Loved Barcelona. We were there for five days prior to the cruise and two days post cruise. Barcelona is beautiful to walk in. At every corner there is another lovely building. The food is also fantastic. We ate at : Citrus on Passeig de Gracia- highly recommend, Ferran at plaza san jaume - great prices and good food, Portonovo Silvestre - the one at Plaza Espanya - also great prices, service and food. DO NOT EAT AT: DELICIAS OSHER - located at Avinyo 8 A - the service is terrible and the food is poor - and expensive. Visit it all! We visited: Freixenet, Montserrat, Sitges - all outside of Barcelona, but worth the visit. Walk along Las Ramblas, Passeig de Gracia - great restaurants, shopping and lovely avenue. Marvel La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia, Casa Guell, Guell Park. Walk lots in Montjuic. Visit Santa Maria del Mar, the Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, the Cathedral. Take the hop on hop off city tour.
We took the free shuttle offered by the city from the port. Depending on where you dock, you must walk to shuttle departure area. It took us around 15 minutes from where we docked. The shuttle will then leave you where you can get local transport. We found the #60 bus which took us up to Notre Dame de la Garde Basillica. The cost was 9 Euro for 5 people. There is also a small tram, cost around 8 euro per person, and gives a narrated tour of the city and takes you up to the Basillica as well. Not our favourite port, but not the worst. We had wanted to visit the Island of Chateau d'If,, but due to weather conditions, the boats were not running. The Vieux Port area is very nice. Not sure if I would highly recommend this port.
I pre-booked a half day tour with Med-Tour and it was fantastic. We paid 270 euro for eight of us. I had initially booked for seven, but another travel companion requested to come along. The guide was very nice, made some calls, and got a van for the eight of us. We visited Eze, which was the second time for me and first for the rest of the gang. Just as lovely as last year. We went to Monaco, Monte Carlo and drove a large part of the F1 grand prix circuit. This last part was a dream come true for many of the men of the group. Our driver even stopped and bought us some local food called SOCCA (sp?). It was great and overall everyone agreed that this was one of our favourite ports of call.
We docked at La Spezia. We walked from the port to La Spezia Centrale Train Station. There is an information both at the port where you can get a map. It takes around 30 minutes to walk to the train station- despite the fact that at the port we were told it takes 15 minutes. The station is quite chaotic and small. If going to Cinque Terre, find the Cinque Terre information office. When we went, it was located by the platform where the trains depart. So, do not stand in the long queue, walk toward the trains and hopefully you will find it. Buy your Cinque Terre card, which allows you travel on the trains, and buses. Ensure that you validate your card at each station. Even if you have your card, but it's not validated, you may get fined. We only visited two of the towns due to time restrictions, but will return. We had a lovely lunch at Food and Sea in Corniglia. I would definitely recommend visiting and it is easy to do it on your own. Mind you, there is lots of uphill walking, so not for the faint of heart, in wheelchairs, or otherwise impaired.
I pre-booked a trip with Roberto Brunetti of LimousInRome - firstname.lastname@example.org. What a wonderful experience. He was waiting for us, as promised. We had an air conditioned, comfortable, clean, mini-van for the seven of us. He drove us to Rome and gave us history along the way. We first visited the Colosseum and he took us to a "secret" place to get our tickets fast. We then visited, the Trevi Fountain - which was under renovations, the Spanish Steps - partial renovations, the Pantheon,lovely lunch at La Soffitta and ended with the Vatican City. We arranged a private guide at the Vatican City and had also pre-purchased our tickets on-line - skip the line and well worth it. Overall, left us wanting more of Rome and will certainly return. Loved this port!
Although visiting Pompeii was a wonderful learning experience, the port itself, is not nice and it's close surroundings are not visually pretty. I am sure there are probably nicer areas, but what we saw travelling from the port to Pompeii was not pretty. Be vary wary of the cab drivers. They are plain and simple thieves and liars. We were told that the train to and from Pompeii was really expensive and unsafe. He told us that he would take us for less money. We believed him, despite the fact that my research said otherwise. Follow your gut - and do not be out 120 Euro like we were.