Once you’ve paid for your cruise, you’ll find that Princess has only begun collecting. There are the tours for one thing, the shuttles, and even the water. The information for the budget traveller you’ll find here should be provided by Princess Cruises but their no-value added management is too busy and too self-important. Besides Princess doesn’t want you to know how to get around on your own in their ports of call, they want you to pay $57 for each self-guided tour.
Venice: Customer no-service will advise you to “take a water-taxi (price $40),” from the train station or “get to the boat, they’ll give you a map.” In fact, the Princess dock is a short 10-minute walk from the train station. Exit the station, turn left and take the first bridge across the canal, turn right and walk along the canal for about 100 yards until you again cross water. Turn left and after passing a beautiful park on your left will find yourself at the Piazzale Roma (an enormous area where some 30 to 50 bus lines terminate). If you’re coming from the airport take an ATVO bus at about 3.5E to the Piazzale Roma. Bear to your right around the square—cut across at your own risk!—until once again you can walk right along a narrow street. There’s a booth here that provides hotel and tour reservations, a good spot to verify you are headed toward the ship. In fact, after you’ve walked up a flight of stairs and cross a bridge, “Ponte della Libertà” over the railroad tracks you should be able to spot the Princess Cruise ship off to the left. ” You must exit on the second left for the marittima area.
But wait! Don’t go to the ship! You’ve got to check in at the terminal first. No, don’t expect to find a sign, Princess doesn’t believe in them, a curse you will encounter at all their ports. You’ve got to walk right the length of a long building until you spot a yellow building on your left (no, not the mustard-coloured one, straight ahead). Once inside the terminal—did I mention you have to enter on the side of the building that doesn’t face the cruise ship--you’ll find a human being indoors in the shade who will direct you up an escalator in the direction pointed to by the sign.
Once you’ve completed the check-in process, there is a free (!) shuttle to take you to the ship.
If you get to Venice early—you can board the ship about 1:30pm, but it’s best to wait till 4pm, when the crowds have died down—check your bags for 3E each at the train station, then explore the city via a vaporetti. Tickets can be purchased for 90 minutes (10E) or 24-hours with on/off privileges until time expires.
If Venice is your destination, bypass the Princess water shuttle (they charge $10 per person per day—it’s added automatically to your bill and you have to request the charge be deleted) and walk ashore. A very pleasant 10-minute walk brings you to the Schola Grande at the S. Rocco square where you can view Tintoretto’s murals. (The gelato we purchased in the square was both the best-tasting and the least-expensive on our trip.) You could walk across the entire city in an hour, but take a vaporetti instead.
Oh, have a “spritz” at any small bar if you’re thirsty and pick up a bottle of Sangovese (under $4) to take on the ship.
Istanbul: You can walk into the city from the Princess dock in about 20 minutes or take a taxi. Prices for taxis are highly negotiable, ranging from $5 for the cab to $20 per person! So negotiate in advance. Best shopping can be found between the Grand Bazzar and the Blue Mosque (that is where the people of Istanbul shop). The walk back is quite pleasant taking you past many fragrant food stalls over a bridge with a spectacular view. Follow the shoreline till you reach the ship.
The stalls, alas, take Turkish Lira, not available on the ship, rather than Euros or dollars. So does the rug museum next to the Blue Mosque. The other museums and the Topakai Place require you to stand in one line to change Euros into Lira, a second line to purchase your entrance tickets in Lira, and a third to gain admittance.
The Dolmabahce Palace in only five minutes from the ship—check it out on your return.
As you walk around Istanbul, you’ll be joined by any number of English-speakers who would be happy to show you the sights and their rug shop later. If you feel you can benefit from a less-obtrusive guide, just join one of the many tours in progress, they’ll never notice you’re there (well, maybe, if you try to slip on their bus).
Istanbul also has a number of inexpensive Cyber cafes (Princess charges 35 cents a minute) in case you can’t survive without accessing your email.
Kusadasi: You will need a taxi to get to Ephesus but the trip is a must. We joined with two other couples at the taxi area to bargain for a cab. It’s tricky. Not only the rates, but the condition of the cab, and the number of sites you’ll visit negotiable. We negotiated the Virgin Mary’s last residence (recommended for the wonderful view apart from its religious value), Ephesus (one can spend two or more days walking about here), and T
the Basilica (this last was one sight too many as far as my wife and I were concerned) for 80 Euros split three ways. No air-conditioning and my wife sat in my lap.
Our driver stopped at a leather shop on the way back, but then, so did the Princess big-bucks tour. Prices in the Kusadasi shops are between discount and department store, stateside.
Athens: It’s a 20-minute walk counter-clockwise along the Pireaus harbour to the metro but you can easily pick up inexpensive Greek edibles and Ouzo on the way back. 0.60 Euro brings you to the Plaka stop in Athens and a short walk to the Acropolis. (Validate your ticket before boarding the metro.) Walk on to the Olympic site, the National Gardens, the changing of the Guard at the Greek President’s house, the Parliament Buildings, and another metro stop.
That evening, be sure to check out the view passing the Messina Strait (between Italy and Sicily), and the Stromboli Volcano (best seen after you pass it).
Naples: The principal sights here are the Pompeii Museum (downtown) that you can reach by bus and Pompeii itself that you can reach by train. Don’t try to walk to the train station, take the #1 trolley. (If you find out how to buy a trolley ticket, let us know.) The walk from the trolley stop to the station requires you to cross traffic—Naples drivers do not stop for pedestrians—ever! Pompeii is not a final destination, but you will find it listed in very tiny print on the departures boards adjacent to the tracks. Any train that goes to Pompeii stops first at Ponti-Erculeum and we advise you to go to Erculeum first (and maybe last). It’s an easy walk to Pompeii from its train station—just head for the cathedral and turn left when you get there.
As an alternative to the train (and the Naples traffic) turn right after leaving the ship and walk down to the next pier where you’ll find an intercity bus stop. Walk inside the office to buy a round trip ticket, get on the bus and validate the ticket in the machine. The bus makes one stop in Naples, and the next stop in Pompei.
Florence: Your Princess cruise docks in Liverno an hour and a half by train from Florence. According to Princess, “We recommend that passengers wishing to go to the Liverno Train Station in the morning use the shuttle [$4 per person each way] to downtown where they can find a local taxi or bus to the Train Station.” What really stuck in our craw was that this $4 Princess shuttle didn’t go all the way to the train station. Walking through the port is truly dangerous, so it is either shuttle or taxi. Then a #1 trolley from downtown. Coming back from the train station, we shared a cab with another couple for $4 per person for the entire distance. Once you reach Florence, you can walk anywhere.
Monaco: Princess provides a free tender service to shore and you can easily walk to any of the sights. Don’t miss the acquarium—just go straight up the stairs.
Barcelona: Again, Princess offers a $4 per-person one-way shuttle from the dock to the foot of Las Ramblas, but the City of Barcelona also provides a service over the same distance for 2Euros roundtrip. Once at Las Ramblas, you can walk, take the metro or a bus to wherever you want to go.
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