Well my wife and I really enjoyed our back to back Med cruises ex Venice on MS Nieuw Amsterdam.
We did mainly ship excursions but I booked some private tours pre-cruise and thought I should share my reviews and recommendations.
Istanbul - I have made comments elewhere on this and while the tour was good, the guide was not.
All other private tours were based on recommendations from Cruisemates message boards.
Athens - Athens Tour Service - Spiros Halkides. Our driver/guide was Nicos - the perfect Greek gentleman - smooth, courteous and couldn't do enough for us. Perfect manners - called us Mr. and Mrs. although I tried to get him to call me Tony. A very enjoyable day - highly recommended. Filled the day well for us and got some extra highlights we did not expect such as visit to Presidential palace and photos with the guard.
Ephesus - Hello Ephesus - our guide was 'Susie' - another great guide. I had arranged a specific tour to see all the things I wanted to see. Any tour in Turkey will take to to a rug factory but our short visit - marketed to see how rugs made -did turn into a sales pitch but the vendor was very pleasant and we did not waste each other's time. Had a very nice lunch at our stop. Ephesus is 'Fantastic'. Hello Ephesus very professional.
Naples - Silverstar Sorrento to Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii - a disappointment- I was looking forward to this - our driver/guide was ok - can't remember his name - but it poured rain in Sorrento and he was after us to walk the 'pretty streets'- my wife stood under an arch while I walked a bit under my umbrella.
On to Positano - Yeah it was nice to view from the cliffs but crowded and expensive shopping spot. The company had a booking at a restaurant up on the hills as part of the tour - although my wife didn't want to go because we are light eaters at lunch - anyway we went and had the few sample plates of food with a very ordinary bottle of wine and a bottle of water - then we got the bill for 50 euros - felt that was a rip-off - I did not expect that cost. While we had a nice view of the beach etc. below, we could have done without the lunch.
Pompeii - we only had 1.5 hours there - not enough - with a site guide -which we did not have -the min required is supposed to be 2.5 hours. Only thing I messed up on our tour bookings and a pity.
After reading the positive recommendations for Silverstar Sorrento I am sorry to say - disappointed.
Livorno - Cinque Terra tour with Sunflower Tours. Our host - Giocanni - what a guy - we felt we had made a friend. Giovanni was helpful, fun, friendly, courteous and professional. We cut out one of the villages- Corniglia - it was most touristy and commercial - We loved Cinque Terra - really did and it capped our cruise wonderfully. Giovanni took us to another small village - San Bernadino and to Portovenere - really nice and worth a visit.
Highly recommend this tour and Sunflower Tours, Giovanni is the owner and gives personal service. Great Guy.
I hope these comments help people planning private excursions and please consider giving my Favs your business. Strongly recommend Giovanni, Susie and Nicos
The Cinque Terra Tour was 420 euros - there was only the two of us but it was a trip I wanted to do so I paid it and all private tours are in the 400-500+ range.
As they say, if you have more to share, the individual cost comes down - it went for about 9 hrs - no worries with making the ship 'back on board timeport departure - we had to be back by 5.30 and got back on board at 4.30.
I had no problems with making it back on time with any of our private excursions.
I do recommend Giovanni - brilliant guy.
We had a Merc car to ourselves but he also has a mini-van. The roads are not very wide in the Cinque Terra area.