Marseille, the 2013 European city of culture. The area around the old port is well worth looking at. If you have time then you can take boat trips, such as for visits to the Calanques, from here which last 2 to 3 hours. There are also lots of shopping opportunities with major stores very close to the port. The cruise ships will offer you a paid for port shuttle but there is a free shuttle every 30 minutes from just to the left of where the ship docks. This will take you to la Joliette from where it is only about 15 mins to walk down to the old port, or 5 minutes to walk to the metro station.
There is a port bus which charges 3 euros for a return ticket and drops you right in the centre of Barcolona, by the Columbus statue and from where you can directly join las Rambas. We walked as far as Gaudi’s impressive and unforgettable Sagrad Familia then took the metro as a far as Vallcarce (the blue line then the red line). From here we were able to walk to the Parc de Guell with all the amazing Gaudi artefacts. It’s a very steep and long road to get there, interspersed with odd sections with escalators. Just over half way up, on the Carrer de Verdi road and on the right we found a little bar, El bar Lluni, where we had an excellent and totally inexpensive lunch, with Spanish omelette, sangria and beer. The parc itself is wonderful and it would be easy to spend a whole afternoon here, if you have the time. We took the metro back , to the Columbus statue square from where we were able to pick up the port shuttle again. It was a brilliant day out at very low cost.
As you arrive in the terminal building there is immediately an information point from where you can both pick up a plan of Naples and also get helpful advice for where you want to go to. We walked to the station from where we took the public train to Pompeii Scavi. It was the scruffiest train we have ever been in, but it took us to where we wanted to be, only took 30 mins and was at the small cost of only €2.40 each. There is a queue for tickets to the Pompei site. If you are at least 65, with your passport with you and if you are a member of the EU (as most UK and other European residents will be) then you can ask for a free entrance ticket, but we only saw this sign after we had already paid our €11 entrance fee. Pompeii is well worth a visit, but be sure to wear good shoes for walking as the ground is very uneven. Also be aware that there is only one refreshment point at the site. After Pompeii we took another train (need to buy another ticket, this time for €2.20) to Sorrento from where we were able to walk down to the port and the take the fast ferry back across the Bay of Naples for €12.30 each. It is a 45 min journey and you cannot afford to miss this boat (16:25) which may be busy in peak season. We advise you to buy your tickets before you explore the rest of Sorrento. There is a lift back up to Sorrento for €1 per person which will save you the long steep walk back to the top of the cliff. (accessed from the south beach side, to the left of the port. We had a fantastic, varied day, the travelling was very easy to arrange ourselves and it cost a fraction of the cost of the shore excursions. Thanks cruise critic for the advice we picked up on how to do this!
We decided to explore Cittavechia as we have previously visited Rome. The free port shuttle dropped us on the main road by the city walls. It’s a good idea to walk south down the road until you come to Macdonald’s as the small tourist info hut is opposite this. (it wasn’t signed so it had taken us quite a while to find it.). There are free historical walking tours in English organized by the city which depart from here. The tour was very easy walking and took about 90 minutes, including time spent in the museum. It included a visit to a lovely little bar/deli , the Fiaschetteria Toscana, where we were given a complementary glass of local wine as well as nibbles of local produce.
We debated long and hard about whether to try to get to Florence on our own or to take an organized excursion. Previous cruise critic write ups which I had looked at seemed to indicate that it could be a bit awkward and time pressing to actually get to and from the station as it involved another bus journey after the drop off by the port shuttle (which would cost €12 per person anyway). In the end we chickened out and booked a “Florence on your own” excursion. We should have been brave because only after we had booked the excursion did we find out that the shuttle now has a drop off point at the station. We could have travelled ourselves without worries at a fraction of the cost! We have now learned that it is always worth clarifying the shuttle details in advance and not just assuming. That said, we subsequently had an excellent stress free day in Florence. The guide on our coach gave us an informative overview and maps of Florence, with advice of things to see, of time needed, of things to avoid, etc etc. Our meeting point was by a leather factory where we were told there were toilet facilities (but there was only one toilet!). We went just a bit further and had a very reasonably priced cappuccino in the Caffe Mario on the corner of the Via dell Anguillara where we were also able to use the loo– we would certainly recommend it. We think we had the best and biggest icecream ever (even though we picked the small ones!), from Gelatissimo, just before and to the right of the Ponte Vecchio