Doing Med ports on Own questions

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by arbitrage, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. arbitrage

    arbitrage Earning My Ears

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    There has been lots of talk of people skipping the disney coordinated tours and doing these ports on there own and seeing more that way. I have a few questions for those who have done this in both Civitavecchia and La Spezia.

    1. How far is the train station in Civitavecchia from the Ship??
    2. what time were the first people allowed off the ship there (early trains)
    3. was it worth staying the extra couple of hours?
    4. would you suggest a private tour??

    For La Spezia

    1. Again how far was the train station from the ship?
    2. Would you suggest just taking the train to Piza and doing the tower on your own?
    3. did anyone take the train over to cinqueterre instead of going to Florence??

    thanks
     
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  3. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    here is a posting I did with some info, I hope it helps...

    Med cruise on our own with 3 kids

    We traveled to the med with 4 adults and 3 children ages 5, 8 and 13. We did all of the ports on our own, all with the kids. It took a lot of research and reading message boards but worth it. Check out portreviews.com, cruise-chat.com, cruisecritic.com. I bought Rick Steves Italy 2007 book and had with me at all times. Very important: we stopped at the tourist information desk at each city, got a map and asked for directions. They were very helpful and would mark the map for us.

    Because we were traveling with the children, I was selective on where I wanted to spend most of my time, money and energy. I wanted it to be meaningful for them and also educational. We were not interested in doing the high end shopping. We did buy a few things but the focus of the trip was sightseeing. If you make reservations at the Acaddemia, Vatican Museum and Colloseum, you will accomplish a lot in one day. It costs nothing to reserve and you don’t pay until you are there. If you can’t make it, that’s fine---no cost. To see the David, inside the Colloseum and the Sistine Chapel—priceless!!

    There are a few ports that I didn’t spend a lot of time on such as Olbia and Palermo. In Palermo, we bought the tourist bus ticket at the port but then spent a couple of hours trying to get on one. The buses were always full so we kept walking to the next stop and sightseeing in the meantime. After two hours we decided to go back to the ship and got a refund on our ticket. In Olbia, we had a beautiful reception with lots of treats, great souvenirs for those at home. Again, we walked around the town for while, bought some souvenirs and ice cream (of course!) then headed back to the ship. Because we live in Florida, trips to spend the day at the beach were not of our interest. I also wanted to make sure that the kids had some down time at the kids club to relax and have fun. Here are a few highlights from our trip that I hope you find useful.

    La Spezia is very far from Florence. We got up very early, had breakfast and got first in line for the tender ticket. We took the first tender at 7:30 but still missed the 8:00 train to Florence. We took the 9:06 train and got into Florence around 11:45. I had made a reservation (just by calling ahead) for 1:00 to the Accademia to see the David so we were able to walk passed everybody in line and walk right inside. We pretty much saw the sculpture and walked around a little and headed out. You pay an extra 3 euros for the reservation but well worth it. It just happened that the day we went; was free because of an Italian holiday so we only paid the 3 Euros. We walked to the cathedral, Duomo and Ponte Vecchio. Lots of places to shop, they expect you to haggle the price. After that, we took a taxi to the train station and headed back. Since the train has to stop in Pisa, we were hoping to get off, hire a cab, see Pisa – take a quick picture, back on the train and continue to La Spezia. Well, the train was delayed and I didn’t feel that I had enough time to do it. You will be rushed that day so rest well the night before. Give yourself enough time to get back; we had to run to catch the last tender. The train’s delay set us back. We took a taxi to the train station and back. We didn’t want to waste any time.

    Rome --- again, we were off the ship as soon as they let us, took the free shuttle bus to the entrance of the port, walked to the train station and took the 8 am train into Rome (about an hour). We got off the ship around 7:15 and were the only ones on the free shuttle. There were a lot of excursion buses waiting. We got off at S. Pietro and started our day at the Vatican. We had a reservation at Vatican Museum for 10:30 (you can go in by 10 am) and were able to skip the line that went around the block a few times. You do pay extra for the reservation (about 10-12 E more) but well worth it. Send a fax to the Vatican, check out their website at Vatican.va. We hadn’t received our confirmation code when we left the US but we emailed home and got the number. The tour lasted about two hours and you do get to go into the Sistine chapel. At the end of the tour, once you pass the Sistine chapel, take the exit door to the right –where it says “tours only”- and it will take you to the front entrance of the Basilica. Don’t ask; just walk as if you know where you are going. After the tour, we had a nice lunch and took a bus to the Colosseum where we also had a reservation. Again, we skipped the line and were able to just walk in. We chose to see it on our own to save time and not follow the guide. We then took the metro to the Spanish Steps and walked to Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. After shopping and walking around, we took the train at the termini station back to the port. At the La Spezia train station, take a cab to the ship. The free shuttle had stopped running and we saw people walking to the ship. It is a very long walk and confusing at times. Chances are that you will be returning in the early evening. We paid 20 euros for a taxi directly from the train station to the ship.

    Marseilles---take the free shuttle from the ship into town. We paid 8 Euros for adults and 5 for children to take the little sightseeing train. We took the panoramic view (there are two to choose from) and it took us to the top of the mountain to the Notre Dame of the Gard (spelling?). Breathtaking views and church, a must see. We got back to the town and shopped around.

    Villefranche – one of my favorite ports. We took our time in the morning and didn’t rush out of the ship. The view is spectacular from the ship. We took the train to Monte Carlo and then the bus to the palace. We shopped around, had lunch, went by the casino and headed back. The train back was very crowded, to where we had to force our way into it. There was an option of taking a bus right outside the port. I think the price was about the same and it took a little longer but I think it would have been better. Enjoy the port and take lots of pictures of the flowers around the doorways. We decided not to go to Nice and head back to the ship.

    Naples---We had planned to take the train on our own. However, on the way to the train as we were walking, a taxi offered us a great rate to Pompeii and back. Once in the cab, we talked about a rate for the day to go to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. We ended up paying 255euros for 7 people for about 9-10 hours of having our own driver… a great deal considering what DCL was charging per person. Make sure you take Dramamine if you get motion sickness. He drove us to Pompeii and waited for us outside. We then drove the coast to Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast view is spectacular-which we would’ve missed if we had done the train. We stopped at an artisan’s shop were wooden musical boxes were made, ate lunch by the sea in a really nice restaurant, stopped at fruit stands and little souvenir shops on the way. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Sorrento because we wanted to continue to the Amalfi coast. It was one of the best sightseeing days of the cruise. Our driver Antonio was not only funny, spoke four languages, played Italian music and sang along the way. What a treat! I do have his contact information if anyone is interested.

    General info: I bought individually packed snacks for the kids. A trip to Target saved me a ton of money. I kept the bags in our cabin and packed a few things every day. Also, the cereal boxes from breakfast, great hit too. For the long plane ride, new coloring books (they didn’t get them until we were at the airport), magna doodle travel size and a couple of books. The little ones had their own bag with their stuff. My teenager had his bag with his Ipod, etc. I purchased new card games (go fish, crazy 8, etc) at the dollar store and new books for the return flight. I kept them in my suitcase until we were ready to come back.

    The kid club is wonderful. We took our children with us always; however, as time permitted, as soon as we got back on the ship, we ate a snack, took them to the kids’ club and then the adults got to rest for a little bit. We had late seating which was great. We got ready by 6 pm, saw the show at 6:30, dinner at 8:30 and off to whatever activities were going on. We did try to rest on the night before the ports that were really busy such as Rome, la Spezia and Naples.

    Do invest in a tour book such as the Rick Steves. Learn enough key words in Italian to know how to ask. People were very friendly and willing to help. Use the waist wallet that goes under your clothes and don’t carry any valuables in your backpack. Always keep an eye out when on the train and crowded areas and use a lot of common sense.

    Enjoy all the ice cream that you are going to see!

    I hope this helps. We had a wonderful time and I wouldn’t have wanted my children to miss this opportunity. Take lots of pictures and get postcards. I also bought guides at each important place so that I can review with the kids afterwards. They especially enjoyed the books with the clear overlays in Rome and Pompeii.

    Make sure that you ask for the price of the ride before you get on any taxi.
     
  4. Almagetty

    Almagetty Mouseketeer

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    Jokicha:

    What a great post!!! Its been copied and saved for future reference.

    Thank you!! :hippie:
     
  5. arbitrage

    arbitrage Earning My Ears

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    Yes,

    Thank you so much for the great information!!

    One last question. Which site did you prebook your time for the vatican?? I faxed directly to the vatican but still haven't heard back from them.. I feel so much better about doing Rome by ourselves now, thanks again!!
     
  6. jackson190

    jackson190 Earning My Ears

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    Jokicha-
    Your posts have been so helpful. Question: where did you prebook your tours of Colosseum and Accademia?
     
  7. funluvin

    funluvin Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the great info!!
     
  8. funluvin

    funluvin Mouseketeer

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    This info would be helpful if you don't mind sharing.

    I have also faxed a request to the Vatican but have not had a response. How many days in advance did you receive the e-mail response?

    Thanks again.
     
  9. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    The vatican only faxes confirmations about 3-5 days before the requested t date. Make sure that the fax number that you give is one where someone can email you the reference code. You only need the reference code. Also, be there 30 minutes early since they'll let you in early. That will give you time to get your tickets, do a restroom stop --they are very clean- and get ready for the tour. If you have kids, have a snack in your bag--it will be about 2 hours but it goes by fast. For the vatican, you can get the info on vatican.va
    On my fax, I stated that I was only there for the day on a cruise and didn't have any second choices for the day. We have friends that also received the conf while they were on the ship but since they couldn't check, they were not able to go in. The line went around the block---it was very long

    The tour hours that they have posted on the fax I got are 10:30, 11:30, 12:00 and 2:00.
     
  10. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    Thanks! I've never done postings on message boards before but because I learned so much from reading everyone elses reports, I feel that I need to pay it forward. I had a lot material printed from the internet with me on the ship. The night before a port, I would take it out, review with it my husband and let the fun begin. Make sure you go to toutist desk anywhere you see them. There maps are meant for tourists and have the sights well defined on them. Don't be afraind to ask a lot directions on your way anywhere. I speak Spanish so it was a little easier but if not just point on the map where you want to go and have a pen ready to write or let them write the info for you.

    For the Colloseum, I called maybe 2 weeks before. Remember that they are 6 hours ahead. I called on a Sat very early our time.

    For the Accademia, I was not sure if we were going to be able to make it to Florence but at the last minute decided to make the reservation just in case. I called on May 21, left for Barcelona on the 22nd and took the cruise on the 26th. I think that our day in florence was on 6/2nd. Do write down the confirmation codes they give you.

    I had purchased the Rick Steves italy book and wrote all of my confirmation codes on the back of the book. I also emailed myself the information, in case I needed to access it while on the trip. I couldn't have done my own tours without his book. Even the rest that we chose from his book for lunch was great. YOu'll see a lot of people with his book walking around.

    There is no charge for making any of the reservations, so if you don't make it, you don't lose any money..

    When planning your day in Rome, either start or end your day in Vatican (S. Pietro stop) and end in the colloseum if possible. My recommendation is to start at the vatican. There are some trains that do not stop at the vatican and you will have to go all the way to the termini station to catch a train back to the port. No big deal but time is of the essence. The Spanish steps, the trevi fountain and the pantheon are all within walking distance of each other and the same metro stop (Espagna).

    When you get to the colloseum, make sure you don't get into the first line you see. Always walk all the way to the front of any line to make sure you go to the right window. I saw people with reservations in the regular line that was very long also. I saw people with tickets in the wrong line and they coud've walked up also.
     
  11. CubCatsK&D

    CubCatsK&D Mouseketeer

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    Just to back up what Jokicha said about booking a tour with the Vatican: We tried this too, and they faxed back a confirmation only TWO days before--so they can leave you wondering pretty much up to the last minute. (We also did Rome completely on our own.)

    In the meantime, before we left we had decided to book a tour of the Vatican with a tour company that had been recommended to us, and we were VERY pleased (see icontours.com if interested). It was about a 3, 3 1/2 hour tour of Vatican museums, Sistine, and St. Peter's with someone extremely well versed in art history. We found it worth it to have a good guide for this part of our day.

    The major sites really are quite easy to find and do on your own, so if none of the DCL excursions are doing it for you, and you enjoy making your own adventure, I say go for it! We were very glad we did.

    One thing to note: Don't remember if this was anywhere else, but the shuttle from the ship to the port entrance at Civitavecchia must have ended early, because a LOT of people who got back at around 8:00 that night never had one after waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Finally a bunch of us started walking to the ship (not what you want to do after a LONG day in Rome, but oh well), and one of the tour operators stopped not quite halfway down the road, let us all on and took us back. Don't know whether Disney asked the the to do that or if they just volunteered after seeing us all walking, but that was quite welcome!
     
  12. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    I agree! We took a taxi from the station, especially since it was around 9pm already and it took us up the ship. The best 25 euros we spent...we were so tired after the long day that I would've paid even more. When you get off the train, hurry and grab a taxi---amazing race style!
     
  13. jackson190

    jackson190 Earning My Ears

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    CubcatsK&D: We have booked a tour with icontours. The only down side is that it starts at 1pm so we can't start or end our day at the Vatican. We are planning on taking the train to termini, visiting the colosseum, forum then taking a bus to the Vatican. We'll grab some lunch (can we even find some at this hour?). After the tour we were planning on visiting the Pantheon and Trevi fountain ,getting dinner then taking the train back to the ship? How did you plan your day?
     
  14. CubCatsK&D

    CubCatsK&D Mouseketeer

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    jackson190: Your day looks like our day in reverse--and on hindsight, probably what we should have done. We got off at San Pietro and made our way to Castel San Angelo, Piazza Navona (but found that the central fountain was under renovation--bummer! nice anyway, and great tartufo ice cream at this place I can't remember, but it's big and off to the right of the main fountain when facing--I think--north). Then over to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain before heading back to meet the guide. Didn't get to Spanish Steps due to time and the cab driver strike, so had to walk a bit more than we'd planned. But it was a nice, interesting walk; very pretty area.

    After the Vatican tour, we took the #40 bus from the end of Via de Conciliazione (?? it's the long street leading up to St. Peter's from the Tiber) over to the Colosseum, etc. You can get a bus ticket at the kiosk you pass on the way.

    We then ended at Termini.

    We found this to be pretty easy. It was a bit of a fast day, but then again, we saw what we wanted, usually with just the right amount of time devoted to it. We did not go in the Colosseum, BTW.
     
  15. jackson190

    jackson190 Earning My Ears

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    Cubcats: Did you eat dinner in Rome? Apparently the dinner hour begins at 7pm which is too late for us. Did you have children with you? How did they do for 3 hours in the Vatican? Ours are 8 and 13. A long tour but icon says they make the tour interesting for kids.
     
  16. vegs1

    vegs1 Mouseketeer

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    We have booked to do a private tour in Naples through Drive Amalfi with Salvatore. We have heard exceptional comments about him and were wondering if anyone actually did a tour with him and if so, their comments.

    Thanks!
     
  17. OurDogCisco

    OurDogCisco DIS Veteran

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    For those that did it on your own, did you rent audio equipment for the tours? Were there lots of things to read? I like tour guides because most give an interesting history background that I can't get by looking at stuff. I'm trying to decide if we should do the tours on our own or not? Did you find audio tours available? Or did you all just look at the stuff?

    Finally, if anyone did a private tour in a car did you use booster seats or leave them at home?
     
  18. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    I did it on my own with children ages 5, 8 and 13. We didn't have dinner in Rome but we did do a quick stop at the McDonald across from the Pantheon to get the kids a cheeseburger and use the restroom before heading to the termini station to take the train. When we got back to the ship, an officer was at the door making arrangements for dinner for everyone that was arriving. He asked if we were having dinner and then called the dining room to let them know that were coming. We went straight to the dining room...bags and all! They were waiting for us, we were about an hour late for dinner so we decided to skip all the appetizers, etc and just order the main course even though they still offered us the soups and salads. I know that they were accomodating even people from the earlier seating. Another option is to just order room service once you get back. We didn't want to waste any time eating dinner but did have a nice lunch.

    The tour we took at the Vatican was about 2 hours long and my kids were fine. We used the vatican's tour not a private guide. This is the first time they were in a museum tour. I had little packs of fruit snacks in my bag, keeps them busy and entertain for a little bit. It is impossible to learn and remember everything that is said on any of these tours. Just enjoy what you can and just think, there is no test at the end. I purchased a Rome book for about 10 Euros and I'm planning on reviewing it with the kids during the summer.It has lots of pictures in it and it is very easy to read.


    If you purchase a BIRG ticket at the train station, you can use it for the metro and the buses. We paid about 9 euros for each ticket and it gave us transportation for the whole day and the train back. Just make sure you validate the ticket at the yellow machines---this puts the date on it.
     
  19. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    No booster seat for us. The cabs are so little that the kids were close to each other. We just used the seat belt.

    You can do both. YOu can rent and audio guide in most places and go on your own. If you take the tour, they will give you the audio guide or audio system so that you can hear the tour guide talking. This was at the vatican museum and accademia in florence. At the colloseum, they have an archeologist give tours. Due to time, we didn't wait for the tour, bought an book and went on out own. When you rent the audioguide in Pompeii for example, they have numbers thoughout the place. I'm guessing that once you get there, you press the number on your guide and it will tell you the information. We used the free guidebook that you can pick up in the office at the entrance, it had the same number system but you just read it instead of listening to it.
     
  20. jokicha

    jokicha Earning My Ears

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    If you buy a BIRG ticket for the train, you can use it all day for all metros and buses. I only costs about 9 euros and you don't have to wait in line anywhere else. Make sure you validate -date stamp it at the yellow machines.
     
  21. CubCatsK&D

    CubCatsK&D Mouseketeer

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    We did not have dinner in Rome. We were back on board at about 8:45 and just went to dinner on ship (we had 8:30 seating). We were 2 adults, and our group of 10 with Icon were all adults, so can't offer kuch on the question of how well it wouldgo with kids. There are though, I think, all manner of "fun facts" about the building of St. P and about the art in the museums that might hold their attention pretty well.
     

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