Venice is a great embarkation port! The airport is small and manageable, and only about 20 minutes from the port. Venice is just great to wander around in for a day or 2, and I love that we get some time on the ship to recover from jet lag before we sail the next day. I would keep going back to Venice for cruise departures. The sailaway is fabulous. If possible, get a veranda on the port side (left side) so you can sit and drink a glass of wine while watching Venice go by.
Split is a tender port, and very walkable on your own. The promenade is long and a great place to sit and sip a coffee overlooking the harbour. Most of the old town is within old city walls with great promenades and little alleys full of history, shops, restaurants and lots of people. If you are there on a Sunday, everything will be closed. We hiked up the large hill to the north of town and had a beer at the restaurant at the top while enjoying a great panoramic view of the city and countryside. This is Croatia, so you must use Kuna still.
Dubrovnik is beautiful! This was our second time here, and both were bright, blue, gorgeous days. We took the ship shuttle ($16?) RT to town and then made our way to the funicular ($10?) to take us to the top of the mini-mountain. Unbelievable views at the top! We sat with a coffee at the top and just marveled at the view, living in the moment. The last time we were there, we hiked down the switchback path. That took about 45 minutes. This time we took the funicular back down and then wandered all around the old town. We walked down to the harbour and would have loved to have taken a harbour cruise, but chose to walk around instead. After an afternoon of walking, eating, drinking and shopping, we made our way back to the ship for a gorgeous sailaway.
This port was a lovely surprise. The sail in and out was just gorgeous. At the end of the river was a little lake where we anchored. The surrounding mountains were lovely and the little old town was so fun. We took a short tender to the dock and easily walked the old town in 2 hours. More walking, eating, shopping and drinking. Only about a 10 minute walk down the main road was a little beach where I whiled away the afternoon. The sail out was fantastic with a bottle of wine on the back deck enjoying the gorgeous views.
We had no plans and no expectations for Malta, but this turned out to be a pretty interesting port. Much more like a city than the earlier ports. After getting off the ship, we decided to take one of the hop on-hop off buses. Although it was advertised for 20 euros, we paid 10 euros, which we thought was a bargain. There are three loops you can choose from and take them all if you want. We chose the loop that went to Mdina, where we got off for about an hour and wandered around. Back on the bus, we got off in Valetta and wandered around. We took a tour of the Casa Rocca Piccola, which is the home of a nobleman, the Baron Marquis de Piro. How lucky were we that the actual Baron himself guided us on our tour! It was truly one of the highlights of our trip and so personal. We again wandered around the town, seeing the sights and eating, drinking and shopping our way back to the port.
The actual port was Catania, where we had booked a private excursion with Sicily Life Tours. Antonio, our driver and guide, took us to some of the Godfather villages where scenes were filmed, and to another village that I will never be able to spell. There is a lot of driving as you have to get from village to village through mountainous switchback roads. Not for the queasy! But Sicily was absolutely beautiful and I cannot wait to return. The sky was crystal clear blue this day and you could see every nook and cranny of Etna in the morning from a distance. By the afternoon, fog and clouds had surrounded the top. But this country and the vistas are absolutely stunning.
We booked a private tour which took us to Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii. We had 1 1/2 to 2 hours to wander around each place on our own, which was just perfect. Getting to Positano is all along mountainside winding roads. Then the town is built right up into the mountainside. Great to walk around and go down to the beach. Then Sorrento is much larger and you can take an elevator (or walk) down to the water. Pompeii really does require 2 hours to do on your own. Make sure you get a map and have a plan!