We used HAL to organise flights and transfers as we were flying to an "awkward " place to get around with luggage.
They booked us British Airways direct flights to and from heathrow. These went without a hitch. The HAL lady was waiting outside customs, showed us to the bus. We were met at the cruise terminal and then joined the lanes that wound through the boarding process. From start to finish this was about 15 minutes and we were on board and in our cabin within 1 1/4 hours of landing at Venice Marco Polo.
This was a lovely ship to cruise on: light, airy, easy to navigate around and plenty of lifts. Art is everywhere as on all HAL ships. But we were staggered to come across an Andy Warhol on one of the staircases. Fresh flowers abound and cleanliness was all.
We have cruised with HAL before and this did not disappoint. Levels of service from the largely Indonesian and Filipino crew was high. It was only in one of the on board shops that rudeness surfaced. Even the often hatchet faced Front Office staff were charming and endlessly helpful.
Our cabin was a large one: SS 6103, starboard just aft of midships on deck 6. We could have sublet without discomfort as there was a 6 foot sofa which converted to a single bed, 2 wash basins and a bath with separate shower stall. The balcony had a table and 2 chairs as well as 2 lounger chairs with foot stools and a small occasional table. The chairs were faux Lloyd loom in style. Plenty of storage though the hanging arrangement was peculiar, a mini bar fridge enabled us to chill the local beers and wine we bought ashore as we went along. Who knew Croatian wine was drinkable?
Having chosen any-time dining, we struck gold on the first night with the waiting pair of Kurnaina and Ida, and stuck with them throughout.
The food never disappointed, either in the main dining room at night and the lido buffet for lunch and breakfast. We used room service for some breakfasts and early morning drinks and it was always punctual and at the relevant temperature.
Choice was extensive in the main dining room for dinner: 4 appetizers, 5 starters, 9 mains (6 changed every night), and 12 puds. There is also a cheese plate, choose any 5 from 10, but we never ventured there! Buffet choices were extensive and of a high quality. Going "off piste" was possible in the Lido as well as the dining room if one asked nicely.
It was hot everywhere.
Overnight in Venice on embarkation: Did our own thing. Worst of this was the 10 minute walk to the people mover, a 1 euro monorail ride to the Piazzale Rome - the centre of the universe in Venice as the main vaporetti (water buses) call here. Numbers 1 & 2 get you to the Piazza San Marco via the Grand Canal. As we were there overnight we bought 24 hour hop on / off tickets at the ATVO office in Piazzale Roma. Otherwise there is a ticket office at the Vap stop. In the evening a lot of people did a gondola ride - average of 60 euros each. We didn't
Kotor: This small and ancient town is at the head of a "fjord", the top part of which opens into a massive lake with the steep mountains all round. Can be walked round in minutes from the tender dock.
Piraeus (for Athens): We had been before but the wonderful Parthenon Museum has only just opened. So we jumped on a train and, after changing at Syntagma Square (no riots that day), got off at Acropolis. A 5 minute stroll and we were at the museum.
Be warned it is a dusty 25 minute walk to and from the station in Piraeus, so you might prefer a cab to the station. The port was as grubby as ever, but the dieing abandoned dogs were a terrible sight as they licked gutters and the backs of Coke fridges for moisture.
Istanbul overnight: Wonderful City. Clean as a new pin with a great and, again clean, functioning public transport system. We docked late so had to take the ship's tour in order to cruise up the Bosphorus. Although expensive (Â£85 each) we were on a lovely sleek new river cruiser. Drinks and nibbles on deck on boarding. An excellent guide who described what we saw as we cruised to the furthest point allowed. For the return half we repaired downstairs for a beautifully prepared dinner, finishing with apricots and T Delight. We arrived back at the centre as dusk fell and the bridges lit up. Magical. Next morning we took a tram from out side the terminal to visit the key sites. My partner wanted to wander more than I, so after 3 hours I jumped on a tram back to the ship. I felt completely safe.
Kusadasi: Took a tour to Ephesus that we bought in the terminal. 20 Euros each. We were a party of 12 in an airconditioned mini-bus with a charming guide who had excellent English. Hugely enlightening and enjoyable.
Santorini: The chaos at the landing stage has to be seen to be believed. After 40 minutes in the beating sun (35 in the shade) waiting to board the cable car I returned to the ship. My partner made it up after an hour. Not fancying the queue again, he walked back down - 1600 steps, slithering in donkey doo-doo. Don't bother.
Mykonos: A charming island and the town itself is very pretty despite the number of tourists.
Split: Where Diocletian built his palace and the people following built their City into the very fabric of the palace. Wonderfully interesting with a very attractive waterfront. We could happily holiday there. Ice cream is as good as Venice.
We used HAL transfers which made getting to and from the ship a piece of cake. The flights were BA and were to time. At Heathrow, the border police were at their best and we were through in less than 10 minutes.
Disembarcation was not until a very civilised 09.30 as we were spending the night in Venice. There was a short walk and wait at the Vaporretti terminal for pur waterbus to take u s direct to our hotel. This gave 8 of us a splendid ride down the Gudecca and Grand canals until our driver took the short turn up the Rio Moise. Our hotel was the Bauer, on the edge of the Grand Canal. What a position. as we were only in Venice overnight, I feared for the room out look. But we looked down on the Campo Moise, with a birds eye view of touristas scurrying to the Piazza San Marco, only 200 yards away.
The hotel is palatial, our room bright and airy with a marble filled bath room. Excellent breakfast was inc luded. For this we were "forced " to sit on the terrace watching the gondoliers drift by.
Transfer tio the airport was a private water taxi for the 2 of us and a prompt flight home. Beware though it is a long hot walk from the taxi terminus to the terminal building.
Hope all this helps.