I checked the disboards today and this is what I wrote:
My honest impression is that this would have been a much better tour, had the trip been done over 14 days. I am TIRED!!! I am sitting here in Paris and Andy and I are plugging along on the computers- he is on the sucky French keyboard that has all of the keys in weird spots and I am on his laptop...
First of all, I loved the cruise- but I think that people who go on this cruise with the expectation of actually "seeing" Europe will be disappointed. Or those who have the expectation of having a relaxing cruise and seeing Europe will REALLY be disappointed. I know that it is hard for individuals to get 14 + days off for the cruise- but I think they should have done one or two cruises in the med that were that length, that would have also allowed for more rest and relaxation between ports. I seriously don't how to 10 day people are going to do it.
In Palermo, I did a land tour. The guy who was our tour guide was AWESOME. I did some more updates last night and I posted my top 3 favorite things. I had a really hard time deciding between Florence and Palermo- but it was the fact that our guide in Palermo took more time to tell us the history of the area and was also willing to schedule our trip according to our needs. We stopped for bathrooms, we stopped for gelato, we stopped to look at huge cows with bells, and I probably saw one of the coolest churches I have ever seen. It was also like we did all or most of everything DCL offered in their other excursions: we saw the churches,history, beaches, etc. It was just great.
However, I still think a private tour for Florence is a MUST- unless you're fine with getting there and not seeing much. My room mate and friends took the DCL bus into town- got on the first bus and didn't get off of the bus until around 11AM. By that point, we had already made three stops and were entering the David. It also took them well over two hours- almost three to get back to the ship and they left Florence before we started Pisa.
For Rome- you just have to accept that all you are going to get is a brief overview. For that, I really liked the way we did it. We booked our train tickets in advance, which was no problem, but not necessary. We took the train to the LAST stop, which was 3 or 4 after the ST. Peter's stop and got on the open bus tour from the beginning. We then got off at one point and walked to the Spanish steps and did the Trevi fountain. If you are with little kids- skip the steps as it isn't overly magnificent and hit the fountain- it it a must do. We than ate lunch and hoofed it back to the bus and went to the Vatican. We walked through St. Peters, which was free- so that was a bonus.
I also liked the idea of doing some trips via train- so that if you were with your kids and they had a melt down- you're not freaking out because you are holding up others. You can take the time to sit in a park, eat more ice cream, or just go back early- because you want to. That is a major plus for me.
Someone also asked about tickets for Pisa, while on the Florence tour that I did. The company made reservations for us for the David and gave me a link, which is on their website, to make reservations for Pisa. It was really easy and I did it all online and paid via credit card.