We flew to Venice and spent a couple of days at the Best Western Hotel Bologna in Mestre Venice - an ideal place to stay to explore Venice itself which is only a ten minute train ride from station right across from hotel. The hotel is also ideal for transport from airport and again to cruise terminal. The hotel will organise transport. No lugging cases around Venice!!
The check in at cruise terminal was swift and efficient. From thereon it seemed you had to make your own decision as to what to do next - a bit bewildering I would imagine if you haven't done it before. Despite all the hype about hygiene, the hand sanitizers were empty. We were able to go straight to our cabin where a small bottle of Champagne was awaiting our arrival - a nice touch. We went straight out onto the balcony and were amazed to see that, including our own, there were NINE cruise ships in port.
The ship overall is very elegant and comfortable but somehow lacking in atmosphere. (And lacking in the fresh flowers which I remember throughout Holland America ship). The afternoon tea and captain's cocktail party are all in keeping with the ship. It is nice that everyone complies with the dress code and formal dress is on show throughout the ship. Like many cruisers - we enjoy dressing up in the evenings - it's part of cruising to us. And it's nice to see officers in formal dress.
The cabins are very nicely furnished and quite spacious but are let down by the bathroom which only has a shower curtain and a fixed shower head and, apart from one shelf, no storage space. The door to the balcony is also a bit of a nuisance as it is not a sliding door but opens outwards and has no means of holding it open. The cabin steward was first class.
The buffet restaurant is pretty good. The main dining room dinner menu could do with more variety and a couple of standard main courses. The food is very good and portions just right. Waiters very attentive.
The service throughout the ship is EXCELLENT. With the exception of the purser's desk where we found the service to be dreadful - unbelievably bad. Missed being able to access account via tv in room. Could have avoided purser's desk had it been available
Won't comment about shows - saw part of one and found it poor.
We didn't join any excursions - we went ashore and did our own thing having visited some of the places before. Better signposting for exit gangways is needed - an area where unobtrusive signs are not really helpful. And again, directions to shuttle buses often missing.It is necessary to use elevators midships or forward to access gangway exit -Deck A
We disembarked at Istanbul - a cruise terminal that needs modernising. Disembarkation was smooth. Taxis are easily available on exiting the baggage hall. Just ask for a price before taking taxi. We stayed at the Hotel Yasmak Sultan in the heart of the historic centre. This is a hotel we have used before and would recommend.
All in all, an enjoyable and relaxing cruise.
Balcony cabin deck 7, almost at end of corridor. Quiet. Comfortable and elegant. Plent of wardrobe space. Bathroom only has shower curtain and fixed head shower and limited storage area.
If you arrive by cruise ship you are lucky. You will be close to the water bus terminal which will allow you to board and choose a good spot as further along the route these boats become ridiculously overcrowded. You need Route 2 for St Mark's Square etc. Read the timetable board and make sure you get one that is going all he way as otherwise you may find you have to change partway and then you will be in great queues and quite uncomfortable travelling conditions - maybe wedged between passengers dragging their suitcases. It really is awful and not worth the fares they charge but there is no alternative. (If you are staying pre-cruise in Venice then try and make for this water bus terminal - a few hundred metres to the right of the railway station)
There are thousands of visitors to Venice and queues for everything. Make sure you set off as early as possible and make sure you book online for things such as St. Mark's Basilica and Doge Palace. If you get there early you won't have to wait long for the bell tower (there is an elevator).
Very pleasant little town. The shuttle bus will take you the 10 minute ride to the waterfront of town where there is the "water organ". You will hear the tones which come from the water lapping into underground "pipes". The views from this spot are also very pretty.
Really nice walled town - well worth visiting. We took shuttle bus. Plenty to see and wonderful views. Lots of steps to top of wall but worth it for the energetic. For the less mobile there is plenty to see wandering the cobbled streets.
The shuttle bus drops you some distance from the pìcturesque port so it's worth getting the 2 Euro boat right to the port. This boat picks up right in front of the cruise port exit gate. We looked for the pink pelicans but unfortunately didn't see any.
The beauty of this stop is that it is only a short walk from ship to town where there is plenty to see.
If you haven't been to Ephesus then it is an excursion you must take. Having been several times before we decided to have a look at the souk which was actually disappointing - more just like a shopping area for the locals. Took a taxi there and walked partway back along a very pleasant and modern promenade.
We disembarked at Istanbul but having been here before we can say that there are great things to see.
The Haga Sofia and the Blue Mosque are favourites but don't forget the Basilica Cisterna which is my favourite. Book as many online beforehand as there are always queues. These three are all very close to one another.
The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Souk are worth visiting but are always very crowded.