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East of Istanbul

Author: ian jonsen
Date of Trip: October 2012

Friday in Santorini we were met by NST Tours ..... We booked our NST tour online as they offered a good tour for a fair price. Our driver/guide, Thomas, was waiting for us as arranged, at the upper exit from the cable car. One of our party had walking difficulties and Thomas was quick to acknowledge this and led us a short distance to a waiting place where he could bring the vehicle. The vehicle was a modern mini bus, about 12 seats, I'd guess, plenty of space for the six of us. Over the next 4 hours we covered all the sights as planned and Thomas was always pleasant and helpful. He went the extra mile to make sure we got the best picture locations and took some good group pictures for us. We were very happy with the tour overall.

Akoritiki Excavations -Santorini ..... Down the South end of the island, the excavations are from around 1500BC and are very well maintained. Entry fee is 5 euros and the main site can be accessed easily on flat or slightly ramped ground. The main site is completely enclosed in a custom building, interesting in its' own right, and all the excavations are viewed from elevated walkways or cement paths on the lower level, but no touching anything. They have washroom facilities there, but I didn't see any snackbar other than a stall outside the entrance. It's a mildly interesting site, but we only spent about forty minutes from entry to exit as it's basically just a lot of holes dug in the ground, other than one semi reconstruction of a house. If you've got nothing else to do or you're particularily interested in that time period, I'd say it's an acceptable distraction from souvenir shopping.

Saturday was another day and sea and you've probably guessed already how we passed our time.

Sunday, we were scheduled to dock in Sorrento, but rough seas meant we were redirected to Naples where our tourguide, Guisseppe met us. Sorrento Topcars ..... We arranged online for a full day tour/shore excursion from our cruise ship for our party of six. Sorrento Topcars offered just what we wanted at a competetive price and we arranged a pick up at Sorrento dock for 8.00am. Unfortunately due to the rough seas, we were unable to get into Sorrento and the ship docked in Naples instead. When we booked, they had foreseen this possibility and offered pick up in Naples for an extra 100 euros. As soon as I knew of the port change, I called and we were picked up in Naples at 8.30am. Guiseppe, our driver/guide, was waiting for us with our name sign and 8 seat Mercedes window van. He spoke good English, was friendly and provided commentary all the way through an excellent tour of the Amalfi coast with lunch at a beautiful hillside restaurant terrace, overlooking the sea. We were happy with the service provided by Sorrento Topcars.

Monday morning saw us arriving in Civitavecchia where our transfer was waiting to take us to Rome. RomeCab .... We arranged pick up from the cruise ship dock in Civitaveccia, four of us plus luggage to be transported to a central Rome hotel, price 110 euros. Our car, a late model station wagon was there waiting for us when we disembarked and we were quickly on our way with our 4 large suitcases and 5 carry on bags. It took about one hour and 45 minutes to get to central Rome, as we ran into heavy traffic, as expected for a Monday morning. Our driver was courteous and helpful, though he spoke just enough English to get by. We were happy with the service and the price. Note there are 2 seperate companies, Romecab and Romecabs, this review is for the former.

Hotel Columbus - Rome .... I loved this hotel, for a few reasons. It's literally within 100 steps of St Peters square, so great location, right on the main street into the vatican. The front desk staff (one guy) spoke perfect English, he was friendly and efficient and made us feel welcome. Our room was a long way back but everything was clean and in proper working order, though everything is old and slightly worn, about what I expected for a couple of centuries old building. Interesting tiny elevator gave us an exciting moment when it got stuck with 4 of us crammed into the 3 foot square space, but we survived the experience. They were happy to arrange airport transfer for 4 of us in a nice Mercedes for 65 euros, a bit expensive, but worth the convenience as our luggage went from room to vehicle and we left from right inside the hotel courtyard. They have an onsite restaurant, bit expensive from what I saw, though we didn't actually eat there. There's a nice bar and our room had a safe (code operated) in the closet. I'd go back, no problem. After dropping our cases we spent some time sightseeing and by 3.30pm we were at the airport for our flight home, relatively uneventful.

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