Done a lot of research on the Vatican and am still confused...

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!

** Please post your recommendations ONLY in response to request...do not start a new thread. Thanks!
Italy Ports
Capri, Florence, Genoa, Naples, Palermo, portofino, Rome, Sardinia, Sorrento, Taormina, Venice
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 07:01 PM.
#1
Isle of Charlotte, NC
3,600 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
We'll be in Rome and plan to visit the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We can commit to a long tour on the day we visit Vatican City.

In the interest of time, we want to "skip the line" and are willing to pay an operator to get in early via a special partner entrance. There is apparently only 3 firms have the designation of "Vatican Museums Tour Operator Partner". But there also appears to be a second tier of partner companies with early entry privileges as well, but not quite as early as these three.

My understanding:
  • Everyone goes through a security line.
  • If you're on a tour you can use a special exit from the museum to access St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • You can "skip the line" with tickets bought in advance, either via a private tour or the Vatican's website.
  • You can get "Faster then skip the line" entry with "No Wait Entry" through an "exclusive Vatican Partners Entrance".
  • You can get "Early Entry" and get into the Sistine Chapel or Museum as much as 15 to 30 minutes before other tours and 90 minutes before the general public.
  • Tours range from about 2 to 5 hours
My questions:
1. What's a good amount of time for a tour? Seems like a 2.5 hour tour would be too short?
2. Do the tours have their own professional guide that stays with you the entire time and conducts the tour or do they turn you over to a guide provided by the Vatican?
3. At what group size does the group tour become "too big"?
4. If I book with a partner tour company, are there any additional hints?
Thank you in advance.
#2
California
4,917 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
All I can say is we are sure glad that we booked a tour for 7 of us with RomeinLimo.com and also paid for the guide for the Vatican. I organized that tour and everyone was so pleased!
$550-600 for the van if 8 and another couple hundred bucks for the guide, $22.50 pp extra.
We skipped all the lines and got to see the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peters, Colloseum, inside and out, 5 course lunch. We purchased tix online a few months in advance for all attractions.
Early entry into Sistine Chapel? Not sure what that means, but the
Vatican was SERIOUSLY crowded, and we were there in mid Oct. can’t even imagine how horrible the crowds would be in the summer.
Sistine Chapel tiny and cramped. St Peters, Amazing!!!!!
Vatican, incredible! But rush, rush, rush. The guide kept us moving. You basically run through it, not walk.
Couldn’t imagine having a larger group than 8. It would be miserable. We all had headsets. Otherwise,
We wouldn’t have heard a thing she said. It was THAT noisy.
Oh, when we arrived, the line stretched down the entire street maybe half a mile or better. Our van pulled up directly across from the entrance and we met our guide who whisked us in through a special entrance.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Carnival Holiday 1992;
RCCL Monarch of the Seas 1994;
Celebrity Infinity 2001;
Star Princess 2003;
Diamond Princess 2004, 2005;
Sapphire Princess 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011;
Emerald Princess 2008;
RCCL Mariner of the Seas 2010;
Golden Princess 2003, 2007, 2011;
Celebrity Equinox 2013, 2014;
Grand Princess 2014, 2016;
Regal Princess 2015, 2016, 2017;
Mediterranean 12-night cruise 10/07/15:
RCCL Vision of the Seas;
(Barcelona, Cannes, Florence , Rome,
Salerno, Athens, Santorini, Kusadasi, Turkey, and back to Barthelona)
Next Up:
Celebrity Equinox 10/06/17 10-day ABC Islands, all-inclusive steal of a deal 🍸

Celebrity Silhouette 4/08/18 Eastern Caribbean, all-inclusive steal of a deal
Royal Princess 2019, West Coast, Mexico 🇲🇽
#3
11,402 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
There are both before-hours and after-hours tours of the Vatican museums available. Some are, as you have noted, just a jump start of a few minutes ahead of the general public. Others are full tours conducted when the museums are not open to the public. I have done the later and loved it but it was expensive. It was worth it for me, however, after years of seeing the chapel pressed in amongst a few hundred others it was pure joy to be there with just the other twelve people in my group. We were accompanied by a Vatican archivist as our guide.

These tours will not work on a cruise port day, the timing only works if you are staying in Rome.

There are several operators, I went with Italy with Us.

https://italywithus.com/exclusive-af...s-vatican-tour
#5
20,529 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by CaribbeanBound
We will be in Rome for 3 full days before a cruise in Late April. I should have mentioned that.

Both of your experiences sounded great. Thank you for sharing.
If you are in Rome for three days, there's not a real need for a "Rome in Limo" type operation, whose strength is their door-to-door transportation from the port to Rome and back. There are plenty of reputable guides and agencies in Rome that can help you arrange your Vatican visit.

I have not ever done one of the "early" or "skip the line" tours at the Vatican but can tell you that the official Vatican tours include quite a few people (with headsets) so if a smaller group and the ability to ask questions is important to you, I'd look at one of the private tours. I believe Rick Steves makes some recommendations in his Rome guidebook that may be helpful. As well, Context Travel -- Rome (which I mentioned in my post on Colosseum tours) also does some Vatican tours.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Wherever the wind takes me I travel as a visitor. (Horace)
#6
2,878 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by 4cats4me
All I can say is we are sure glad that we booked a tour for 7 of us with RomeinLimo.com and also paid for the guide for the Vatican. I organized that tour and everyone was so pleased!
$550-600 for the van if 8 and another couple hundred bucks for the guide, $22.50 pp extra.
We skipped all the lines and got to see the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peters, Colloseum, inside and out, 5 course lunch. We purchased tix online a few months in advance for all attractions.
Early entry into Sistine Chapel? Not sure what that means, but the
Vatican was SERIOUSLY crowded, and we were there in mid Oct. can’t even imagine how horrible the crowds would be in the summer.
Sistine Chapel tiny and cramped. St Peters, Amazing!!!!!
Vatican, incredible! But rush, rush, rush. The guide kept us moving. You basically run through it, not walk.
Couldn’t imagine having a larger group than 8. It would be miserable. We all had headsets. Otherwise,
We wouldn’t have heard a thing she said. It was THAT noisy.
Oh, when we arrived, the line stretched down the entire street maybe half a mile or better. Our van pulled up directly across from the entrance and we met our guide who whisked us in through a special entrance.
I don't get it. what you paid 600$ for? just for the ride?
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Costa - Magica , Atlantica
HAL-Eurodam, Noordam
CCL- Valor , Splendor
NCL- Spirit
MSC- Poesia-2,Divina-3.Musica
Celebrity-Equinox

#7
California
4,917 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Originally posted by GOLDENBONNY
I don't get it. what you paid 600$ for? just for the ride?

The whole day's tour for 8 people,
$75 pp vs $330 pp if booking tbrough cruise line. Plus $22 pp for guide to Vatican. We were on tour for 10 hours
All over rome


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Carnival Holiday 1992;
RCCL Monarch of the Seas 1994;
Celebrity Infinity 2001;
Star Princess 2003;
Diamond Princess 2004, 2005;
Sapphire Princess 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011;
Emerald Princess 2008;
RCCL Mariner of the Seas 2010;
Golden Princess 2003, 2007, 2011;
Celebrity Equinox 2013, 2014;
Grand Princess 2014, 2016;
Regal Princess 2015, 2016, 2017;
Mediterranean 12-night cruise 10/07/15:
RCCL Vision of the Seas;
(Barcelona, Cannes, Florence , Rome,
Salerno, Athens, Santorini, Kusadasi, Turkey, and back to Barthelona)
Next Up:
Celebrity Equinox 10/06/17 10-day ABC Islands, all-inclusive steal of a deal 🍸

Celebrity Silhouette 4/08/18 Eastern Caribbean, all-inclusive steal of a deal
Royal Princess 2019, West Coast, Mexico 🇲🇽
#9
Vancouver, BC Canada
1,134 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
We just got back from Rome last month and spent a whole day in the area. We pre-booked skip the lines tickets/audio guide ($15) for 12:30 at St. Peter’s basilica and entered immediately, the security line moved quickly but we waited 30 minutes for the Cupola tickets to climb the dome. Between doing the dome and the basilica we exited at 5pm.
We also booked the guided night tour and dinner for the same Friday ($80 on sale through Dark Rome/City Wonder) and entered the Vatican museum at 6:00. We had a buffet dinner till 7:00 and went on a tour through the museum and finished at the Sistine Chapel after 9:00.

The Cupola was a highlight and the 8+ hours in the area did not seem too long or left us feeling we missed something.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

NCL Spirit
E. Medi & Malta 10/2017 (11)+CinqueTerre(5)+Rome(3)
RCI Rhapsody of the Seas, E. Medi 09/2016 (11)+Veneto (8)
Costa NeoClassica, Ancient Greece 02/2016 (12)+Cote d'Azur(9)
NCL Pride of America, Hawaii 11/2015 (7)
Sinorama Gold 8, Dream of China 05/2015 Yangtze(5)+Beijing(3)+Xian(2)+Shanghai(3)
MSC Magnifica, Northern Europe 09/2014 (7)+London(7)+Paris (7)
Sapphire Princess, Pacific Wine Coastal 9/2013 (7)
Grand Princess, Trans-Atlantic 11/2012 (14)+London(6)
NCL Pearl, Panama Canal 10/2011 (14)+Orlando(5)
NCL Pearl, Pacific Coastal 9/2011 (5) B2B
NCL Star, Pacific Coastal 9/2010 (5)+Los Angeles(5)
Golden Princess, Pacific Coastal 10/2009 (7)+Los Angeles(5)
Celebrity Century, W. Med & Malta 10/2008 (10)+Barcelona(6)
NCL Wind, Hawaii & Fanning Island 10/2005 (10)
RCI Rhapsody of the Seas, Alaska 8/2000 (7)

DW's extras:
NCL Pearl, Pacific Coastal 5/2016 (5)
Golden Princess, Mexican Riviera, 4/2009 (7)
#11
South Florida & Shenandoah Valley, VA
5,442 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
DH and I lived in Rome for 5 years in the 1970s and 1980s and we just returned last month from a cruise with 2 of my siblings and their spouses that began in Rome. We had 4 1/2 days in Rome and this is similar to the itinerary I made up for us but shortened by one day. Look into getting the 3 day Roma Pass (http://www.romapass.it/en/the-cards/) to avoid the long lines at entrances and for reduced transportation fees. I can also highly recommend Rome Illuminated tour company (http://www.romeilluminated.com/) especially for the Vatican and St. Peter's because if you aren't an Italian art history major, you really need a guide (plus you bypass the entry lines and you can enter St. Peter's directly from the Sistine Chapel).

  • Day 1 - Ancient Rome
    • Colosseum and the Forum/Palatine (use Roma Pass for entrance)
    • Trajan's Forum
    • Capitoline Hill
    • Theater of Marcellus
    • Piazza Venezia
  • Day 2 - Central Rome
    • Campo de Fiori
    • Largo Argentina
    • Piazza Navona
    • the Pantheon
    • Fountain of Trevi
  • Day 3 - Vatican City (we started our Museum tour at 2:30 pm since that was recommended by Rome Illuminated because the large tour groups start to thin out around 3 pm. We ended around 6 or 6:30 - St. Peter's is open late.
    • Castel Sant' Angelo in the morning (use your second Roma Pass admission for this)
    • Vatican Museums in the afternoon
    • St. Peter's in the early evening
Hope this helps! Enjoy Rome - it is a fascinating city.
#12
Victoria BC Canada
125 Posts
Joined Nov 2016
We used Rome in Limo but was also on the full tour. Check to see if they will just provide the guide for the Vatican, they were amazing and we highly recommend them.


Sent from my iPad using Forums
#13
California
4,917 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Originally posted by capriccio
DH and I lived in Rome for 5 years in the 1970s and 1980s and we just returned last month from a cruise with 2 of my siblings and their spouses that began in Rome. We had 4 1/2 days in Rome and this is similar to the itinerary I made up for us but shortened by one day. Look into getting the 3 day Roma Pass (http://www.romapass.it/en/the-cards/) to avoid the long lines at entrances and for reduced transportation fees. I can also highly recommend Rome Illuminated tour company (http://www.romeilluminated.com/) especially for the Vatican and St. Peter's because if you aren't an Italian art history major, you really need a guide (plus you bypass the entry lines and you can enter St. Peter's directly from the Sistine Chapel).




  • Day 1 - Ancient Rome
    • Colosseum and the Forum/Palatine (use Roma Pass for entrance)
    • Trajan's Forum
    • Capitoline Hill
    • Theater of Marcellus
    • Piazza Venezia
  • Day 2 - Central Rome
    • Campo de Fiori
    • Largo Argentina
    • Piazza Navona
    • the Pantheon
    • Fountain of Trevi
  • Day 3 - Vatican City (we started our Museum tour at 2:30 pm since that was recommended by Rome Illuminated because the large tour groups start to thin out around 3 pm. We ended around 6 or 6:30 - St. Peter's is open late.
    • Castel Sant' Angelo in the morning (use your second Roma Pass admission for this)
    • Vatican Museums in the afternoon
    • St. Peter's in the early evening

Hope this helps! Enjoy Rome - it is a fascinating city.


Thank you! We will look into getting a Roma Pass
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Carnival Holiday 1992;
RCCL Monarch of the Seas 1994;
Celebrity Infinity 2001;
Star Princess 2003;
Diamond Princess 2004, 2005;
Sapphire Princess 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011;
Emerald Princess 2008;
RCCL Mariner of the Seas 2010;
Golden Princess 2003, 2007, 2011;
Celebrity Equinox 2013, 2014;
Grand Princess 2014, 2016;
Regal Princess 2015, 2016, 2017;
Mediterranean 12-night cruise 10/07/15:
RCCL Vision of the Seas;
(Barcelona, Cannes, Florence , Rome,
Salerno, Athens, Santorini, Kusadasi, Turkey, and back to Barthelona)
Next Up:
Celebrity Equinox 10/06/17 10-day ABC Islands, all-inclusive steal of a deal 🍸

Celebrity Silhouette 4/08/18 Eastern Caribbean, all-inclusive steal of a deal
Royal Princess 2019, West Coast, Mexico 🇲🇽
#14
Isle of Charlotte, NC
3,600 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
This was good information. Thank you.

Relative to the Vatican, I kept seeing references to a "SCAVI Tour" and thought it was yet another tour operator doing the Vatican. I discovered otherwise a couple of days ago. For the previously uninformed (like me) the SCAVI Tour is one of the hottest tickets in all of Rome as fewer than 250 tickets are issued per day. You cannot book it through a tour group. You must email Scavi directly.

The Vatican Necropolis, or Scavi, is located directly beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, contains everything from papal tombs to an ancient Roman street and St. Peter’s mausoleum!

Here are links to two sites that proved helpful in explaining the tour and telling me how to book it. http://thecatholictraveler.com/vatican-scavi-tour/ and http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/in...090216_it.html

Cost for a guided tour, with a group size not exceeding 12, is 13 Euros. I was able to get a reply in under 24 hours. We gave them 2 dates (you can't pick times) and we successfully secured tickets for 11:15 am on a Thursday in late April 2018.

Now, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to make the most of the rest of my day at the Vatican. We're leaning towards an early entry to the Sistine Chapel then visit the Vatican Museum for a couple of hours. Unfortunately our 11:15 am Scavi time prevents us taking most of the more in-depth tours.