Venice was the embarkation and disembarkation port of our cruise so when we arrived we got straight onto the boat and didn't have time to get back off again.
On the last day of our cruise we knew we would have to wait until 5.30pm until our flight and that our transfer to the airport would be at 3pm, MSC reception are unlikely to give out the time of your transfer so freely so push them for it or ask to speak to the person in charge of transfers. We were then told we would have to leave the boat at 10am meaning 5 hours waiting in the port terminal, not something we really wanted so we booked the transfer to St Marks Square and transfer to the Airport. We considered just booking the transfer to St Marks Square for half the price and risk making it back in time for our transfer to the Airport and we also considered making our own way there and putting our luggage into storage. Both would have been ok but risky in our opinion and its not easy to get from the Port to Venice without walking a fair way or paying for a taxi.
The Boat ride to St Marks square was packed and don't expect to go down the Grand Canal, however it was easy and they got you straight onto a bus with your luggage when you got back, getting us to the Airport earlier than our previous transfer.
The tour was overpriced for what they were offering but it meant you could see Venice and be safe in the knowledge you would be taken to the airport.
MSC offered a transfer bus to the centre of Bari for 6 euros each as you got off the boat. I would say this is probably worth it as you don't realise how far away the centre of Bari is. Lots of people walked and were very tired afterwards.
I wouldn't say Bari is that exciting, although I admit we were there on a Sunday. In my opinion it is just another City with a few churches to see and that's about it. I wouldn't pay for an excursion there as I can't imagine they would show you anymore than what we saw.
Katakolon is a Port close to Olympia and that is about all it has going for it. We decided to search around the internet for an alternative to the MSC excursion to Olympia and found that Katakolon Express. For 20 euros each they will take you to the site and provide a short tour on the way there. You then have to pay 9 euros to get into the site, however if you are under 19 you are free (I am slightly older but they didn't check) and my parents said they were seniors in England and so got a ticket for 5 euros each.
The site itself is ok, it's nice to go and see but I wouldn't go back. The museum is not worth it if you have to pay extra, the people working in their are very rude. They shouted at use for taking a picture of an exhibit with a person in it as well. Apparently it is disrespectful to be in a photo with things in the museum!
The express then takes you back to the boat and drops you off the same place that the excursion buses do. Doing this is going to be saving you about Â£10 so if you want to go to Olympia I would consider it, the owners are lovely and one is English so they can chat to you really easily. They also offer free WIFI onboard the bus which was much appreciated!
When we got off the boat at Izmir we took the City Bus tour which costs about 10 euros each or 25 lira. (euros works out cheaper) This drives you around the city and you can get on and off all day as many times as you like. The only downside is the buses run every 30 minutes and we actually had to wait close to an hour to get back on a bus once we had got off.
Izmir is not particularly exciting, its one of those cities where you get hassled if you look like a tourist to buy things or they offer to help you find your way for a price!
I would recommend getting off the boat and getting the city tour to see the sights but I wouldn't recommended getting off the bus as there isn't too much to see that you won't on the bus.
Again in Istanbul you will get hassled to buy things but not as much as in Izmir.
We decided again to do our own thing and we knew that Istanbul had it's own tram system which ran from the port to the Hagia Sophia which we wanted to see.
As you come out of the boat keep walking straight away from the boat and you will come to the tram station in the centre of the road. You put 3 lira per person into the machine and get one token to get onto the tram, about Â£1.50. The signs are often in English so we knew where to get off. We went to the Hagia Sophia which you have to pay to get into and we also walked to Topaki Palace although we didn't pay to get in to that as we were very tired! We then walked back to the tram and went back to the boat.
I would recommend getting a map of Istanbul if you are going to do it yourself as its not very well signposted and it can be easy to mistake one mosque for another from far away.
Out of all the ports we visited this was the nicest.
Again we did our own thing as we had seen there was a bus route from the port to the old city. As you come out of the port there is a small newsagent type shop which sells you a ticket for the bus for 12 Kuna, about Â£1.50. This ticket lasts for one hour and will take you on any bus. You then get on the 1A/1B/3/8 route to the old walls.
When you want to come back you buy another ticket from a kiosk named bus tickets and come back on the same route. Really easy, hard to go wrong as the bus driver shouts out Port when you get there and the Walls are at the end of the route.