My wife and I are seasoned cruisers, this was out 15th cruise together. We've sailed on five different cruise lines over the last eleven years. We are in our early fifties, and take about two cruises per year. Now in our opinion there is no such thing as a bad cruise, some are better than others but none are ever bad. At least we have never had a totally bad cruise. We are not complainers and thoroughly enjoy cruising. Enough about us.
I booked this cruise online, and got a slightly discounted rate off the advertised price. I booked it about 55 days before sailing. We take a early spring cruise every year and the Caribbean was getting old so we decided to find something different. This cruise fit the bill. We've never sailed out of NYC and have never been to Bermuda. We booked an inside J category guaranty and got just what we booked. I wasn't looking for any upgrade but wouldn't have complained if we got one. We just wanted to be on the ship.
Embarkation day was rainy and cold. There was a nor'easter right on top of us and just off shore. The embarkation process went quickly and was very efficient. Pier 90 (the HAL pier) was closed so we shared the embarkation area with NCL at their piers 92 & 94. We arrived at the pier at about 12:30 and were on the ship by 1:15.
We were able to go directly to our cabin, and our luggage was already there. We found the cabin to be larger than the interior cabins of the newer, bigger HAL ships. There was lots of draw and closet space. We only used about half of the storage space. There was no refrigerator in the cabin. That was not a problem for us.
We went to the buffet (or what I call the trough) to strap on the feedbag. The food was very good. Loved the paninni station. We had a light snack then it was time for the muster drill. They told us not to bring the life jackets, that they were going to do an expedited drill due to the bad weather. The drill took about 15 minutes, and then we were on our way. The weather got worst, it was very foggy and raining so we just stayed inside and watched from the trough. We didn't get to see much of lower Manhattan due to the fog.
The nor'easter caused the Captain to reroute the ship on a more southerly course closer to the coast to avoid the 45-55 foot seas. We were still in 25-30 foot seas. The two days travel to Bermuda were very rough, and many of the passengers were sea sick. We arrived in Bermuda about 9 hours late, the first day in Bermuda was all gone. I can't complain about that, Mother nature was a bit upset and nothing the cruise line could do about that.
The ship is very small (by today's standards) but very well maintained for a 16 year old vessel. She is has a very elegant style to all of the public rooms. Don't expect all the flash and extras of the newer ships.
The HAL entertainment was sorely lacking. The singers were barely average (Simon from American Idol would have booted all of them). We didn't care for any of the shows and left all of them early. The two comedians they hired (Jeff Mooche & Robert Mac) were pathetic. The lounge entertainment was a better choice. We managed to entertain ourselves talking with other passengers, and visiting with our cruise buddies.
The food was very good in the dining room and the trough. If you take a HAL cruise and they offer the pan seared salt cod cake as an appetizer you must try one it was delightful, and one of the best appetizers I've ever had on a cruise. It is one of the best kept secrets because it's half cod fish and half lobster. The pizza on the aft deck was horrible, the crust was prepackaged and rubbery and the pizza was always undercooked.
Bermuda was very beautiful, and very expensive. We took private island tours on the second and third day. They cost $40 and hour (three hours minimum for a minivan/taxi) there were four of us so we split the cost. Our guide was great. One day we went west to the Dock yard, Gibbs lighthouse, the worlds smallest draw bridge, and a few of the beaches and hotels. The next day we went east to the crystal caves, St. Georges where we saw the dunking of the wench, and the oldest church on the island, we also went to elbow bay and Fort St. Catherine.
Wednesday night was the Harbor Nights festival on front street in Hamilton, just off the ship. There were local artists, dancers, music and food. This takes place every Wednesday night during the spring and summer. Don't miss it. The Bermudian people are very polite and helpful. There are lots of free WiFi spots on the island. The public library in Hamilton will let you use their computers free for 15 minutes a day. They WiFi there was spotty. There is a cafe in Hamilton called "The Spot" the WiFi is free, (no password needed) and you can pick it up by sitting outside the cafe. The speed was very fast. Most of the Pubs and restaurants also offer free WiFi if you buy something.
We left Bermuda two hours early on the last day, and had a very smooth sail home. We were finally able to see NYC and the Statue of Liberty as we sailed back into NY harbor. the morning was crisp, clear & cool. Disembarkation was effortless. we chose the expedited self disembarkation and were off the ship and checked in at the airport by 8:45am.
Overall we had a great time and would take this ship on this sailing again.