When we visited Sicily, it was with Oceania and we docked at Naxos. I had a hard time finding local tour guides and ended up doing a shore excursion to Mt. Etna...I was not that impressed. Wish I'd visited Taormina instead.
In Rhodes, also with Oceania, we docked right near the main gate to Rhodes Town...We took the shore excursion to Lindos in the morning and then just walked Rhodes on our own in the afternoon...If I did it over again, I'd skip Lindos and just spend all of my time in Rhodes--really charming and picturesque town.
I've been to Kusadasi twice...and both times, booked private tour through Ekol Travel...Their prices, even on a tour for two, worked out better than the ship's offerings...guides were great and we saw an awful lot...
First time, we did a full day tour to Miletus, Didyma and Ephesus--a lot more than one sees on any of the ship's excursions...Second time, we had a shorter day, so we just did a tour of Ephesus INCLUDING THE TERRACE HOUSES...definitely don't miss these...fantastic archaeologiic excavation...I highly recomend Ekol...
Taormina was very nice to walk around many upscale shops etc, one thing I remember from our trip was we had trouble finding anyone to speak english is Sicily ( although taormina was ok ). No problem with english in greece
Thanks for the help. I understand that it is a bit of an ordeal if trying to go to Taormina on your own (train, bus...etc) Are there taxis around the port that are rentable for getting there or do you need to rent for 1/2 day? Any ideas on price?
Are you docking in Messina, Palermo or Catania (Sicily)? Taormina is closest to Messina. The center of Taormina is a pedestrian walk and a rather hilly climb to reach there. I don't recommend taking a taxi unless you can arrange for the driver to stay with you - but that will be expensive. Usually only the smaller cruise ships use Giardini Naxos as the port for Taormina. Note that Mr. Etna has been erupting rather frequently in recent weeks, so shore excursions could be impacted.
It's pretty apparent you would need to arrange a private excursion from Messina. I don't know if this is of interest, within budget and, most importantly, within a safe time span while you're in port. I'm not personally familiar with either of these sites. Any of my friends who have done the type of excursion that you want have done a ship's excursion, and mostly from Catania. Catania is much closer to Etna than Messina.
Also, as I mentioned in my earlier reply, Mt. Etna has been erupting frequently of late, so ANY shore excursions in the area are subject to cancellation or modification.