We stayed at the HAL recommended Hotel Melia Barcelona before the start of our cruise and took the HAL transfer to the ship. This was the first time for my husband to see some of the places that I have been to many times. We started our cruise with a Trip Advisor tour of Sagrada Familia church the day we arrived in Barcelona. The next day we were transferred to the Nieuw Amsterdam by bus with other travelers who were staying at the Hotel Melia. The cabin wasn't ready when we boarded so we went to have lunch in the Dining Room while we waited. The cabin was better than we had expected with a hugh veranda. I had arranged a meet & greet for fellow Cruise Critic travelers so those of us who had planned shore excursions together could meet before we started out. It was great to finally meet people we had been corresponding with for the past 6 or 7 months. Our first port was Marseille, France. This port you can do on your own. The ship supplied a shuttle bus for 14 Euro each round trip and then we took Rick Steves advice took the Le Petit Train from the Old Port up to Notre-Dame de la Garde (8 Euro each). Our next port of call was Monaco, here we did a private tour to Nice, Eze and Monte Carlo with Rivera Premium Tour (38 Euro each) for a group of 8. Our next port of call was Livorno. Here we did another private tour with Share a Shore Excursion in Italy to Pisa and Florence (85 Euro each) for a group of 8. All of our private tours got us back to the ship in plenty of time to board. The next port of call was Civitavecchia, here we did a ship tour called Easy Rome ($94.95 each). It was a bus ride to and around Rome with a 1-1/2 hour stop at the Vatican. My husband uses a wheelchair so this was a perfect fit for us. Our next port was Naples where we did another Share a Shore Excursion In Italy tour to Herculaneum (60 Euro each) for a group of 6. There was also a fee of 11 Euro each to enter the site. If you have walking issues this is a better site than Pompei because the streets are not as hilly as Pompei. I had been to Pompei 3 times and knew my husband would not be able to do any of it, so that is why I choose Herculaneum.
Now we had a day of rest at sea and we arrived the next day at Katakolon, Greece were we had another private tour arranged with Katakolon-Express to Olympia with a group of 18 (60 Euro each). We toured the Olympia historic site and the Museum and then had an included lunch at a nearby restaurant in the garden. The next port was Corfu, Greece, there was a free shuttle from the boat to the terminal which we took just to look around. We didn't do any tours here at all and just went to the duty free store at the terminal and went back to the ship to rest. Our next port was Kotor, Montenegro which is another port that you can do on your own. The highlight at this port is the sailing into the port and to walk the wall (which I did not do) up the side of the mountain. The cruise director did a running commentary on the sail into this port. We just walked around the old city and stopped to have lunch at a café then it was back to the ship. Dubrovnik, Croatia was our next port and is another that you can do on your own. There was a shuttle bus from the ship to the walled city of Dubrovnik (14 Euro each). You can not walk from the port to the city it is a long, long walk. Our final port was Venice, Italy and the sail into this port is not to be missed. I have been to Venice 4 times and this was something that you can only get to see on a big ship. The views of the city were magnificent. Venice is a city you can do on your own with a good guide book. Here we took Rick Steves advice again and took the People Mover (1 Euro each) to the Vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal. Here we bought tickets for the Vaporetto (16 Euro each/12 hours) and validated our tickets before boarding the #2 to San Marco. We walked to San Marco Square going past the Bridge of Sighs and into the square past the Doge's Place and the Basilica. Found a boarding place for a gondola ride (80 Euro for up to 6 people) and checked something else off my husband's bucket list. The ride lasted about 40 minutes and went down some of the small back canals and out into the Grand Canal and then back to where we started. It was worth 80 Euro to take a once in a lifetime ride in a gondola with my husband. Then we headed back to the ship the same way we came via the Grand Canal Vaporetto and the People Mover. It is a long walk from the ship terminal to the People Mover and an even longer walk back to the terminal because you are now going to the other end of the terminal to get back to the ship.
This is the end of our cruise and we disembarked the following morning. There were not porters or luggage carts inside the terminal to help with your luggage and it is long walk to where the transfer bus parking lot. We were rushed to get out of the terminal and to the bus which I didn't like especially being I had to handle the luggage by myself. I did find a luggage cart outside the terminal (2 Euro) to load the luggage and carryon luggage on to take to the bus. Didn't realize until we got to the airport that I forgot the transport chair but we did get our monies worth out of it on this trip.
The entertainment on this trip was great and the staff on all of HAL's ships are outstanding. I love when we are on a cruise and a staff member that we met on a previous cruise remembers us. That happened on this cruise when two different staff remembered us and one of them was from two years ago. The only thing I would say about this cruise is you have to realize that it is very port intensive and you are going to be tired if you try to do everything. So rest when you can and enjoy the cruise and the sites.