Just a couple facts about this tour - it was a "small" group tour - 18 people max in a mini bus. It was an expensive tour, over $400 a person. The tour visits Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii - it was the only tour offered by the cruise line that went to Positano (only mini buses can get there). The tour consists of a visit to Positano and Sorrento, lunch in Sorrento and a guided tour of Pompeii. In this post I'll talk about Pompeii.
During our drives around the Amalfi Coast we had been given information about the Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. We were told about the advance warning system (based on the volcano's activities giving 20 days to 2 weeks notice) and the different evacuation zones. The Red Zone includes 18 towns and 600,000 people. The Yellow Zone includes Naples. Mt. Vesuvius erupting would be bad....
Before the eruption that covered Pompeii in the year 79, Mt. Vesuvius had one peak, since then you'll notice that there are two peaks to Mt. Vesuvius.
Our visit to Pompeii started with a stop at a cameo shop, we had a quick demonstration (about 5 minutes) and then a few minutes to shop and use the bathroom. There was no hard sell by our tour guide or by the people doing the demo. However, in the shop they were polite, but definitely trying to sell.
Once inside we had a guided tour of Pompeii. Our guide was very knowledgeable and showed us a lot of the elements of daily life in Pompeii. How to tell which homes were owned by the wealthy, how they crossed the street before sewers, what the inside of a brothel looked like (a very popular spot) and even how to tell what type of front a store or house might have had.
|Line for the Brothel|
We also got to see some of the casts from the excavation. When people or animals were covered in ash a mold was made of them, eventually the bodies disintegrated, but the casts remained in tact. From those casts they can re-create molds of the people and animals who died in the aftermath. It was very moving and disturbing to see the faces and bodies. The worst was the dog, and it made me wonder about the molds they do not display.
|The answer to the street being the sewage system|
At the end of the tour we went by what appeared to have been a cliff like area (The water was closer back in 97 AD), it was a beautiful setting for the edge of Pompeii, even now with the water further away.
|Entrance to a home of the wealthy|
After our tour of Pompeii we were given 20-30 minutes to walk around outside, there was a little market selling souvenirs and a "coffee" shop. We were one of the lucky tours to end before it started to rain, and we left a few minutes ahead of schedule, taking the 30 minute ride back to the ship. I know a few other people got caught mid-tour in the rain and there wasn't much for cover in the site.
We were back at the ship an hour or two before sailing, giving a little time to relax before dinner and the nighttime entertainment.
Overall this was a great tour. I'm not sure it was independently worth the $400+ it costs, until you compared it to the prices of the other ship tours.
As with most tours offered in Europe through the cruise lines, you can find better deals through local vendors, much better deals. You do lose the security that comes with taking a ship tour (the cruise line is responsible for getting you back to the ship if it leaves without you). For some the security it worth the cost (I was traveling by myself), for others they prefer to save money or to tour independently. Neither choice is wrong, but a personal preference.
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