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Nieuw Amsterdam / Venice / 12 nights

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Hello. I come bearing good news:
I will be officially going on my first HAL cruise next year! And what better to start out with than the Nieuw Amsterdam?

Here's the basics:
June 5th, July 18th and August 23rd all in consideration. Although I'm leaning towards July 18th.
Stops: 5 countries (Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece and Turkey)

I have three questions:
1. Is this a good pick for someone new to HAL?
2. Is July 18th the best date?
3. Should I book mostly or entirely HAL shore excursions, or do third-party shore excursions?

Interests: History, Culture
Not athletic

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