The Vatican or Colosseum

We are limited to how much time we will be in Rome. We are going on a cruise this fall and we need some help in the most efficient way to spend our time in Rome. We would like to see the Colosseum and the Vatican. Any suggestions for self-tours or the best tours to take?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8785 posts

Chris don't know how limited your time is( ??) but if you can see both, they are both worth it and when will you ever have another chance?

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1766 posts

Context Rome is really good. You can check their website for their offerings. They have half-day tours to each of those sites, and I really enjoyed both. With limited time, having a good guide can really help, and the small size of the groups in Context tours (6 or fewer) means you're not continually waiting for 20 or 30 people to gather before the guide starts explaining. Also, depending on when you're going and your time available, you might be able to do a night visit to the Vatican Museums, which would free your days for other things (although look carefully at what galleries are open at night; I don't think the pinacoteca is open, which would be a deal-breaker for me).

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7927 posts

A Colosseum visit doesn't take very long, even if you opt for the tour. I'm only worried about the line when you arrive, since you won't get there first thing. If there's an option for bypassing the line, you need to take advantage of it. I'd probably walk through the Forum after the Colosseum. When you get to the top of the hill, get a cab to the Vatican to save time. You won't have time for the Museum and Sistene Chapel but I think you will have time to look around inside, and maybe either down into the crypt or up to the roof (I doubt you can do both, but maybe if it's going well). Cruise stops aren't nearly long enough to really see a major city - especially when you have to get to the city from the port - just enough for a quick look at a couple of sights. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. Check your departure time(s) before you leave the train station in the morning.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

You might be able to save some time at the Vatican if part of your plan was to see the current Pope...that's not going to happen now. :)

Posted by Chris
28 posts

Thanks for the info. We found a tour Rick Steve's suggested. Cantbemissed tour group. They have a tour which covers both the Colosseum and Vatican for a very reasonable price.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3668 posts

Just people take cruises to "see the sites" or do you take cruises to ride on a boat and eat lots of gourmet food and if time permits to see a few sites along the way? I'm just curious what possesses people to take European cruises which only allow a few short hours to take in thousands of years worth of history. I'm quite serious in wanting to know the answer.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

Tim - I'll take your request seriously, although it comes off a bit insulting to those of us who have taken cruises. I've taken two Mediterranean cruises, and I've done several DIY vacations in Europe. We went on the cruises to see the sights, and to only have to unpack once. You don't have to worry about making hotel and transportation arrangements, but aren't stuck in one location. This made it easier to see a bunch of different stuff with 3 youngish kids in tow. The cruise was also really good for traveling with my parents, who aren't comfortable with a DIY approach. They were able to go on guided tours in cities that they didn't tour with us. And you can see a lot in a day in some of the ports. Some ports - like Olympia, Greece or Naples, Italy - don't really need more than a day to cover. And more and more cruise lines are offering overnight or longer stays in ports. The first cruise we were on spent 2 nights docked in Istanbul. And lastly, they can offer a really good value. Including our transportation costs (from within Europe), our first Med cruise in 2011 for 5 people for 12 days came to less than $100pp/day. Considering all that we did/saw, it was a fantastic value.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3668 posts

A day to see and do and learn about Olympia, Greece and Naples, Italy??? Maybe if you spend your precious vacation time in the port a day is indeed all you need. If you make an educated decision to cruise knowing that you're going to be spending more time eating steak and lobster than actually seeing or experiencing or learning anything about Europe then that's probably a good decision for you. On the other hand if you actually think you're going to be seeing and experiencing "Europe" then I hope you'll reconsider your decision. Rather than sending your money to the Cruise Corporate Headquarters, use it to purchase a good guide book or even to invest in a local guide with a small group. Stay several nights in those magnificent cities seeing and tasting everything that makes them unique. Making your own hotel reservations is about as difficult as pressing the "SEND" button on your email. Wonder if the Neapolitans know their culture can be entirely experienced in one 6 hour visit in port ;-)

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
766 posts

I just wanted to give you a heads up regarding the tour you mentioned just in case you did not read the "fine line". The tour does not include going inside any of these sites, those are extra and will raise the price considerably. If you are at all willing to grab a good guidebook and plan the day yourself, then I recommend that. From the port train station, come into Rome and go to the Colosseum/Forum, walk to the Pantheon, and then cab it to the Vatican (or just cab it directly from the Colosseum/Forum if you have no interest in the Pantheon). You can skip the lines at the Colosseum by buying your tickets at the Forum, and reserve an entry time to the Vatican Museum, or just go to St. Peter's Square and Basilica, which are free. Or, pay the extra 40 euros or so for the tour in order to go inside those sites. Have fun!

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
447 posts

The guy is a clown. People take a cruise because that is what they chose to do. Why this clown would insult someone who honestly answered his question proves once again some of the low lifes we deal with in this world.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

I can't imagine that the experience of visiting Europe via cruise ship is any less authentic than visiting it while sitting on your high horse.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8400 posts

There are a number of legitimate, well-thought-out reasons that someone might take a cruise. There could be budget or time issues, mobility issues, or just convenience/comfort issues in going to a new place. Maybe they received the cruise as a gift, or maybe they usually travel on their own but have decided to try a cruise instead. Whatever the reason, the OP asked for suggestions using their day in Rome. They didn't ask your opinion about cruises vs. independent travel.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5660 posts

I guess by Elle's reasoning, the people who come on here posting itineraries that have them changing locations every night are having a more authentic trip than someone on a cruise. Maybe traveling everyday to change location by train is more 'authentic' than changing location by ship. Why, because 'locals' take the train? Not everyone wanders around in the early morning and evening hours, rubbing elbows with the locals. Nor does everyone linger in museums or wherever to soak up the history and atmosphere. I guess doing those things is what make the difference between being a tourist or a traveler? Aren't we all tourists when we visit a place we don't live? I am not a cruiser, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid way to travel. I've seen some well traveled people on this helpline say that they do cruise, often adding time before and/or after to go to other places. Just because someone doesn't 'get' cruising (frankly it's not for me, and I did try it), doesn't mean that their way is a better way. That's where the high horse comes in!

Posted by Kim
San Francisco
463 posts

We have chosen to take a cruise the middle week of 3 - one week in Italy, one week cruise (seeing 4 ports plus some needed rest), and the last in Germany. My husband and I have been to Europe before, and I never thought I would go on a cruise there. But now we have kids - I am hoping they will embrace the new cultures and foods, etc... but I have a middle "insurance" week where they can watch a movie, eat things they like, swim, etc... I am banking on having this "rest" time (although we will still have a couple of semi-intense touring days this week) making them more open to the experiences on the other ends. We went 17 days on our trip many years ago (without kids), and I remember feeling a bit exhausted and wishing for my "normal" experiences around day 14... So if we want to do 3 weeks, I think the break time will be good for us. Plus sometimes on vacation we have a little too much "togetherness" and a couple of hours with them in the kids club on a day or two will rejuvenate all of us I think. I could also see cruising with my getting-older and out-of-shape parents someday, since my Dad has always wanted to go to Europe. So we shall see if my plan pays off! Or maybe they will be great on the 1st and 3rd week and we will know next time we can plan differently! :) Kim

Posted by Richard
Lafayette, LA, USA
161 posts

Tim, fair question. I have been to Europe three times before, once on a cruise. On our particular cruise, there were two portsAmalfi and Monte Carlowhere we could have used much more time in port. But we spent extended time in Venice and Rome, where the cruise respectively started and ended; we experienced our ship leaving Venice, which was a spectacular experience; we were able to see places like Dubrovnik, Taormina and Amalfi that we probably would never have seen but for a cruise vacation; and we never had to change hotels for 10 days. There are some advantages to a cruise vacation. And cruise ships, lines and vacations can be very different. We are trying to take a Baltic cruise in 2014. On the cruise we have booked, we can spend extra time in Stockholm where the ship begins and in Copenhagen where the cruise ends, we will be spending three full days in St. Petersburg, and we will be visting places like Helsinki, Tallinn and Lubeck that again we would never see but for a cruise. And often the ship is docked not for a few hours but 9 or even 12 hours in ports where there is not an overnight. The only drawback with our cruise is Berlin. Our ship will be docked in Warnemunde 18 hours, allowing some time in Berlin, though time will clearly be rushed and much, much too short. But I think you get the idea. Many European cruises feature smaller ships where the ship is not the main venue, as it might be on a Caribbean cruise, but more a floating hotel.

Posted by Richard
Lafayette, LA, USA
161 posts

My apologies to Chris because this thread has gone in a much different direction from the question in the OP. Chris, check out, and go to the roll call forum for your spceific cruise where people on your cruise are trying to put together tours with local guides on your cruise. Depending on the cruise line, a good percentage of people on a European cruise have travelled extensively through Europe, use local guides for tours, and have done the requisite research on the areas they will be visiting. Chris, you should be able to easily find a local guide who can put together for a small group a tour of Rone that includes the Vatican and whatever else you want to see in Rome. As an aside, I will note, and I may well be in a minority, that the Vatican, though incredibly crowded, is certainly worth seeing, but that Rome is one of my least favorite major cities in Europe. Finally, I want to return to the cruise issue just briefly. We do not limit ourselves to cruise vacations. But my wife dislikes the unpacking and packing, train travel and hotel changes associated with travel in Europe, I enjoy travel in Europe, and one can much more easily than with a land vacation visit certain areas of Europe. We find that a cruise coupled with time in Europe before or after the cruise can be a great compromise.

Posted by Carrie
Simpsonville, SC, US
54 posts

I am going on a 3 week vacation to Europe next month, and one of those weeks is on a cruise. We don't know when we will be able to get back to Europe (it's been 20 years since I last went) and want to be able to do and see as much as possible. For us, our wish list was long as to where we wanted to go. By doing a cruise, this allows us to visit Genoa, Rome, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, and even Tunisia, N. Africa in one week. Will it give us the time to fully explore the ports? No, but it gives my family an opportunity to visit and experience several different cultures in a short amount of time. And the total cost for all of us is MUCH less than what it would be to DIY. I shopped around and got us such a bargain it's cheaper than taking my family to the Bahamas for 3 days. But to help answer Chris's question we've decided it's important for both. We are getting the tickets ahead of time online for the coliseum (not the actual tour) and booking the tour for the Vatican. There are 7 of us total, so we booked a private excursion to pick us up in Civitavecchia and take us there. We got a great deal from

Posted by Judith
16 posts

You can see the Vatican and St. Peters on your own. Use the info in Rick's book to reserve your tour. Super easy to do, very convenient. A good guide book will give you a lot of info. I personally think Colloseum can be skipped. I found what I saw inside was not worth the time I spent waiting in line. If you book a tour at Vatican, you skip lines. There is another museum in Rome worth seeing if time allows, Museo Borghese. You must reserve there. How to do it is Rick's book.