We booked a Deluxe Veranda Suite through HAL and arrived at Civitavecchia around 2:00 PM for embarkation. We opted to take Italian rail from Rome at a little over 5 Euros each rather than the exhorbitant rates charged for transfer by HAL. The Civitavecchia train station is about a five minute walk from the port entrance, and there is a free shuttle from the port entrance to the ship. Absolutely no wait at embarkation, so we walked right onboard.
Our stateroom was immaculate and was kept that way for the entire ship, our stewards were superb. The condition of the ship was excellent and was spotless and well maintained throughout. The staff at the Neptune Lounge were always helpful, especially after my cruise partner had her luggage lost courtesy of US Airways. US Airways, BTW, made almost no effort to reunite her with her luggage until Athens when the cruise was almost finished. The girls in the Neptune Lounge however were great and loaned her clothing and personal items from spares they had in stock and kept on US Air in an attempt to get her luggage to the ship ASAP.
The ports of call were all very good, except Katakolon. We opted not to go to Olympia since the time devoted to it and it's size and condition seemed to not be worth the trip. Dubrovinik was extremely crowded with two ships in port, but was ok otherwise. Corfu was nice, Santorini nice but Oia I found to be kitschy. Ephesus is magnificent and a must see. For $240 we had a private tour guide, private vehicle and received a personal tour of Ephesus, Mary's house, Terrace Houses,the Ephesus museum, ruins of the Cathedral of St. John and Temple of Artemis, Mosque and lunch topped off by coffee at the home of our tour guide, Bulent Orkus. This was about the same price as the HAL tour. The private tour was worth every cent. Athens is all about the Akropolis. The Plaka is mostly a tourist trap, but has some nice areas off the pedestrian zones. Messina was an afterthought. It was a feast day in Messina and we left just as it was staring, Palermo would be a better stop. Time would not be an issue if they eliminated Katakolon and Olympia. Local transportation between the ship and towns/attractions were at least one tenth of the price of the HAL shuttles at the port. I cannot see why anyone would use the HAL shuttles when the local transportation at all ports of call were adequate.
The ship's staff were all extremely courteous and helpful, which is one of the reasons we have been faithful HAL customers. The food on the other hand, has steadily deteriorated over the past few years and is now simply unacceptable. Some items that are braised are excellent, such as the osso bucco. The lobster served with the surf and turf was inedible. The filet was tasteless and poorly cooked. The food at the Lido trough was mediocre at best and atrocious at worst. I am not overly picky, but I do expect good quality food. Pinnacle Grill food was quite good except for the steak Diane which was doused with way too much brandy and not "cooked out". The dining room staff worked hard, but it appeared that not enough staff were serving too many tables. IMHO HAL has tried to keep costs down by cutting back on food quality, quantity and the amount of wait staff. The celebrity chefs who attach their names to the HAL menu really need to make an inspection tour and see what is coming out of the kitchen.
Disembarkation went smoothly without any problem.
We will not be sailing with HAL in the future. This is entirely due to the poor quality of the food. This is unfortunate as the staff and maintenance of the ship are outstanding. We have noticed the quality of the food deteriorating over a period of several years, so we believe that it was not an aberration, but more indicative of cost saving measures by HAL. We would not be averse to modest increases in prices if food quality was not sacrificed. It is time we checked out Seabourne