First cruise some tips please?

(23 Posts)
yourlittlesecret Tue 03-Jun-14 10:19:17

Going with Thomson on a med cruise followed by a week in Majorca. I chose it for informality.
Is it best to pre book the tours? Stopping at Corsica, Barcelona, Sicily, Rome or the ryanair equivalent and Sorrento. We haven't been to any of these places before.

DC are 18 and 16 and we definitely want to go to Herculaneum.
We are not independent intrepid travellers so would not dare to go it alone when we are visiting for the first time.

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Tue 03-Jun-14 14:38:28

We have cruised quite a few times as a family and usually do the organised trips, however a couple of those ports are quite easy to do your own.
Corsica- we went on the small land train around the town, stopping of at places of interest or with a good view. Then we pottered around the market and went back on the ship.
Barcelona- depending on where you dock the ship may provide a shuttle into Barcelona. From there you can stroll along the Ramblas and then go on the metro to see the Gaudi Cathederal which is there quite literally as you walk out the station.
Sicily- we booked a trip to to Taromina and then onto the volcanic region of Mount Etna which was a really good trip.
Are you stopping at Sorrento or Naples? Two of our ships stopped at Naples and one year we did a half day trip to Pompeii which was really good. The other time we did a trip to sorrento ( long drive) and had a mooch around. There are probably some trips that do Herculaneum and something else.
Rome- it really depends on your budget. We opted for a big trip that went to the colosseum in the morning, then a lovely lunch, followed by the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and st Peter's Basilicca. An amazing but long day. I thought I may never get the chance to go back.
We did prebook the tours. I got tips from cruise forums. Each evening you will receive a news letter about the following day. For instance it may contain a map of the place or give details of hop on/hop of bus etc.
Forgot to add hop on bus could be a good option for Barcelona.
You may find 5 trips to much and fancy 3 good trips and a couple of potter around the harbour and have a coffee type days. I wouldn't recommend booking a long day out in every port but perhaps alternate the length.
Hope this helps.

yourlittlesecret Tue 03-Jun-14 15:22:29

That's great thank you.
Is the hop on/off bus easy to do? That might be the best for Barcelona. Teenage boys want to look at these places but not keen on visiting too many churches!
Pretty sure it's Sorrento but they offer trips to Vesuvius. I am going to book the Herculaneum trip as I hear it's better than Pompei.
I am not going to book anything for Corsica as it looks quite accessible (and less daunting) to do as we please.
Rome I am not sure. It's a 10 hour day and part of me thinks it will be the only chance we ever have but DH views it as a bit of an ordeal, especially after several other trips.
I think we will book that on board if we decide to go for it.

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Tue 03-Jun-14 15:30:28

Yes the hop on buses are very easy. That sounds a good idea about Rome. We did a shorter trip either side of Rome (Pompei and Pisa) as knew it would be a long day. I'm really glad I went and when I see it on TV it's feels good to have actually been there.
Have a lovely trip.

You don't need to book the trips in advance (well, the day before usually does)

Work out where you will be on a Sunday - that's usuaully a good day to go for one of the organised tours.

Barcelona Ho-ho bus is brilliant.

The trip to Rome from Citaveccia is a loooooooong bus journey.

Is it Ajaccio in Corsica? It has a pretty good open top bus too.

Melaniecheek's Rule of Cruising is that Every port has a tourist train type thing, which is worth doing to get a feel for the lay of a town.

Havea great time!

yourlittlesecret Tue 03-Jun-14 15:41:11

Melaniecheek's Rule of Cruising I like that, smile. Thanks.

DramaAlpaca Tue 03-Jun-14 15:46:17

We didn't do any organised tours in the Med because they were so expensive and also because we aren't keen on tours & like to do our own thing. If you do choose to do them, I'd be inclined to book in advance because the popular ones get booked up quickly. Independent travel in Med ports is actually really easy to do & shouldn't be too daunting. We managed with only a couple of words of Italian & my very rusty French.

I found great advice on the forum, and was able to plan all our trips from tips I got there. You'll find maps, port information, travel info & invaluable tips from seasoned travellers.

Barcelona's hop on hop off bus is great, but it takes a long time to get all the way around the route. We did this then had a mad rush to get back to the ship in time! If I did it again, I'd walk or take the metro to get around. Our ship docked very close to the city as far as I can remember.

We got a taxi from Civitavecchia port to the station, then took the train into Rome. From there we walked around the major sights. It was very manageable. We had a wonderful day.

I've not been to Corsica, but if it's like Sardinia and you need to go ashore by tender, be aware that there will be huge queues for the tenders first thing in the morning, and priority is given to people on the organised tours. We waited a couple of hours to avoid the queues. There were also queues to catch the tenders back to the ship. I think we waited over an hour.

We were travelling with 3 teens & we had a great time, loved every minute of it.

If I think of anything else, I'll come back later.

DramaAlpaca Tue 03-Jun-14 15:50:54

Oh, just remembered. Check what day of the week you will be in Rome. We were there on the only day of the week the Sistine Chapel is closed, so we didn't get to see it which was disappointing. I can't remember which day of the week that is, though.

ruby1234 Tue 03-Jun-14 15:58:39

We did a similar cruise a couple of years ago.

Barcelona great, especially using the hop on off bus, loads to see.

Rome, we got the bus from the port then a little old fashioned train to Rome, took about an hour and a bit I think (whatever happens, don't miss the train back, the ship won't wait)! Rome was VERY busy, loads of traffic and a long way between things. We saw the sights, but it was an exhausting day.

Sicily - we just wandered from the ship into Palermo - turn left not right, or you'll end up in a ghetto. Palermo a nice city, pavement cafe's etc.

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Tue 03-Jun-14 16:16:44

As you said you were not a confident independent traveller Rome on your own is quite ambitious. Mainly because it is miles from the port and a worry could be getting back to the ship on time.

yourlittlesecret Tue 03-Jun-14 16:34:52

Oh I definitely wouldn't do Rome independently.
It's hard to know how this will go. We are very much used to pool based holidays but as DS1 is now 18 and DS2 16 I was trying to think of something a little different. They are reluctant sightseers but are both keen on ancient history and looking forward to Herculaneum and Segesta in Sicily.
DramaAlpaca Great tips, how old were your 3 teens and how did they find it, both on the tours and on board?

Corsica is by tender I think. We will have a lie in and go ashore after the rush for a relaxed wander.

Has anyone done Thomson Dream? I know it's not the largest or most prestigious cruise ship but I chose it to avoid the stuffy formality of some others.

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Tue 03-Jun-14 16:41:57

It will go well for you. You still have your beach week but before that you have the new experience of a cruise. We've done a few cruise with teens and Tweens and I think they work very well. I'm going on the Thomson celebration next month followed by a week in Turkey. It's natural to wonder how it will go but my logic is thousands if not millions of people a year enjoy cruises so they must make a good holiday. The tenders are just a case of getting on a little boat to get to the port, they kind of add to the day out. It sounds as if you already have a rough plan of what you want to do. Enjoy all the food and the shows, I have heard the Thomson fleet are very friendly ships.

Ive been on the Thomson Celebration, and Island Escape. They are relaxed, friendly and informal, and there's always something to do if you want.

BuzzardBird Tue 03-Jun-14 16:47:04

I wouldn't organized tours except for the ones you don't think you could manage yourself. Barcelona is great if you do it yourself. Get an open top bus tour which you can stop off at the Barcelona stadium which I think your boys would like to see, it is very impressive.

We did Monte Carlo (instead of Pisa I think?) by the train which ran to the port, it was very easy to do, I was 6 months pregnant at the time and it was very hot and found that doing our own thing was far less stressful. You get more time to watch the world go by in the pavement cafes.

The transport systems in Europe are very easy to follow. I have been on the Dream when it was owned by Airtours I think, is the one with the 360 degree bar? If it is, the sunset cocktails up there are a must.
Teenagers seem to love the independence that being on a cruise ship offers them and yours are old enough to not piss about in the lifts grin (big bug bear on cruises).

Ruhrpott Tue 03-Jun-14 17:11:51

We have just come back from the Thomson Majesty cruise around the Adriatic and had a great time. We didn't book any trips in advance and in the end only did one. They did a video show on the first day showing all the trips. The trips were expensive and it was easy to get around yourself.

Every day you can pick up an information sheet and map from reception and with all the information you need to visit places, bus numbers, places to see, if you need to take your passport etc and a map of the town on the other side of the page.

Hope you have a good a time as we did. I was looking at the cruise you are going to do for next year.

yourlittlesecret Tue 03-Jun-14 17:13:11

This is great, thanks.
I have been on cruise critic but the site is huuuge and full of, mainly older, people who have done zillions of cruises and are apparently never happy with them grin.

We are older actually, having DC late and now they are in their teens means I am 56 and DH is 64. We travelled quite a lot before DC but holidays in recent years have been in big resort AIs which suit greedy teenage boys the DC.

DramaAlpaca Tue 03-Jun-14 17:27:03

My teens, all boys, were 18, 17 & 14 when we went. They are into historical stuff so quite enjoyed the sightseeing. They were old enough to leave on board sleeping in on the couple of days they didn't want to go ashore.

The boys weren't too keen on the on-board activities, to be honest, and at 18 the oldest was considered too old for the teenage get-togethers and wasn't allowed to join in sad. We were there in June (Irish school hols start earlier) so there weren't very many teens on board. Fortunately, they enjoy hanging out together and were happy enough to do that. We could let them got on with what they wanted to do & arrange to meet up with them later. We were, however, on a much stuffier cruise line than Thomson. We didn't get to choose the cruise line - the grandparents were paying and came along too. If it was up to me, we'd have gone for a more informal cruise like you are doing. I like the idea of a week's cruise followed by a week in a resort. To be honest, my boys thought that two weeks on board ship was a bit too long.

If your boys are into soccer they might enjoy seeing the stadium in Barcelona as Buzzard says.

DramaAlpaca Tue 03-Jun-14 17:29:18

Cross-posted with you - cruises are brilliant for feeding teenage boys. There is always somewhere to eat, any time of the day or night grin

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Tue 03-Jun-14 17:37:12

My teens and me love all the scoffing on cruises.

Ruhrpott Tue 03-Jun-14 19:55:42

Just photographed part of one of our Thomson information sheets so you can see what you get. Hope you can read some of it.

Ruhrpott Tue 03-Jun-14 20:00:09

Map of town is on the other side.

mirpuppet Tue 03-Jun-14 20:30:49

I know you say you are not intrepid but do it yourself is the way to go with ship exursions. Really easy to do on you own. I did Herculeum with my 7 year old last year off a cruise ship and it was really easy.

(Also did Rome in less than 10 hours but I've been before and will go again).

Big tip remember to bring your DC passports as many historical sites like the Colleseum in Rome and Herculeum are free for younger EU nationals.

Also get off the ship early we would do the sights and get back to the boat for a swim as the midday heat is very hot.

PeachandBlack Thu 05-Jun-14 08:26:24

We used a company called Rome in a Limo when we did a cruise. It was expensive but completely worth it, they picked us up from the ship and we managed to visit all the major sites. Your driver is will be really knowledgeable and acts as a tour guide although they won't go into places with you. As it was just our family of 4 we had control over the itinery so we had a long leisurely lunch rather than being moved on in a group. They are really highly regarded on cruise critic forum.

Prebook tickets for the Vatican and Colliseum to avoid queues.

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