Rome is my favorite city in the world. Unfortunately, 800 billion other people feel the same way. It was extremely crowded. It's an easy city to see on your own. Decide what you want to see, get a map, and use taxis to get from point to point. I wanted the others on our trip to see the Vatican, but it was so hot and crowded when we were there that it was miserable. There was a line snaking around St Peter's square to get into the basilica, so we didn't even get to see it. If I ever go back to Rome, it will be in the dead of winter.
Our tour guide, Jon, did a fantastic job of advising us what to do and see as we drove from the port to Florence. It's a beautiful city, not as beautiful as Rome but not as crowded either. We spent the day shopping (leather and gold are good buys here), had a fantastic lunch, and saw some of the tourist hot spots (duomo and ponte vecchio). Good time.
We booked Highlights of Monaco and Nice - DO NOT BOOK THIS TOUR! Our tour guide was hideous, but the tour itself is impossible. We had about ten minutes in each of three stops: Nice, Monaco and Monte Carlo. All three were full of tourists and did not have the facilities to handle them. It was the worst day of our cruise.
We booked Avignon & Aix En Provence and loved it. Our tour guide was excellent, and we stopped first in Aix for a short walking tour of historical sites and then had plenty of free time to visit the open air markets and shops in this beautiful town. There weren't thousands of other tourists, so it was an authentic experience. We then boarded the bus for Avignon, where we had another short introduction and time for lunch and shopping on our own. The palace of the popes is here, a very impressive building. A great day.
Booked City Highlights of Barcelona. The tour guide was good and we saw some of the facilities used when the Olympics was held there. The city seems to have declined since I was there a few years ago - more dirty and stinky than I remember. But we decided to stay in the city instead of returning to the ship and walked down Las Rambles toward the port until we found a good restaurant. We enjoyed tapas, paella and sangria for lunch on our own.