Rotterdam - Ancient Wonders - Eastern Med and Black Sea - October 2006 We are a married couple in our late 50s. this was our fourth HAL cruise and our sixth cruise overall. We chose this trip for the itinerary. Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Alexandria, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Constanta, Odessa, Varna ending in Athens. We flew to Venice from Toronto using FF miles. It was long but not unpleasant. We had a six hour layover in Munich. We booked our own hotel in Venice the Ca Fomenta very nice.
This was our second trip on the elegant Rotterdam. It's a lovely ship, just the right size. It was nice to know our way around. The ship is in great shape and the crew is professional, hospitable and efficient. Our cabin was outside on the Main deck aft. There was lots of room for our three suitcases and their contents. The cabin is well designed but I wish there were more electrical outlets. I packed a power bar this time which came in very handy. Shipboard activities were okay. The speaker from University of Washington gave lots of information about the Black Sea and the countries in the area. I went to one of the Culinary Arts Demonstrations - it was interesting but the items cooked were pretty simple - volcano cake and bruschetta. This was a very port intensive trip so we weren't depending on much else for entertainment. The library is well-stocked with a variety of books. We didn't use the internet. The Lido pool was great for swimming lengths. We didn't use the gym or spa. We enjoyed drinks most nights before dinner in the Ocean Bar. Great dance band and the service was great. I love the way HAL staff learn your name and remember it throughout the cruise. The classical trio in the Explorers' Lounge after dinner was wonderfully relaxing. The dining was excellent in the main dining room. Our stewards quickly learned our preferences and took care of all the little details. The food was tasty and plentiful with lots of variety and flavors. I love the Dover Sole on Dutch Night. We ate in the Pinnacle twice it wasn't as good as I remembered - the second time was very mediocre. We were served bland prawns on a cedar plank that were called Scampi in the menu. I can tell the difference.
We booked mostly private tours except for Constanta, Romania where we took a shore excursion to the ruins at Histria - one of the best museums we saw, and in Istanbul because it was a Tuesday and the only way into the Topkapi Palace was through ship's tours. The HAL tours were well run and the guides spoke excellent English but I'm not really a fan of large busses and big groups trying to listen to one person. On our private tours in Egypt and Kusadasi we traveled much faster and learned more from the individual attentions of the guides. The ports were all interesting - there wasn't nearly enough time in any of them. There were moments that I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. We saw the pyramids and sphinx at Giza, the ruins at Ephesus, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the steps in Odessa, and the beaches in Corfu. The day spent cruising through the Dardenelles was exceptional. The area has such a rich history.
We had two CC meets in the Crow's Nest. We weren't joined by any of the cruise staff or officers. I must say that we had the BEST roll call group ever. We are still active four months after the cruise. It was so nice to know people before we boarded. We arranged private tours together and shared lots of research and advice. I'd heartily encourage everyone to join their roll calls now.
We disembarked in Athens. As we had arranged private transport we were some of the last off the ship which was fine with us. We spent three days, post cruise in Athens and were very busy seeing the sites. We took a daytrip to the ruins at Delphi¬incredible!