro one way to Vernazza. The ferry takes 10 min, but get to the ferry 15 min early as there will be a que.
When we got off the ferry in Portoverne, the last stop, another ferry was leaving for La Spezia at 16:15 (4:15pm). We decided to catch the 17:15 ferry to spend more time in Portoverne. Not much sightseeing, but great shopping and even better pesto than in Monterosso! And that pesto was amazing! There were also very few tourists, as Portoverne is not accessible by train. There is a bus that runs every 30 min to La Spezia though with a 30 min travel time. That was our backup plan if we missed the ferry or if the seas were rough. We also had some great frappucinos (they don't call them that - we saw someone enjoying this amazing chocolate/coffee/gelato concoction and just pointed and ordered it! :cloud9: We were back in La Spezia around 6pm and very close to where we catch the tender for the ship!You can buy a ticket from the Cinque Terre office that includes the trains, trails and ferries, but I don't know if it includes that ferry from Portoverne to La Spezia or just the ferries between the 5 Cinque Terre towns. It was alot cheaper for us not to buy the Cinque Terre card as we were not hiking any of the trails or taking other trains other than the one to Monterroso for 2.4 euro pp. HTH! :goodvibes

Sounds like a great plan! Thanks for the itinerary & advice!! Guess we'll have to bag the idea of trying to go to Pisa first. Doesn't sound feasible with the pissy tendering situation. I have Rick Steve's Snapshot of Cinque Terre. At first I just had it on my Kindle but then I went & found it at Borders 'cuz I wanted to see the maps better. I was going to just browse thru it then return it but I haven't had time so I may end up keeping it. At least it's small.:rolleyes: We leave in 3 1/2 weeks for Paris & I'm starting to panic as I'm quite busy right now & don't have time to finish up my planning!! :sad2: :eek: I am much to anal retentive to not be 100% DONE planning by this point! Heck! It's time to PACK!:goodvibes

kmc33
07-13-2011, 05:44 PM
3. If you are trying to decide between visiting the massive ruins the size of a city in Pompeii or the smaller ruins in Herculaneum, I would highly recommend Herculaneum, esp if you are touring with older adults or young children. We hired a private guide right at the entrance after you pay to get in at Herculaneum for 55 euro for just the 4 of us. Its the same price if you have a larger group. There were lots of places to find shade in Herculaneum and much more to see mosaic tiles on floors, frescos on walls, statues and marble tables still there. I didn't realize that you too went to Herculaneum! It was a amazing. Our Italian friend is originally from the town of Ercolano and he speaks very highly of the ruins there. DH has been to Pompeii and he thought Herculaneum is more interesting. Plus he thought that we would see more since DS wouldn't last too long and things are more spread out at Pompeii. I was pleased with our choice to go there.

I am glad you made it home safely despite some inconvenience. Hope to meet up again on another cruise!! :)

sinnika
07-16-2011, 06:52 AM
I wanted to add the highlight of DS 14's Med trip: a 15 min ride as a passenger in a red convertible Ferrari! :) We had heard about the company last year but unfortunately were unable to reserve it due to being full when we did last year's Med cruise when we tried to arrange the day of. This time we hoped he could experience it in Nice when we toured on our own in the morning, but we were able to get him an afternoon slot in Eze. It leaves from the parking lot grounds of the Fragonaud perfume factory. DD and I had a DCL Perfumers Apprentice excursion (which we both thoroughly enjoyed - you can only create your own perfume there with DCL, not on your own). DH and DS took a cab over to Eze for 40 euro :eek: to make their appointed time. The website is www.livenup.fr and you can switch to the English at the top under "select language" (its in French). Co-pilote rate (passenger) was 49 euro for 15 min. They do have longer times for alot more and you can even be the pilot for more euros.
Eze is a very easy town to visit on your own and you can tour the perfume factory on your own for free (we did that last year), and the shopping and sampling perfumes is amazing. They are also known for their cosmetics even more, which they make there so this would be fun to split up and boys do cars and girls do perfumes if you are a boy/girl family like us! :goodvibes