Aug. 18, 2013 sailing from Venice to Barcelona: As retired New York teachers now living in Fla. almost 20 years, we have many choices of cruise lines and itineraries. We thought we would never vacation in the summer, but we do want to get away from the heat of Fla., so we chose our vacation by the ports, not the cruise line. We were pleasantly surprised by what HAL gave us: great service, excellent and abundant food choices, our "wish-list" itinerary, comfortable king-size bed & verandah; Oneg Shabbat wine, challah, etc., attentive staff. The location guide, Tom, was offered a wealth of information, history and suggestions for places to visit on shore.
Too bad we only had one day at sea! We used our time wisely and were off the ship at every port at 8:00 AM - walking every city at least 3-5 miles each day. We used Cruise Critic Message Boards to find groups to join in Dubrovnik, Naples and Rome.
We used the transfers offered by HAL for Florence and Barcelona. Then were were able to navigate on our own. We would highly recommend those transfers to all passengers.
Regarding our flight connections: Paying extra for Custom Travel, we were NOT pleased with our plane seats and had to negotiate better ones on our own, but HAL's handling of our transfers from the airport to the ship and back again were OUTSTANDING. They were efficient, prompt and competent. We were ushered to clean buses and helpful and knowledgeable personnel who got us to the airport and/or ship without any issues. They should be commended for their precise handling of passenger transfers. This is worth whatever they charge.
On a scale of 1-10, my husband and I rate the cruise a 9.3.
Lacking: FREE WIFI, better shows, better and less costly excursions with more precise descriptions of the excursions. Why do cruise lines keep secrets....like when the formal nights are, etc.
Would we go on another HAL cruise? Yes.
Another old city. We walked around on our own and went back to the ship for late lunch and
We took the ship's bus into the city (1 1/2 hour ride.) We had 5 1/2 hours to tour on our own. We had been to Florence 23 years ago and the synagogue was closed at that time. This time we made it our first stop at 10 AM. We waited for it to open inside a lovely kosher cafe - Ruth's Cafe - which is next door. Anyone who enters the synagogue must first lock cameras and back packs in a locker before entering. Each visitor must go through a revolving X-ray cubicle. The synagogue is a treasure. The museum commemorating the Holocaust had very interesting photos and captions. We enjoyed standing in the second floor women's balcony and looking down on the main sanctuary. There are several displays on the second floor. The first floor has the main sanctuary and a gift shop. We bought a lovely wine bottle stopper made in Murano.
Then we walked for about 45 minutes in the opposite direction to the Pontevecchio Bridge. Of course, there was lots to see on the way. We enjoyed the straw markets and did most of our shopping for leather goods here. Too bad so many items are made in China, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and no longer manufactured in Italy.
Walked into city ourselves. There wasn't much to see. Went to local market and went to ship to experience quiet and relaxing aft deck with sun and music. We created this afternoon as our "day at sea."
We had been to Venice before. We got off the ship as soon as our luggage was in our cabin and we explored the city for several hours. It was very hot and very crowded. We had no problem taking the ship's transfer to the water taxi.