Hi Lori... glad to find more people on our cruise! You and I must be about the same age, I have two sons ages 15 and 17. They won't be traveling with me this time, though. I am traveling with my mom. This will be my 4th Crystal cruise and her 6th or 7th. We taken shore excursion with them and they are always very well done. Heck, everything Crystal does is well done! But you seldom have any flexibility once you get into a shore excursion. They are "orchestrated" if you know what I mean. Get on the bus, see this, go here, do that... everyone back on the bus now. That's okay and a good way to see things, but the reason we are looking to do our own is that from what I've been able to find out, most of their excursions are focused on architecture, art, museums, etc. That's just not our "thing." We usually take eco-tours or spend the day on our own exploring, shopping and having lunch! We'd much prefer to watch people, visit gardens or see animal life than look at buildings. There's a lot on the message board for excursions about planning your own... many recommendations for private tours and drivers. We'll probably just "make a deal" with a driver on the pier if that's something we feel like doing that day. I know when I travel with my boys, though, that I like to have certain port days all planned in advance.
Are you flying in the day before or the day the cruise leaves? We're out of Boston Monday (12th) night, arriving in Rome via Munich at 3 pm. We're taking the transfer with Crystal to the port. I'm NOT looking forward to that long ride after flying. Maybe I'll be able to sleep... not! The last time we took a transfer with Crystal to the ship was in London. A driver picked us up at the airport in a Towncar and took us to a convention building where we waited with other passengers and then took a nice bus to Dover. Knowing Crystal, I'm sure the ride to Civitavecchia will be comfortable.