My mother and I took this cruise to see Europe, and take a trip together. She is 78, and I am 44, so I knew it was "now or never". I booked through the cruise line, early on, and kept tabs on the pricing, and as the cruise prices dropped, I would call and complain, and, in the end we were upgraded to a "superior verandah". People will tell you get the smallest, cheapest cabin, that is so untrue. We used the cruise line for air travel and transportation to and from the ship-for both arrival and departure for the end of our cruise.
The ride from Rome to Citavecchia was 1 hour, but we had a comfortable ride.
Embarkation was a little disorganized, and, of course, this is your first impression, so I hoped that this wasn't what was to come. After the embarkation debacle (long lines, impatient travelers), we easily got on board, and were DELIGHTED to find that our room was so beautiful and spacious! Our verandah was huge. The bathroom was large and spacious. I am so glad they upgraded our room, we wound up spending a lot of time there, sitting on the verandah, or watching tv, to relax before dinner or after and excursion.
Long story short, the cruise line bends over backwards to ensure you have a wonderful experience. The room stewards were phenomenal-pleasant and efficient, and, yes, they learn your name from day 1. The dining staff was also just as good, pleasant and polite. I wish I could say the same for some of the passengers we encountered, but I suppose where ever you go, you will encounter rude people. We did 5 out of 7 excursions, which were superbly planned out to every detail, the lines to get off and on the busses could be long, but you have to expect that with such large groups. Holland America, in general is super organized, which is comforting. When we were at Athens, Greece, we decided to "go it ourselves" and we may have saved $25 or so, but in the end, we didn't see that much, so I think we would have been better off with a cruise excursion. People tell you to go it on your own, to save money, but I think the cruise line does a better job. It may seem expensive, but you get a tour guide and the comfort that you are in a group and the ship will not leave with out you in case the tour runs late. My only "issue" was with the food. I didn't think it was particularly good, just mediocre. Everything seemed to have rosemary in it- the pizza, the gravy, the chicken breast. I am not a huge fan of the spice. However, on the upside, I didn't overeat.
In general, we had an amazing time on a beautiful ship. Met lots of wonderful people and saw unbelievable sights. Here is my tip to future travellers: take cold medicine. I took everything for stomach issues, but nothing for sinus or congestion. By the last 3 days of the cruise, I had a low grade cold, and would have loved some decongestant. In fact, half the cruise ship was coughing or complaining of sinus problems. Throw some cold medicine in your bag- you may be glad you did!