Itinerary: Monte Carlo -Livornia-Civitavecchia-Sorrento-Naxos-Rhodes-Kusadasi-Piraeus (Athens). Dates: 10/22/05-10/30/05. Our experience: me (4th cruise mostly HAL previously) wife (15th -HAL, Crystal, Carnival previously).
Embarkation: Flew into Nice, met at airport and placed on bus. Driven to a hotel. Left in a large room with complimentary drinks and treats and told to stay put for about 3 hours. Much grousing from fellow passengers. Aside from going to the bathroom, nothing to see or do. Finally bussed to ship, boarded and went to room, luggage showed up an hour later. Rating: 2/6
Cabin: Nice size, clean. Separate shower and tub. Whenever you opened the door to shower, you were met with a blast of sewer gas. Cabin attendant pleasant but not around all that much. Slow to restock no-cost minibar. Telephones do not work that well. Nothing special about cabin to kick up above rating of 4 out of 6.
Food: Despite all the wondrous reviews that they insist you see every time you turn around, we found it "eh". Portions are always small and despite 4 foot long elaborate menus descriptions, very little on plate when you get it. Wine steward poor - pushing a red and white every night but can't handle a significant order well or gracefully (and insists on your room card to charge it the second you order it! Where does he think I'm going to go before drinking it???!!!)
Waiters: some Filipinos great (and, significantly, trained by other lines) whereas Caucasians very mixed in quality. Many did not work well as a team e.g. one offers pepper and then another shows up 5 minutes later and offers it again.) Dessert tea does not hold a candle to the midnight one done by HAL. Only heard one other passenger think the food was "great". Most were disappointed. Would only give them a 3 out of 6.
Restaurant decor: very average. Nothing stands out well nor are there clear themes. Therefore, why bother going to Signature or Latitudes restaurants? La Veranda/Mediterranean Bistro good. Compass Rose definitely blase. The menus are not all that attractive.
Ship decor: clean, neat, unimaginative. Ship well-kept. Seems to be a good ship crew. Had our first ever bridge tour- no other captain has ever allowed on any of previous cruises. Captain conducts tour himself with second officer. Captain very friendly, shakes hands, pulls out charts to show you things, very nice (unlike on Crystal where Captain refused to shake hands for "health reasons".)
Security: Minimal They hold your passport so you are bopping around foreign countries without significant ID. Swipe your guest card and you are on or off. Only had my purchases inspected at two stops. Metal detector turned off most of the time (my wife has pacemaker so has to ask every time- that is what she was told). Fellow passengers: this is not a cruise for anyone under 50. Lots of diamonds well-dressed and courteous. Only one formal night which seems a waste of time to pack a tux for.
Families: as above, forget the kids for this one. Also, twenty-somethings will be reading a book.
Shore excursions: Completely incompetent. Packaged for the 50 plus crowd. Spent 8 days on the Mediterranean and could not get IN it the whole time. No diving, no snorkeling, no beaches, no boat cruises, no whale watches, no sailboating etc. etc. Tours poorly organized and over priced. The tour people only know what the shore agents tell them and they don't try too hard to find out things for you. Personalization of tours as we did for Rome is very expensive and the people they find for you not that good or knowledgeable. zero out of 6 for this.
Spa: Spa treatments good with La Carita. Gym smallish with treadmills that don't work well consistently. HAL ships much bigger gym with better quality equipment.
Disembarkation: crowded with lines, confusing. Bused to Hotel Intercontinental where bus driver left our bags IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET and drove off!! Long wait to check in Radisson people running around shouting but not achieving anything. Once checked in, Hotel Intercontinental wonderful. Room service so good we ordered everything on the menu and ate like starving refugees. In the morning, we were supposed to catch a bus by Radisson to the airport but they had screwed up so bad the day before we just got a taxi and did it ourselves (had to eat the voucher) but got checked in quicker. 0 for 6 for this.
Overall rating: 3 out of 6. They do NOT rate 6 stars in anything and I don't know who is giving it to them. Will cruise other lines. This ship and line don't rate a repeat and are not worth the extra money you pay.