Venice is magical, quite unlike any other city on Earth. I really want to go back to Venice for a multi day stay to explore properly. As it was we had a half day at each end of the cruise and walked around most of the main sights on the main island. For me the real charm was not in the big name places like St Marks square but in the warren of side streets and small canals with their little shops selling everything from butcher meat to fine art. It is a small city and walking from one end to the other only takes an hour at most. But navigation is tricky until you get used to the scale. Also what appears on the map as a large square may in fact only be a broadening of the street! But the colours and atmosphere are simply superb and the hustle and bustle of the canals coupled to the understated grandeur of the faded buildings is fabulous. Top tip: take one of the gondola ferries across the grand canal - it may not be a lush as the tourist ones but it only costs 2 euros and you can say you've been on a gondola!
We walked from the port into Dubrovnik old town which took about 25 minutes. It wasn't too bad with only gentle hills and good shade from trees most of the way. Once in the old town we strolled down the main avenue then made our way onto the city walls which we circumnavigated. It's a good way to see the city although you don't get a feel for the narrow streets as much as at ground level. The overriding impression was of the number of new roofs there were. Hardly any of the old roofs survived the war in the 1990s and everything has been rebuilt - a sober reminder that the peace we saw was relatively fragile.
We had intended going into Athens to explore the town since we had visited the Acropolis on a previous cruise. Unfortunately we didn't get any sleep that night, due to noise in the cabin, until after the ship berthed so we wound up only having a few hours which meant we stayed in Piraeus. We strolled around town and, whilst it's not terrible, there really isn't much to commend it. We bought an ice cream which was the cheapest of the trip but that's about all I can recommend, sorry Piraeus.
Izmir was a pleasant surprise. We walked into town along the sea front amidst quite pleasant grassy beds, passing some monuments and viewing areas. The mainly residential buildings across the street had a slightly dilapidated Mediterranean feel to them with a lot of street cafes below. The main town was modern and quite busy but by walking up to the university area we enjoyed a quiet stroll amid numerous open air book shops serving the student market. We then made our way to Konak Square the main public gathering place and from there into the Bazaar which was a rabbit warren of stalls but much less aggressive than other markets I've been to in Turkey - just say 'no' firmly.
The port was quite close to the city centre and Diocletian's Palace. We enjoyed wondering round the side streets here just taking in the atmosphere and admiring the multitude of architectural styles. The people seemed very friendly and not at all pushy. There was a small market here too but nothing compared to Izmir's bazaar. It made a pleasant half day but if I ever returned I'd go for one of the excursions beyond the town.