6 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Holland America Oosterdam Cruise Reviews

Part of our deal was a two night stay in Barcelona which was a great start,embarkation was good and quite rapid.Balcony cabin was as expected with kingsize bed,large TV with plenty of films etc.The bathroom including tub was OK,goid hair ... Read More
Part of our deal was a two night stay in Barcelona which was a great start,embarkation was good and quite rapid.Balcony cabin was as expected with kingsize bed,large TV with plenty of films etc.The bathroom including tub was OK,goid hair products and dressing gowns.Good storage for all our clothes. Dining in the Lido restaurant was good and the only drawback for us was you are unable to serve yourself at either breakfast or lunch but soft drinks and tea,cofee were readily available all day. Evening meals on Freedom Dining option were nice with good choices mainly on North American tastes.All staff all over the ship were professional,well trained and happy in their work. Entertainment was OK,something for everyone we especially enjoyed the two pianists in Billboard on Board at happy hour every evening.Because drinks are well overpriced this is the only way we would have a drink as the second drink is priced at one dollar as wine etc is extortionate.Of course at these times the bar was crowded and at other times empty.No surprise there. All extras were so expensive from drinks,spa treatments and the shore excursions completely overpriced that we avoided at all times.They even added service charge of 15% and sometimes vat in port and even corkage of 18 dollars on a bottle bought on shore even if put into storage until dissemarked. As European we used the public transport from Barcelona onwards as the trains are well run,on time,clean,frequent and very cheap.We understand that North Americans would not like to trust this way of sight seeing and I suppose just pay up sometimes hundreds of dollars which benefits the cruise company. A lot of the guests were from America and are more casual even when dining on gala evenings and often came to dinner in jeans,t shirts and trainers.So that might appeal to a lot of guests as dressing for dinner seams to be going out of fashion. We enjoyed the ports of call which was the main reason to book this cruise and the weather was also lovely but because prices for extras are too dear probably will not cruise with HAL again. We would also like to praise the pool areas with comfortable loungers ,clean waters and hot tubs which were very welcome after a day walking through the interesting ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We had always wanted to go on a Mediterranean Cruise but never thought we could afford it. Last Spring we found a great deal for the 12-day Oosterdam cruise so we took advantage of it. We stayed in Barcelona for a few days before the ... Read More
We had always wanted to go on a Mediterranean Cruise but never thought we could afford it. Last Spring we found a great deal for the 12-day Oosterdam cruise so we took advantage of it. We stayed in Barcelona for a few days before the cruise and staye din Rome for two days after the cruise. The cruise line handled the transfers with ease. Overall we were very pleased with Holland America. We thought the food was better than Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. This was our first time using open seating and we liked it. However, service at dinner was pretty slow at times and I'm not sure why. Well we weren't in a hurry so it wasn't a major issue for us. The employees are very friendly and great to deal with. My bed was uncomfortable and they tried to make it better for me but the mattress was just too hard for me. The entertainment, on the whole, was pretty mediocre (few exceptions). I also would have like a few more options for things to do onboard. We did not book any of our excursions through them, instead we connected with passengers using the Roll Call and that worked very well. We would go on Holland America again and liked that it's not a party ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Sept 4 oosterdam 12 nights VD 7097 Bucket list: Barcelona and Rome with a Sept 4 2016 cruise in the middle. This was perfect. We saw lots of places that would have been difficult to get to on our own. We took the initiative ... Read More
Sept 4 oosterdam 12 nights VD 7097 Bucket list: Barcelona and Rome with a Sept 4 2016 cruise in the middle. This was perfect. We saw lots of places that would have been difficult to get to on our own. We took the initiative and booked our own tours, or just ventured out on our own whenever possible. Cruise Critic was great for helping to organize others to go with us. This was fun because many of us were on the same day tours in different ports. I highly recommend joining the tours after doing your own research. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Getting on at the beginning (taxi from B&B) and off at the end was a breeze. During shore visits getting on and off was very fast and easy as well. We were going to take the distant train to Rome, but joined with others for a van and were glad we did. We were drenched just walking to the nearby van in the downpour. Shore Excursions: Always did our own thing on cruises. Itinerary: Note: we always use Rick Steves for planning then take him along on our trips. :} We sure were glad we opted to end at Rome. For those going on, the departure was moved earlier and was cut too short to really see much because Rome is so far from the cruise port. Turkey was also cut out at the last. We stayed 5 days in Barcelona and 5 days in Rome on either end. Some of the land tours were headed by 1 person but a local guide took over at certain locations. What we enjoyed very much were the small tour groups we were with and the opportunity to mix in with the locals when we did our own thing away from tourists. We met lots of really nice helpful people and hubby had some very interesting conversations in Spain. Barcelona outings: Gaudi buildings (Sagrada Familia is a must), Montserrat...too far, too many people in very long line all at once. Not worth it. We got tired of crowds so ventured to Sitges, a decent beach town but we stumbled onto the nudist beach. Oops. Jazzsi club for a Flamenco show we loved. Authentic, tiny local venue, open seating anyplace you fit, affordable small bites. Non touristy but the show we saw was amazing. I didn't really know what real flamenco was till then. Girona/Pals/Palafrugell: Viator tours. Worst tour we have ever been on beginning to end. Too much too fast. No information the entire ride. Some simple ‘this is where Game of Thrones was filmed"….and very basic history. She knew very little. No mention of the cathedral or Girona stone. We were pickpocketed (and caught them) in Girona so there was no time to see anything because we spent it all looking for a police station which was locked. Be very careful. Guide wouldn't let us tell the rest of the group so they could check their belongings. Pals was fast in and out. In Palafrugel we were left on our own to eat and swim for about 2 hours. Swim didn't happen...no time, or place to change. Because we didn’t have reservations for any restaurants, they wouldn’t let any of us in to the places the guide recommended. One place took pity on us and squeezed us in. The entire time we sat there the empty tables at the other places remained empty. Reserved. That should never have happened on a tour Maybe we were just in a bad mood…..but others weren't happy either. Cadiz: we took the train to Seville on our own. Very hot! Take water from room and buy water when you get off train. The ship sells water as you get off but it is often more money. We had plenty of time to get to Seville and back. Gibraltar: No free transportation from ship to 'town' so we walked from ship to tram. There were lots of taxis along the way offering services up to top, but hubby knew they were more expensive than taking the tram. If you can't walk far, take the taxi because it is a long way. We took the tram up and walked up even higher and then walked back down to town. We don’t recommend this if you are not in good shape. We skipped the main monkey event but saw enough… a pink souvenir stuffed monkey stolen, a bag of oranges stolen, tug of war with old lady over her bag while onlookers watched and took pics (we were up above wondering why nobody helped) and a man's glasses stolen. I don't find that cute. St. Michaels cave is just another cave BUT there is an amazing cross-section of a huge broken off stalagtite. The view from top is amazing if you venture up. Walking down is long and dangerous the closer you get to the bottom. We had plenty of time but it was 8 hours of walking. We added another hour in town before returning to the ship. Malaga: Spain Day Tours trip to Granada/Alhambra very nice with Debbie. Great guide Maria at the beautiful alcazar. Alicante: Shuttle from Ship to edge of public area. We opted to take Rick Steves' advice for the easy to do L1 or L3 metro away from the tourist/cruise ship beach to San Juan Beach. I have seen many beautiful beaches and this one is one of the tops. It was huge, not crowded in September, and beautiful. When we returned to the ship we looked at the nearby beach - overpacked with people and not very pretty. On returning to the pickup point for the shuttle to the ship, some of us were lectured about being late. We had the paper that said what times the bus ran and we had plenty of time. The driver disagreed and was put off. On another note, if the ship head count showed everyone was back on the ship, it would leave port early, if possible. Palma- This port disembarkation process was confusing. We were told there was a bus for 5E each r/t to take us to town center or we could walk the 1 mile to town center. I was miffed that they charged. We paid for the bus which took us all the way to the cathedral area, not the 1 mile, several miles. Then again one could have probably caught the on/off bus and taken it to the cathedral, but I don't know. Cruise director said there was a tourist office at the end. (of what? we never found one where the bus took us). This was our 'funeral' day. My 96 year old father-in-law had died unexpectedly the evening of our arrival to Barcelona. We opted to not return home (7 other kids were there) and it was decided this would be the best day for the funeral and for is to listen in from shore as we couldn’t from the ship. We hung around town, visited the market, took the hop on/off bus the full loop. The castle Believer was pretty from a distance but not worth a separate trip except for the great views. The Cathedral was a lovely place to sit and meditate. Toulon: Tour to Marseille and Aix en Provence. Marseille was better than we expected. Aix was pretty but we ran thru it very fast and didn’t really get to see much. I wish we had more time there. We had a great group bathroom experience there. :) Very expensive waterfront restaurant with things most Americans don't eat and none of us were very hungry. There went my little French bistro experience… Calvi: We wanted to take the little train in town but the disembarkation guide from Calvi told us there wasn’t one. When we said there was and asked were was the stop she said to not go, just stay in town because that is where we should stay. Well, we did. We toured the fortress, saw a little tribute to the American pilots, took a walk up top to a cemetery and view, walked the boardwalk past the never ending stretch of rented beach chairs to a place in the sand for free. Water was too shallow to swim. Not much there. We should have taken the train. Monte Carlo: Italy tours Monte Carlo, Nice, Eze. It was a rainy, overcast day but we enjoyed the tour in spite of no great scenery pictures. Eze is pretty much a beautiful old town on a hilltop but it is all tourist shops. No need for a long stay if you are not a shopper. Tour included a stop at the perfume factory. which was a waste. Nothing was working. Their day off? I couldn’t understand a word the young factory guide said. She showed us the basics of scents and what may be a working demo on another day, and then led us into the store to shop. Nobody in our group bought anything. We were anxious to leave. However, Monte Carlo was beautiful and we really liked Nice. Livorno: ItalyTours. One of our better tours (but not best). We enjoyed the beautiful rainy drive to Florence (crowded). Most memorable was our Florence and Museum guide. She had a true love of the statue of David and her detail in educating us was remarkable. We came away with a greater appreciation than we would have had if we had gone on our own. We were dropped off to wander Pisa and take photos. Thats all. We loved the beautiful and interesting tower. Sadly there was a long line to get tickets to go up in the tower so we just wandered outside and took pictures. Rome: Viator trip to Vesuvius and Pompeii was our favorite tour of the entire trip. We had 2 amazing guides Becky and Sarah and their information at the end of our tour would have been very useful a week sooner! We should have done this trip on arrival to Rome. It seems we had an experienced bus driver, compared to the one ahead of us. The bus will leave you if you are late...and it did leave two people that didn't return when guide told all of us it was turn back time. Take water and rent the walking stick! Good Pompeii guide. Pizza afterwards went smoothly although I can’t say I came away loving italian pizza. Vatican- MUST get advance tickets! Even with them we didn’t know where to go. We found a guard that said ‘stand there’ and eventually he let us in the line. 40 years ago things were much different. Too many people this time. We had a hard time keeping up with our guide and I lost her a few times with all the pushing and shoving. Stark contrast to the feelings one is supposed to get. No photos. Look, step, look, step, look, step…and eventually you are out of the chapel. Half our postcards we mailed from the Vatican Post Office didn't make it. Coliseum- we still haven't received our refund for the rained out lower level tour ticket. That lower level tour would be hard to do on a shore excursion. The Coliseum is a must do even with headphone tour. We went to the San Calisto catacombes via foot, metro, bus, foot…great day away from crowds on Sunday. I have to make a note that I am an avid geocacher. That, combined with the fact that I typically prefer to not use past paced tours and go at our own speed, where we choose, my opinions are a bit colored. We were not allowed time to 'see' as much as we wanted but it gave us a taste of where we would go back to. About the ship: Cold, cold, cold. We were in ideal Mediterranean climate. Outside was perfect. Cabins were perfect. Interior of the ship was a refrigerator. Many of us were wearing coats. The Queens Lounge where many of the events are held was a refrigerator. So we rarely went there. MainStage was only slightly better but we went every night. Only once did I feel comfortable inside and that was a window seat at pinnacle grill. It took us awhile to find our way around, which is normal, but this time it was longer. I had no deck plan map. The other cruises we had done gave us a ship map. When I asked for one I was told there aren't any because the plans are in transition. We had to rely on the maps at the elevators. We were glad our room was by an elevator so we didn't walk the wrong direction all the time, and hubby has a far better memory than I do. A printed map from home is highly recommended. I appreciated the hand sanitary stations all over the ship and as we returned. In spite of that, hubby caught a cold from others we had been on tours with, which possibly spread to others we interacted with before he knew. Unlike our last cruise, there was actually room to sit around the pool. After 2 visits I discovered there were 2 pools. :} (Amazing how long it takes to orient to the ships). There were always available tables and chairs when we went. Food: Because we were doing so many long shore excursions and traveling alone, we opted for the open seating which we thoroughly enjoyed. We were seated almost immediately and we met many wonderful people each night. When we walked thru the lower dining room we were able to greet many from previous dinners, or tours. This is a relatively small ship so you see lots of familiar faces each day- especially with the CC group. (btw, the meet and greet is worth going to) We learned that if you are seated at a large table (10 or so) that service is very slow. You wait for the table to fill before ordering. You wait for all to eat each course before the next. You skip dessert or take it with you so you can get to the show. You can also request a window table if you smile pretty. :} The food was good. I appreciate that the portions are smaller than we have had on previous cruises. I don’t have restraint so less is good. I felt free to order two healthy starters. Sometime about the 5th day I happened to ask the waiter (all of them are wonderful) if there was any way to get vegetables. I was craving veggies because those on the menu are mostly for decoration. a few slivers of something. He asked me if I wanted steamed, roasted, boiled…? Oh, JOY! he brought us a platter of mixed steamed veggies. Hubby and I downed those before our meal. We continued to order veggies thru the trip. Many items on the menu had alcohol, lessening our options to choose from.. Lots of seafood, which was good for me, maybe not for others. Menu got repetitive when limited. We also discovered a diabetic menu with yummy options. Too late. Tap water every night for us by our choice. At the end of the cruise I discovered herb tea hidden at the check in desk in the DR. One later reviewer mentioned there was fruit juice. I would have killed for it if I had known. Night snacking...we went to bed before the 'good stuff' came out, as we discovered one later night. Pinnacle was better than Canaletto, BUT we had complimentary tickets with our cruise purchase. I wouldn't pay extra for it. Service was very good. We chose to do them (reservation) on our sea days. For the first time ever, at the beginning of the cruise, we ordered our breakfast in due to an early start. It was there, it was good, I wanted to do it again. Hubby didn’t want to. I think he feels guilty. I now know after booking our next cruise on NCL that room service isn’t free anymore. WHAT? We then ate breakfast in the Lido cafeteria area many times when we had excursions and no time to wait in DR. It was impossible to find a table so we just started joining (butting in politely) with other diners that had empty spaces. Often there were tables with dirty dishes but we didn’t know if they were taken. The service was still very good and they tried hard to help us. Hubby loved the ‘egg lady’ and how she made omelets. It wasn’t until the last 2 days or so I saw someone at the pool with a HUGE chef salad and I was so craving a salad. The hunt was on. You can tell when you have been deprived. :} Another reviewer posted the staff will cook you something you request. I didn’t know they would alter the nightly menu because I did ask if alcohol could be left out and was told no. Activities/entertainment: Mediocre to great. Our favorite nightly was the mini orchestra group. I forgot their name, in the Lincoln center. Always crowded but it was nice to sit in the back and listen to the end of the program after dinner. On mainstage, the best was possibly Julian Gargiulo, pianist. The worst was the night of Flamenco dancers. We usually had a long lull after the mainstage show, wandering around looking for something to do before retiring. Nothing much to do. I didn’t go for the lively music in the freezing queens lounge. Not because of the music, it was good, just the discomfort. I would have loved to have had the Lincoln center open during that time so we could relax before going to bed. I found the show at Billboard not really worthy of my time but there were always people there with drink in hand. TV. Unlike other cruises, we finally have a very nice assortment of movies to choose from. Those shown in the theater were of no interest. Several days into the cruise we found the game lounge which had some nice options. For the most part, there wasn’t really much to do on the ship if you don’t want to listen to other people. No real outside activities. Some organized games we weren’t interested in. We just enjoyed the ride with fresh air from our balcony. Staff: I found the cruise director kind of annoying. Sorry. The Shore Excursion specialist Linda was pretty useless most of the time and I think we knew more than she did because of our research and planning. For example at a meeting about Gibraltar. Do the Taxis go all the way to the top? Does the tram? Can you walk up to the top from the tram? She beat around the bush and didn’t give an answer. Several of us wanted to know. She said she hadn’t been so didn’t know. That is her job. She had to be new to the route? When it came to departure for excursions, we never knew where we were supposed to go. The announcement said to look for a sign at the elevator. On the last excursion day I saw a 8x11 paper inside 1 elevator stating which floor to go to. I had been looking outside the elevators. Silly me. We often went in circles. Major props go out to the front desk staff. We found out the morning after we arrived in Barcelona (From Los Angeles) that my elderly father-in-law had died. There was no way to go home. Thru emails and phone calls we decided to participate in a remote funeral which was planned on a Shore day for us so we could have cell service. Elisabeth, from Munich, bent over backwards to help us with our needs. Unfortunately the staff was not ‘able’ to help us with our need to deal with a funeral. We paid just like everyone else for bad wifi to email out (make a copy before you send in case it doesn’t go thru) a tribute hubby spent our first sea day writing. They also couldn't help us with any type of connection. Our room team Agung and Aries were amazing. Dining room staff -amazing. All in all, we would love to sail HAL again. I just post negatives and tips so others are aware, just as I hope to read in other reviews. I am a big trip advisor reviewer and don’t put much weight on a ‘perfect’ with no comment review. :} There were LOTS of very negative ‘never again’ reviews. Like a previous reviewer stated…’Were we on the same ship?”. I agree completely. Room: Agung and Aries (VD 7907) cheerfully greeted us by name (how do they do that?) each time they saw us (a lot).What a great way to start your day. When I asked for a hairdryer that wasn't permanently attached to a lower cabinet I got it within minutes. (cord was too short for me to stand up). Room was always clean and spotless. I read some others reviews during this writing and am shocked at comments on rooms and stewards. We couldn’t have asked for more. They were always visibly working. This was our first balcony room (1st Celebrity was inside, 2nd RC was window, 3rd HAL was balcony). It was wonderful to be able to leave the door open at night or go out in the evening or morning and just sit. Room for two. 3 would be tight. The room itself was also much bigger than our others. I think it was just the design layout. Not having the box tv's makes a big difference. Since hubby wakes up very early we like to get a room where he can go elsewhere to read. At least the stateroom had a partial pull curtain and balcony. Very comfortable bed. Large enough bathroom with tub. We hand washed everything so had it strung all over the bathroom much of the time. We had plenty of closet space, although not enough hangers, and storage under the bed. Before our cruise I read a Critic recommendation to get a hair turbin towel due to the small towels. I followed the advice and it is my new travel 'friend'. It was a big help on the cruise as well as the hotels and travel for 2 months. I liked having our room just behind the elevators. Quick to anywhere. We used stairs to the dining room. We discovered 3 problems with the room: You cannot hear any announcements that are made. If we heard something we opened our door too listen. They said it should come over the tv, but it did't. We may have missed some important departure information. Usually it was just cruise director stuff we didn't care about. Tub wasn't draining- fixed immediately. Headboard lights stuck on or off- fixed. Bathroom sink hot water was scalding hot. They switched out the faucet immediately but it didn't help. Each time I turned the water on in the 'neutral' position I got burned, and I like hot water. It took a few days to retrain myself to put it at cold and turn slightly. Some other people we mentioned it to had also been burned. Beware. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Last minute choice. Rather overpriced but it did tick the boxes and I enjoyed it greatly, would consider using HAL again if a cheaper alternative did not include the ports I wanted to see. Always managed to find a sun lounger, even on ... Read More
Last minute choice. Rather overpriced but it did tick the boxes and I enjoyed it greatly, would consider using HAL again if a cheaper alternative did not include the ports I wanted to see. Always managed to find a sun lounger, even on sea days, though sometimes had to hunt for one. Staff mostly excellent and did not pester to buy drinks. Fruit juice available at mealtimes. Never had a long wait for a table at mealtimes with open dining. No noisy kids running round. ( Sorry, had my share of that). If I wanted to be picky: Wine vastly overpriced, even by restaurant standards. Don't like the standard service charge thing and had it removed, tipping those who provided better than average service directly. What's with charging for shuttle bus in ports where it was too far to walk into town ? HAL need to do a deal with port operators, the ships bring much trade to towns. Gibraltar. I've visited many times and they are getting very greedy and rather off hand with tourists, taxi drivers telling porkies to get trade etc. Heard some snide remarks in Spanish, (which I speak too). Hope I don't hear them complaining about Brexit or they will get an earful. Food repetitive ( but good quality) in Lido and all started to fall off towards the end as things ran out. Entertainment poor, even Thomson do much better. A bit of real music in the Lido area would help, got sick of the same canned tape. Excursions hugely overpriced, even walking tours. Around 2-3 time the cost of locally organised ones. On board staff seem reluctant to provide any information that may result in guests doing their own thing. Internet, as always on ships, a complete waste of time and money, too slow, too expensive to use. Is it technical or just greed ? How come the little train in Mallorca can manage high speed free internet and the cruise lines can't, even in port ? This is 2016, not 1990. Don't be put off by the moans, it was a good cruise and an elegant ship with the right number of guests. It's no party boat but that was just fine. If you can get a good deal, go for it ! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
    I and my husband (we 30 and over) took this cruise based on itinerary. It's our fifth cruise so we knew what to expect, we knew how it should be.  ... Read More
    I and my husband (we 30 and over) took this cruise based on itinerary. It's our fifth cruise so we knew what to expect, we knew how it should be.  /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}     We booked cruise shuttle from airport to the ship (only one thing which we booked through the cruise, because everything overprice). People in airport was slow and confused, did not know what to do with extra luggage event it was not full bus, but we got to the ship fine, embarkation was very quick and we were in a ship in10 min. We got there maybe 12:30, waited for room maybe 20 min.     Room was nice (a little old fashion, but its older ship so we expected that),enough space for luggage, nice size balcony. Then looked around, ship was clean,  small compare to previous cruise ships, atrium tiny. A lot of hand sanitizers all over the ship, we liked that, because we have been on the ship with norvovirus (no fun), but sad is that not a lot of people using them. Luggage came quick to the room. We packed 2 bottles of wine and wine opener of course. This way you don't need to pay any opening charges.      We had open seating for dinner, I think that's the way to go, because some days cruise leaves from ports after nine, this way you choose when to eat. Most of the stuff was Indonesian (mostly guys) and not all with the best manners.      Barcelona. We stayed overnight there. We walked first night to La Rambla street, it's about 30 min walk. A lot of young people there, a lot of scary people (you afraid that they will steal something and something like that), trying to sell some cans or who know what. But city itself very nice. Next morning we went back to La Rambla, this time took port bus (3 Euros round trip or 2 one way).Then we took the Hop on hop of 2 deck bus  (21 Euros per person one day), we took blue route, then I wanted to take red route but it was long line waiting to get on them and route take about 2 hours, so we didn't have enough time to do that (time change mixed our plans, we slept too long that morning). We just walked around, we used McDonald's restrooms for free, and then walked back to the ship (didn't want to wait in line for port bus). Before that I gave my Hop on hop of bus tickets away to one couple, they gave me 10 euros, so it worked well. When we walked we saw already people attending drill with the wests, we didn't go. How silly to do that, when people still ashore. I am Europe union member so I got letter that I need to bring my passport to front desk. We did, but front desk not helpful we heard so many different stories from them why they need my passport. Next day they where collecting U.S. and Canada citizen. My husband didn't give them, so they did a copy and said they will call in a room in case they would need to check original, never did.  (It's good idea to have certified copy, in case somebody would lose it.).       Monaco, Monte Carlo That morning we got the note, that we need to attend drill, but note came at 10am, drill was scheduled for 9 am, so we missed it again . They had tender boats from the ship to shore. We got there early so they announced that we can get on tender boats early, when we got to them, they announced that now will go only people who booked excursions, cruise director  Jason Venner was blocking the stairs checking  excursion stickers. He was rude, he said that now we need to wait almost an hour, but the boats were almost empty, so we sneaked in them anyway. EXPECT TO BE TREATED DIFFERENT IF YOU DON'T BOOK SHIPS EXCURSIONS. WHEN YOU GETTING OUT FROM THE SHIP THERE IS NOBODY TO GUIDE YOU WHERE TO GO.     In Monaco it's easy to walk (my easy means - people who fit), it's beautiful there. We walked first up to prince palace, then down toward casino (IF YOU WANT TO GO THERE, DRESS NICE AND KEEP YOUR PASSPORT, the reason for that, they don't let gamble for Monaco people.  They have beach there (not the best one), but if you planning to go there bring water shoes (rubber shoes); all beaches which we saw on a trip had a lot of rocks. Restrooms in Monaco was free, some places had plate so you can put some money if you want. It's just nice to walk there, peeked in Casino, and didn't go in.      On a ship it's really not a lot what to do. We didn't go to all shows; it was enough 2 first ones. The dancers not good, not graceful, singers just ok. I liked there costumes liked how stage moves, rotates. The last show with the car was o k, but it was more like a play, not a lot of dancing.  During the day most of the people ashore, then they go eat dinner, would be nice to use pool or hot tub after that  (GOOD LUCK,THEY CLOSED AT 7PM ,HOT TUB AT 9PM, sometimes even earlier with no notice. Back pool supposes to be adult, but nobody controlled that. It seemed that a lot of things cruise employees did for there convenient, it's always would be closed areas in buffet for stuff members, saw few couples of working people, I don't need to see their romances. We saw once how they where closing curtains in buffet on people heads. A lot of times I would bump in the worker, guess who needed to move ME, they didn't. Rush to eat before nine, otherwise you not find a lot, buffet after 9 will have just pizza and dessert, you can get room service (that's kind a nice thing) but menu limited, after 10 only few things you can get from them.    Internet cafe nice, together with the library, close to bar. We got 100 min for 55 $ plus 3.95 onetime connection fee. The internet really slow and in a lot of port we saw internet cafes, so if you don't need it for work better to take your own computer and go ashore, faster and cheaper.    Front desk always looked mean if you would have any questions. When our TV broke (power problems) we called them every 10 min, they didn't liked that, after over than hour they fixed the problem.   Next stop Livorno  Remember, you can't walk in port, only taxi or shuttle can be used. We didn't know that, we walked back, but then they told us to wait for shuttle (200 meters was left) we didn't pay, but usually it's 5 Euros for the day, it takes to Piazza grande.. We decided to take train to Florence, taxis from port to train 20 Euros, so try to find who would share it. I asked whoever I saw, we found one couple. Got round trip tickets (27 Euros round trip for both).  Train times were on July  8:11, 9:11, 10:11 don't forget to validate them in a yellow machine in train station, they don't have them in the train. But one couple forgot to do that; conductor said them to write date on a ticket. We got out at Firenze S.M.N.  Before that stop was Firenze stop. Don't get mix up. It's everything so close in Florence, easy to walk. We didn't go to any galleries or museums, so had enough time to stop at Pizza on the way back to Livorno. Train times 2:27, 3:27, 4:27, 5:27 we validated our ticket, got out at pizza stop, then used the same ticket back to Livorno. From the train station you can get on bus, but it's only 15- 20 min walk, you can't see tower from there, ask people. We went straight from the station, and then saw when to turn left. From Pizza train times where 3:45, 4:34, 5:34, 5:45    From Livorno train station took no 1 bus (that would work if you get cruise shuttle from piazza grande,but we didn't know that, so from the stop closest to ship we walked, a lot. So or share taxi, o pay for shuttle and from there no 1 bus (cost euro or something like that)      Civitavecchia From ship shuttle took us to port gate (for free, its only 5 min walk maybe 10) then we walked to train station, just few blocks straight ahead. (10 min). Got round trip tickets. Times where 8:41 , 8:59, 9:17, 9:41, 9:59. They gave without asking B.I.R.G (18 Euros for both of us), its work for buses and metro in Rome too. It's a lot of stops in Rome S Peters close to Vatican. But you can get out on the last one, then take bus, depend where you want to go. We got out at Ostensia stop, took bus to Coliseum (bus 60 if I am fight, I just asked people all the time). We waited in line for tickets 45 to 60 min. 12 Euros per person, for Europe union members 7.50 so get your passport if you want to get discount. We went to complain about that in front desk, after talking with supervisor,they said they will put difference on our card, guess what, they didn't so last day we needed to talk about that (and it's not about 4.5 Euros it's principle) but they looked at us like we would be crazy. This entire passport situation made a lot of problem for a lot of people. They just needed to inform about that in their website, don't you think?     Then we took the bus to Fontana trevi (we asked people again, which no to take). You can't see it from the bus stop, so ask somebody let you know where to get out. It seems confusing but it's really not. Then we took bus 62, it took us to Vatican. That we saw from bus stop. Then 40 or 64 bus back to train station, we went to Roma centrale, this way more likely you'll get seat. Trains comfortable and clean, restrooms not really. Times back were2:09, 2:39, 3:09, 3:39, 4:09, 4:39, 5:09, 5:14, 5:39, 6:05.   Messina, Sicily  we got in port at 2pm.  We wanted to take train to Toarmina, train station is walk able distance from the ship, but we got there close to 3 o clock, next train was at 4:05, we didn't want to wait, so stayed there. Train times from Taormina to Messina 3:55pm, 5:22, 6:41, 7:13, 8:36 (it's about hour ride)    It's really nothing what to do in messina, first everything close till 5 or who knows. It's really dirty in a streets, even poop (I hope it's just dogs), my husband decided to fish there, so we bought fishing rod and all other stuff (25 Euros we spent) and he fished for hour and a half, then I started to see strange people around, one guy was using some drugs from the bag, other kid (maybe 10) was smoking, a lot of people smoke in Europe. So we decided go back to the ship with the fishing rod, no problem.    Sea day finally we can relax and not rush anywhere. It was second formal night, first was on second Barcelona day. They had crab legs that day for appetizer. Finally they had karaoke, we went there, the list of songs was a mess, not all song artists in there, one girl was singing when we got there, the cd was scratched, cruise director was laughing, next to him some employee women was laughing with him, they were really "lovie-duvie" and then he's "ok, try again, first tell about yourself, but he's not intelligent, he even didn't lift his butt to feel this poor girl better, all karaoke was like a joke. So we left. Tats it, no more karaoke nights (so don't spent time practicing).    Navplion, Greece  They had tender boats there. We stayed there, its cute city. We walked by fortress and found road to beach, it was small, rocky beach, so we sat in there, had some drinks, just relaxed.    Katakolon  We decided to take train to Olympia, the train station close to ship,5-8 min walk, it looks like restroom building, very small. Tracks start there. First train was 8:36am, its only 2 wagon train which goes to Olympia and back (I think it's only one train). Cost 6 Euros for both of us round trip. From train it's close to Olympia site place. Tickets 6 Euros each, 9 if you want to see site seen and museum.  Then we took 12:05 train back, walked in Katakolon and back to ship.   Corfu We didn't plan anything there, just got out and walked, a lot. They had ships shuttle (16$ round trip, 9$ one way to old town.) We walked there in 30 min, then went to fortress (4 Euros each) its nice view from there. Restroom I used in McDonald, but you need code on receipt to open the door, or just wait for somebody walk in or out. Then we found tiny beach in a cafe territory, paid 1.4 Euros entrance fee, they had changing rooms, 1.5 Euros for sun beds, towers you can take from the ship. They return passports that day.   Dubrovnik  Ship had shuttle 16$ round trip,9$ one way to pile gate (old town). Don't do that, there is a public bus right there, take mokosica-pile bus,we paid 20 kunas it's about 3 Euros for both of us. Old town very pretty, then we walked to the beach, it was one closer, but we walked more and found more quiet, nice beach, with rocks of course. It didn't cost, just rented sun beds 20 kunos each (3 euro) they took Euros. Then back to the bus and back to ship.  That night ship had dessert extravaganza, it was nice, I missed strawberries dipped in chocolate, and they had a lot of cakes, crapes, some hand size desserts, but nothing too crazy.  Next day Venice  We loved Venice. We stayed there one extra night after cruise, so we bought 23H bus and water bus tickets, 23euros each. We used them a lot. They go from Piazzale Roma. About 25 min. from the ship. One way would be 6, 50 Euros per person. 12h ticket for land and water bus 16 Euros per person. Gondola rides 80euros, but you can find somebody to share the ride, 6 people fit, then the price not so bad. If you just want to go one time to Piazza San Marco then just use right there alilaguna water taxi, 6,5 one way. On Venice day you can set your credit card, you can adjust  tips which they adding automatically, Next morning we paid in cash what we owned to the ship, ate last breakfast and rolled with the luggage to the bus stop, took no.  5 bus to Russot hotel,  then went back to the city.      We had a lot of fun, from ship we expected more, but we saw nice places, had nice room with balcony (where we spent most of the time when in ship), had decent food. So we will have only nice memories about this trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
About Us: Our party of 4 was made up of myself and my husband (DH) (40's and 50's, British expats living in the USA for the past 20 years) and our daughter (DD) and her friend, (RHSD) both 15. It was the friends first trip ... Read More
About Us: Our party of 4 was made up of myself and my husband (DH) (40's and 50's, British expats living in the USA for the past 20 years) and our daughter (DD) and her friend, (RHSD) both 15. It was the friends first trip out of the USA and her first cruise. This was our 14th cruise and we have sailed predominantly with Celebrity. Our last 2 cruises with Celebrity (Med Summer 2008 on Galaxy and the Solstice Inaugural in November 2008) just didn't measure up to their previous high standards, especially when it came to food, so we were ready for a change. Our son was booked on a People to People Ambassador trip to Australia and this HAL sailing fitted perfectly into the period he was away. Pre-cruise: We flew from Washington Dulles on 4th July on Lufthansa to Barcelona via Munich. Service on board was like in the old days, with hot towels, complimentary cocktails, wine with dinner and after dinner drinks. Flights were on time and even though we had a tight connection and 2 coaching stands rather than gates, we made our Barcelona flight. Took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel 1898 on the Ramblas, just south of Placa Catalunya. Hotel was great and surprisingly quiet considering it's location. We spent time on the rooftop terrace, swimming, sipping Cava and eating tapas. The next morning we took a taxi to the ship and arrived at the port around 11:30. Check In To describe check in at the port as chaotic would be very generous. We checked-in online at home and had printed our boarding passes. At the terminal were given check in number 9 and then heard them calling number 12 to check in. Huh? We lined up and were at the check in desks in about 15 minutes. I think the agent we got was new to the job as she seemed very flustered. I had a notarized Power of Attorney (as requested by HAL) giving us permission to take RHSD on the cruise. The agent had no idea what it was, and then had a problem with my passport. Eventually a supervisor sorted it out and we were given our number 9 back for boarding. Of course number 11 was boarding by now so we went to the front of the line. After a brief photo stop we were onboard and herded into an elevator up to the lido deck. I asked if the dining room was open, but was told it wasn't. (Checking later on the daily programme it was listed as being open from 12 noon until 1pm, grrr!). To be honest I usually avoid the lido whenever possible as it is always crowded and there is never anywhere to sit. We eventually found a table out by the pool with Lena and the Halcats blaring out, and waiters constantly pushing wine cards, soda cards, cocktail cards, wine packages and sommelier dinners. I felt like my head would burst and just wanted to go somewhere quiet. Cabins Our cabin was ready at 1:30 and was just what we expected having had a similar aft VA on deck 4 of the Westerdam previously. The verandah was roomy enough for a chaise lounge, armchair and ottoman, chair and a small table, and the overhang from the deck 5 verandah covered about 18" of it. The bathroom was big enough for a bathtub, which was nice. The cabin was roomy and had space between the bed and the living area. The girls had an inside cabin nearby which was much smaller and only had a shower. Both cabins had the same stewards, Fullah and Neru who did an excellent job cleaning our cabin and did the best they could with the girls cabin. Suitcases came quickly and we unpacked straight away. There was plenty of closet and drawer space and the suitcases were easily stored under the bed. It seemed strange overnighting in Barcelona, as usually at this point in the cruise we are ready for lifeboat drill and sailaway. We decided to not go back into town and checked out the Crows Nest for pre-dinner drinks instead. Hmm. What have they done to the Crows Nest? I love the Crows Nest bar and I love the library come computer centre, but I don't think I like them together. We introduced ourselves to the bar staff and ordered what would become our "usual" - the split of Henkel champagne and a Corona. We had main seating dinner, 8pm, and our table (#92) for 4 by the upper level railing overlooked the staircase and a small landing on which we hoped they would sometimes have live dinner music performing. Unfortunately they didn't. I think it would have added to the atmosphere on formal night in a classier way than the creased white chair covers did! Our waiter was Jeffrie and his assistant was Riski. They did a really good job of taking care of us and coping with the girls picky appetites. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of choices and the high quality of the food in the dining room compared to our recent experiences on Celebrity. It was a pleasure to be forced to decide between 3 or 4 things that you would have loved to order rather than picking the one item on the menu that you thought you could possibly eat. Typically there were four appetizers, three soups including a chilled one, a salad, eight entrees and desserts. Additionally french onion soup, Caesar salad, steak and salmon were always available. We had been eating healthily before our trip so stuck with seafood, fish and chicken on the ship and really enjoyed our choices. Often fish is overcooked on ships but we found all the fish we ordered, bar one, to be cooked perfectly. We ate in the dining room 9 out of 12 nights. We were a bit worried about the Master Chef's dinner on the last night as I had read unfavorable reports about it online and didn't think we would enjoy it. Fortunately on the Oosterdam there was none of the singing and dancing that I was dreading and the only "performance" part was the Baked Alaska parade, which is pretty standard on all ships. We ordered wine with dinner every night but the last. I thought the selection was somewhat limited and overpriced - not too many bottles under $40. On the last night we brought our own wine to the dining room, a bottle of Prosecco that we had bought in Dubrovnik, and the wine steward was kind enough to open it for us and not charge us corkage. It was a very nice gesture and we appreciated it very much. We ate a couple of very nice breakfasts and lunches in the dining room, during its limited opening hours. The meals were always delicious and hot and it was a more relaxing alternative to the buffet. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill on two occasions, the first for the Sommelier Wine Dinner and the second for their regular dinner. I cannot enthuse enough about the Sommelier dinner, other to say that it is probably the best meal we have ever eaten! The dinner cost $69 per person and there were 6 courses, each paired with a wine chosen to complement the food. We started with a cocktail called Jade, which was champagne mixed with midori. First course was a caramelized orange scallop paired with a kir royale. Second was an asian style cod with pickled warm cucumber, paired with a chardonnay. Then came a wild mushroom cappuccino and pinot noir followed by "spoom". Spoom seemed to be champagne and sorbet in the same glass, a bit like a rich man's root beer float! After than came lamb paired with cabernet sauvignon and a selection of cheeses served with port. The final course was a grand marnier soufflE served with a glass of grand marnier. Then when we couldn't eat another bite they brought out coffee and exquisite truffles. It was truly a memorable meal! Our other meal in the Pinnacle Grill was also memorable, but not for what we ate, but what we didn't get to eat. All week, while eating healthily, we had been looking forward to Steak Diane, which comes with a mushroom sauce, french fries and a side of sautEed mushrooms. The sort of meal someone on weightwatchers would fantasize about for months! Unfortunately it was not to be as mushrooms were not available that night. How bizarre! We thoroughly enjoyed the main courses that we chose by default, the lamb and the surf and turf, but I can't help wondering how much better it would have been if we'd been able to have what we really wanted! Oh and by the way, the French fries in the Pinnacle were out of this world, and well worth the calories! At the end of the meal we were too full to eat our truffles so we asked the waitress of she could wrap them so we could give them to the girls. Not only did she wrap them, but she wrapped a couple of dozen more, so we had incredible pillow chocolates for the remainder of the cruise! We planned to eat in Canaletto the night we got back from Rome as we didn't want to have to rush to get ready for dinner after a long and tiring day. When we tried to make a reservation we were told Canalettos would be closed that night, but that the entire lido would be serving the Canaletto menu. We waited until 8:30 as we thought the crowds would be gone by then. Instead it was a seething mass of humanity. Apparently the ship tours had all got back late as President Obama was in Rome that day and roads were closed so the tour buses were unable to leave on time. All the tables were full but Boozee the bar waiter found us one that had just been vacated and said he would get us a bottle of wine and set up the table while we queued for food. He was as good as his word. The food wasn't great. Things like desserts and cheeses and the antipasto displays just weren't being refilled when they were empty, so towards the end of the evening pickings were slim. We retreated to our verandah with the bottle of wine and ordered shrimp cocktails, a cheese plate and a fruit plate and had a nice quiet picnic under the stars instead. We occasionally used the lido for lunch. We particularly enjoyed the asian station with it's soups and freshly cooked stir fries. Towards the end of the cruise we discovered afternoon tea in the Explorers Lounge. It was very civilized, with a selection of teas, scones, sandwiches and pastries served by a white gloved waiter. The scones were the best I have had outside of England. One day we went to Indonesian Tea served in the dining room. The waiters were wearing Indonesian dress and served Indonesian desserts and teas as well as the standard afternoon tea. Entertainment If HAL is streets ahead of Celebrity with its food, it unfortunately falls short with its entertainment. For late seating, the shows were before dinner, which was a bit of a rush after a day in port. Trivia and Name that Tune always seemed to be while we were still eating dinner. On the positive side, we saw 2 production shows, one was a dance show and the other a musical and both were excellent. The other great act was Leo Ward, the illusionist. His show was very impressive. He also performed as a comedian in a late night show early on in the cruise, which we didn't see. From some of the comedy he did during his illusionist show, I wish we had caught his comedy act as well. On the downside was a show featuring a tenor. We left after the first few minutes. Not really our cup of tea although lots of other people seemed to be enjoying him. Another night the entertainment was a "Mamma Mia" movie singalong. No thank you. We took dancing lessons before our trip and were hoping to be able to dance on board. There was a dance venue with live ballroom / latin music every night, but it was aimed at people at least 20-30 years older than us, and because the people dancing were of a very high standard, they did not seem to appreciate novices having a go. We enjoyed listening to the string quartet and thought how much they would have enhanced formal night dinners had they played live in the dining room. They played once in the Crows Nest during a wine and cheese sailaway party from Dubrovnik, which made a pleasant change. Lena and the Halcats were good, if only they had turned them down a little. The ship had a nightclub but the loudness of the music seemed to drive people away rather than draw them in. Volume for me really was an issue. We pretty much found the ship to be dead after dinner, which was disappointing. The worst night was when we left Taormina at 10 or 11pm, and the following day was a sea day. After the long tiring port days people seemed ready to party. There was a pool party which was fun (we finally got to meringue and salsa!), and very well attended, but which finished at 11pm. Our options then were to go to the nightclub which, (after nights of disco, Motown, music through the decades and 80's, that we were too tired to stay up for), was doing 90's music at ear splitting volume, so we didn't bother with that. We tried the piano bar, but that sounded like a load of drunks singing along with an out of tune piano player. Our last option was the dancing venue but after Moon River and Stranger on the Shore et al, we gave up and went to bed. I really feel they should have kept the pool party going until midnight with Lena and the Halcats, or played music that was more multi generational in the nightclub that night. If we thought the entertainment in general was lacking something, the girls found the teen club to be totally underwhelming. For starters 13-19 year olds were lumped in together and the activity every evening was playing card games. To make matters worse, the teens were not allowed to just hang out with their new friends in the teen room, but had to participate in the card games or leave. Every night in the daily programme they listed a "teen disco" and every night at that time it was card games instead. On other cruises they had Wii sports, guitar hero, karaoke, casino nights, scavenger hunts etc and we hardly ever saw our teens. On this cruise hanging out with the parents was more fun than teen club, and for a teen that is really sad. We did notice that the teen staff had other duties on this ship such as checking in people for shore excursions and accompanying tours. Perhaps the teen counselors were too tired to do their proper job well? The outcome is that DD says she won't go on another HAL cruise and RHSD says she doesn't want to go on a ship again as it was boring. Spa We used the spa twice for massages. We indulged in a couples massage and a hot stones massage. Both were excellent. I would recommend not using the spa flip flops as they were hard molded plastic and had razor sharp edges, and were quite uncomfortable. I have become smart enough over the years to never mention anything about my appearance or lifestyle that I am "concerned about" in the initial spa questionnaire as I have learnt from experience that this will lead to a sales spiel for some or other product, outrageously priced, that will supposedly fix it. This time I didn't write anything and the masseuse tried to sell me something for the black bags under my eyes! I thanked her for pointing them out, said they gave me character and declined the product, and to my surprise the hard sell ended immediately. I was thrilled. Lifeboat Drill Last year on the Celebrity Solstice we had our lifeboat drill in one of the specialty restaurants, which was our muster station. They showed a video and a passenger behind us prattled away on his cellphone the entire time. Some people carried their life jackets. We never saw our lifeboat station and I remember thinking how unprepared some of the passengers would be in a real emergency if that was the extent of the muster drill. On HAL, by comparison, we mustered out on deck, under the lifeboats, in our life jackets, men behind, women and children in the front. The crew checked that each of our life jackets were on properly and then did a roll call of all the passengers. The Captain gave a safety talk over the loudspeaker. This was much more realistic than on the Solstice and people paid attention. Smoking After enjoying Celebrity's smoke free cabins and verandahs, as a non-smoker I was a bit worried that HAL, permitting smoking in both cabins and on verandahs, would end up being the smokers cruiseline of choice, and a rather smelly experience. I was relieved when I walked in our cabin and it didn't smell smoky and only very occasionally did I smell someone smoking on one of the other verandahs. The aft pool bar was the cigar bar in the evening and that didn't bother us at all. On the whole there were only a couple of really smelly areas we came across, one was the casino and the other the sports bar next to it. The hallway outside one of the forward cabins on our deck reeked of smoke, and I was glad we weren't staying in that cabin next. It seems HAL has managed to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers pretty well although I think stopping smoking in the cabins would be a further step in the right direction. Ports We took an Eastern Mediterranean cruise last year and were glad that only 2 of the ports were repeated on this western Mediterranean cruise. Barcelona Day 2 We got up early, had room service breakfast and were off the ship and heading for the Sagrada Familia by 8:30. It truly is an amazing building and is currently under renovation so it was impossible to get a photo of it without a crane somewhere in the picture. Took another taxi to Placa Catalunya and headed off down Las Ramblas. Had a good look round the local market and then explored the gothic area and the girls did some clothes shopping. We managed to run into a demonstration outside a government building, and made a hasty departure when the riot police arrived! Took a taxi back to the ship and had a late lunch. Luckily the lido wasn't crowded and we ate from the asian station. Monte Carlo. This is the port I was most looking forward to as I had worked in the area one summer while I was in college and I was wondering if it was still as fabulous as I remembered it being. Had a lazy morning as we were not due to anchor until noon and then tender at 1pm at the earliest. We had a private tour booked and as tender tickets were not due to be handed out until 1pm we decided to go to the dining room for lunch. Our lunch was great. We had soup and fish and had a lovely table to ourselves by the window with a view overlooking Monte Carlo. Much more civilized than the lido. We had just ordered when they announced that they were ready ahead of time and had time to tender a few independent travelers before the ship tours were due to tender, if they got to the departure point quickly, not an option for us, but useful to know for the future. We picked up tender tickets around 12:45 (it pays to get in line early!) and were on the first non-HAL tour tender and ashore around 1pm. It was particularly rough (well to someone with vertigo combined with a fear of falling into the water when stepping on and off boats!) but we got ashore OK. We had booked a private tour for 7 of us through Revelation Tours for Euro 350 for 5 hours and were scheduled to visit Monte Carlo, The Rock of Monaco, Eze Village and Nice. Our driver/guide was Frankie. He suggested that as our ship wasn't leaving until 10pm, we could hire him for an extra hour for an additional Euro 70 and see St Paul de Vence, which he described as a stunning walled town, so we agreed. We started off in Monte Carlo by the Casino and the Hotel de Paris. It was fabulous and just how I remembered it. Next stop was St Paul de Vence and it truly was a lovely little town with narrow winding streets and bijou little shops. Stopped for a takeaway ham and cheese sandwich before heading off to Nice. Nice again was just as I remembered it. The palm tree lined Promenade des Anglais with its exclusive hotels on one side and the beach on the other. It was stunning and took me back to my youth. Next stop was Eze, a small village clinging to the rocks high above the coast. Despite us telling Frankie we really weren't interested in visiting the perfume factory, somehow we ended up there. Eventually we escaped and got to explore Eze proper. Our final stop was The Rock in Monaco where the Grimaldi Castle is located. From here there were stunning views over the harbour. It positively oozed money! Somehow we managed to tender back to the ship without falling in and changed quickly and headed off to dinner. Watched the ship sail out of Monte Carlo and had an early night as our next port stop was to be Livorno for Florence, and we had an 8am private tour booked. Florence We joined a full day tour of Pisa and Florence that a fellow CCer had booked through Unforgettable Tuscany for Euro 500 for a party of 6. We got to Pisa before the first tour bus and we had 9:30 reservations to climb the Tower. After that we drove to Florence and visited the Accademia to see the Statue of David. There was a very good Thomas Mapplethorpe exhibition there as well. Paolo, our guide, took us to lunch and ordered several traditional dishes for us to share. After that we had free time in Florence and then he drove us back to the ship through the countryside. Rome We had spent 5 days in Rome pre and post cruise last year and took a Rome and Vatican City private tour with Manilo Tranquili so the RHSD could see the sights. The full day tour cost Euro 500 for 6. Unfortunately our visit coincided with President Obama's visit to Rome for the G8 summit, so we had to rearrange the order of our tour as we had planned to visit the Vatican in the afternoon but discovered that it was going to be closed for the Presidents private visit then. We visited St Peters in the morning and then the rest of the day was a blur as we whizzed from sight to sight. We had planned to visit the Basilica of San Clemente but it was closing for lunch just as we got there. In the afternoon we visited the catacombs, which I thought were a let down. With hindsight, the hour we spent at the catacombs would have been better spent actually walking through the Forum and Coliseum. We left Rome around 4:30 as Manilo was worried about road closures for the Presidents visit. He was right. We got back to the ship at the time we expected, but some of the ships tours didn't get back until 8pm, due to delays and road closures. Messina This was an afternoon and evening port stop and we took the ships tour to Taormina and the Greco Roman Theatre. We did the same tour last year so there were no surprises. It's always nice to see Mt Etna smoking in the distance. Navplion This was to be our chill out day, just wandering around the port by ourselves. We were on the first tender to shore after the ship excursions. I had hoped to persuade a taxi driver to drive us to the top of the Palamidi Fortress, but they just laughed at us and said they wanted to do tours to Mycaenae and Epidaurus. One driver offered to take us for Euro 20 but I declined. DH and RHSD decided to climb the 900 stairs to the top and DD and myself explored and went to the beach for an hour. We met up again, wandered around town and had lunch before heading back to the ship. Katakolon We booked a ships tour to Ancient Olympia. The tour guide was superb and really brought to life through her narration what in reality was just piles of stones. She also accompanied us around the museum and highlighted some of the most important treasures. My favorite was the male statue that is said to have the most perfect buttocks! Katakolon itself was a good place for souvenirs - the olive oil soap was very nice. Corfu We took a taxi to the old town and explored by ourselves. Had lunch by the cricket pitch, visited the castle, and RHSC indulged in some shopping. Not the most interesting of ports. Dubrovnik Got off the ship as early as we could and took a taxi to the Pile Gate. Bought tickets to walk the walls and were among the first up there. What a spectacular view! You could see the sea and marina looking out and a myriad of orange colored tiled roofs looking in. Walked the entire wall and spent lots of time taking photos. Went into the town and explored a little then had a refreshment stop and had "toast" (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and sandwiches. Shopped for souvenirs and a nice bottle of Prosecco and were back onboard in time for lunch. Venice Day 1 Had a late breakfast in the dining room. Waiters were amazed when I ordered "Eggs Benedict" without the hollandaise sauce. I told them I called them "skinny benedicts" and they were for dieters, they said they called them poached eggs, LOL!! Went on deck and watched as we sailed around Venice and into our berth. What fabulous photo opportunities! We were berthed next to barges laden with fireworks for Redentore. I'm not sure whether the fireworks would be launched from that location or if they would be towed into the lagoon later. As we were spending one extra night in Venice, we decided to see if our hotel, the Olimpia in Piazzale Roma, was walkable from the ship with luggage. I don't know if it was the heat or if we are unfit, but we barely made it there without luggage! On the plus side there was only one large bridge from the Piazzale to the hotel. We went into the hotel and checked we could store our luggage there early the next morning and were told, no problem and also confirmed our reservations were OK. Decided to take the slow vaporetto and follow the Rick Steves tour down the Grand Canal. Unfortunately we couldn't get the prime outside seats he recommended, but made the best of the seats we found. Ended up near St Marks and had a quick look round and then decided to blow the budget and have a drink at the Cafe Florian. We happened to get there when they had music so straight away there was a Euro 6 music surcharge per person. We ordered 3 sodas, 2 club sandwiches and a milkshake and it came to a whopping Euro 101, but thankfully that did include the music and service charge. A once in a lifetime extravagance! We had timed tickets for St Marks and had a wander round. It was very gothic, dark and oppressive. Quite creepy and very different in nature to St Peters in Rome. Interestingly, people dressed inappropriately at St Peters were turned away. At St Marks they were given paper cover ups to wear that resembled the wraps they give you in doctors offices! As Redentore was the next day, St Peters Square had a huge stage in it so wasn't how I imagined it would look. By now I had decided that Venice was overpriced and overcrowded and not for me. Walked through the alleys to the Rialto bridge and took a vaparetto back to Piazzale Roma and walked to the ship. We were hot and tired and really hoping there would be taxis at disembarkation! Venice Day 2 We were among the last to disembark, between 9 and 9:15. We had skinny benedicts one last time in the dining room and then disembarked. There was a walk from the terminal to the baggage hall and then long lines for people trying to book transfers and water taxis. We resigned ourselves to dragging the luggage, but I was pretty sure I had seen a taxi rank, albeit and empty one, the day before. Today there were taxis there. Yes!!!! It wasn't cheap, but we got a ride to Piazzale Roma and dragged our bags over the bridge to the hotel. We left our bags in the left luggage room and decided to follow the advice we had read elsewhere ie "throw away the map and get lost in Venice". We started to follow the Rialto and San Marco street signs and came across a deserted square with a lone gondolier standing reading a newspaper. We negotiated a price and he took DH, DD and RHSD on a 40 minute ride. I explored nearby alleyways, canals and squares and settled myself down in a cafe just as they arrived back. Had cappuccino and pastries and then took the girls to buy masks at a nearby shop where the mask maker was crafting his masks on the premises. We revisited St Marks Square and then set off back towards the hotel, following the Piazzale Roma signs this time. We stopped at a small restaurant as I was determined RHSD would try Italian pizza and agree that it was better than American pizza, LOL. She loved it! Shopped for souvenirs - an Italia sweatshirt, statues and a Kaka football shirt and staggered back to the hotel. By this point I LOVED Venice! We ate dinner at the Caffe La Rambla, quite appropriate I thought as 2 weeks earlier we were just beginning our trip on La Rambla in Barcelona. Had a fabulous meal, 2 bottles of prosecco, and the girls sampled the proprietors strawberry wine. The following morning we had breakfast in the hotel and then took a taxi from Piazzale Roma to the airport. Had to wait an hour to check in and a couple of hours for the flight on Air Dolomiti from Venice to Munich which was delayed by 30 mins. Luckily we still made our connecting flight although it was boarding when we got to the gate. In conclusion I have to say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. We had great weather and the ports were superb. The ship was in excellent condition and the crew is truly an asset to the company. We probably had the best food we have ever had on a cruise on this trip, so there was a lot to like. If there had been a little more evening entertainment and a livelier Teen Club the trip would have been perfect. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Oosterdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.5 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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