We will be on a Princess cruise mid September and the stop in Kotor has been added since they are no longer taking us to Turkey. I would deeply appreciate any insight/guidance from anyone who has been here before. What is best to see and what to expect. I am trying to get my hands on a copy of the Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia book as it looks like that is the only place Rick covers this area. We will be in port from 7 am until 5 pm. I don't know if we should try to do an excursion with Princess or what other options there are. Thank you!
The Old Town is very compact (probably too small for a whole day's worth of activities). You certainly don't need any tour guide there because it will be easy as cake to figure out. If you go nowhere else, it will be an incredibly leisurely day. If you decide you want a more active trip, then pick out some other nearby places to see and try to arrange a tour or other transport to get there and back. I did a rather whirlwind trip through Viator from Dubrovnik to Montenegro and we saw many towns in a single day (albeit a bit rushed).
Your library may have a guidebook or two that covers Montenegro. It's a small but very beautiful country.
The old town of Kotor is very atmospheric. Your fellow cruisers will tend to concentrate in the area near the main gate. Be sure you wander off to the farther reaches of the walled area. You can walk on the wall, and part of that trip is seriously uphill. That would take a good bit of time, not to mention energy.
Assuming your ship doesn't arrive before sun up (looks as if it may) and leave after sundown (seems unlikely with a 5 PM departure), you will have a good view of the Bay of Kotor from the water, so you won't necessarily need to spend extra time on a land excursion skirting the bay. If you do want to stick close to Kotor, the small town of Perast is a spot you could visit by either bus or small boat. I found Herceg Novi, also on the bay but farther away, considerably more interesting than Perast. You can get to Herceg Novi in less than an hour by bus; Rome2Rio gives the driving time as about 45 minutes, which gives you an idea of the distance involved.
Another coastal possibility, though it wouldn't be at the top of my list, is the resort of Budva, which is south of Kotor in an area you won't see from your ship. The old town is very nice but feels quite a bit like Kotor and is equally touristy. If not spending the whole day in Kotor, I'd hope to see something a bit different. In addition, the bus station in Budva is not very close to the old town. With a tight schedule you'd need to take a taxi between the two.
Just about any trip you take away from Kotor will yield nice scenery, even if it's not along the bay. I think you could squeeze in a short trip to the very nice old capital of Cetinje by bus. This would take you inland, and it's a different experience from Kotor. I think this would be my #1 choice for time spent outside Kotor on a one-day visit.
However, it can be a bit difficult to pin down Balkan bus schedules before you arrive in the area, and with a ship to catch you must be very careful about your timing. Honestly, cheap as I am, in your shoes I would consider hiring a taxi for 5 or 6 hours or so. I think you could make a loop trip to Cetinje, including time for a nice walk around that town, and possibly also see a bit of the Lovcen National Park (albeit through the windows of the taxi).
Other possibilities would be some sort of bus-tour run from Kotor, but it might be a scramble to uncover information on the options and arrange to join such a tour on your one day in town. Or a cruise-line sponsored trip. I imagine that would be at least as expensive as a taxi for two people, though, and much less flexible.
There's a tourist information booth not far outside the main entrance to the walled town. I'm not sure what time it opens. The bus station for inter-city trips is to the right of the walled town as you face the city from the sea. It's not terribly far but is a bit of a walk, so for a one-day visitor I'd suggest a taxi if heading to the bus station.
Rick Steves has a book just for Med. cruise ports you might get. It should be available at Barnes and Nobel. With regard to your specific question, from Kotor a certain road leads away from the bay inland. It goes up the side of a steep mountain and has 25 numbered 180 degree switchback turns and at least 75 other sharp turns. Rock wall on one side and nothing on the other. Can't remember the name or number of the road, but it went to the towns of Njegusi and Cetinje. Don't mean to rain on you picnic, but don't want you to get into a hairy situation without any prior knowledge. You and your party might love it (to each his own) since the views of the bay are fantastic. But if anyone in your party is prone to motion sickness or has a problem with heights you might want to avoid this road. It'll take several glasses of wine before I'll do it again. You can go to bing.com, use the map feature, and see aerial views of the road from &*%$. Kotor is an interesting town in itself and many people find a good bit to do there while in port.
Took a Princess cruise that went to Kotor back in 2009. The only thing I would add to the advice you've already been given is be sure to get up early and get outside as you're entering the bay. It takes quite a while to get to the town of Kotor from the mouth of the bay, and watching the sun come up over the mountains, while cruising the tranquil waters, was wonderful.
Thank you all very much. Your posts have been most helpful and we are better able to plan our day thanks to your help!
We were in Kotor last year when a cruise ship was in dock. Too many people for too small a town. TC has an excellent idea as along the route there are some interesting stops. If i were in your position, i would hire a guide with a car well in advance and go exploring.
Further to Eric's point, it is the Bay of Kotor that is most specifically a UNESCO WHS. There are also a few islands with old religious buildings that you will also want to view from the ship as you enter and leave the bay. The city is also attractive, and it is exceptionally old, with the traces of each of its empires. This is NOT a poor substitute for cancelled stops.
First time there we took the ship's tour to Budva and it was pleasant enough. Not what we usually do, but it was easy and gave us an idea of the near countryside and another town with a beautiful beach there, and some old walls. Even after lunch we still had time to thoroughly walk through old Kotor, have coffee and check emails at free wifi, and visit the maritime museum.
Last year we walked through the old town again, had a massage, lunch, and then went swimming on the beach across from the entrance to the old town. Pebbly beach and very cool water, but more relaxing.
If you are fit, many people climb the steps up to the fort for a great view.
Don't miss the sail in and the sail out- very curvy, steep sides of the mountains, very beautiful and the best part of the day perhaps!