We got a Royal Caribbean excursion our first day (port: Toulon) to Marseilles, and although it was a larger group than our private tours after, our tour guide was great and we had a fantastic time soaking in Marseilles. Of course in comparison to our private tour the next day with Sylvie, well there was no comparison.
Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo: Our first private tour was organized by Madonnafan1 on the Cruise Critic Roll Call, and was with Sylvie Di Cristo from Alpes Guides InterprÃ¨tes, who was the best guide my wife and I have ever experienced. Sylvie was the best host of the French Riviera that we could have ever asked for. She was a sophisticated modern day Sophia Loren, she knew the area like the back of her hand, and told us details and history that showed such a level of mastery that we were honestly jaded by the experience every other day. Unlike all the other tours that made you choose 2 of the 3 cities, we got to experience Cannes, Nice AND Monte Carlo, highlights including Cannes Film Festival HQ, Ratatouille for my wife in the Nice market, and a top notch tour of downtown Monte Carlo including inside the Casino (smaller than I expected considering it was the only Casino in Europe for 20 years, only 10 card tables and maybe 16 slot machines!)
Our next 3 tours in Italy were organized by SaraMac, who is a powerhouse organizer and got 54 passengers on 3 days of tours with Joe Banana Limo Services in Florence/Pisa, Rome and Pompeii/Almafi Coast/Sorrento. Our first day in Pisa/Florence was great thanks to SaraMac taking us to a 2nd generation 32 year old Italian restaurant called Il Profeta (meaning it's perfect, which it was!) that literally had a rose sauce that brought a tear to my wife's eye! No joke! This was the highlight of my wife's trip and we will always have SaraMac to thank for this unforgettable meal! Unfortunately the tour guide on this first day was the weakest of our trip, and there were quite a few awkward silent moments rather than helpful tour guide info.
Our second Italy day in Rome was great, and we got in all the sights we were hoping for despite some protests in Rome that day which we encountered at the Pantheon. We were given only 30 minutes for the Coliseum and the driver drilled into our heads that we would not make it inside, but I was having none of that! My wife and I bargained with a tour guide who brought us to these guides on Segways that gave us City Passes for 22 Euros each which included a line bypass for Coliseum and 2 other sites (which we didn't have time for), so we got 20 minutes in the Coliseum including the 2nd floor! Our driver was in shock when I told him we got up to the second floor, as he told us the lines were 1hr +. We had a great guided tour through the Vatican Museum, although the crowds were horrendous from 12 cruise ships being in port that day.
Our last day in Pompeii, the Almafi Coast, and Sorrento was fantastic and we loved our guide. He gave us a Thesis at the beginning of the tour: life 2000 years ago in Pompeii is very similar to life today. Throughout the tour he continued this Thesis, and then concluded with this Thesis at the end. From all the tours I heard about I think we had the best take on Pompeii. Although the road through the Almafi coast was beautiful, it also gave me motion sickness but we had enough breaks that I powered through. Sorrento was a perfect ending to our shore excursions and we enjoyed a real authentic Italian thin crust Margarita pizza, homemade Gnocchi and another amazing pasta dish at La Basilica Ristorante Pizzeria, followed by an authentic Sorrento Limoncello. We then enjoyed a Trip Advisor recommended Gelato at Sorrento Che Delizia, which was so close to the real thing (that we had just drank) that it felt like I was getting drunk off the Gelato! Joe Banana overall was 5/5 as well, however the tour with Sylvie was still unsurpassable and one we will never forget!