Overall Rating: Excellent
|Departed From:||Venice, Italy|
|# of Nights:||11-14 Nights|
We flew Delta airlines to Venice and arrived on August 21. We stayed 2 days pre-cruise at the Best Western Hotel Olimpia located at P. Roma. We chose this location for the proximity to the cruise port as well as the Vaporetto. Getting around with luggage in Venice is difficult at best because of the many bridges. We hopped on the ATVO bus from the airport and they dropped us at P. Roma. We only had to drag luggage over 1 small bridge.
We arrived just in time to check in so we dropped our bags and headed out for a quick lunch then returned for a nap. This hotel actually had a large room by Italian standards and the bathrom was definitely larger the a cruise ship one. LOL After some rest we headed to the Vaporetto station, bought tickets and hopped on the #1 or the #2 to San Marco. This was our second time in Venice and it was just as magical as the 1st time. The architecture, the people, the amazing feat of living on a lagoon. Words don't do it justice. Walked around San Marco, watched the battle of the orchestras, walked to the Bridge of Sighs, and came back up the Grand Canal as the sun was setting. Had dinner at a small restaurant just off a canal by our restaurant. Then a stroll around and a stop for chocolate Gelato before turning in.
The next day we hopped on the #3 Vaporetto and headed to Murano, the glass blowing island. This island was beautiful, a bit different from Venice in character. We stopped in one of the glass blowing shops and watched for a while. Bought a small vase to remember our time there. The chandeliers, vases, etc were amazing. We strolled the canals for hours stopping in a cafe for a beverage. We decided to head back to the Grand Canal for lunch and I had the most heavenly lasagna, it floated on air. We walked a bit more and headed back for a nap. After the heat died down we went to the COOP (grocery store) located right near the Vaporetto for some wine to take aboard the ship the next day. HAL allows you to bring as much as you wanted on board. Then we headed to dinner at a restaurant on a small canal and I had Octopus and Squid, excellent and of course Vino! I truly enjoyed the wine in Italy. We decided to head down the canal at night just to take a ride, we throughly enjoyed the different perspective.
The next day we were to board the Nieuw Amsterdam but 1st an early morning trip to the Rialto Market to peruse the fresh fish, veggies, and the meats. The fruit and vegetables were amazing in color and the fish definitely fresh. After packing up we walked to the People Mover and hopped on board to get to the ship. Since our ship was docked so far in hindsight we would have hired a cab to take us to the ship as they are able to drop you door to door. We had lunch on board checked out the ship and then headed back to the People Mover and back to the Vaporetto toward San Marco. Spent some time getting lost roaming through the narrow passageways. The ship overnighted in Venice but we elected to have dinner aboard and explore the ship a bit before bed.
We left Venice the next day which saddened me a great deal. I throughly enjoyed the wine, the people, the food, the gelato and the atmosphere of romance as well as a warm fuzzy feeling I have about that city. The rich history and the culture are not to be missed, definitely my favorite Italian Port. I hope someday I get to return.
The Ship and HAL: The Nieuw Amsterdam was in good condition. It need some sprucing up, namely the carpets but everything else seemed to be in excellent condition. The Captain and his officers were always roaming the ship. Our cabin stewards were excellent. We had main seating (8 PM) at a large table. We enjoyed our tablemates very much. The food in the dining room was excellent for the mostpart, I did find the menus to be heavy on the beef but they worked hard to try to make sure there was something that I liked each evening. I will say the activities were pretty sedate but this being a European cruise it was fine with us. Howie and I spent much of the daytime when not in port reading and gazing at the ocean. Europe is a tiring cruise as you have many long days.
I loved that HAL allows you to bring wine aboard the ship. We brought on several bottles from Venice and also bought wine in Montenegro and Greece. It was wonderful to enjoy a glass of the local wine as we sailed away from each port. HAL has a policy that you are served at the buffet the 1st 2 days aboard the ship to prevent illness. I wish all the lines did this as it really did help. I also enjoyed that on sea days someone came on the Promenade deck to see you anyone wanted a beverage, the extra-large bath sheets, the Happy Hour drinks (2nd drink $1), and being able to have room service in your cabin on disembarkation day, made for a very pleasant last morning.
The things I didn’t love were the pools closing down at 9PM, No lounge chairs in the shade(unless you want to pay for a cabana), and no lunch in the dining room on sea days. We found that to be very odd.
The Ports: Kotor Monetegro was lovely. When we entered into the old city, we were greeted with a band playing. In many ways it reminded me of Venice with the narrow alleys, courtyards and old buildings. We walked for a few hours, stopped at an outdoor Pub for a cocktail and had the best caramel gelato. It was a very enjoyable day. Happy we had a sea day the next day.
Next up Piraeus (Athens) Greece- We were there on the hottest day of the year, 104 degrees. We took a small group private tour with Dimitris Kalomiris. We started out by heading to the Acropolis to try to avoid the crowds and the heat. Our private guide was excellent and knowledgable. I was truly awe struck just being there…….it’s hard to explain. We also saw the Old Palace, The Temple of Zeus, the 1st Olympic Stadium as well as the current one, and the Greek and Roman Agora. I loved watching the changing of the guards at the Palace. We stopped for an amazing Greek Lunch of greek salad(the feta was amazing) and Mousaka as well as Mythos beer. Delicious. It was a long hot day but a very memorable one.
Istanbul Turkey was next. We arrived around 4PM and overnighted there. We decided to take the cruise lines Bosphorus cruise. It was lovely and a great way to see both sides of Istanbul. Had dinner on the ship and retired early as the next day was another long early day. We again took another small private tour KSG Tours and Travel Services, again and excellent tour and guide. We toured through the Old City and headed to the Blue Mosque. It was lovely and I’m afraid my pictures didn’t do it justice, the extensive mosaics were amazing as well as the paintings. We also headed to Hagia Sophia which I liked even more then the Blue mosque. We also visited the Cisterns (underground water holding) Museums, the Topkapi Palace Museum, and the Grand Bazaar. We also stopped for lunch and I had a Kebab of course and a cold beer. We saw a demonstration of weaving rugs as well.
We missed Mykonos due to high winds so the Captain headed to Kusadasi for an overnight. We stayed on the ship that night and saw the Philippine Crew show again turning in early as the next day was another long one. Again we had another private tour Ephesus Tours and they were excellent as well. We toured Ephesus, the Terrace Houses, The House of the Virgin Mary, and The Basilica of St John. I must say Ephesus was impressive as well. It is amazing to see how they are restoring the Terrace houses and the rest of the area. I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed these ruins. You really just need to look at my pictures as they definitely will describe it better then I can. We had an amazing “turkish lunch” and again returned to the ship for the evening.
I must say I loved Santorini and the Village of Oia. We took the cruise line tour to Oia which included a stop Profitis Ilias. Oia was lovely. Please see all the blue domed roof pictures…….we walked along the narrow alleys, and strolled along the marble street (the main street) the views were amazing. Stopped for some more of that marvelous Mythos beer along the way and spent a few lovely hours just enjoying the atmosphere. We took it slow because Howie was starting to develop a cold that the whole ship had because of the 20 degree temperature change from Athens to Istanbul. We were dropped off in Santorini and we headed toward the ship at a slow pace stopping to buy some Greek wine and olive oil. Lunch was at the café just before the ship, Zafora. We had a beautiful view of the harbor and thoroughly enjoyed the huge Greek salad and chicken and of course another greek beer! There are 3 ways down here, walk, donkeys or the cable car, we opted for the cable car. I would love to go back one day.
Finally a sea day to rest and recoup, poor Howie had a full blown cold by then as did everyone on the ship it seemed. I was fortunate enough to escape it until the day we came home. Our last port was Split Croatia. It was a lovely contrast of new and old. The harbor was beautiful. I ended up meeting up with another couple and decided to send the men back to the ship since they were miserable with a cold. Fran and I explored a bit and stopped for a cold beverage. It was a nice strolling kind of port. I really didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked but I did manage to pick up a bottle of Croatian wine that was pretty good.
All in all this was a wonderful trip. I could have gone on and on about the ports and I can offer more information on all of them if you ask. It was interesting to return to HAL after 12 years, our 1st experience was good but the ships clientele was a bit too old for us. We didn’t find that this time, it seemed to be 40-70 ish in age. There were not many children but there had been about 500 the cruise before ours. HAL definitely does this cruise well. The port guide was excellent narrating our cruising into each port. The Crew was very helpful including the shore excursion manager who answered all questions honestly and accurately whether you were touring with HAL or not. This was definitely a memorable trip and we would gladly return to many of the ports again.