This was our fourth HAL cruise, all which have been in the Mediterranean, and this itinerary was almost identical to a cruise we did in 2010, with a few different ports. Our first sailing on the Nieuw Amsterdam, we found the ship familiar as we have sailed the Noordam, Eurodam and Westerdam on prior sailings.
We were a party of four, with mom and sister sailing for the first time with us. My sister's luggage was delayed/lost and the Customer service folks on the NA were fabulous in taking over the attempts to track down the luggage (both the airlines, and our trip insurance people had not been extremely helpful in the 2 days prior to the cruise)
Embarkation was the longest we have ever endured, and compared to our prior sailing from Venice, we were a bit surprised with the crowds and the wait. We were allowed access to our room immediately, however, and got settled in. Unfortunately we were on board too late to partake in the HAL Meet and Greet in the Digital Workshop, but we managed to swing by our Roll Call meeting during sailaway.
We met our cabin stewards Anees and Dody, and they quickly followed through on our request for additional pillows and remained attentive and cheerful for the remainder of our cruise. We did however have to keep asking for a new laundry bag, and are unsure if this is a new policy for HAL.
Our dining steward Yopi was marvelous. Our dining experience in the MDR was good, but not exceptional. The beef dishes early in the cruise were lacking. I did order the duck twice when it was offered on the menu, and it WAS exceptional! The chilled fruit soups are what I live for, and they did not disappoint. Our wine steward was a little pushy, and grumpy and we were not inclined to purchase wine by the bottle (I didn't drink that much this cruise and none of the wines really appealed to me anyway)
We did dine in the Lido for dinner several times as well. My mom went back and forth, first saying she thought Lido food was better, then MDR was better. Coffee was sorely lacking in Lido, as expected, but better in MDR. In all, dining experience in MDR was typical. The only time I wasn't impressed with the menu selection was on the International night.
Entertainment wise, the BB King Blues Band was phenomenal. Unfortunately they were performing so many times, that their sets became extremely routine, so after a few days it was repeated. Female vocalist was amazing, and the musicianship of all tremendous.
The Piano bar was a huge, huge disappointment. Were were spoiled rotten on our first cruise on the Noordam in 2008 with our Piano bar entertainer, and none have been as good as him.
We did dance at Northern Lights one night, until they changed the music over to modern stuff I don't like!
We peeked in on a few of the shows, but nothing appealed to us.
Unfortunately, my mother got a URI, which was aggrevated by the air handling system onboard the ship, as she was worse at night in the cabin. Thinking it was an allergic reaction (she has chemically induced asthma) to detergent, we had them change out the linens and wash in plain water. Customer service gave us a bottle of wine and an apology note. Since none of us really wanted the wine, we returned it with a 'thank you but no thanks, can we have OBC instead?" which they did grant. 5 days later I came down with URI, and many, many folks onboard did as well, as coughing was heard everywhere by the end of the cruise.
We did do a few spa services; manicure for me, pedi for sister, relaxation package for mom and DH got a massage which was a very good deep tissue sports massage.
We did our own excursions at the ports of call, as we have traveled to most of them before. Unfortunately, due to high winds, we were not able to visit Lesvos as anchoring and tendering would not be safe. This was of course, disappointing, as this was one of the two different ports that DH and I had not visited. However, we love this itinerary and love Venice and Istanbul, and we felt we got a lot out of the cruise in general.