Beth if you speak spanish you will be able to talk with italians to a reasonable level, and it should be reasonably easy to learn, I have been to all of your destination, you will have a good time, I will only comment on Dubrovnik,it is a wold herritage site so in season it does get very crowded so the services do get streched by tourists,but it is a wonderful place, take a short boat trip to cavtat, and eat baby squid, from the stall by the breakwater,they use a a wood burning grill, also try I will try to spell it as it is said chi wap chi chi a wood grilled minced meat type of burger eaten with a special bread, if you arrive in the morning go to the bosnian bakery to buy borec my croatian wife will kill me but it is the best, borec is filo pastry stuffed with a young cheese brushed with butter, then baked, take it to a caffe eat it with a cup of coffee (most do not mind you eating local bought food at there tables) and watch the world go by, finish your breakfast with a small glass of prosec, a sweet desert wine or rakia for the brave it is true fire water but it does kick start your day,then walk if you can or who cares have another. dobra dan
You have some excellent ports of call ahead of you. Venice is beautiful but rather expensive if you aren't prepared for it. A 12oz. can of coke can easily cost upwards to six dollars and they don't believe in free refills. If you wish to take a gondola ride, try to take one before 10:00pm as the prices seem to really escalate. We were quoted by more than one source at 300euros for a 50-minute ride starting at the grand canal. We opted for the 30-minute 100euro ride. (no music or singing as that costs extra).
As for Santorini, take a 2euro donkey ride up the 550+ steps to the top of Fira Town. Relax with a frappe there and then find a local rental car agency. My wife and I rented a brand new French-made Citroen for an all day rental at just 25euro. We were able to go to all the scenic spots such as Red Beach, Almalfi Bay, the city of Oia, etc, etc. Possibly one of the best buys in Europe. You get the safety of four doors and an airbag and you won't be as scared as you would be on a moped.
I completly understand what you are saying. My husband and I are also in out late 20's and we did not want to be on a tour bus with a crowd everyday. We just got back from crusimg Italy and did almost every port on our cruise by our selves. It was so much better!!!
Monte Carlo, is not really all gambling, it is pretty to walk around, but we took the train to Cannes (b/c the film festivle was going on), but the train stopped at Nice and Eze which were both very pretty. Also we wished we would of had our swinsuits b/c the beach was right next to every train stop. From Monte Carlo's port the train was 30 euros round trip for both of us. And it is not a long trip, just make sure you grab the train schedule when you purchase the tickets.
Florence If you get off the train right away take a taxi (15 euros each way for two people) The line for Pisa and Florence is the same. We got off the train (1st stop)in Pisa took a few pictures and then got back on the train and continued into florence the train ride is about 1 hour and 15 mins, if you dont get off in Pisa. When we went into Florence we had a map, but mainly just wondered around, it is a total walking city. Make sure you write down the return trains to the port before you leave the station and allow yourself a little extra time to get back...
Naples We had planned to take the train to Sorrento and Pompeii do it ourself, until I read it would take 2 hrs on the train. So when we got off at the port there was a ton of taxi drivers who want to take you on a tour, so we would talk to one and walk away and then the next and after 2 or 3 guys we finally settled on 120 euros plus tip for the two of us to be taken to Sorrento and Pompeii. He drove us to Sorrento and he stayed with the car while we walked around and had lunch, then he drove us to Pompeii again staying with the car and we went exploring for another few hours. At the end, he drove us around Naples pointing out certain things and then dropped us at the port. We were with him from 8:30-400pm....
Venice We started from Venice so the day before our ship left we explored it a little. You have to take the water bus or water taxi to get to either main Venice or Murano (the glass factory island) I would explore Venice for your first day and then go to Murano on your 1/2 day. The water taxi's can get expensive, but the water bus takes forever and isnt always on time.
Dubrovnik most ships have a bus thats goes into the town where the walled-city is, we paid $20 US dollars round trip for the both of us. There isnt much to see but cute shops to walk around in, most shops accept either euros or dollars, but we used our debit card. I dont think it is worth trying to convert money into their currency. We were only there from 8:30 to 12:30 and it was plenty of time. A cute shop there was called "Aqua."
Rome we had a private car for this that we booked before the trip, but Rome has a hop on and off bus that goes everywhere, and the cheepest and easiest way to go, b/c Rome is huge!
I hope this helps, have a ownderful trip and do not give into the ship's excursion, you will have a better time doing it yourself. I speak a little Spanish which was helpful, but most people everywhere speak enough English so that you will not have any problems and alot of the signs are in Italian and English. Especially menus....