Cruises - Barcelona to Venice
Mar 30, 11, 8:11 pm
Anyone ever done this cruise 12 days starting in Barcelona, Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam .Is taking the tours offered on the ship ok or is it better to take private tours offered by operators such as Tours of Italy? Costs seem to run around the same or just a tad higher by the private ones. Seem to be more intimate as they would take up to 6 or 7 versus a motorcoach with 50 or so. I wonder if you would be able to see more on a private and be less tiresome. Some of these eg Rome /Florence are a full day 9-10 hrs. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Mar 30, 11, 11:44 pm
A lot of this depends on where you will actually dock - some ports you can do on your own if you are close enough, but your port (Livorno) to go to Florence is quite far away thus the 9 hour trip.
Maybe that is not the trip you use to see Florence and stick to some very interesting places closer by like Pisa or even Lucca. All reports about the ship are great since she is new. But she is larger which means sometimes it may not get the easist berths for docking.
We found HAL shore excursions to be very good but they are group bus tours with all their inherent limitations, yes pricey but at least you have all the arrangements made for you and you don't have to worry about getting back on time. And they don't put any emphasis on hauling you to canned "shopping experiences" like some tours do.
However, doing ports on your own is really the best of both worlds. so try Cruise Critic "Ports" forum and you will learn a lot more specifically about where ships come in to these port cities and what you can do on your own and when you might be better off on a tour.
It is next to impossible to find any port stop information in regular guidebooks - trains and cars maybe, but almost never will they show you where the cruise ports are or how to connect to public transportation once you get there.
Good you are starting to dig a bit now. It will pay off immensely when you are on your trip. Take notes on 3/5 cards and carry these tips with you for each port. You have picked a good itinerary - Holland America always offers some of the best in this highly touristed area. Poke around on this website and see what you can learn about the ports you will be visiting: http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/area.cfm?area=42
Here is the port info link for "Florence" (Livorno): http://www.cruisecritic.com/ports/newport.cfm?ID=83
Mar 31, 11, 9:26 am
We always take private tours and found that Access Italy is very very good. They drive you right up to whatever you are viewing (leaning tower of Pisa, etc.) rather than a bus in the car park. You also have the luxury of deciding when you want to stop and use the loo or get a glass of wine or stretch your legs, etc. rather than 35 - 50 people ugh!
Mar 31, 11, 10:46 am
Thank you so much for your comments, I will be investigating these suggestions as I am all about gathering information!!! We have never been so we want to maximize our experience. Any suggestions for some of the other ports as to what is a must see and what we should not waste time on? Our 1st stop is Monte Carlo,then Florence/ Pisa/Rome. My significant other feels that we should be taking the full blown 8- 9 hr tours in those areas, then tone it down once we move on past Rome towards Greece as these ports seem to be smaller communities. Then end it with a bang in Venice.
Apr 1, 11, 8:45 am
You should also be checking CruiseCritic.com, both on the HAL forum and the Ports of Call Forum. Lots of suggestions there as well.
Apr 1, 11, 10:13 am
What is your itinerary? You shouldn't miss David in Florence (blew me away and I didn't think it would) or the Leaning Tower of Pisa (another stop that I was ho hum about until I actually viewed it - wow!). If you contact someone like Access Italy and give them you arrival times, etc. they will suggest different tours. They will also give you contacts and/or set up tours outside Italy. We had a great guy in Barcelona through them too.
It is our experience that one can often secure a private driver with decent English skills, nice car and see nearly twice as much during the same time for less money than paying for two people to take the ship's tour.
Missing: "Does anyone know where Maud and Joe are?" "Jane said she would be in the shop..." "I thing Johnny is in the restroom and seems like he is sick." "What can we do about the stench from the bus restroom?" etc. etc. ^