Ok... this is going to be a tale of what you might expect to consider , encounter or anticipate if doing a 20 day cruise starting in Venice Italy and comprised of first a 12 to 14 day eastern med cruise and a 14 to 20 day transatlantic cruise.
First is the getting there: the best way into Venice is by Train arriving at the Mestri station not the Venice central or terminal station. It will cost 35 euros to take you right to the ships check in... no water taxi, drag the bag hassle. Only Mestri has real auto cabs. Make note that no Italian train station has lifts for baggage or porters. This is unlike the rest of Europe.
Where to arrive: either Frankfurt or Zurich because of the fact they have baggage and the train station in the airport next to each other. Both cities offer better air connections, schedules and fares than do Italian. Finally, both Germany and Switzerland are far cheaper then anything in Venice... like 1/2 the price. If you fly in and take a hotel then next day a wonderful trans-alpine trip before the ship which I thinks adds to the variety and spice of the adventure.
What class of cabin:....... Because of 2 factors the trans Atlantic potential for big seas and seas up to 30 ft and the heavy port schedule, I choose main deck and an inside because if the extra space , ease of access to everywhere on the ship and the lower you go the lower the price and the less the motion.
Clean clothed: Holland has an excellent laundry service for$7 a day, unlimited if you buy it in advance. On board it will cost 30% more. its the best value on the ship and a 30 day cruise...or any cruise. Excellent!!!!
Shore Excursions: When the ship has to tender in for a port..take the ships tours, if not take the your own. Be aware that in these hard times there are no more free shuttle bus service to towns from the pier. Expect to pay $6 to $12 per person each way in many ports.
The ship: ...... There is nothing on this ship that is not first class if not outstanding, food, cabins staff, service, decor....well everything for that matter. Go read an other review if you want to get super details of every square inch.
As you read those reviews you might consider that complaints are more based on, I think personality rather than reality. I could find nothing after being on the ship for over a month.
On the subject of food... after trying every restaurants on the ship at every time I came to the conclusion that the best place to eat is the Lido.
Why? ..... Well because the food quality is the same as the Main Dining Room, but doesn't take the 2 to 3 hours to get fed. They have everything including Lobster and best of all you can pick and choose. Mix and match way better to your tastes than the menus offer. Trimarand is excellent too but they have an Asian section of the Lido.. Italian as well.. And you can dress up or down as you and the time feel like.
Remember that in half the ports you will be doing flat out touring 9-5 and get back to the ship beat. Several nights we just had soup and a small salad rather than getting all fixed up for the dining venues.. I am sold on the Lido for all future dining... all in all you cant beat it.. and I am a foodie with cordon bleu tastes... The lido is real not faux.
Now the passengers:......... There will be 2 distinct sets. The first will be on the eastern med. They will be well traveled, outgoing and well, behaved, polite and mannered fellow spirits.
The cruise will seem much like you were with old friends, even if you just met. These passengers will be paying about $2000 per person for 12 to 14 days.
Then the Trans Atlantic portion begins, and 3/4 of the eastern cruise get on
Many new passengers will be there because of the fare that are in the 700-800 per person for 17 days . Some will be there for the free food, others the cheap room and others just saw it as something to do .
Suddenly there were people shoving in lines everywhere, publicly berating and cursing staff members and insulting them shaking plates,saying more-more loudly to staff, Many carried 2 plates overflowing with food and then going back for more.. like an animal house. Some even saw a lady going down the main deck feeding and ice-cream cones to her pet dog !!! and bringing it to the dining table.
Manners ceased to exist it was amazing to see such a stark change in a ship overnight.
In the lounges and around the ship acts of vandalism, name carving, prying picture off walls, stealing fake flowers...everything ! This went on and on, even to the extent that several days ,the Captain and Cruise director both had to come on the PA to call attention to these events and threatened to close some of the public spaces..
.An older man prying open desks of staff and during one game of trivia, We all observed ,a lady who boldly walked quietly by us and stole all the prizes, This ,while the game was going on !
Several people too had phones and computers they left unguarded ( including Barante) stolen. In my 20 years of cruising these types of incidents were a first!
Maybe its a sign of the times.. but the tone of the cruise sure changed the second half.
Even the staff commented on it. Just be aware that as prices come down so may the experience you hoped for. In the latter half security patrols were stepped up and made very visible.. things eased a bit.
So, IMO my simple opinion, I would be very aware of , on your cruise, who might be your fellow passenger. They might not be what you expect...I didn't. As price comes down get your guard up. you do get what you pay for.
So...Take the Ship...I have spent almost 7 weeks on her, and have nothing to complain of NOTHING.. not about anything what so ever
But be aware the passengers can make or break any cruise.