Port and Shore Excursions
Barcelona: We flew in the day before the cruise left, and I highly recommend it to you as well. It gives you an extra day to adjust to the time change, but more importantly, Barcelona is simply an awesome city to visit and you'll be happy you gave yourself a bit more time to roam. We did a lot of walking on our first day, covering all the side streets on either side of La Rambla - wonderful. On the day of departure we took a "City Highlights" tour with Barcelona Day Tours, and it was excellent - highly recommended. One of the big pluses is that they picked us up with our luggage at the hotel and delivered us to the ship at the end of the tour, at no extra charge, eliminating the need for a hotel-to-ship transfer. We stayed in the HCC Montblanc hotel as part of the NCL pre-cruise package. It is OK at best - alright for one night.
Florence: We took the "Exclusive Pisa & Florence with Uffizi Gallery" excursion. Pricey, but we were in a group of 8 people and had a superb guide. Seeing the Uffizi gallery, with a guide, was great. very happy with this excursion.
Istanbul: We took the "Ottoman Treasures" excursion, which was excellent. The Blue Mosque is beautiful, as is the Tokapi Palace. We had plenty of time at the Grand Bazaar to shop. Crowd control at the Tokapi Palace is terrible - it was my sole "Ugly American" moment on the cruise when I chewed out some young adults for jumping the long line waiting to see the jewel collection. Exercise patience in Istanbul.... Overall it was a great excursion - highly recommended. Recommendation: Don't try to do Istanbul on your own. Some fellow passengers tried and had a miserable time, given the traffic congestion.
Toulon - Provence: Of the ports visited on the cruise, Toulon would be at the bottom of my list. We took the "Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence" excursion. The cathedral in Marseilles is gorgeous and has breathtaking views, but Aix-en-Provence was forgettable with the exception of the street market on Cours de Mirabou. Pretty, but boring.
Mykonos: Understand that your schedule in Mykonos is very short. I took the "Mykonos on Foot" excursion, but it was poor. The rest of my party took the excursion to Delos, which was much better, but everyone agreed we would have been better off spending our time on our own - Mykonos is small and can be covered in a matter of hours.
Naples: "Flavors of Sorrento and Pompeii" excursion. The quality of this excursion was a pleasant surprise. Sit on the right-hand side of the bus on the way out to get the best pictures! We had time to shop in Sorrento, and I would say it had the best opportunities for gifts and decent shopping of any port, perhaps with the exception of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The lunch at the farm was outstanding, and very relaxing. We had visited Pompeii previously, but this tour was better than the first. Great excursion.
Rome: We took the "Ultimate Rome" excursion. Again, pricey, but it was excellent and we saw a ton of Rome, in a small group of 6, with an outstanding guide. Great tour.
Venice: We took the "St. Mark's at Night and Gondola Serenade" excursion through the ship on the first day. St. Mark's is stunning.
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza as part of the NCL post-cruise package, and it was good. Taking the train from Quarto d'Altino into Venice was a piece of cake.
We took the "Dorsoduro Discovery" walking tour with Roberta curiel of "Walks in Venice" tours. Our tour was simply outstanding, and I highly recommend Walks in Venice - they have a number of tour options.