shore excursion

Turkey – Ephesus, Sirince and lunch at a Carpet weaving School.

We were extremely lucky to be guided by Begum Gencer  though  who was one of the most recommended guides reviewed on the internet.  She guided us on this most excellent day in Turkey.   This is a country we would like to return to.

She told us a lot about Turkey and the places we visited in an open and friendly way. We were pleased to have chosen to travel in a group of only six, and travelled in style in a large luxury minibus with driver and Begum. The revolving front passenger seat for the guide was a nice touch and made communication on the move easier. The Ephesus Book for us to take away  was a nice touch and a nice memento of the day.

Begum was very clear in her explanations and gave the right amount of detail, keeping the group together whilst allowing time for personal exploration.

Each part of the tour was excellent, this tour at the time we took it included a very good free lunch at Government Cooperative Carpet weaving school,after lunch we were shown the workers weaving and some of the finished carpets and given the opportunity to buy a carpet if we wished in a non pressured way. On our way back to the Port Begum gave us the opportunity to visit a pottery workshop or leather goods store explaining that these 2 outlets sponsored the tour and that we could choose if we wanted to visit one.. again no pressure… we chose to visit the Leather Factory… and were treated to a glass of Apple Tea on arrival and then a Fashion show of leather jackets, followed by a visit to the shop.

The leather coat fashion show was a little incongruous and Helen and others in our party couldn’t help laughing at the procession of models parading up and down the catwalk in front of the six of us. At over 1000 euro per coat we decided against buying one.




Helen was fascinated by the toilets, the clean water gully at the front was to dip your  bottom cleaning sponge in.

Helen was fascinated by the toilets, the clean water gully at the front was to dip your bottom cleaning sponge in.

Our tour included the ticket price to view the Terraced Houses

Our tour included the ticket price to view the Terraced Houses.


Sirince Village

Sirince Village

Turkish Ice Cream Kebab

Turkish Ice Cream Kebab



Visiting the Carpet Cooperative

Visiting the Carpet Cooperative

Dinner in the garden of the Carpet Cooperative ...  I enjoyed Ouza with lunch  in Athens and Raika in Turkey today but couldn't tell the difference.

Dinner in the garden of the Carpet Cooperative … I enjoyed Ouza with lunch in Athens and Raika in Turkey today but couldn’t tell the difference.


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Volcanoes, ancient ruins and chic Sicily.

On the way to Sicily we passed the volcanic island of Strombolli at Sunrise, a great way to start the day.

On the way to Sicily we got up early to see the volcanic island of Strombolli at Sunrise, a great way to start the day.

On arrival at Port we left the ship with Matt and Rina from Chicago and Kim and Jeff from Radnor, Pennsylvania and were pleased to be greeted by smartly dressed (with shades and black jacket) degree educated linguist, Anton Sacca our driver for the day from Sicily Limousine.

Shaking Anton’s hand it was clear that we had made the right choice of transportation for the day.

He drove us first to Giardini Naxos where we looked as the fishing boats in the port and marvelled at the clear blue sea and the fishes swimming in the harbour. From there we went to a viewpoint overlooking Isolabella an Island in a bay below Taormina.



From there we drove to the top of a nearby peak to reach the village of Castelmola.

On the way up to Castelmola

On the way up to Castelmola

The Square at Castelmola

The Square at Castelmola

Leaving Castelmola we drove down to Taormina Town.

Taormina Roman Theatre

Taormina Roman Theatre

Etna in the distance seen from Taormina Roman Theatre

Etna in the distance seen from Taormina Roman Theatre

Taormina Park

Taormina Park

Taormina Town

Taormina Town

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Our Roman Passagiatta – The planning worked well.

Having taken Helen to Rome and let her snooze for a while in our room, we then set off for our Roman Passageiatta.

We paid 1.5 Euro per ticket to ride the number 64 bus for 9 stops and from there made our way on foot to Piazza Navonna.

Arriving in daylight, we strolled through the Piazza looking at the architecture and Artists and listening to the street musicians.

Piazza Navonna Fountains

Accordion Player

An ancient and a modern Roman in Piazza Navona

An ancient and a modern Roman in Piazza Navonna

piazza navonna

We found a cafe in a side street for our evening meal before starting our twilight walk route.

Returning first to the Piazza Navonna the darkness and street lights had brought a magical air to the square.

Piazza Navonna  at the start of our Roman Passegiatta

Piazza Navonna at the start of our Roman Passegiatta


Visiting the Pantheon at night has to be the best time to experience the Majesty of the building

Leaving the Pantheon

Leaving the Pantheon

We finished our Passegiatta at Trevi Fountain throwing a coin in the Water so that we may return to Rome.

We finished our Passegeiatta at Trevi Fountain throwing a coin in the Water so that we may return to Rome.

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Our Rome Plans

I’m still finalising the Rome plans but at this time…

Before the Cruise

On arrival we will check in at our Hotel near Termini and have some lunch then make our way to:

  • Saturday evening a Passeggiata
  • Next morning prior to leaving for the Port, if we are up in time:

  • Sunday Morning Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.

  • After the cruise we will return to Termini and leave our cases in the station lockers and then spend another day exploring Rome.

  • Starting at the Colosseum, the Forum and Pallatine Hill
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    Changing Places…. Changing Times.

    As we cruise around the Mediterranean we will be changing time zones as we change location, there is also the added complication of the end of Daylight Saving Time on the day we board the cruise.

    Helen and I fly from the UK on the 26th both countries are on Daylight saving time So on arrival we will put our watches forward by 1 hour.


    Daylight Saving Time ends on the 27th October, we will put our watches back by an hour to ensure we don’t miss the cruise.

    The time zone stays the same until we reach Athens when we will put our watches on by an hour.

    No time zone change then until we reach Italian waters when our watches need to be put back an hour.


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    Athens – research completed – our self guided excursion.

    Leaving our cruise Ship ‘Navigator of the Seas’ at Piraeus, at 9am, we should manage about 5 1/2 hours in the centre of Athens.

    We are to share a taxi (arranged through the cruise critic roll call forum) to and from The Acropolis with another couple.
    For a few Euro more than searching for one at the Port we have arranged a 9am pick up from the dock.

    Taxi Cost €10 per head for the round trip. We will meet with the taxi at the drop off point at 3.15 pm to return to the ship.

    My suggestions to Helen will be to start the day by visiting the Acropolis allowing 2 to 3 hours.

    On leaving Acropolis I will suggest a number of options.

  • A land train ride of about an hour. Why would we do this you ask? I’ve looked at the route and it will give a good flavour of Athens, and our legs a rest there is also a great view on the route of the Acroplis. You can jump on and off at stops for the €6 adult €4 child fee.
  • 20131014-114719.jpg


  • A light lunch in a restaurant and shopping probably in Monastirakie or Plaka.
  • Athens -Gazi walk 3km
  • Description

    This walk starts at the metrostation Akropolis and ends at the metrostation Technopolis/Gazi. The route is worth doing in two directions, because it gives you a marvelous views on the Acropolis, the Thission district and the Likavitos hill in the distance. Most of this walk goes via traffic free streets. The streets are well paved with marble cobbles and easy to do with a wheelchair or pram.


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    Messina Port we have booked private transport to Taormina and Castelmola.

    Change of Provider and Cost :

    We are arranging the trip with

    They are offering the trip for

  • 265 Euro for up to 5 people
  • 315 Euro for up to 8 people
  • I calculate that as:

    265÷4 =67.5 Euro per head = About $90 or £56

    we currently have 4 people booked

    The costs if more people join us will be.

    265÷5= 54Euro per head = About $72 or £45

    310÷6= 53 Euro per head = about $70 per head or £43.50

    310÷7 = 46 Euro per head = about $60 or £38

    310÷8= 39 Euro per head = about $53 per head or £33

    Their trip offer.

    We would be pleased to offer you the best service to make your day trip in Sicily special.

    We would like to offer you the following day tour, with the tour the price is the same as the transfers only and you will have about 3 hours of free time by yourself in Taormina.

    Our tour will start by picking you up from the port, we will enjoy a drive through a wonderful scenery with photo stops at the most beautiful locations. We will visit together the beautiful Piazza Belvedere (Lookout square) where you will have a breathtaking view of Isolabella (Beautiful island) and the Messina coast line. We will drive up to the charming medieval village of Castelmola with a stop at Madonna della Rocca where you will enjoy an extraordinary view of the Greek Theatre, the Church of Madonna della Rocca and the antique 13th century Arab castle, situated on the highest and most panoramic place in the area. We will explore in Castelmola picturesque streets with an amazing view of Mount Etna and we will stop at the famous Bar Turrisi where you can taste the sweet almond wine (Optional). Driving down to Taormina you will have free walking time by yourself in the town where you can admire the Greek Theatre from the 2nd century A.D. – Palazzo Corvaja , the most beautiful medieval building in town – Duomo di Taormina – the San Nicolò Cathedral square and Corso Umberto where you can do excellent shopping. We will take you back to your port at your most convenient time.

    It will be no problem for the driver to also bring you to the beach below Taormina or Giardini Naxos.


    The reason for our change of plans …… Having researched the most cost effective advertised private tour I paid the deposit online by Paypal to

    Online Prices advertised were:

  • 165 Euro for up to 4 people
  • 210 Euro for up to 8 people
  • On chasing up confirmation of payment They sent an email raising their prices to

  • 450 Euro for 8 people
  • My deposit was refunded.

    The full text of the email is shown below.


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    The Ideal Day Bag

    I’ve chosen the kit carefully for its flexibility, durability and lack of weight. My day bag is a camera kit rucsac which doubles as a carry on flight bag. It fits all our shore needs.


    The rucsac has a protected areas in the base for lenses and cameras and a full length slot closest to your back designed to fit a lap top.

    On this trip I will be carrying 2 waterproof jackets, a digital handycam and small digital stills camera, in the base and my iPad will live in the laptop area in its protective case.


    Below the iPad there is room for 2 swimming costumes and large compact trekking towel for beach stops and a water colour painting kit.

    A 1/2 litre coffee flask with double cup, fits in an outer side pocket.


    The whole of the top half of the rucsac is free for fibre pile jackets or shore purchases.

    A telescopic trekking pole with camera mount top. is strapped to the other side of the rucsac. When placed on the ground the rucsac becomes a self supporting camera monopod and is more difficult for a thief to ‘snatch’ than a standard tripod, when you’ve walked away from it for that ‘couples’ romantic shot.


    The trekking pole is lighter than a tripod and when released from the rucsac and used ‘hand-held’ in it’s closed mode acts as a simple stabiliser for the video camera. As a standard trekking pole it is ready for use if you twist your ankle whilst exploring.

    The ‘monopod base’ takes less floor space then conventional tripods in crowded tourist spots and prevents trips and equipment damage.

    I’ve replaced the standard black cover with a high visibility one. This cover has many advantages,

  • it makes me easier to find in a crowd
  • I’m harder to run over on a road (when I’m looking the wrong way on the continent)
  • it is easier to see on the ground when being used in self supporting ‘monopod’ mode
  • it protect the contents from the elements
  • the casual thief is deterred by providing an extra layer of protection for your possessions
  • the outer pocket keeps a water bottle available and away from electrical equipment.
  • I’m not going to carry guide books on this trip and will instead be using IPad to access PDFs of websites and Apps.

    For shore wear I’m choosing trekking trousers with zip off legs a wicking shirt and a fibre pile jacket. I’ve gone for a pair of sketchers walking shoes and Helen who prefers a boot to protect her ankles will be sporting light weight Merrill’s.

    The footwear has been picked for the all terrain capabilities, light weight comfort and acceptable smart casual look about town.

    I carry money and documents in a PacSafe security bag with slash resistant mesh liner and slash resistant shoulder strap, to which I have attached a small first aid kit.

    Say Hi if you spot us ashore.

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    Rome planning

    Here are some useful sites I have found which may help in your planning.

    Public transport Route Planner

    PDF Port. Guide with info about Tourist sites too.

    Rome for Independent Travelers website…

    We will be taking the Train to the Port at the start of the cruise.

    Rome Mini Guide for Android – great little overview App haven’t looked at these yet.

    Rome Mini Guide – iTunes – Apple

    If you are in Rome between 5pm and 8pm why not take part in the passeggiata and visit some of the beautiful sites after dark.

    The Vatican museum is free of charge on the last Sunday of the month.

    If you are going to visit the Colleseum see the official ticketing information.

    Where To Buy Colleseum Entrance Tickets – A Top Tip

    The standard entrance ticket to the Colosseum also includes entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. All three attractions have separate ticketing entrances. You can walk between the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum without exiting.
    The ticket kiosk at the Colosseum has by far the longest queues.

    Buy Ticket At Palatine Hill & Use Empty Entrance On Left

    If you want to visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill do yourself a favour, buy your tickets at the Palatine Hill entrance.
    Then walk uphill exploring the Palatine Hill is more gradual than from the Roman Forum with more shade. After performing a circuit of the Palatine Hill you will get a great birds eye view down onto the Roman Forum as you descend into it, getting a good initial orientation in the process.
    The entrance of the Roman Forum is a long way from the Colosseum, but there is an exit only gate from the Roman Forum right next to the Colosseum.

    The ticket gate for the Palatine Hill often has no queues at all and is midway down the road Via di San Gregorio that runs from the Colosseum along the base of the Palatine Hill less than 5 minutes walk from the Colosseum.
    The Roma Pass also covers The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

    Directions to Palentine Hill entrance

    You’ll arrive at the Metro Colosseo stop (just above the Colosseum on the map) walk across the street, then down the path toward Constantine’s arch (keeping the Colosseum on your left). Go past the arch and in a few moments you’ll reach Via San Gregorio. The Palatine Hill entrance is on your right — on the map, it’s where the white T-shaped area is just above the “e” in “Gregorio.”


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