The boarding of the ship in Istanbul went smoothly no long lines. Our cabin was ready as soon as we boarded we met our friendly cabin stewards and then headed to the Lido for lunch. On returning to our cabin after lunch to our surprise our luggage was already there so we unpacked an settled into ship board life.
Our cabin was what we expected clean and comfortable. We had booked a VE gty and had an upgrade to VA (when we booked 9 months before we could not book any verandah category only gty on all levels) our cabin was on deck 8 towards the aft under the Sea View Deck. It was under the designated smoking area. This created a lot of chairs noise on our ceiling it was even louder if you were sitting out on the balcony.
The noise could be from 5:30 am to anywhere after midnight. After not being able to get to sleep the first night my husband went down to find out what could be done as he could not put up with the situation for 32 more nights. The front office staff were excellent advised us that the cruise was fully booked but they will contact Seattle to see what could be done. 24hours later were advised we could have a cabin change at the end of the first. 11 day sector in Athens. The cabin was on the other side of the ship about 6 cabins further forward. We took the change of cabins it was still under Sea View Pool deck but it was much quieter we could sit out on the balcony without any noise as well. We were on a full day tour the day of change over we left our bags packed and clothes hanging in the wardrobe when we arrived back everything was moved across for us.
We had breakfastat at the Lido, Main Dining room and Room Service. The Lido was good we loved the fresh orange juice. Our dining room experience was just ok we went a few times just to make sure we were not being biased. The service was not great my husband asked 4 times for a cup of tea. The orange juice was not fresh just a mix. Room service seemed a bit hit and miss a couple of things we ordered did not arrive one time, then another time it arrived at least 1/2 hour earlier than the requested time frame.
Lunches were had in the Lido and a few burgers from the grill at all times found the food very good and the deserts just far to tempting. The selections of ice cream each day was wonderful.
We had early assigned dinner had a great table for 6 looking out the aft window. The meals on the first 11days were just wonderful every night all at our table would say how good everything was. Unfortunately there was a notable difference in the quality, taste and tenderness in the meals for the rest of the cruise. This was a great disappointment to us. Some of the menus were repeated which we expected and were very happy about. I know food can be very subjective but I am comparing food choices from same menus over the 33 days.
The entertainment was enjoyable the musical shows by the ship entertainers was excellent we particularly liked Droom. The guest entertainers were varied and tried to meet most people's needs. Some we thought we great some just ok but the ones we did not enjoy was probably due more to our own likes and dislikes than the quality of the performers.
The captain and crew had to deal with a GI Virus for 15 of the 33 days we were aboard. The crew worked tirelessly sanitising everywhere for the cabin and cleaning crews it must have been exhausting. I can not praise everyone of the ships crew for the work they did during that time to try and get the Virus under control. Fortunately we did not get the bug.
We took a 33 day Thermal Suite package but because of the GI Virus we could not use it for 15 days we were reimbursed pro rata days of non use. We really loved the Thermal Suite it was so relaxing after a long day in port.
We had 2 port changes because of unrest. Port Said and Tunis we were pleased that HAL was thinking of passenger safety.
We enjoyed every port we went to although we were shocked at how dirty and rubbish bound Egypt was. We did one ship tour in Egypt not brave enough to to a private tour. The tour we did was good. At all other ports did private tours with other CC members, shared taxis or used hop on hop off buses as well as using Rick Steve's Ports of call Mediterranean book. What we noticed was that the private tours were at least 1/2 the price of ships tours.
We had a wonderful wonderful cruise and the small things that annoyed us will not stop us from cruising with Holland again
What we will do different next booking is not take a cabin Gty we will only make a booking if we can pick a particular cabin.