Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Should we book our own excursions on our Mediterranean cruise?
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 14 August 2013
Q We are cruising with our six-year-old son in the
Mediterranean with Thomson later this month, and like some of the excursions on
offer. However, they add quite a cost to the holiday. The main ports of
call are Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor in Montenegro, Corfu Town, Valletta in Malta
and Civitavecchia in Italy. What’s your advice?
A Do it yourself. At some ports of call on some cruises, there are compelling reasons to take an organised excursion. For example, on Baltic cruises, taking part in an organised excursion is the only way to be allowed off the boat in St Petersburg without getting a Russian visa. And on a call at the Israeli port of Ashdod, visiting the fascinating ruins at Masada overlooking the Dead Sea is the best way to sort out the complex logistics. But at the ports of call you mention, the DIY option is feasible, economical and possibly more rewarding. With a six-year-old, it could also prove more relaxing.
At Venice and Dubrovnik, being part of a cruise excursion dampens the experience – you trail around the tourist hotspots in a large group rather than exploring the more rewarding backstreets. Better to download our most recent 48 hours to those fine cities.
At Kotor, the main attraction is Lovcen National Park; if you decide to explore it, then you can probably negotiate a good deal with a local taxi driver.
Corfu’s cruise terminal is some way north of the city centre; some taxi drivers will try to charge €10, but you can walk or hop on one of the frequent local buses. There is more than enough to explore in the beautiful town centre, or take a bus north along the coast to see more of the island.
This is the ideal time to visit the rejuvenated city of Valletta – and we featured it in 48 Hours earlier this month (bit.ly/Valletta48). Again, there are excellent bus services around the island if you want to explore.
Finally, Civitavecchia is the most awkward location – both the port itself, a long way out of town, and its distance from Rome. But take the free bus to the station, hop on one of the frequent trains to the Italian capital, and enjoy a carefree day.
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