Departure Port Everglades, FLL. As always everything is near in FLL ( airport, pre-cruise hotels and Port Everglades )so in no time we were ( a party of six )at terminal 26. Got there around 11AM, smooth embarkation, no hassle with our "allowed" wine bottles, and we were on the ship about noon: staterooms(3) ready and luggage already there.Greeted by June,our Steward,who did more than you can ask for for the 14 days.Do these guys really sleep sometimes?
The ship was clean, well maintained,no signs of wear and tear as on a previous cruise on HAL Zuiderdam.Nothing intrusive as far as HAL is concerned, discrete cruise directors ( there was a switch for the second week), occasional PA announcement, low level background music (60-70-80)at the AFT pool deck, well nothing to wake you up if you were taking a nap - the Carnival ships were providing that when they were sailing around us - and for the first week a nice crowd in their mid 50 for the most part, a "young crowd" compare to previous HAL cruises we did. Few well behaved kids and teens.
Food was to HAL/Celebrity standards in the main dinning room with no need to go to "upscale restaurants" unless you would like to really treat yourself as we did in the Tamarind a few times.We always ate around 8PM, no waiting and the busboys were efficient, and very friendly witch is new to us on HAL. On previous sailings the Indonesian personnel mainly were "too"polite" and reserved ... what a change on this cruise:smiles and friendliness across the board! Special kudos to Aris an Putu and Frank the wine cellar master.
The lido buffet for breakfast or lunch or whatever during the day or night had excellent and world cuisine choices with very small waiting except for the first 48h where you get served re:sanitary precautions which is OK with me.
NO SANITARY problem,norovirus or otherwise,on this cruise!
As always, the dessert extravaganza by the main pool on the last day at sea is something else.
No comments on entertainment, we did our own ! We did not attend any shows but were told they were OK!
No class or seminars, we were on VACATION, but those attending had good words.
No "donation" to the casino and most bars were at best half full at peak hours.
The classical music string quartet was performing to 4 to 5 people at best but the line dancing parties were crowded.
Smoking was non intrusive, barely restricted on all open decks with well marked and respected areas as well as on balconies without any complaints by smokers or non smokers.WELL DONE HAL. Other lines should copy the way you are handling this sensitive issue.Everybody ( including crew members ) was happy. No crusade on this ship!
Ports of call:
Grand Turk:Been there 3 years ago and swear I will never return, but this time all is clean, well organized, dunno what they did to the beach but the sand was almost Half Moon like and the huge pool is magnificent as is the snorkeling for those interested.The rest of the island: forget it.
San Juan: Old city always nice to walk around and take your time.
Sint Marteen: Well on this itinerary ladies this is your place for shopping, no St-Thomas but still. Get a cab and go around the island, mainly on the french side. It will cost you $25 ea for a 3 hour get around. It is worth it.
Half Moon Cay: Wish I could stay forever.
Transit in FLL - Required for all B2B cruises. Be warned the ship must be empty for customs purposes before new passengers can get on board, meaning that everybody must get of the ship.I you have no plan for the day you will spend 2 to 4 hours in a closed space before re-boarding the ship. Advice: take a tour grab a cab rent a car and spend your day around ( We went to South Beach )otherwise this will be a long and lost day !
Second leg of this trip.
As smooth as the first week was, this second week was partly a nightmare for the simple reason that a huge booking was made by Country Financial/Cotton States Insurance. These people were on the party, animals, drunk, loud invading the pools yelling in hallways late at night ... I guess there were many complaints because it toned down a bit after 48 hours but resume on the last night. Not HAL fault but those animals can ruin your vacation!
Half Moon Cay: I wish I would have stayed there ... It was cancelled re: strong winds ( Tenders ).
Grand Cayman: not much to do but shopping, most clerk looked bored, not a favorite.
Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras: We were told Roatan was the pits. But hold down, this place Mahogany Bay, a secluded HAL paradise is brand new, nice vegetation, forest pathways, Zip Line, gorgeous beach with a lot of shaded areas and the locals are very friendly and not eager to get your bucks.Some shopping ... a must according to the ladies!
A place to return
Costa Maya: Well Mexico is Mexico - army all over with dogs and riffles, aggressive sales clerk. If you did the i95 to get down to Florida, this is like Pedro at South of the Border between N and S Carolina ... What can I say more.
Did an excursion to Chacchoben ( Mayan ruins ) ... Seems worth it but it poured for 30 minutes, everybody was soaked and the whole thing was cancelled while the ruins' walking tour began. So we did 2 hours riding a bus for a glance. No body's fault. The only rain we had in 2 weeks but it was there!
So that's it ... HAL you do it right ...Getting younger but intimate and reserved. Way to do it in my opinion.
Thank you for baring with me.