We flew from Australia to Rome and had 3 days in Rome before catching the train to Civitavecchia. I had booked this online, it was cheap and easy and a definite alternative to a transfer or taxi. The walk from the station at Civitavecchia to the port entrance is not at all difficult, takes about 15 minutes and if you have wheels on your lugguage is no effort at all. You can even stop for refreshments along the way.
The boarding process was quick, easy and HAL staff managed it all with professionalism.
Our cabin was as expected, everything we needed with our own verandah and plenty of room. I had read a tip of taking a length of rope to allow the door to the verandah to be kept open. We improved on the suggestion and can now recommend a length of bricklayer's string to complete the job! It's great if you want a bit of fresh air in the cabin.
I won't bore you with every detail of every day but will list those things I believe can add some value to your planning process.
* We bought the unlimited laundry option. It was $140 US and worth every cent. each day I would bag it up and it reappeared each afternoon or early the following day. A couple of polo shirt seemed a little smaller and I hand washed delicate items, but it was a great service.
* We didn't do any HAL tours, thought they were over priced and did not want to be part of large numbers on tours. People who did use HAL seemed less than impressed on most occassions.
* Dubrovnik - We shared a taxi 10 euros to the Pile Gate. You need to exchange some money to local currency, it's the same rate everywhere. Americans seemed surprised that Croatia had their own currency and even a little miffed that the operator of the Wall Walk wasn't keen on an AMEX card.......it's the old saying 'when in Rome"....the town is great, the food terrific (look further than the main street) and the wall walk and cable car worth the effort. From the wall walk you can see a couple of little bars on the outside of the wall...access is through small doorways off the streets inside the wall.......not too hard to find and a great way to finish the day.
* Corfu - we shared the day with CC people who had booked a car with corfutaxitours.com. They seemed to have several cars, all mercedes and all with english speaking drivers. It was 180 euros for the 4 of us. The day was prefect and I highly recommend.
Santorini - for those that are fit and agile, do the walk from Fira to Oia. Took us about 3 hours, not all easy and good shoes required, but wonderful views and through great village streets. Terrific restaurants in Oia at the end of the walk. Shared a taxi back for 15 euros. the donkeys are the quickest way up or down........I don't do lines for cable cars!
* Ephesus - was one of the highlights!!!!! A fellow CC member had booked a bus and guide for 25 and it was $30pp. When arranging a tour make sure it includes the " Terrace Houses".....an absolute must!
Athens - catch to train. it's about a 20 minute brisk walk right around to the far side of the port area, but the train was only 1.40 euros and drops you right in town. Walk up the hill to the Acropolis and do it all early before the crowds.the markets in the centre of Athens are great fro those who are 'foodies'.
Messina - did a CC arranged 1/2 day trip to Taormina for 6 @ 42 euros pp. A lovely 1/2 day. Those who stayed in Messina did not tend to enjoy.
Livorno - I had arranged a day trip into Tuscany for 8 @ 550 euros for the car. It was voted a huge success by everyone. I booked with tuscanytours.net ( Marco is the owner, Fabrizio was our driver). We did little villages, a private winery tour and wonderful lunch just for us (18 euros pp for perhaps the best meal of the holiday), wine tastings and enjoyed the most wonderful scenery. Highly recommend!
Monte Carlo - it was a public holiday and we had planned to catch to local bus to nice. Only 1 euor pp and it takes you all along the coast. You catch #100 bus at the stop in front of the brasserie under the red awnings in Place D'Armes. (its on the HAL maps provided).
* Barcelona - on/off bus not a bad option, but you can waste time if you don't have a plan. Best food in the evening is in Placa de Reale, great restaurants around the placa, wonderful atmosphere.
* Palma - rather than stay in the town we caught a little 100 year old train to the north of the island and a little village called Soller. 17 euros pp. The views along the way were great and terrific coffee/food at Soller. You can also catch the tram from Soller down to the beach.
* Palermo - taxi for 80 euros shared by us 4 of us to Monreale and The Catacombs. We enjoyed both.
Naples - don't miss Pompeii . We had 8 of us on CC arranged trip for 60 euros pp to Pompeii and down Amalfi Coast as far as Positano. Great views.
Now for the SHIP - the food was only average. The best spot to eat was in the dining room not the Lido. Don't bother with le Cirque or The Pinnacle, no additional value for the additional cost. You can bring on your own wine and pay $18 corkage which is far cheaper than drinking poor wine at high prices charged by HAL. We tried the piano bar and other venues with music but none of it really worked and I don't think we are really hard to please. Australians and New Zealanders need to get their heads around the $11 pp per day gratuities. We were appalled by people reducing the amount to NIL in some instances claiming " its not our custom"!!!!! get over it, it's part of the salary for the Indonesian & Filipino crew. We found the people and their cheap excuses an embarrassment! Anyway we had a great trip, I don't know if cruising is really us but it was a great way to get us from A to B in comfort and the crew etc could not be faulted. hope some of the tips help in your planning.