First I would like to say it is a great cruise, a perfect way to see several cities in Europe without going broke. I read several reviews before going but there were none that reviewed this specific itinerary.
Rome - We arrived two days before our sail date, that worked great. The typical tour buses are good for seeing the city quickly. My one tip would be to purchase your ticket for the Vatican museum on line, I think you will have to pay a $4 fee but it is worth every penny. When we arrived at the museum the line was about a quarter of a mile long and we got to bypass it!!!!!!!!!
We took the train to Civitavecchia, no problems, it took about 45 minutes but other trains can take about one hour and 15 minutes. Once you get out of the train station just go right, you will hit the port after a few hundred yards, no need for a taxi!!!!!
When we arrived at the ship there was no line so we walked right on. There were probably 20 people working checking, so they are very efficient.
Messina - We took the train from Messina and went to Taormina. Train ride was about an hour, once you get there, there will be a tour bus that will take you to the top to Taormina. DO NOT walk out of the train station and start walking to the town!!!!! If the bus is not there wait for it. The bus ride is about 15-20 minutes up a steep mountain. Once you get there, you will probably only have a few hours. Please BEWARE, I am a seasoned traveler and I asked when the bus went back to the train station. The lady replied 1PM. (The train departed at 1:30 back to Messina) We walked around for about 2 hours, a cute town but just tourist shops and restaurants. We arrived back at the bus stop and come to find out the bus departed at 12:45. We then had to pay a taxi to take us to the train station. That cost, 15 euros. We had to pay otherwise we would of missed the train and thus the ship. When we got back on the train we saw some other people from the cruise and they said the lady gave them incorrect times as well. I was not pleased. If I had to do it over again I would of toured Messina, the extra three hours getting to and back from Taormina could of been better used in Messina.
Istanbul was great, get a Rick Steeves Istanbul guide book and you will be fine. The only thing I could recommend is, in the Topkapi palace, skip the harem, not that impressive, and if you are there first thing, head straight for the treasury, it is extremely impressive but the crowds grow and when we were there around 11 it was packed. You had to keep walking past the displays so you really didn't have time to admire each one. Don't bother trying to take photos, security will make you delete them.
Kusadasi - A nice Turkish port town. We paid for the tour for Ephesus, afterwords we walked around Kusadasi. We purchased a cute leather coat at Golf Leather, a nice man and not much pressure. Oh, one thing you may want to investigate, clothes. Lots of clothes are manufactured in Turkey, socks, suits, shirts, ect.... My Hugo Boss suit that I just purchased was manufactured in Turkey. I didn't have much time but I did purchase a suit, sort of on a whim. It is pretty nice for $150. I also got two shirts and a tie.
Athens- Public transportation was on strike. We got on the city tour bus and rode to the acropolis. The port in Athens is huge, once you exit the terminal go left and about 150 yards the city tour buses will be waiting. I think the cost was 15 euros. As it was raining we didn't spend much time in Athens.
Rhodes - Spent most of the day at the beach, water was clear and warm. Walked through old town on the way back to the ship.
Crete - Just enjoyed walking around and enjoying the old town.
We purchased 8 Evian waters but the water is fine on the ship (or better than what I get out of the tap in Chicago). Free coffee and tea. The coke package is $90. I just got one out of the refrigerator for $2.50, it was cheaper that way ( I only drank 6 or 7 the entire trip). We did go for the dinner wine package of 10 bottle for $320. They had a nice selection and it was worth it. GET ANYTIME DINING !!!!!!!! The ship is nice, the meals are great, the employees are friendly. See the ice show!!!!!!! The only thing I could say is, the employees looked tired, I felt bad for them and one day I told the cabin boy to skip our room to give him a break.
This trip was for our honeymoon and I would recommend it !!!!!!!