We really had a good time on this cruise, and did about half of the excursions on our own.
We were a mom and daughter traveling together, 6th cruise for me and 5th for my daughter. We paid extra for a Carnival flight deviation so we could fly direct to Rome and found it was well worth it!
We were met at the airport by Carnival reps, who helped us book the "Holy Rome" tour. Yes, we were warned that we would be jet-lagged, and it would be a long day, but we did it anyway. In hind-sight, we were glad to have seen the Vatican, but wish we had done the "Rome at a Glance" instead. Vatican was hot, crowded, and long.
Ship: Embarkation was a breeze, with our luggage waiting by the stateroom door. Room was just fine. Steward kept it well made-up, and we ordered room service for Continental breakfast many mornings (so we could get off fast), and it was very prompt. Biggest complaint was there was little in the way of activities and music for the 20-something crowd; activities seemed geared toward children, teens, or the retired set. Other than that, we thought the ship was great.
Ports: In Naples, we walked across the street from where the ship docked and bought an all-day ticket (about 6.5 E)from a vendor at the newsstand. We hopped on the number 1 tram (Orange) on the opposite side of the street, stamped our ticket in the machine on the tram, and rode to the Circumvesuviana train. (The station is just after the tram takes a sharp left turn.) We went downstairs and jumped on the train labelled "Sorrento," getting off at Pompeii. We paid the admission and bought the audio guide (They held my driver's license as a deposit until we returned the guide.) Absolutely fantastic morning at the ruins. I definitely would go there first, as the crowds from the ship show up in the afternoon. From Pompeii, we took the same train on to Sorrento, and then returned to the last stop, Naples. From there, we took a bus back to the ship. We were so proud to have done this on our own, saved a ton of money, and met some wonderful people who helped with transportation and directions.
Dubrovnik: We took the ship's shuttle to the walled city, bought the audio guide, and walked the wall. Just great! We changed $20 to Kuna so we could buy pastry, water, wine, and souvenirs, and still left with change.
Venice: We walked to the ACTV station in P.zza Roma, where we bought the 24-hour vaporetto pass (14E?) (Don't be confused by the Alilaguna kiosk near the ship--it is not the public ACTV and does not offer a 24-hour pass.) This worked out so well! We took the DM to Murano, got off at Faro, and walked up to Museo and back. Saw glass making, and bought souvenirs. Then, we took a boat back to San Zaccharia, where we boarded the #1 vaporetto to go down the Grand Canal and back to the boat. The next day, our 24-hour pass was still good, so we went back to San Marco (the San Zaccharia stop), where we toured the church and saw the Doge's Palace. In fact, it was such a beautiful day that we walked all the way back to the ship.
Messina: We booked the Taormina on our own excursion. The town was beautiful, but, after seeing Pompeii, we were sorry we paid the 6.5E for the Greek Theater, as it paled in comparison to the theater at Pompeii.
Barcelona: When you get off the ship, they will be selling shuttle passes to the Trade Center. Buy the pass, and then buy the Hop-on, Hop-off pass (18E) at the information booth near where the shuttle lets you off. We toured the entire city on this pass and saw so much--Sagrada Familia, the soccer stadium, the zoom Gaudi houses, the palace, the Olympic stadium, the Spanish village.... We walked down La Ramblas, but found it very crowded and feared pick-pockets. Preferred the bus!
Cannes: Because we arrived on a Sunday, we were uncertain of the train schedule, so we booked the Carnival excursion that took us to the Gorges de Loup villages of Grasse (perfume capital of the world), Gourdon, and St. Paul de Venice. Do this! It was one of our best days, with a fabulous open-air lunch and unlimited wine. Beautiful walled cities with art, lavender, winding streets, and panoramic views.
Florence: We took the Florence on Your Own bus and had a great time seeing the sights on our own. Just be sure you have your walking shoes on and have a good sense of direction! We toured the Pitti Palace and thought it was a highlight.