I'm going to be cruising the Western Mediterranean on Costa Pacifica this coming up March (Savona, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tunis, La Valleta, Catania, Rome). I would like know any helpful hints and comments regarding excursions. I've read they are known for canceling English tours so I think I might want to tour these cities on my own. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Well for Tunis I really enjoyed the Roman Baths (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) ... but hated the Souks, it was a mazelike high pressure flea market where they hold you captive in a rug store before taking you around to the other vendors. I would imagine it would be possible to book an english speaking tour (French is much more common there) to just the Baths. I also understand there is some outstanding wine coming out of this region, which is very strange since it is a muslim country. When you come off the ship you will likely see some exotic livestock as they usually have a camel or two out there for pictures and rides.
Check the ship's excursions for Savona and see if they still have "The Palaces and Principalities of Monacco. It is a fantastic tour and I know we had at least a busload of English speakers on our tour. It is fantastic for anyone who is interested in Formula One Racing, Grace Kelly (Princess Grace), Prince Ranier, their Children, Tour the Cathedral where they were married and are now entombed, See the Palace, Visit Monte Carlo, See the Olive Groves, The Italian Alps in the distance. The hundreds of tunnels through the mountains. It is really a wonderful way to spend a day.
I hope for you, since it is the Western Med (close to the British Isles) that they will have plenty of English-speaking tours. if you can, get on a tour with English only - when they are bilingual sometimes the English gets less attention.
One advantage, however, is that many Europeans who do not speak any of the Roman languages do speak English, so they often go on English speaking tours (making them less likely to be cancelled).
Mallorca is wonderful - but make sure you just take a taxi to the Cathedral - it is only about 5 Euro. I had a very hard time getting a taxi back to the ship however, so plan on either leavong early or later, but not at rush hour (it is a surprisingly populated island).
If you must, you can walk betwen the ship and the shopping district, but it is about 1 1/2 miles.
Barcelona - it is very easy to walk to Las Ramblas from the ship (about a 20 minute walk) now that they have built a new bridge to the port area - or take a taxi. Once you reach Las Ramblas from the water, head inland and just look for interesting streets. There is MacDonalds along the way - turn right around there and you will find tons of great shopping and sight seeing.
It is also worth a short tour to see the Gaudi architecture. But don't spend all day on a tour - save some time for walking around on your own.
If you are very adventurous, the Metro (subway) can be VERY handy for helping you get around, but I did not find it that easy to navigate locally. You need a map and directions on what to do.
I was going to mention also in Mallorca, there is a bus that will take you from the port to the area of the cathedral and back and you can buy the tickets onboard the ship at a reduced rate. The Cathedral there is beautiful.
Oh one other thing, we enjoy yacht watching in a lot of these ports, especially Monacco and Mallorca. There was one in particular called Lady Moura that caught our eye as it was extremely impressive and it seemed to be following us as it showed up in three of the ports we were in during our cruise. We like to take down their names and look them up when we get home. See who owns them and all the details.
We found out when we returned that Lady Maura is the 11th largest yacht in the world. She even has a helicopter on board. Here's some pictures of her we found online. Kind of a neat way of continuing the enjoyment of your cruise even when it's over.