We took this cruise as a graduation trip for my daughter before she heads off to college. We had done the Western Mediterranean cuise two years ago. We started our first night in Rome, arriving a day early. Booked a hotel through RCL because I couldn't figure out where to stay -- to many choices. The hop on, hop off bus was not a good experience. Perhaps we were too tired or too hot. RCL port transfer got us to the ship a little slower and later than I would have prefered but we did miss the crowds. Pick up was 1 pm from the hotel but we had to make an additional hotel pick up.
Our first port was Messina. We took the ship transfer to Touramina. We had the option to take a cab for $120 with the driver to wait 2 hours. The ship tour was 3 hours. What we were not told was that a lot of stores close from 1 to 4. We were in Touramina from 12 to 4. Most stores were very expensive. We did not have time to visit the Greek theater because my kids wanted to shop first. Messina was our least favorite port.
In Athens we had a private tour through Nikos Loukas of privategreecetours. Manos was very friendly and knowlegable. He took us to the major ruins and gave us background history. We also saw some modern day sites. He took us to a handmade sandle shop. Definitely worth the money.
Our next stop was Kusadasi and Ephesus. Definitely everyones favorite port. Booked a private tour through Ekol travel. Our guide was Alex. He took us through Ephesus, Sirince village, and a rug and leather factory. I would recommend a private tour in this port. Prices were good.Euros, US dollars or Turkish liras accepted every where.
Our last port was Chania, Crete, Greece. Had no idea what to expect. Take the city bus for 1.50 Euro each way to the city center. The beach is a 15 minute walk. Behind the old market is a wonderful shopping bazar. Not hassled but found leather and jewerly to buy. Better than I expected. Give yourself enough time to get back. Several people arrived back at the port late.