Our family recently took a Disney Cruise Line 7-night Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Disney Magic, with a visit to three ports in Italy and one in France. My spouse, of Italian heritage, was very excited for our first trip to Italy, and thought of the trip like a big hop-on-hop-off bus, knowing we would just be getting a taste of each destination. We considered carefully how we wanted to spend our time at port and ended up trying three different techniques or styles of touring: rely on the port adventures provided, hire a private guide, and DIY (Do It Yourself). I hope this article will give you ideas for your next cruise.
Hire a Local Guide or Driver:
In Naples, we disembarked from the ship to be greeted by our driver Giovanni, whom we hired through Tours by Locals. He was not an official guide, but clearly loved Naples and knew his way around the beautiful surrounding towns. During our eight hours together, we sang Italian songs, compared cultures and family stories, and had a wonderful time in Amalfi, Positano, Ravello and Herculaneum. Our view over Positano while we ate lunch and drank wine will never be forgotten. In Ravello and Herculaneum (like a smaller version of Pompeii, it was a thriving town buried by the explosion of Mount Vesuvius), we were almost alone while we toured these locations. This style of touring, while more expensive for a party of three, kind of spoiled us for the next day’s visit to Rome. Hiring a private driver for the day was less than $600 for the three of us.
Find Your Flag – Port Excursion:
For Rome, there are many excursions from which to choose. We knew we were going to just scrape the surface of such a historically rich city. There were almost 50 people on our excursion, and compared to the previous day it felt very impersonal. We were all outfitted with a little receiver and earpiece, so we could hear the historian as we rode and walked through the city. We did a lot of walking and saw quite a bit, but I felt like we never spent more than 15 minutes in one place, and we never actually made it inside any of the famous sites. Since we were mainly out in the crowded streets, we were always looking through a sea of umbrellas and flags held by tour guides to make sure we were not getting separated from the group. It was chaotic, and for a while, our earpieces picked up the sound from a German tour. In hindsight, choosing a more focused tour would have been better as I constantly felt that we were just walking by all these famous places, like the Pantheon above, but never actually getting to experience them. This tour was less than $300 for the three of us.
The next day we were in Livorno, the jumping-off point for excursions to Florence and Pisa. We decided this would be a good day for exploring on our own. My wife wanted to practice her Italian, and we wanted a slower-paced day after chaotic Rome. So, we jumped on the free shuttle for the 10-minute ride into town, found a nice cafe, and started the day with an espresso and a pastry. We then walked around the downtown, found the tourist board and identified a canal boat ride that would give us some history of Livorno. In the afternoon, my spouse went off to the local beach, Panicaldi, via the town bus service and I headed back to the ship for rest and relaxation. The whole day cost us about 40 Euros, and we had a very nice time.
A Bit of Both:
In Villefranche, the debarkation port for Nice and the French Riviera, we were able to combine techniques. In the morning we did a little DIY touring with a walk around the town, and found another cafe where we had coffee and kale pie, which was sweet yet full of leafy greens. Our afternoon excursion took us by coach to a perfume factory, Fragonard, where we were able to make our own Eau de Cologne. This excursion seemed intimate and unique. It cost us about $450 for three of us, but we each came home with our own personal concoction.
Whether you are going to Europe, Alaska or the Caribbean, I hope that this article helps you think about port adventures on your next cruise. Don’t be afraid to stray from the pack and venture out on your own a bit, or splurge on a private driver. Enjoy! It is your vacation.