Hi ldw. We booked a 5 week land based European trip with two kids in May07- leaving in June07 so it can be done- it was a full time job leading up to the departure date though. If you are looking to save some money and do independent tours, you are going to have to invest a good bit of time into the next few weeks. First, are you guys on the 20 day Noordam? That's the only one that hits Ephesus leaving on 5/29. If so (and taking into account I have limited to no cruise experience but I research A TON...we have traveled independently a good bit as well):
- Civitavecchia- you can take the train into the port easily
- Livorno- b/c there is a degree of uncertainty with the taxi availability from the actual port to the town and then on to the train station, I would recommend a ship drop off and pick up here. I know there are tons of great private tours but we are typically 'do it yourself' types.
- Monte Carlo- you can do this on your own- hit the casino, palace, and gardens. We love Eze and Nice but they add alot more time, expense and running around.
- Barcelona- do the HOHO (hop on/ hop off) bus on your own. Tour La Sagrada Familia church (it's the only stop where you may find a wait to reboard but in May, I think you'll be in great shape crowd wise)...watch your valuables in Barcelona. Walk around and enjoy.
- Palma/ Carthage, Palermo- never been
- Naples- so many options. I would recommend Pompeii with a tour operator. Do a search on this site to find a good source or use the ship tour. We also love Capri but it's a bit harder to get to and can make for an exhausting day.
- Dubrovik- can do on your own
- Corfu- we rented mopeds and rode around during our four day stay here- loved it.
- Katakolon- there is a train...also a much beloved taxi driver named George at http://www.taxikatakolon.gr/content/view/5/13/lang,en/
He comes highly recommended on numerous boards. Unfortunately, the train doesn't work for our arrival/ departure times and George is booked with another tour group from our same boat so we are using the ship tour here.
- Santorini- do it on your own- check out threads here for further info.
- Ephesus- we are using Ekol for private tours. Haven't taken them yet but very responsive, reasonable rates, etc. This is such an amazing site from a historical stand point- didn't want to miss it.
- never been to Valletta or Messina
Definitely use the Search option to find different info on ports. Also, there are some great cruise/ port veterans on here (fmattox, hank, etc) who can help you. I have found that using specific questions helps more. So maybe post specific questions on each port.
Best of luck with your trip!