HI! I'm a mom with 2 teens invited on family cruise to 4 countries, which is great, but I have a tiny budget off the ship and want to make the most of my boys' first trip to Europe! We're up for anything: beaches, food, walking...and if we have to spend most of our $ on a once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the ports we will, just need help finding out what it is! I just ordered Rick's Mediterranean Cruise book because it has info on a couple of the ports, but here's what we have for time/destinations: Salerno-8 hours, Santorini 8 hours, Ephesus 8 hours, Crete 7 hours, Athens 13 hours, Nafplion 5 hours, Argostoli, Cephalonia 5 hours, Corfu 7 hours, Kotor, Montenegro 4 hours, and Rijeka, Croatia 5 hours. Thank you THANK YOU for any/all advice!!
I have done 2 Mediterranean cruises (and 1 more coming up). The biggest money saver is follow the Rick Steves' book and don't book an excursion with the cruise line. Many of the places you are going are not in the book, but with a little research you can find cheap ways to get to places. Even in Ephesus Rick suggests "maybe" book an excursion, we followed his directions on how to get to Ephesus from the port and had no problem. (I also traveled with a child -6 when she first started) and 20 year olds.). The places which are in the book have great suggestions on what to see. Maybe let every person take turns picking their top pick in a city? Everyone had a great time.
That sounds like a great trip! Rick's Mediterranean Cruise book will definitely come in handy so make sure you have it with you at all times. I can tell you a bit about the ports we have visited in the past.
- 8 hours in Santorini is perfect. You can take the cart up the rocks or there is an option to go up with a donkey. don;t recommend the donkey ride up or down since they are in a bad shape and it can be dangerous too. Not to mention the smell. The ride up was about an euro I believe. Once you are there you can take long walks exploring the town and take plenty of photos. Stop by for a gyro in one of the local restaurants, probably not more than 4 EUR per person.
*We have been to Ephesus many years ago. I believe it was an excursion from Kusadasi. We only had to pay for the tour, and there is not much shopping there since you will be exploring the Ancient city. 8 hours is plenty of time, depending where you dock and how long the ride to Ephesus will take.
*Corfu is amazing too. There are buses just outside the terminal and they take you downtown. (The buses organized were with Princess Cruises, not sure if every cruise line has buses organized for the passengers.) Walking around the town only is fun on its own and there is the Old Fortress or the Venetian Fortress that you can visit to get familiar with the history.
*Kotor is so pretty, but 4 hours may be a bit rushed. Everything is in walking distance one you live the ship, walk to the Old town (5 min) and explore the beautiful churches, museums...just go where the cobblestone streets take you. If you have the time, definitely sit down for a local meal in one of the many restaurants in the Old Town. Seafood risotto is quite popular. Prices are from 7 EUR up.
With only 5 hours in Rijeka I would just get off the ship and walk around. The main thoroughfare is called the Korzo and is a nice walk, not far from the port, no cars. There are a few museums, a beautiful Church - Our Lady of Lourdes. There will probably be a tour to Trsat which is their most popular Church and cloister. Pope John Paul II visited and said Mass their 2x and there is a monument to him. You can take a cab there, not expensive, or even a bus. Rijeka is a port city and usually doesn’t get too many tourists. It was always a transfer port to get to down the coast. I noticed lately that cruise ships are starting to stop there (my cousin is stopping their in June on her cruise).
With 8 hours in Salerno, I would take a bus or train to Paestum to visit the Greek temples. Transportation and entry, which includes the museum, are relatively inexpensive. If using trains, buy tickets both ways at the Salerno train station but don't validate the return tickets until you're ready to depart Paestum. If you have time remaining upon your return to Salerno, you can explore the town before returning to the ship.
Nafplion is a beautiful town. I would just walk around and enjoy the town, maybe have a nice lunch somewhere. There's a nice café near the harbor called Antica Gelateria di Roma. It's owned by a family originally from Rome and their gelato is very good.
Definitely visit Ephesus even if it's a splurge. I think your teens will really enjoy it, as will you, and they'll likely recognize a few structures they've seen in their history books. I'm not sure whether the excursions allow some time to explore on your own, which is worthwhile, so I would inquire about that.
To save money in Athens, you could take the metro into the center being attentive to pick pockets. You can "see" most of the major sights as you walk around, but it might be worth splurging on a visit to one or two. You can lunch inexpensively but deliciously on kabob or a gyro.
Athens: Pickpockets are a serious issue, but there is a lot to do. There is the Acropolis, but it might be mobbed. Being on an excursion might be the best bet. There are several museums there as well. We go to the National Archaeological Museum in 3 days.
Nafplion (sp?) is a very small town, and the best thing is to walk around. Plenty of shops if you want souvenirs.
My advice is on the OP's duplicate thread on the Greece Forum: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/greece/mom-looking-for-cruise-advice-with-2-teenagers
Kotor Montenegro is a very cute town - you can walk around and take a boat ride to the church in the center of the bay, but both are low cost items. I would guess Ephesus, Santorini or Athens will be where you want to spend your $$$ and have your 'big' day. suggest looking at Tripadvisor for highly rated tours. We've taken tours with private guides based on recommendations and had a lot of success - also will give you ideas for other things to do in each of the cities. Good luck and enjoy!