My wife and I have cruised 6 times. One with Princess and all other with Royal Caribbean. This was a first with Norweigan. Let me address the ship first since this is the type of vacation that it is more about the destinations than the ship. I would rate the food average. The entertainment was below average and the front desk and overall service and FRIENDLINESS below average. The ship is clean and easy to navigate. I more than likely will not choose Norweigan for a European type cruise vacation. Will stick with Royal. Also, after my second cruise experience, I stopped using excursions sponsored by the cruise line, even Royal's. So, see below for my recommendations and experiences.
Having said all of this about the ship, understand that the cities in the itinerary is frankly the important aspect of the Western Mediterranean. Embarkation was fast and easy as well as disembarkation. Now to the cities.
We decided to take advantage of Barcelona 3 days prior to leaving. This city is a destination in of itself. We stayed at Hotel Montecarlo right on La Rambla. Fantastic hotel and Fernando and Sergio, in the front desk were extremely helpful with restaurant suggestions and places to see. To see the city, if you only have a couple of days, take the Turistic Bus. Blue and Red Line. Trust me, it is inexpensive, safe and organized. Barcelona is one of those cities where you can spend a week. The ship left at PM on Sunday so we had a full day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. See la Boqueria, Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. For Tapas, Restaurant Ciutat Comtal is fantastic.
First Stop: Island of Malta. We took no taxis or buses. We walked to the city center and saw St. John's Co-Cathedral. Unassuming church from the outside and absolutely majestic in the inside. The picture of The beheading of John the Baptist is breathtaking. Great people. Easy to walk through and safe.
Naples: I scheduled the tour for 17 people via Sorrento Silver Star (firstname.lastname@example.org) Luisa Sorrento is the owner. Let me say this. I wouldn't go with anyone else. They are the best. In fact, the group I was with said that this tour was the highlight of our trip. Imagine how hard it is to please 17 people. Lucia was our excellent tour guide of Pompeii and all day tour and Aaron the fantastic driver. I will request Lucia when I return to be our tour guide. We visited Pompeii first. It is a massive city and we were only able to see 1/4 of it. Truly spectacular. Then we went to Positano and had lunch at La Tortelia (I think that's the name/check trip advisor). The best. For 25 euros, a feast all the wine you can drink and lemonciello made fresh that morning. Mmmmmmm.......People couldn't stop taking about it all week. Sorrento is beautiful but I think Positano the town and shopping is better and much prettier. The ship excursion doesn't take you there since the buses are too big.
Rome: I scheduled the private tour for 5 of us with Stefania Cinotti ( email@example.com ) Stefania has over 10 years of experience as a certificate tour guide of Rome. She was fantastic and will use her again when I return. She gave us the important highlights in The Vatican, Colosseum, and The Pantheon. We spent 6 hours with her. Our driver who picked us up at the port (more than hour away from Rome) was Fabio Leotta from www.leottalimousine.com or www.romeinlimousineservice.com. Fleotta@tin.it. Fabio was excellent and definitely would use him again. We chose to not take the train or a taxi within the city. We only had 8 hours to see a lot and didn't want to waste time. Best decision we made to get Fabio to be our driver within the city.
Pisa and Florence: We used romeinlimo and contrary to I have read, we WERE very disappointed. Will research another company when I return. Pisa is an hour visit if that. Go to Florence afterwards. Beautiful city. Uffizi museum too big for one day unless that is you target. Accademia is a short museum but where the David's statue is housed. We bought a leather jacket and a purse. DO NOT pay the price they have. Bargain with them. We bought a jacket with a sticker price of 540 euros and bought it for 140 euros.
Nice: Very surprised how much I loved this city. Low expectations but is a destination I could spend 2 or 3 days in. Montecarlo is a must see. Ese as well. Cote de Azur Chateau and Jardin d/Eze is a must see as well. Do Nice last if you have time. French Riviera beach, etc..We used Ricardo Scarafoni. firstname.lastname@example.org. Did a great job in only 5 hours. He was the only tour guide who took credit cards by the way. All others we had to pay in euros at end of the day.
All in all, an excellent vacation. Very active. You will be returning to the ship an hour or two before leaving port an unto the next stop the next day.