We are booked on a cruise to the Med in June of 2010. We are visiting Nice, Florence, Rome, Dubrovnick, Venice, Split and Naples. We aren't sure if we should do the ship's (Celebrity Century) shore excursions (they are pricey) or venture on our own. This is our first time to Italy, France and Croatia. There are four of us--2 couples. We are sailing out of Barcelona and we are arriving 2 days earlier, but haven't booked any tours. Any pointers on Barcelona? Thanks, so much!
Regarding Barcelona, this is one of the easiest cities in Europe to do on your own. All you need is to buy yourselves a decent guide book and just have fun. English is widely spoken and you will find that menus in almost every restaurant and cafe are available in English (and several other languages). The main tourist area of the Ramblas and adjacent Gothic Quarter is best explored on foot. The Gaudi designed Cathedral (Sagrada Familia) can be accessed by the efficient Metro system, a taxi, or a 30 min walk from the Ramblas. Regarding your other ports, there are always options other than the overpriced cruise line tours. You can do your pre-trip homework and do most any port on your own (Venice and Dubrovnik are easy) or you might want to consider doing a private tour (you can find a lot of info on the internet). You have lots of time to do your research and after more than 40 years of extensive international travel we have found that the homework phase can be lots of fun and help build excitement for your trip. We have spent many a day in a large Borders book store sipping cappucino and reading through travel books.
We took a Mediterranean cruise in May 2008 on Holland America. I imagine the shore excursions are similar. Regarding Naples, we took a 4-hour excursion which began in Naples, then included a bus ride to the lost city of Pompeii. The ruins of Pompeii are remakrable in that they are almost perfectly preserved in spite of being buried beneath tons of ash and lava from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. We had a very knowledgeable guide and would highly recommend taking a guided tour of this area.
We also enjoyed our guided tour of Dubrovnik which included a performance of folk music and dancers. Very interesting! The only tour which I wouldn't recommend was "Lucca & Pisa." Much of the time we were on our own, not a lot to see and many high pressured sellers in the sourvenir stalls.
When in Barcelona be sure and try one of their tapas restaurants.
Debatable. Hate to sound like the ugly American, but we think the best pizza is in the USA. If you want to debate who has the best pizza in the USA everyone would have their own opinion. But, we have eaten lots of pizza throughout Italy (including Naples) and although it is generally good we have not been overly impressed.
As to Naples, it is a congested and too dirty city with a high crime rate by Italian standards. There are some things worth seeing in Naples (such as the museum) but, for most visitors, the best thing about Naples is its great location near so many better places.