We planned an overnight tour independently through Ramses Tours. We had requested Karim as our guide, 18 people in our group. Although I read about the filth and traffic of Cairo it is not to be believed until one sees it- it is shocking! Despite Egypt's very apparent lack of government, we had a great adventure in Cairo! We stayed overnight at the Oberoi Mena House. Beautiful oasis in the sea of craziness. Tip: Ramses tours wants payment in cash USD. Of the ports we visited, I would not personally revisit Alexandria or Cairo but I think it something people should see once in their lives especially if one is interested in the Pyramids and Egyptian history. This is something I will not forget!
After the filth of Cairo, Istanbul was down right beautiful! We had a full day tour booked with Magical Steps and we had Sinan as our guide. Again lucked out with a guide that spoke English very well. Went to all the sites including the Cistern and the Harem. Passed on the carpet and jewelry shops (much to the disappointment of our guide). Had fast food Turkish style on our way to the Grand Bazaar, I believe it is called a Durum witb Doner (think gyros meat). Very good!
Booked another tour with Magical Steps to see Ephesus. Our guide was Zeynap. She was very charming and had a great sense of humor. She talked very quickly and full of knowledge. We included the Terrace Houses in our tour- I thought it was worth the extra money. Can really get a sense of living the high life 2000 years ago.
We did have a stop at a carpet factory that was not on our itinerary. But there was no pressure to buy.
Kusadasi would be a town I would like to explore further in terms of the beaches.
Lucked out as our port date was on a Sunday. Traffic was light. Scheduled a free walking tour with Paul of athensfreewalkingtour.com. We ended up with 13 people, in hindsight probably would have been better with a smaller number. Paul did a great job keeping track of all of us. A 3 hour scheduled tour expanded to a full day. Paul was very accommodating with our desires and walked some of our party back to the Metro Station as the rest of us toured the Acropolis on our own. He then met us afterward and walked us to see the Hephaestus Temple which is normally not included on his tour. This temple is the best preserved in the Athens area.
Hired a driver Raffaele (sorrentocardrivers.com), again we were not disappointed with our choice. Split the cost with 2 other couples. His van was new and perfect for sightseeing the Amalfi Coast. Raffaele did not talk as much as our other guides but I don't think he needed to. The views spoke for themselves. We stopped at Ravello, Amalfi and Positano. All beautiful towns that I would like to revisit. We toured Pompeii on our own as our driver waited. Again a great day!