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AVOID "Pisa By Trolley" excursion from La Spezia

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Just returned from a 7 night western Mediterranean Cruise with my family and, all in all, a great experience.

The only major disappointment was the shore excursion "Pisa by Trolley." The RCL website described the excursion as follows:

See Pisa's essential sights as you embark on a guided walking tour of the town's history with a narrated trolley train ride and a visit to the prominent square before setting out on your own. Learn about the historical edifices in the Field of Miracles, as your guide illustrates the Tuscan city's rich heritage. Behold the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, a 12th-century bell tower known for its protruding tilt. Explore the area independently, where you can shop, visit the cathedral, or stroll beside the Arno River.

Highlights:
• Field of Miracles: Join a walking tour of Pisa's main square, admiring stunning Tuscan-Romanesque architecture and significant city landmarks.
• Leaning Tower of Pisa: The 12th-century bell tower's tilt is caused by the inadequate foundation on which it stands.
• Free Time: Wander at your own pace, shopping for souvenirs, visiting the cathedral, or walking along the Arno River.

This was quite misleading. First of all, it is a 4 hour tour, but they do not mention that it takes 1hr+ each way by bus to get there, so already you are down to less than 2 hours (when I originally booked, it said it was 20-30 minutes, but I assume that was because they had simply used the description for the excursion from port of Livorno for the Port of La Spezia excursion as well, but of course I did not know that at the time). Once there we had to transfer to trolley, and then we spent about 30-45 minutes driving around the town of Pisa, which was actually quite pretty, and at the time I thought it was a great experience.

But, let's face it, you go to Pisa to see the tower. Once the moment of truth arrived, we were dropped off a few minutes walk from the square- We were told where we could go to the bathroom, eat, and buy souvenirs (we had been on the go at this point for about 2.5hrs so most of the bus load of people lined up for the single toilet), and we were told to be back at that point in 40 minutes so that we did not miss the trolley to take us back to the bus, as it would not wait. No walking tour of Pisa's main square.

So, waited 10 minutes for the toilet, then scooted over to get the obligatory holding up the Leaning Tower photo for each one of us. At this point, we started to have some panic set in as we were watching the clock and realized we had 10-15 minutes left before we had to climb back on the trolley. NO time to really explore the square. If you wanted to go inside anything, you needed tickets, and there was no time to stand in line to get a ticket. I had booked mine in advance with the illusion there would be some time to explore a bit (more than 100 Euros for 4 of us), but when I asked the guide as we boarded the bus back at the ship, he had laughed at me and said we literally had no chance of fitting that in. I did manage to get inside the cathedral (but not the Tower of Pisa) for less than 5 minutes, but literally ran to front, snapped some photos, and ran back out. I barely even remember being there. If anyone went to walk along the river, I am sure they had to find their own way back to the ship! The only people wandering at their own pace were those that could not wait to get back to the boat.

So, in the end, we spent $64pp to get about 40 minutes at the outside of the Tower of Pisa and the area around, which had to include bathroom break and maybe time to buy a bottle of water (it was almost 90 degrees). I had also dropped about $125 on entrance to the Tower which did not even happen.

I contacted guest services, and they gave me $32pp refund (The manager at Shore Excursions on ship said I was not the first person to complain about this particular excursion), but that only covered the entrance tickets I did not get to use.

VERDICT: While you do not need a full day to see Pisa, if you really want some exploring time, this is not a good excursion. If you just want "The Photo" and get back to ship ASAP, this should work for you. To see this area, I would say you need a minimum of 90 minutes to explore, and the promised walking tour should be provided. RCL did try to apologize by giving us a 50% refund, but unfortunately for me, this really only covered the tickets I bought on my own which I did not get to use. This tour length should be 5-6 hours, and that would work well.

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16 minutes ago, nblobstr said:

Just returned from a 7 night western Mediterranean Cruise with my family and, all in all, a great experience.

The only major disappointment was the shore excursion "Pisa by Trolley." The RCL website described the excursion as follows:

See Pisa's essential sights as you embark on a guided walking tour of the town's history with a narrated trolley train ride and a visit to the prominent square before setting out on your own. Learn about the historical edifices in the Field of Miracles, as your guide illustrates the Tuscan city's rich heritage. Behold the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, a 12th-century bell tower known for its protruding tilt. Explore the area independently, where you can shop, visit the cathedral, or stroll beside the Arno River.

Highlights:
• Field of Miracles: Join a walking tour of Pisa's main square, admiring stunning Tuscan-Romanesque architecture and significant city landmarks.
• Leaning Tower of Pisa: The 12th-century bell tower's tilt is caused by the inadequate foundation on which it stands.
• Free Time: Wander at your own pace, shopping for souvenirs, visiting the cathedral, or walking along the Arno River.

This was quite misleading. First of all, it is a 4 hour tour, but they do not mention that it takes 1hr+ each way by bus to get there, so already you are down to less than 2 hours (when I originally booked, it said it was 20-30 minutes, but I assume that was because they had simply used the description for the excursion from port of Livorno for the Port of La Spezia excursion as well, but of course I did not know that at the time). Once there we had to transfer to trolley, and then we spent about 30-45 minutes driving around the town of Pisa, which was actually quite pretty, and at the time I thought it was a great experience.

But, let's face it, you go to Pisa to see the tower. Once the moment of truth arrived, we were dropped off a few minutes walk from the square- We were told where we could go to the bathroom, eat, and buy souvenirs (we had been on the go at this point for about 2.5hrs so most of the bus load of people lined up for the single toilet), and we were told to be back at that point in 40 minutes so that we did not miss the trolley to take us back to the bus, as it would not wait. No walking tour of Pisa's main square.

So, waited 10 minutes for the toilet, then scooted over to get the obligatory holding up the Leaning Tower photo for each one of us. At this point, we started to have some panic set in as we were watching the clock and realized we had 10-15 minutes left before we had to climb back on the trolley. NO time to really explore the square. If you wanted to go inside anything, you needed tickets, and there was no time to stand in line to get a ticket. I had booked mine in advance with the illusion there would be some time to explore a bit (more than 100 Euros for 4 of us), but when I asked the guide as we boarded the bus back at the ship, he had laughed at me and said we literally had no chance of fitting that in. I did manage to get inside the cathedral (but not the Tower of Pisa) for less than 5 minutes, but literally ran to front, snapped some photos, and ran back out. I barely even remember being there. If anyone went to walk along the river, I am sure they had to find their own way back to the ship! The only people wandering at their own pace were those that could not wait to get back to the boat.

So, in the end, we spent $64pp to get about 40 minutes at the outside of the Tower of Pisa and the area around, which had to include bathroom break and maybe time to buy a bottle of water (it was almost 90 degrees). I had also dropped about $125 on entrance to the Tower which did not even happen.

I contacted guest services, and they gave me $32pp refund (The manager at Shore Excursions on ship said I was not the first person to complain about this particular excursion), but that only covered the entrance tickets I did not get to use.

VERDICT: While you do not need a full day to see Pisa, if you really want some exploring time, this is not a good excursion. If you just want "The Photo" and get back to ship ASAP, this should work for you. To see this area, I would say you need a minimum of 90 minutes to explore, and the promised walking tour should be provided. RCL did try to apologize by giving us a 50% refund, but unfortunately for me, this really only covered the tickets I bought on my own which I did not get to use. This tour length should be 5-6 hours, and that would work well.

I  sympathize with you.  When we toured Pisa in 2011, we didn't take the trolley ride, but we still didn't have time to actually enter the Tower.  It's crowded in the summer, as you found out.  The tour we were on lasted several hours, and I recall there was a horrible traffic jam as the bus drove us back to port.  It was the one time we didn't make it to the Main Dining Room at our assigned time.  So even with a longer tour, although we explored more of the square, we didn't really have a chance to go up the tower. 

My take on Pisa is that it was underwhelming, but at least I got to see first hand what all my history books described in grade school.  So next Med cruise we are going to Florence!

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We decided because of the long travel during, we will not even try to fit in Pisa.  I feel like even Florence will not have nearly enough time...I debated whether to buy uffizi tickets and decided we will go the next time we do a land vacation just to Italy!  Not enough time!  Jane

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20 hours ago, MicDay said:

nblobstr

Thank you we are doing a Med cruise next May, on the flip side, which was your favorite excursion ?

We did a small group tour of Rome which we booked thru Viator rather than RCL which we all agreed was the best excursion. RCL offered the same thing, but at a much higher cost. We ended up getting a van with the four of us plus a mother/daughter in the van. Marco, our driver, was super knowledgeable about Rome, which was great. The van was able to get much closer to the attractions, which meant less walking (it was a heat wave when we were there). It was nice to be ale to leave things in the van, and get into a air conditioned van between stops. Sites were actually further apart than I expected, so trying to do anything on foot would be brutal. 

We also went to Capri and took a boat tour of the island and went in the Blue Grotto, which everyone liked as well. We did have to wait on a bobbing boat to go in the grotto for 90 mins, but it was worth it. However, if you did not want to go in the grotto, you can skip that. Again, did not book thru RCL (except for transportation to Capri), but booked online. IN Capri, you basically have the choice of seeing the island by land or by sea, but not really enough time to do both.

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16 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

We decided because of the long travel during, we will not even try to fit in Pisa.  I feel like even Florence will not have nearly enough time...I debated whether to buy uffizi tickets and decided we will go the next time we do a land vacation just to Italy!  Not enough time!  Jane

If we cruise the Mediterranean again (which we definitely plan to do) I would cruise out of an Italian dock so there could be time before and after cruise to explore Italy a bit. We sailed from Barcelona and spent a day touring after we got off the ship and we felt that we really did not need a whole lot more time in Barcelona, but would have like more time in Rome/Italy.

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On 7/7/2019 at 9:34 AM, ChessE4 said:

I  sympathize with you.  When we toured Pisa in 2011, we didn't take the trolley ride, but we still didn't have time to actually enter the Tower.  It's crowded in the summer, as you found out.  The tour we were on lasted several hours, and I recall there was a horrible traffic jam as the bus drove us back to port.  It was the one time we didn't make it to the Main Dining Room at our assigned time.  So even with a longer tour, although we explored more of the square, we didn't really have a chance to go up the tower. 

My take on Pisa is that it was underwhelming, but at least I got to see first hand what all my history books described in grade school.  So next Med cruise we are going to Florence!

I will say this, after our disappointment in Pisa, we got on the ship and ate lunch, then headed into La Spezia for a walk - it was more enjoyable than the morning. Very pretty town. We walked up to the Castello San Giorgio (physically exhausting in the heat) and  the effort was worth it. Beautiful panoramic views of the town and harbor.

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Sorry to hear about your bad experience. We have found on excursions, that you do spend a lot of time on buses getting from here to there, especially on the longer all-day tours. We have decided to forgo those in the future for shorter site specific ones. Spending an hour on the bus to spend 30min at a stop, just doesn't make any sense. At least to us.

Better luck next time and happy cruising!

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We are cruising out of Barcelona too, going three days before hand (one day flying)

This past cruise was the first time I've booked excursions thru the cruise line, past four other cruises was private. 

We have only been to Europe once, 3 years ago to London.

Thank you for your insight it is very helpful.

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On 7/8/2019 at 10:18 PM, MicDay said:

We are cruising out of Barcelona too, going three days before hand (one day flying)

This past cruise was the first time I've booked excursions thru the cruise line, past four other cruises was private. 

We have only been to Europe once, 3 years ago to London.

Thank you for your insight it is very helpful.

 

20 hours ago, KathyC said:

Thanks for the insights.  We're doing our first western med in May 2020 and have started looking at excursions and taking notes.  

I would very much recommend Hotel Grumm in Barcelona. very nice hotel, beautiful rooms, good restaurant, great service, reasonably priced (by European standards). One of the best hotels we stayed in on our trip. You can walk to hop on/hop off bus, La Rambla, and the Gothic Quarter. A little bit further of a walk will take you to the beaches. Close to Port. Does not look that exciting from the outside, but great inside

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