Overall we had a wonderful cruise. Great little ship, fantastic service, wonderful ports and good friends. We are experienced cruisers and river cruisers and were anticipating a new adventure on this small all inclusive ship. We started ... Read More
Overall we had a wonderful cruise. Great little ship, fantastic service, wonderful ports and good friends. We are experienced cruisers and river cruisers and were anticipating a new adventure on this small all inclusive ship. We started in Athens with stops at Nauplia, the Peloponnese, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Split, Trieste and Venice.
The Ship: Embarkation was a breeze in Pireus and when we walked up the gangway, each lady was presented with a red rose. Very nice start! We were very surprised at how beautiful and bright and airy this little ship was. I had read so many reviews saying how old and neglected it was. I thought it was very nicely decorated. Nothing fussy or over the top, just a clean minimalist modern vibe. I call it " casual chic". It was immaculate - everything was very clean (we even saw the crew polishing and dusting the ridges in the ceilings) It was very bright and airy - lots of windows and light in all the public rooms. All the flowers and plants on the ship were real. Artwork was modern, colourful and interesting. Loved that the ship was quick and easy to get around (no problems if you left something back in your room- just a quick trip to get it unlike on a big ship where it is a major trek to your cabin), but the ship never felt crowded. Lots of air conditioning - bring a sweater.
The Cabin: We were in an outside on the Belvedere Deck, 507 near bow on port side. Smallish and plain but very doable for 2 people. We heard very little engine noise, but the air conditioner could be noisy- we just turned it down at night. Were disappointed that the beds were fixed narrow twins and would not push together. The beds were comfy and had bedding of good quality. We had no problems with rusty water - ever. I drank the water from the tap every day and had no ill effects. My only complaint is that the power plug is under the window between the two beds. There is no mirror on this wall so it was difficult to use a hair iron while the only mirror is from the closet doors across the room (and you had to open them just so to see yourself.) Hairdryer is fixed in the bathroom and works fine. There was plenty of storage- a big dresser/desk/night-table with 3 large drawers and 4 or 5 little drawers in the closet as well as a safe. Bathroom counter space is very limited. I will post some photos of this room.
The Itinerary and Tours: Loved the itinerary and the choice of tours at each port. You do have to get over the fact that you will be travelling with "the herd" listening to the whisperers or Audiovox in each port for at least part of the day. Do plan for some time alone to explore the ports. One of my big surprises on this cruise was the age of the pax. Lots of people with canes and walkers and quite elderly. I was expecting most to be retirees in their early 60's since this was a vigorous itinerary with a port every day and tours with lots of walking, cobblestones and stairs. Well - good for them, they did amazingly well! Anyway, at the port talks, people were told over and over about the walking and the stairs.... but a lot didn't listen. The young woman giving the port tour information and the actual tour did not really align (some guides I think do their own thing ...not always a bad thing). In a couple of ports the guides would walk too fast and lose half the group. I think the groups may have been too large as well. In Venice, they had guides at front of tours and someone from the ship at the rear to keep everyone herded up. The audiovox system worked very well to hear guides. On the final night of our cruise in Venice, we had a special night. A museum, Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista was opened just for us and we had private tours and a lovely cocktail party after serving prosecco, bellinis and canapés in a beautiful old building. Lovely!
Dining: We thought the food was very good, no complaints just compliments from everyone at all the tables where we ate. Ate breakfast and lunch in the Terrace Cafe and all dinners and a couple of lunches in Marco Polo. The fantastic service was a lovely surprise. You never have to carry a tray - ever! When you order an omelette, it gets delivered to your table every time ..... they always find you! And wine at dinner - it's a bottomless glass and there is always someone sneaking in to refill your glass ;-). And we found the wine to be quite good. Coffee was the one issue for me - it was not that great, but I think I got used to it by the end of the cruise ...Starbucks or Tim Hortons, it was not. When they brought the french press to the table, I found that if I waited a few minutes to press the plunger (the waiters wanted to press it immediately), the coffee could brew a bit and not be quite so bitter. I think one of the most enjoyable parts of this cruise was sitting at dinner with new friends and enjoying a great meal - unlimited wine didn't hurt ;-).
Entertainment and Speakers: Richard Sykes was the cruise director and what a personable and talented person. We loved his singing shows in the evening. He could sing a large range of musical styles and he always got a crowd on the dance floor. The small ensembles(duet & trio) in the lounge ranged performed classical, jazz, standards and pot - all very good musicians. All speakers were excellent, very interesting! This cruise also had Bob Porter who directed a cruise choir - what a lot of fun, and anyone who liked to sing was invited to join.
Pre and Post -Cruise: We were greeted at the airport by the VTA reps and put on a bus with commentary on our way to the hotel. What can you say about the Grande Bretagne in Athens but very posh! Beautiful rooms with chandeliers and marble, wonderful breakfasts with a view of the acropolis on the 8th floor, perfect location at Syntagma Square, and do check out the beautiful spa - many of the facilities there are included with your stay. The VTA reps were in the lobby to assist us and get all our tours organized. Post-cruise in Venice was just as organized, but I know many people had difficulty with the walk in Venice. A long walk to the bus from the ship and then another long walk from bus into airport all carrying your own luggage.
Conclusion - We had a lovely cruise. I can see why it is so appealing to many, but it would not be for everyone. I think this is for a traveller interested in learning about history and cultures and is great for single cruisers. It was more like a river cruise than an ocean cruise for me. The pace is quite strenuous with shore excursions every day (I walked between 4-8 km at each port). Please go to shore excursion talks to get information about which tour is more suitable for you - some have more walking, and some are bussed. Would love to do another cruise with this company and so said many of the people we met on this cruise. Read Less