This ship was absolutely beautiful and I always felt like I was getting on the best ship in port. It is classy and comfortable. A real pleasure.
The one thing about this cruise that let me down was that fares came down substantially in the few months before the cruise HAL only refunded a very small percentage. Whilst it was still good value for money, we felt somewhat cheated.
Embarkation from Venice is a little difficult but only if you are not prepared. I think HAL should provide a bit more information about embarkation from Venice. There is a people mover that leaves from Piazzale Roma and takes you to the port. Getting to Piazzale Roma can be tricky if you have a lot of luggage. From Santa Lucia station you can take a vaporetto to piazzale Roma (which can be crowded in summer) or wheel yourself over to the Piazzale. It is probably only a 500-600m walk but there are a few bridges and stairs although some ramps have been installed. Once you are on the people mover (costs 1 euro per trip) it is a quick ride to the port. At the port there is a lack of signage but follow the crowd and you should be ok. It was also unclear that there were staff taking your luggage before you reach the check-in area. Have your luggage ready and tagged early on.
Check-in was very smooth and took no time at all given we had completed online checkin. There was a bit of a walk after that to the ship through an elevated platform.
I suggest that if you are not very mobile, take a taxi directly into the port from Piazzale Roma.
Outstanding. Particularly noteworthy is Tamarind which had a really interesting menu. I highly recommend the green tea tiramisu! We had breakfast, lunch (when we could fit it in) and dinner at the main restaurant and we found this to be much better than over-eating at the buffet, although we never went hungry! The in-room breakfasts were also of good quality and never cold.
We did not attend any 'shows' as this was a port-intensive cruise and we had no energy. However, there was a string quartet playing from 6pm near the main dining room and this was lovely. There is also a hidden chocolate tray where they perform if you can find it! My travel buddy and I are both young adults and we were not bored at all on this cruise. We met many fascinating individuals, especially at dinner. We stopped by one of the performances of the HALCATS and the cruisers were having a great time. We were unsure how many people much older than us had the energy to be dancing after long days in port!
Greenhouse Spa thermal suite:
Amazing! The thermal suite is a great place to reduce the pain of sore feet.
We took HAL shoretours in Rome and Naples. Having not been to either of these ports before I felt like the tours did do these port justice although having the freedom to do thing when and as you please was sacrificed. I felt this was especially so at the included lunches when I felt that I could have chosen something much better. You also feel that you need to attend in case you miss the group and they leave without you. The tour guides provided by HAL were excellent and very informative.
However, you simply CANNOT expect to see Rome in a day, tour or no tour.
We arranged a private (8-guest) tour of Florence and this was definitely a better experience than the HAL tours as a smaller group, you have more flexibility to wander off the beaten track somewhat.
Ports in general:
The itinerary was great. We were on the Mediterranean romance cruise which sailed from Venice to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Argostoli, Santorini, Catania, Naples, Rome, Florence and ending in Barcelona. In most of these port prepare to do more shopping than you would have otherwise hoped!
This was a great way to holiday! I would not hesitate to book with HAL again but probably closer to the cruise date!