We are a family of five. We have a stop on our cruise in Ephesus turkey. I absolutely refuse to pay for and partake in cruise excursions run by the cruise line. I would love some input from bloggers here on day trips that are cruise time friendly that would be great for us to partake in. Our holiday starts with a week in Rome and Florence so I'm afraid my three teenagers may be a bit tired of museums and ruins by the time of our cruise. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
Regardless of what you see before you get there, don't discount the importance of Ephesus to your overall experience. You'll come ashore in Kusadasi. Just rent a car or take a taxi to Ephesus and take your time exploring this amazing place. There are plenty of taxis coming and going so getting back to the ship on time won't be a problem. There's really not a whole lot else to see in the area anyway.
Hi Marianne - I went to Ephesus last year and it was one of the highlights of my vacation. It is much like the Forum in Rome though....walking amongst ancient ruins. Ephesus is not in a town or city though....it's out in the countryside. The city of Selcuk is nearby and I would recommend visiting that city for a short stay. Walk around the city ....it's a very interesting non-tourist city. I went to a hamam in Selcuk....it was right in the center of town. It was coed...my sister wore a bathing suit (the males didn't)....and everyone wrapped a towel they supplied us around their waist. No nudity. The family can experience it together. The price was about 1/3 of the cost charged in Istanbul. Get the message afterward also. More of a mix between message and chiropractic session. We all loved it. Kusadasi has turkish baths also but I've never been there. If you have the time go to Ephesus and Selcuk. If not stay in Kusadasi...go to a hamam, go to a mosque (many provide scarfs for the women to cover their hair). The males in my party got a haircut in Turkey.....the lone female watched. Great experience. Served us tea beforehand. They also have a technique of dipping a rather large q-tip in alcohol lighting it on fire and quickly sticking it in your ear to burn off the hairs in your ear. The whole experience was interesting...more an event than a haircut. The teenagers would remember something like the message and haircut the rest of their lives. Take a few puffs on a hookah pipe together at a restaurant in Turkey....apple flavored....just to experience it. Again...if you have the time go to Ephesus and Selcuk. If you don't want to visit the ruins in Ephesus go to Selcuk anyway if you have the time. Go to the turkish bath. Walk around in town....they have huge stork nests right in the center of town. Highly recommend the Boomerang restaurant in city center.
I totally agree about the ship excursions. They are typically overpriced and generic. You may want to consider a private tour guide. We did that during our stop in Ephesus 2 years ago, and were quite pleased. We got to tailor our day as we wanted to, and the price was comparable to the price for the ship excursion. We started our day visiting the house of the Virgin Mary. We then headed to Ephesus, and just spent a couple of hours there. Going through with a private tour guide, we were able to move much more quickly than with a group, and saw everything we needed to in a short amount of time. We then stopped in this fantastic restaurant off the beater path for lunch. Then we spent a couple of hours in Selcuk. Lots of good shopping, and we sat and had some Turkish tea as well. On the way back, we did hit a carpet store. I didn't originally intend to go to one, but we had some extra time before we had to get back to the ship, so we decided to try it. The tour company we used was Ephesus Shuttles - www.ephesusshuttle.com. Very easy to deal with. They picked us up right at the dock. They drove us in a van, so there would easily be room for your family. Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. She also had our tickets for everything in advance, which saved a bunch of time, and she knew how to get us through the entrance of the sights quickly. Well worth it!
There are tour operators that you can use to avoid the cruise excursions. In addition to those noted above, you could also do a search and you'll find several previous posts and recommendations on this topic. You'll want a tour company that covers your cruise port location (e.g. Izmir or Kusdasi). The Ephesus/Selcuk area is pretty heavy on ruins and museums, but I do have a couple of non-museum/ruin ideas. Sirince village (old Greek village) is nearby. This is a good option if you think you'd like to walk around/explore an historic village and shop for fruit wines and textiles. Another option, depending on your religious viewpoint, is the Mary House mentioned above. This is the supposed location where Mary spent her later years and is now a religious shrine. Good luck!