I'm not sure I know which itinerary you are referring to, so I hope this info is relevant. Venice is definitely a city where you won't need a guide or an excursion. Just pay $10 for the ship's transfer to St. Mark's Square and stumble around. Venice is absolutely beautiful and charming, and you don't even need to worry about getting lost because it's just breathtaking at every turn. (There are signs that say Per Rialto--to the Rialto Bridge--and per San Marco--to St. Mark's Square, and that's about all you need to know.) If you want to take a boat to Murano to the glass factories, you can use the public transportation boats that leave right there from St. Mark's Square or you can go with one of the private boats that will seek you out because they think all Americans have money; beware if you will be making a major investment in Ventian glass that the boat drivers receive about 30% of what you spend (you'd also be recruited if you stayed at a hotel, which I highly recommend that you do on a return trip after you fall in love with Venice like we did, so you may get a better price going on your own. Since time is a critical factor with a port call, I recommend going with the private boat drivers because it will be a more speedy trip. But that is only if you have an overnight stay because you don't want to get so caught up in visiting glass factories that you fail to see the glories of Venice! You can find lots of glass in the shops that are everywhere in Venice. Even if you think that kind of thing is not for you, you'll be surprised at the beauty of the glass. I can't say enough good things about Venice, so I'll move on!
Monte Carlo is also a great city to see on foot. I love the walking tours on www.frommers.com
for most cities (just enter the city name in the search box, and the city tours are usually under the "Attractions" section). We walked up a hill at the port city, which is also quite charming and there is some surprisingly good shopping there, to take a bus to Monte Carlo, and the buses ran very frequently. Nice is also great on foot.
I do recommend the Taormina shore excursion for Sicily or seeing that area with a tour guide. It's pretty hard to get to Taormina from the port on your own. (I'm pretty anti-shore-excursion because I think they waste precious time and rob you of the quality of your European experience, but someone may have determined an easy method that I wasn't able to flush out.)
In Naples, it kind of depends on what you want to do. We had some fellow passengers at our dinner table who took a taxi to Pompeii and there were guides there (English speaking). I'm sure you could arrange ahead of time too. We took a shore excursion to the Amalfi coast (we had seen a lot of ruins outside of Rome at Ostia and had also been to several sites in Greece), and that was one shore excursion that did work out well because it provided a great overview of some fabulous scenery, and I think we would have had a hard time doing that on our own at the time. We were in Naples 3 years ago, so finding a good guide on the web sites was not as easy then, so you might try a guide to do that too. It's so beautiful. If you do go into Naples, please be advised that this is a high-crime (non-violent, usually property theft like purse-snatching--the thiefs ride by on a motorcycle and snatch purses) area. Venice is practically crime-free. If you go to Rome, watch those pesky gypsies because they are CLEVER and have small hands that can go in and out, and the targets don't feel a thing!
I don't know what advice to give you on Rome as a port city because I just can't imagine doing that as a port. The Vatican tour would be great, especially if it includes St. Peter's Basilica. But the Colosseum is great, the Forum is great (it's right by the Colosseum), Trevi Fountain is great (I personally would not miss that but I like to see it at night), the Spanish Steps area is great (there's fabulous shopping there), Piazza Navona is really great, the Pantheon is great; I just don't know how you choose. If you are inclined and can take a course like Pimsleur's Beginner Italian on tape (I listen to the tapes on a Walkman while walking in the evening), I would suggest the train from Civitavecchia to do Rome on your own. You'll save a lot of time and have a better experience. It will be more work to do it on your own, so if that doesn't enrich your vacation experience, I would suggest that you try to pick to use www.fodors.com
and the Frommers site to figure out what you'd like to see most and then try to find a guide or the best match to a shore excursion. Here's a link to the European train schedules (please verify the schedule in port prior to boarding the train): http://www.raileurope.com/us/rail/fa...ules/index.htm
. Unfortunately, Civitavecchia is not very close to Rome, so you're going to spend some time commuting from the port by train, bus, or car.
For Livorno, I recommend that you hire a private guide (maybe along with some of the other nice passengers that responded to your message) to take you to Florence with a quick stop at Pisa along the way. There is a separate thread on the European ports page of this site, and I think there are some tour guides recommended there.
If you are on the Malta itinerary, lucky you. It's fabulous. 3 other "girls" from my dinner table went with me (we ranged in age from mid-30's to 60+) from the port by taxi to Mosta and Mdina, and we had a great, great day. It's just a wonderful port to visit, and the taxi driver left us in town to shop after driving us around the island and to visit some gardens. Our husbands went to a military museum (my husband is a WWII history nut--and he's only 42!) and loved that too.
Barcelona is great too. I hope you have a wonderful trip. If I can provide any additional information or opinions, I'll be glad to help.