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Rome Sorrento Athens trip Sept 21- 30th The Good, The Bad & the Really UGLY!

13 Oct 2007 MJ said

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I chose this tour because of the huge amount of free time it provided for extra sight seeing. I was prepared for some of the issues like the hotels being close to nothing. The first hotel in Rome was the Torre Rossa Park which in itself is ok if you don't mind dorm style room and small beds. But the facilities were clean, there was a safe and a fridge and plenty of hot water for the showers. The breakfast was decent, not what most people are used to but its still good. I have an extremely sensetive stomach and didn't get sick once the entire trip! Big Grin Lets start this day by day will be easier to navigate.

Day 1: leave Phoenix, Az and arrive in Rome on Friday Sept 21st around 12:30pm. I wanted an extra day in rome for some special sights and tours I wanted to take. I arranged my own shuttle which got me to the hotel quickly since the Torre Rossa Park isn't too far from the airport. Just make sure to get an address most cabbies and drivers have no clue where it is. Word of advice just take a shower and don't go to sleep stay up until its their night time to avoid jet lag.

The staff speaks good English and is usually nice the women are a little snooty though. If you try to speak some in Italian you will be treated better I noticed. There is a bar where you can purchase food and drinks as well as buss tickets. The hotel also exchanges money with no commission fee great on weekends.

The bus stop is across an extremely dangerous street. Don't bother trying to wait for an opening the best solution is to just jump out infront of traffic and they usually slow down. I wish contiki would change the hotel just because of this dangerous street.

The first afternoon I had reservations for the Borghese gallery which is awesome and on the other side of town. Its easier to take a taxi then the bus or metro. Then walk down to the spanish steps and onto trevi fountain.

Day 2 Sat Sept 22nd

I had arranged for a special tour called the scavi tour of the ruins located under St peters basillica at the vatican. they only allow 200 people a day into this tour so book ahead. Its quite facinating. not good if you are clausterphobic. Spent most of the day around the vatican area and headed back to the hotel by 3pm to nap and clean up before the group dinner at 6pm. my roomate was already there so we hung out for a while. The tour meeting wasn't much just getting our city info and buss passes which they provided 2 for Rome. you also had to pay for your optionals at that time. The food was soso. I could cook better. But oh well. After that a bunch of us took a cab into the city and hung around the square for a while.

Day 3 Sunday Sept 23rd Wear good comfortable shoes and sunscreen!

This day was devoted to the colosseum and the Roman forum. I opted not to do the guided tour of the forum so I could go into the colosseum. You don't have much time to do the colosseum so this is the best time since contiki doesn't provide a tour of it and I think they should. Also don't be tricked into a tour to skip the lines these people are unlicenced and usually don't know anything. Also watch out for the gladiators in costume. you can get a photo with them but some are verry agressive and will take advantage of you. The photos can cost 5 euros on up. Offer 2 or 3 euros before the photo. Most will take it. If you are worried about pick pocketers I suggest Pacsafe products. I have the citysafe 200 and its great.

As you are wandering around the city go on the side streets you will find the same goods for cheaper prices as well as the mom and pop shops for food and snacks. A soda is about 2-5 euros same with water but you can find some for under 1 euro on side streets.

The water at the local fountains are safe to drink! So save those empty bottles. And rinse off your feet as well.

The optional dinner is Rome is ok. Be wary of pork its usually only half cooked. This can be skipped an you won't miss much.

Day 4 Monday Sept 24th
The group did the Vatican I had already done it so I did a day trip to Assisi which is an awesome place. I am glad I didn't go to the vatican since our tour manager Simone left more than half of the group stranded. She claimed she waited with onlu 3 people at the bus. She did many things wrong and didn't provide a lot of information.

We found out that our tm was being switched with another tm named Anna who was really cool. We think Simone got fired because she just kind of dissapeard that am. They told us another tm on a different tour was sick but that story didn't make sence. But who knows.

Day 5 Tuesday Sept 25. This is where the tour went downhill. And we had a new tm.

Our hotel in Sorrento was changed to this aweful place called the La Ripetta Hotel. Its no where near Sorrento. Its located on a busy noisy street. Our room was not on the ocean side and was so noisy you couldn't hear yourself think. The traffic and horn honking continued until 2-3 am. The room was also infested with ants which i am highly illergic to. I complained to the tm and to the hotel staff and no one did anything. To say the least I didn't sleep for 2 days there. Don't leave any food out the ants will find it.

Day 6 Wed Sept 26th
A word of warning you walk down about 300+, i lost count,stairs to the ferry dock which is very difficult and narrow. And you have to walk up them on the way back. It really sucked!

This was our day trip to Capri. I a glad I didn't do the boat cruise around the island since the water was too choppy to go inside the Blue Grotto. I spent the day by myself and took the bus up to Ana Capri which is a nice area and took many photos. The locals are very friendly. After a couple of hours there wne down to Capri and then back to the marina to catch the ferry back. Its expensive cost 20 euros for a taxi but its convertable and the views area awesome.

That night we had an included meal which was inedible. First off the breakfast there consisted of stale dry cerial and stale hard rolls nothing else and juice/coffee. So eat along the way. The dinner was a joke. It consisted of overcooked dry bland chicken and cold french fries. I didn't go to Italy for cold fries and dry chicken it was disgusting. We left without eating and went into town to eat which town is very cheap to eat in and very good. Just watch out for taxis they will rip you off if you don't set a price before hand they have no meeters.

Day 7 thursday Sept 27. We finally left that horrid hotel and started our drive to Pompei. Pompei is awesome in itself and includes a tour with a guide who was very short and hard to hear. I was kind of dissapointed in the fact that half of Pompei was closed to the public. So you don't get to see all of it.

After the tour we had some free time to get some trinkets or to get some real food at the cafe there. Most of the vendors only take cash. Then its a long 4+hr ride across Italy to Bari to catch the overnight ferry to Greece.

The ferry was awesome the rooms are small and consist of 4 bunk beds but you keep your assigned roomate. Just don't drink the water or flush paper down the toilets! its disgusting that you put the paper in the bin. So bring some sanatizer and some bathroom spray.

The ferry has bars, a dining room, a small casino and a disco room. Make sure you are outside on top deck to get an awesome sunset. We had a full moon so it was an awesome view. I tend to get seasick on boats but I slept so well I didn't hear any of the announcements and I guess we stopped at 2 other ports before we got to Patras. Word of advice bring earplugs or noise canceling head phones. I have the bose noise canceling and they are awesome.

Day 8 Friday Sept 28th

We arrive in Patras, Greece around 1pm. The ferry is never ontime and was suppose to be there around noon. We got on our new coach which was much nicer and roomier than the one in Italy. After a little nap we stopped at the Corinth Canal for a breather. There is an atm there and an autogrill for snacks and real food and exellent pasteries. Prices get much cheaper from here. Greece is cheap compaired to Italy.

We are informed by our new tm Anna that we have been somehow upgraded to a 5 star Holiday inn in Greece. By american standards its about a 3-4 star but still awesome. The beds are huge (full size) and the breakfast was incredible. You can also exchange money at the front desk as well. On your way out of the country before you go to the airport exchange your money back at the hotel.

The dinner was included and was very good compaired to Athens. It had different meats and rice and bread. And live local music.

Day 9. Athens Saturday Sept 29th.
Aweseome breakfast then board the bus for a drive through of Athens and then where our city tour included the first modern Olympic stadium, the Hellenic Parliament and a guided visit of the Acropolis and the Parthenon which was awesome. It is very hot up at the top of the hill so wear a tank top and bring a jacket for later. After that we went to the Plaka district which has some incredible deals on shopping. Save your money for here and bargain with the shop owners. I got the best stuff in the Plaka area for cheap.

I recommend the fairwell optional dinner in Athens. The food was really good and there was lots of it. Plus you were entertained by musicians and traditional dancers. It was a lot of fun. Being the last night after dinner go and do some more shopping. Oh the dinner location is a log way from our hotel and you had to walk a distance to the metro then walk up a huge hill to get to the place. So no heels!

Before the dinner pack your luggage before you have to leave so you can sleap in.

Day 10 Leave Athens Frowner
There are no shuttle services provided by contiki. Its about 10-20 euros depending on what hotel you stay at to get to the airport. Negotiate a price before hand. Try to find others who are leaving around the same time as you to share a taxi. I found a couple of girls who were on the same flight I was so it was easier. There is only one airport so no confusion but the security line can be long.

Oh and on your connecting flight if its in the states you have to pick up your luggage and recheck it in. So give 2 hrs between flights since you have to go through security AGAIN it really sucks and makes no sence!Make sure your bags get on the plane as one of my bags did not and took 5 days to get it back. Make sure you get trip insurance for this very reason.

Day 11 I finally make it into Phx airport at 11pm , an hour late and one bag missing. Have to file a claim and then another 2 hr drive home for me.


**************WORDS OF WISDOME!***************
My advice is to pack light! I bought a small bag at the end to put all the stuff I purchased in it. 30 euros is cheap compaired to shipping stuff home. Which included liquids. Bring and ipod or psp , headphones, chargers and several converter plugs. Bring extra medications as many are hard to find. There are tons of places to get things if you forget something. Bring extra memory cards and batteries as batteries cost about 8 euros. Only pack 3 pair of shoes 1 tennishoe, 1 sandal, and 1 dress shoe. Make coppies of your passport and credit cards. Only carry 1 cc and a days worth of spending money on you at a time. I don't do money belts and had nothing stolen. If i did I don't miss it.

If you are worried about cameras I took my big slr and my small digital and was fine. Just make sure to bring the chargers. Wink Bring nasal spray the air in the planes are really dry. Bring bathroom spray for the ferries.

Don't waste money on alcoholic drinks they cost 8-12 euros a piece and you will waste tons of money that way. Buy stuff at the store and take it to the hotel room. Much cheaper.

Don't worry so much about stuff and have fun.

ps..sorry about any typos wish this had spell check.
  • 22 Oct 2007 robynblueeyes said

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    Hi Melanie,

    Just a quick note….I went on the Simply Italy tour 23rd July to 3rd August this year….Our original TM (Danilo) was sick at our Tour meeting on the first night and the next day we were introduced to Simone (not too sure if she is the same person – short, medium length brown hair). I have to admit I didn’t really like her….our trip was for 12 days and I expected to be introduced to our fellow travellers on the first day or so…this was not the case….all Simone was interested in doing was giving us the bare facts of the tour and places we visited and that’s all….in fact we didn’t really get introduced to everyone on the tour until the 2nd last day!!!

    Danilo, the original tour manager wasn’t much better….

    Our bus driver Fabio was always talking on his mobile phone whilst he was driving..

    Needless to say…none of them got a great tip or great reviews.

    I hope your bad experiences haven’t put you off travelling again.

  • 23 Oct 2007 MJ said

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    Hey Robyn sounds like you got Simone as well same one. Sad to say my Rick Steves book had more valuable information than she provided. She’s a nice lady but she seems like she doesn’t like her job and she seemed kind of depressed some times. I would love to have her job.

    You don’t have to worry about me putting off travel I’m already trying to decide Egypt or Prague. I’m also planning our family trip to S. Africa next year.

  • 17 Nov 2007 Chris_in_TO said

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    In reference to some contikiers comments about Simone (it’s Simona actually). I just came back from a Simply Italy Tour and she was our tour manager. She WAS the reason why our trip was so memorable and I must say the negativity around here is appalling! Granted our group was more outgoing than most, but she was there with us the entire way. She was always around to lend a helpful hand when needed and genuinely cared for our entire group. In fact I don’t believe I ever saw her without a clipboard in hand meticulously planning out every inch of our journey! Even with some of the late nights we had (and there were plenty of those), she was just as bubbly the next morning! Some of the comments about her “not liking her job” or being “depressed” are totally uncalled for. Maybe you were all just a sad bunch. I would love to have Simona as my tour manager again, and would specifically ask for her in my next contiki adventure.

  • 19 Nov 2007 MJ said

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    Chris thats a little harsh! Eeker<!--graemlin::eek:-->
    I just am making an observation and I wasn’t the only one in my tour either who felt the same way. Perhapse she enjoyed the tour schedule you had compaired to ours. And the fact she was with you guys the entire tour might make a huge difference. Who knows. But all I know is that when your leader isn’t happy go lucky your group isn’t either. I wasn’t saying those things to be mean or to attack her as you have stated, its just an observation. Everyone has their days or two or three…

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