On past cruises I have purchased excursions only to find that we port right where all the action is and others are a significant drive away and not practical to see without a planned excursion. We are a family of four and it can get expensive for exursions in every port.
Yes! Almost every port on this itinerary features areas of interest that you can reach without booking a shore excursion. There is a ten day version and an eleven day version of this cruise. The extra day is spent in Rhodes, which I haven't yet visited. There also is stop in Crete, but at a different port than the one I've visited. Looking at the other stops, however, provide lots of opportunities to explore on your own.
SANTORINI is a tender port. A boat will take you from the ship to the base of the hill leading to the main town. To get to the top, you can climb the stairs, ride a donkey, or take the cable car. There are plenty of restaurants and shops there. Alternately, there are lots of boatmen at the dock who can give you a ride (for a small price) to the other parts of the island which are even more picturesque than the main town.
The ship will dock at Piraeus for ATHENS. You can catch a Hop-on, Hop-off bus at the port that will take you to the Acropolis, the Archeological Museum, the Plaka, and many other places of interest in the city. Just be sure to watch the time and be aware of the HoHo schedule to be back to the ship in time. An internet search for "hoho bus Athens" will provide more details. Athens is a large and ancient city, so a good city map or GPS is recommended.
In MYKONOS there will be a low cost shuttle bus to take you from the dock into the town. Lots of shops and restaurants are in easy walking distance.
As the ship arrives in VALLETTA, MALTA, the cruise terminal will be on your right. There is a street along the waterfront which leads to your right. Walk a couple of hundred yards on that street (past the rear of your ship) and look for signs leading to an elevator. The town of Valletta is high on a hill, and the elevator is an inexpensive and convenient way to the top. The return ride down is free. Be sure to visit the Saint John's Co-Cathedral and the Grand Master's Palace first, as they close early on most afternoons. The architecture of the city is spectacular, and there are lots of shops and restaurants within a few blocks. There also is a tourist trolley. We took it last time we were there, but I would skip it if I went back. An internet search for "things to do in Valletta" will provide more details.
MESSINA is a beautiful city, and the ship docks just two blocks from the town square. Be sure to be at the square for the noon tower bell. Grab a table at one of the outdoor cafes and enjoy the free show. The square also is where you can catch a tourist trolley. It gives a good overview of the city, but be selective about your timing. Most shops close just after noon and do not re-open until just before dinner. Plan accordingly if you want to shop.
If you want to explore NAPLES, the HoHo bus is your best bet. It's about five or six blocks from the cruise terminal to the pickup point. Ask someone at the port for directions. If this is your first trip to Naples, though, a more picturesque day can be spent at the Isle of Capri or in Sorrento. The ship will dock adjacent to the ferry terminal, where you can catch a ferry to either one. Plan your trip in advance and buy your return ticket at the same time. You can spend the whole day at either stop, or go from Naples to Capri to Sorrento and then back to Naples. Search for "Naples ferry" for more info.
The port of Livorno is several miles from the nearest train or scheduled bus service, so your best bet for PISA or FLORENCE is either a shore excursion or a private car tour. With four in your party, a private tour might be the best way to go. You will get personal guidance, will be able to set your own pace, and a car can go places in Florence where a bus can't, meaning that you won't have to walk so far from a parking area to a museum or other site. Be sure to get your tickets early and confirm your scheduled reservation time if you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery or the Academie del Arte in Florence. They usually are jam-packed. Search for "Florence Italy" for a wealth of information about things to see and do in the city.
You also may want to look at my December 2016 review of this itinerary which we took on the NCL Star. Click on Star and Cruise Stories. Bon Voyage!
Date published: 2018-12-01