Then we started reading the reviews which made us wonder if we had booked the wrong holiday - however, we both take holidays as they come and make the best of anything so we went with an open mind. Embarking in Venice we were on board in no time and soon located our cabin, which was immaculate, spacious and well laid out, it was bigger than we expected and didn't feel cramped at all (have stayed in smaller hotel rooms!). There was plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space, with a bathroom more than adequate. If we needed anything, our cabin steward Emerico would sort it for us, he was always smiling and polite and the room was constantly cleaned with fresh towels twice a day.
The ship itself was immaculate. It is lavishly decorated and always clean. Bars and tables always clean and cleared away promptly, the staff worked incredibly hard to maintain the standard. We couldn't fault this ship and its staff at all, and Melissa, who was the English speaking host was always very helpful.
The food on board was readily available and the selection was amazing. There was something for everyone and we couldn't fault it at all. One late night we popped up to get a snack and there was fresh pizza, pasta, cakes and fruit, more than enough for anyone! The chefs and waiters all worked hard and were always cheerful and smiling, it seems that nothing is too much trouble for these hard workers.
Announcements were made in lots of different languages, bearing in mind it was an Italian ship and the majority of travellers were Italian, Spanish, French, German with a handful of English & American. We were told that anything relevant to us would be in English - simple!
As a first cruise, we couldn't fault this at all - our theory is if you go with an open mind then you wont be disappointed, and we were certainly not disappointed. We have now decided that cruising is something we will definitely be doing again!
We booked quite a few excursions and had heard it was chaos trying to get off ship - NOT the case at all. It was well organised and easy. We stopped at Bari & Katakolon and did our own thing.
Compared to the arid appearance of the Greek islands, Dubrovnik was very lush and green and looked beautiful from the ship. The town itself was spotlessly clean and very traditional and although their currency wasn't the Euro, they did accept them.
What we did see of Mykonos town and Little Venice, it was very pretty and idyllic, I would have liked to spend more time there to walk around the narrow streets and sit and watch the sunset on the harbour with the Windmills but it was all too rushed and this spoilt it. If you get the chance to stop here, spend the time in the Town enjoying the chilled our atmosphere.
We had a fantastic guide Dimitri who looked after us perfectly. A lovely time in Lindos and a visit to the Acropolis was well worth the climb (which could have been done on a donkey too!) The view of Lindos and St Paul's Bay from the Acropolis is spectacular and hadn't changed since my visit in 1986. We stopped off at a hand made pottery shop before a lunch in Faliraki at a hotel and time to use the hotel facilities, pool or beach. The meal here was amazing, pasta, Greek specialities, salads and more with wine included! The afternoon was spent in the old town Rhodes before making our way back to the ship (which was within walking distance but a coach was available if needed).
Our last excursion was the gondola trip in Venice which personally was a waste of money. We were rushed through the streets and to a gondolier who was less than friendly (perhaps because it was an arranged trip?) and a ride which lasted less than half an hour - my advice would be to make your own arrangements for this, you would get more value for money by bartering!
Venice itself is an amazing place. It is lively and buzzing. It is busy around St Marks Square as they day gets going, but walking through some of the narrow streets you almost feel you are alone but for the occasional gondola slicing through the water.
By lunch time the Rialto Bridge is packed and the best view of it was from a restaurant on the waters edge. ( Also a welcome shade from the midday sun!) I have lost count of the amount of people who say the hear it "smells bad" in Venice. I don't think it smells any worse than places with water - again, the streets are clean and the water is not littered with rubbish, if this is what stops you visiting Venice then you really have to visit it yourself to feel the magic of this place.