We are planning our first Mediterranean cruise for next year. We will be going to Nice,France-Rome,Mykonos,Greece-, Ephesus,Turkey-,Santorini,Greece-,Athens,Greece-,Naples/Capri & Barcelona. Should we plan on doing things on our own or doing the excursions that the cruise ship have available? Can anyone recommend on must see things to do in those areas? I would love any type of input I can get. My head is spinning!!!!
Spend some time at your local bookstore (Borders, Barnes-Noble, Books-a-Million) reading through guide books. When you start to get a list of things of interest, go online and do some research. There is a wealth of info available to you. What to see and do is a matter of what really interests you.
Radiance of the Seas - Nov 2006
Legend of the Seas - Jun 2007
Costa Fortuna - Mar 2008
Legend of the Seas - Oct 2008
Celebrity Constellation - July 2009
MSC Orchestra - Jan 2009
Navigator of the Seas - March 2009
MSC Poesia - November 2009
Jewel of the Seas - June 2010
My husband and I cruised last year with stops in Athens, Greece and Ephesus, Turkey. The cruise line had scared us to death with Turkey. We didn't want to do the excursions because past experience was "not" good. We were told that you could easily get off of the boat and none of the Taxi drivers spoke English and they could abduct you as well! Pretty scary and REALLY wrong! We got off of the ship and found an English speaking Taxi driver that took us to Ephesus (MUST SEE!) and waited for us for a VERY reasonable fee. We tipped him nicely and he even showed us a few other sites coming back from Ephesus. You can do the same thing in Athens. There are cab drivers in Athens right outside of port that will offer you the same deal. It was a GREAT way to see the sites and they give you the price up front and you don't pay until they bring you back to port.
We are on a cruise in September of this year that will take us to Nice and Rome as well as Naples.
Capri was gorgeous. We were there our last trip and LOVED it! We went outside of a cruise and stayed 2 extra days! This cruise will land us in Naples but, we are looking forward to Sorrento, Pompeii and hopefully Positano and Almalfi if we have the time. I can let you know how that goes. Struggling right now to find a rental car for Naples.
Good advice on the books. Rick Steves actually has some good information as well. Hope this helps.
I want to be careful how I answer the OP, because everyone has a different comfort level on traveling in Europe. We have been doing it for over 30 years (from ships and just on driving trips) and seldom take tours anywhere. But many fellow Americans prefer tours (we hate tours because we don't like to be in cattle cars (buses)). All of your ports can be done on your own, via private tours that you can arrange on-line, or on ships tours. You are going to find that tours can be quite expensive, but than these days everything is Europe is pricy because of the weak dollar. Of all your ports, the one where you should take a tour (private or ships tour) is Kusadasi (Ephesus). It is possible to do this on your own (we have done it) but we do not recommend this for a first-time visitor. With regard to Naples, this place is tough because you cannot possibly do everything. There are many options, and you will have to choose. Once you have an idea of what you want to see in the ports (the internet is a great resourse...) than post your thoughts and we can help you with more info.
I second Hank's suggestion about sticking with a tour on your visit to Ephesus. As far as Santorini (my favorite little island to visit) is concerned, I would highly recommend doing it on your own. It is the only way to see all the main points of the island and not miss any of the hidden points of interest. If you tender in to Old Fira port, you will have different options of getting up to the main city. Once there, you are in easy walking distance to several vehicle rental agencies. They are relatively inexpensive and the rental associates are very easy to deal with. 99% percent of them speak perfect English and they take credit cards. Don't be surprised if your rental car has less than a quarter of a tank of fuel. Do not be concerned, there are several gas stations located along the well-paved roads on the island. Have some cash on you because not all of the service stations take credit cards. Just put as much fuel as you are going to use and return the car just as near empty as when you signed for it. Most car rental places will give you a complimentary island map and will even notate various spots that are the most popular with locals and tourists alike. I can offer several restaurant and winery suggestions but most of them are just personal preferences. If you have any further questions, ask away...
I don't know about the other ports but we did go to Athens and did a private tour and saw so much, it was amazing. We did a custom tour with Greece Cruise Excursions and I would recommend this to anyone that wants a day to remember
Regarding the International Drivers Permit, we have rented cars for over 30 years all over Western Europe and nobody as ever asked to see the document. When we spend a long period of time driving in Europe (more than a month) I will sometimes get the document (they are available at any AAA location) but nobody has ever asked to even see the thing. The rental car companies in Europe seem to only want your US license. It has been said that Italian Police "might" ask for it in cases where you are stopped for a violation, but our experience has been that nobody seems to care.