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Best travel guide for Summer Mediterranean Cruise

I will be cruising in the Mediterranean for 2 weeks this summer (August), most ports will be in Greece, but will also stop in Venice, Montenegro, Croatia and Turkey. Can anyone suggest their preferred travel guide. Looking for one that will be able to provide info on islands/ports of call but most importantly guidance on excursions (self-guided vs. tours).

Posted by
552 posts

If you've opted in for a cruise, I would think your money would be best spent letting the activities director on your ship help plan your excursions. Am I wrong about how that works?

If I were planning independent travel, I would read both Lonely Planet and Rough Guides for specifics of each 'non-Rick' area you'll visit. (Plus I'd check 'suggested itineraries' on Frommer's and Fodor's. But since your itinerary is already planned, maybe don't tease yourself with that sort of research.)

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks Bill. Yes you are correct, I can have the excursions desk rep help book tours. However, these can get pricey on cruises if done at every port. I was hoping to be able to find a book that might give me insight to areas I can tour on my own, while also indicating those best visited through guided tours. I may be asking for a lot, but thought I'd get a feel for what others may have experienced.

I have used Lonely Planet before and am considering again for this trip. Thanks again.

Posted by
8293 posts

cruisecritic.com has tons of information on Med. ports, including independent tours & excursions. Also if you google each port for tourism information you'll find that helpful. The Rick Steves guide on Med. ports was useful for us but it has gaps that need filling in from other sources.

Posted by
1860 posts

We have taken many cruises, mostly winter breaks anywhere that it's 85 in February , but we have also taken a few transatlantics. Generally, our experience has been that the excursion desks either know very little about the ports beyond their own tours or that they just aren't too forthcoming with what they do know. They can be a wealth of information, IF you are looking for Señor Frog or Diamonds International. Either way, I wouldn't rely on them for much help. I can share no preferred guide of our own, but others have posted good suggestions. We use several sources as mentioned above. Familiarize yourself with the major sights and particularly transportation to and from the pier. Another option is to find independent drivers on the pier...they will be there, and yours isn't the first ship they have met. We have done this a few times, and they often offer itineraries practically identical to the ship excursions at a much more reasonable rate. Hobnob with your fellow cruisers ahead of time or round up an impromptu group on the pier and negotiate, identifying the major sights you want to see. On a stop in Lisbon we had a fantastic full day doing this for less than half the cost of the ship tour. Getting a small group of 6 or 8 in a van can result in significant savings. Again, our experience has been mostly in places other than Europe, but from what we saw of the ship offerings, they were beyond pricey and bordered on crazy. Many will include lunch and shopping, neither of which we care to pay them for. The only real advantage to the ship excursions that I can see is the guarantee that they will wait for you if delayed. Good luck, and enjoy your cruise.

Posted by
552 posts

Interesting,... that's a lot like buying a lift pass at a ski resort and having to pay extra for the trail map.
I just assumed that the ship provides shore excursions as part of the price. Never mind...

Posted by
8293 posts

Bill, only the river cruise ships have all-inclusive prices.

Posted by
3621 posts

We've done many, many cruises and Denny is spot on about the excursion desk staff's lack of detailed knowledge about many of the ports and even their own excursions. He is also correct about the ship waiting for you if you ship sponsored excursion is late returning. On four or five occasions we've actually seen people left on the dock as the ship was pulling away. Yes, their excursions are pricy. But how much will it cost to get yourself to the next port on your own to meet the ship for the rest of the cruise? Just food for thought.

Posted by
1780 posts

I have not read the RS cruise guide, but I do know that I his regular guidebooks he will list some independent tour guides. People that use those suggestions and post seem pleased. After our last RS trip to Greece, I looked at independent guides on the Viator website and several of the excellent local guides that led our local tours were listed. Viator is a "middle person", but it does have names and reviews.

Posted by
7 posts

Yes TC good point, they will leave you behind if you're touring on your own. Unfortunately for the extensive tours I will probably go with cruiseship sponsored guide just to ensure I don't miss departure.

Bill River cruises do make it so much easier since they include tours in your package (but if you don't catch a good deal you can pay a hefty price here too).

However, I have some time to research and have purchased a few different guides (RS and Lonely Planet) at really good prices. I am confident these will help me get an idea of what to do and where to go on my own, or pairing up with others, for smaller island excursions.

Thanks everyone!

Posted by
106 posts

We did a cruise a few years ago, that sounds like almost the exact same itinerary. I did a combination of private tours that I arranged myself, excursions through the cruise line, and just going out on our own.

In Venice and Montenegro, I used a private tour guide. Both were in RS's book, and both were fantastic. We went to Ephesus in Turkey, and used a company called Ephesus Shuttle. I was very pleased with them as well.

If you are interested, I'd be happy to send you the names and contact information of the guides I used. It's a few years old now, but if they are still giving tours I would highly recommend them. Let me know, and I'll look up the information and send you a PM.