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.