Section Three of the Rome as a Pre or Post Cruise Stop
In this blog posting I address Transportation to and from the port (Civitavecchia), into/out of Rome.
As mentioned in my first blog posting about this city, cruise ships do not dock in Rome. Civitavecchia is the port servicing the city of Rome and it lies about 37 miles north of Rome. My blog entries are divided into the following sections and as such, if you are looking for information on any of the subjects listed, go to that posting for the specific information that will best serve your needs:
1. History of Rome (2 blog entries)
2. Transportation to and from the airport
3. Transportation to and from the port
4. Getting around the city
5. Places to see (2 blog entries)
6. Rome Markets / Food Tours
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Civitavecchia as a port stop for Rome
9. Rome / Italy Fun Facts / Churches & Basilicas
If you have booked your cruise through a tour operator as part of a group tour, your transfer to and from the port should be part of your package so no need to book an independent mode of transportation.
Hire a Bus/Coach
For pre cruise stops in Rome, I have hired a bus for transportation to the port. I have used this method a number of times and I find it easy, economical and an opportunity to meet your fellow cruisers. Prior to the cruise taking place, I book a bus (usually a 50 passenger bus), and make arrangements for it to pick me up at my hotel and take me to/from the port. I then make the fact that I have a bus available to transport fellow passengers to/from the port known on social media sites specializing on cruises (such as a Facebook or a cruising site that may have a group for that specific cruise). It is not difficult, and I have never had an issue getting sufficient passengers to fill the bus. I have never had an issue with securing payment from passengers or having problems with a bus company.
There are various companies that offer transfer services from Rome to the port but I book with Grassini Bus http://www.grassinibus.com and I have had great service with them. In addition to buses, they also have cars and drivers and minibuses so it is possible to find a vehicle to suit your specific needs. The cost is far less than cruise ship arranged transportation and the price you charge each passenger will vary depending on the number of persons you have on the bus.
A few words of caution:
1. Make sure that you do not fill the bus. People taking cruises tend to have at least one large suitcase and a carry-on bag. The bus companies, all of them, will tell you that their busses hold 30, 40 or 50 passengers (depending on the size of the vehicle), and all their luggage. But those buses will NOT hold that amount of luggage. The luggage compartments will quickly fill up and if the bus is full, there will be issues with space for the left-over luggage. For a 50-passenger bus, I make sure that I leave 10 seats empty which will allow for excess luggage to be placed on the bus in the seating area. Essentially, I book between 30 and 40 passengers total for a 50-passenger bus.
One time, one of the 50 passenger buses I hired carried 46 passengers when 6 extra people, who had heard about the bus from other passengers, turned up at the departure point in hopes of getting a ride. I told them that we would only take them if we had room and could safely carry the excess baggage in the passenger seating area without piling it up. We were fortunate that the bus was very large and we were able to get the luggage onto the bus without posing a problem. However, they had to sit with their carry-on bags on their laps for the trip. Since I had already established a price for the bus and collected the money from pre-booked passengers, I used the excess money to augment the tip to the driver. This always ensures that the drivers are willing to go the extra mile and help with baggage etc.
2. Make sure the bus company you hire can take you right into the port to the check-in point of the cruise line you are taking. I have heard complaints of people who have been left at the port gate with their luggage. This is not a major issue as there usually are shuttle buses to take you to the ship’s check-in point but I much prefer to get on the bus in Rome and have that bus take me right to the ship check-in point without having to transfer at the port entry.
3. Make sure you use a reputable company and check out their references. I have been fortunate in that I have had no issues with the bus company I use but see my comments on private touring companies to appreciate that this warning comes from experience.
4. Make sure the bus can get to your hotel. On one trip, I was staying at a hotel near the termini and the hotel was located on a street that had vehicles parking on either side. On the day of the transfer, there were so many cars blocking the way to the hotel, that the bus I hired could not get down the street. The driver ended up parking the bus a block and a half away. Upon learning of the problem, we all walked from the hotel, with our luggage, to where the bus was located. However, it was inconvenient and there were people who needed help with their luggage. One couple’s taxi actually waited for the bus to parallel park before driving past it to get to the hotel only to find upon exiting the taxi with their luggage, that they had to walk back to the bus. It was a most inconvenient turn of events and now I ensure that the hotel in which I am staying can accommodate bus parking and that the road leading to the hotel is not subject to parking congestion.
5. Be prepared to leave people if they are late. This has only happened to me once and the unfortunate couple missed us by minutes. They had googled the distance from their hotel to mine and the trip was only supposed to take 15 minutes. They left an hour before the bus departure time thinking that they would have about 45 minutes to spare. They underestimated Rome traffic in the morning and their 15 minute trip took well over an hour. We had waited for them 30 minutes past the scheduled departure time and then we left without them. We met up on the ship at the sail-away party and all was good. They had managed to negotiate a deal with a taxi for a ride to port but their 12 euro bus ride turned into a 125 euro taxi fare.
Cruise Line Organized Transportation
Cruise lines will offer car, van or bus transportation to the port. Some cruise lines offer cars or luxury vehicle transport. The arranged transport will either pick you up at the airport, train station or other meeting point. Remember to take into account Rome traffic if you are heading to a meeting point. Expect to pay over 100USD. The fares vary depending on the vehicle you book through the cruise line. Bus fares are lower and also vary so giving you an exact costing is impossible as different cruise lines charge different amounts.
Train to/from Civitavecchia
I confess to only taking this option once and that was on a trip when I was travelling on my own with no group. The promised twice hourly train service between Rome and Civitavecchia was attractive and quite inexpensive. I took the train from the
S. Pietro/Vatican stop as it was closer to my hotel. I could have taken it from the Termini as well. At a cost of €4.60 the cost was quite economical. I found the train crowded, not that clean and there were significant delays so it took almost 2 ½ hours to get to the port. I was told that the time delay was actually not too bad as others had experienced longer delays (this information is anecdotal from fellow passengers, and I have not independently verified their information. I can only speak first-hand as to my experience).
The travel time was supposed to take a little over an hour but upon checking on why it took so long for our trip, I was informed that delays are more common than not so I should not have expected a 70-minute ride as it is most often a lot more than that. The train station is about a mile to the port so you can either walk or take a taxi to the port gate and then catch a shuttle bus to your cruise ship check-in point.
Remember, IF you do take the train, buy your ticket with a ticket agent or by using one of the machines. Most importantly, get your ticket stamped BEFORE boarding the train.
Please note that there is no direct train services from Civitavecchia to Rome Fiumicino Airport or vise versa so you will have to get to one of the departure/arrival train stations in Rome (which are S. Pietro/Vatican or the Termini). See my previous blog posting on transportation to and from the airport for details on getting to one of those train stations from the airport.
The Civitavecchia Express was designed to move cruise ship passengers to and from the port to Rome and back. There are two trains in the morning and two in the late afternoon. These trains are more comfortable and fairly quick but at €9.90-€16 they will cost you a little more than the local train.
These express trains can be caught at S. Pietro/Vatican and Ostiense stations which are both fairly convenient to tourist areas and connect to the transit options in the city (buses, subway, taxis etc.). If you are catching this train from the port to go to Rome at the end of a cruise, you can connect at Ostiense Station to get to the airport.
This is neither the fastest route to get to/from the port but it does offer up an opportunity for some local adventure. I have not used this method to get to and from the port for two reasons. If I am starting or finishing a cruise, I will have to negotiate the local bus with my luggage and that can be troublesome as we reach local areas of high passenger traffic. If I am just stopping in Rome for a day on a shore excursion, the local bus to and from Rome will eat up a lot of your time as it is very slow.
If you have limited funds and maybe only a few points you want to see in Rome, take the local bus. If you want to see as much as possible of Rome on a one-day shore excursion, spend a little extra money and take a method of transportation that will allow you more time in Rome and less time sitting on a local bus.
Private Car Hire
To hire a car and driver is a pricier option but it will give you comfort and a vehicle that goes directly to where you want to go. Costs vary but expect to pay anywhere from €150 for a simple transfer to or from the port, to €400+ for a round trip day tour. The costs vary according to the type of vehicle, the length of the tour and the places to be visited (if a day tour). In general, €500 for an 8 hour tour is an average costing of a port to Rome return tour with six stops.
Research the company you hire and check out more than one or two references. I hired a van and driver to take myself and five other women to Rome for a day trip. The driver was an hour and a half late. Calls to the company were answered but we were simply told the driver was stuck in traffic. It was increasingly frustrating to see other people being picked up by their private hire companies while we stood around in front of the ship awaiting our pick-up. Once the driver picked us up, he was apologetic but there was no price decrease for the 1 ½ hour of touring we missed. When told to take us directly to the Vatican as I was worried that the entrance line up was going to be too long by this time, he confidently told us that it was better to go in the afternoon as there would be no line-up at the entrance. From previous experience, I knew it was far better to go in the morning,
particularly if you want to be able to spend time in the Sistine Chapel. However, I was overruled. We went instead to the Colosseum and while the five other women toured that site, the driver took me to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. Enroute, the driver told me that the touring company typically shaved an hour or two off a tour by having the drivers start later. Apparently. the company was habitually late picking up passengers. I had looked at two of the references relating to the company, but had I researched a little deeper, I would have seen a number of reviews that mentioned late arrival of the driver and vehicles to do port pick-ups. That would have put me off hiring that company as promptness is critical for both starting and ending a tour.
We did get to the Vatican Museum after lunch and there was not much of a line up to enter but there was an impossible crush of humanity in the Sistine Chapel and we were not afforded the time to simply stop and enjoy the experience. Never again will I go on a Vatican visit after lunch.
If you have any comments or questions relating to this blog post, as always, please feel free to leave a comment on this page or contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next up: Rome - Getting Around the City