Background Information: We booked this cruise only 3 weeks before departure, when other vacation plans fell through. We had a group of six, which included four adult nieces and nephew, and two friends. We booked it because we could drive from Ontario, Canada to NYC in less than 9 hours, and therefore didn't need to book a last minute flight.
Hotel Info (if any): We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Parsippany, New Jersey. We love Hampton Inn, and it was only 40 minutes from the cruise ship terminal.
Ship Info: I loved that the ship was small, and easy to get around. It seemed to have everything that the larger HAL ships have, but just on a smaller scale. The decor in the stateroom hallways really could use some updating. The pictures on the wall and the decor are cheap looking. I wish they hadn't taken out the second pool at the back of the ship. The hot tubs are OK, but they take up a lot of space, and it would have been much nicer to be able to enjoy a pool in the warm weather.
- We really enjoyed the nightly Name That Tune competition in the Crow's Nest. Lots of good competitors and it was nice to win free drinks.
- Tried Bingo in the showroom one day, and left with nothing.
- Enjoyed the kitchen tour on the first day at sea.
- Casino was small, but big enough. Won some money, but of course I lost it again.
- Loved the massage and pedicure pool side. The prices were amazingly low.
- Enjoyed the towel folding show.
- Didn't have time to watch a movie at the theater, but did enjoy the popcorn.
- Cupcake tea in the Main Dining Room was fun.
Service: Room stewards were amazing, as usual. I can't say enough great things about them. They magically appear and look after all your needs. Service in the Main Dining Room was very slow. It took about two hours for dinner. We're used to eating in about one hour on other HAL ships. There didn't seem to be as many people working in the Lido dining area either.
Port & Shore Excursions: We didn't book any excursions through HAL. We booked a five hour tour with David Fox (who was great), and took us all over the island and gave us a great overview.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: It was a very easy drive from the hotel in New Jersey, especially on a Sunday. We parked right at the cruise ship terminal ($245 for the week).
Stateroom: We paid about $1,300 for a veranda, which seemed high to me. We only paid slightly more in June 2012 for a veranda on the Zuiderdam to Alaska. But the room was very nice. It seemed larger than other verandas that we've had. The couch was a full size couch, and not just a love seat. The balcony was quite deep, but had metal instead of glass facing the ocean. Which meant the view while sitting/lying down wasn't as good. But the balcony did have a lounger plus chair. Hard to control the temperature in the stateroom. The thermostat seemed to have no control over the temperature.
a) Main Dining Room: Delicious, as usual. Lots of good options. But slow service, which made me visit the Lido more often. One of our group arrived late one night, but they wouldn't let her in, and move us to a larger table, which was not a good overall experience.
b) Canaletto: A nice change from the Lido. But I missed the cotton candy that we had on other ships. It was good, but just not as good as other ships.
c) Pinnacle Grill: Absolutely fabulous food. Not as fancy decor as on other ships. And the service was pretty slow. We waited 45 minutes for a dessert that was supposed to take 15 minutes. Still, I would HIGHLY recommend it.
d) Room Service: We had breakfast once, and dinner once (surf and turf on formal night). It was delivered promptly, and still hot.
e) Lido Buffet: Smaller than other ships, which is to be expected since the entire ship is smaller. Confusing because it looks like one long line, but is actually many shorter lines, since there is a rope separating the stations. Food was always good, and enough variety.
f) Dessert Extravaganza: Yummy! Confusing though, since there were no signs on any of the desserts to indicate what they were, and the servers didn't know.
Children's Clubs: N/A
Entertainment: We went to one of the shows in the Showroom, but left 1/2 way through, since we didn't know most of the songs. Really enjoyed the Indonesian show that was put on by the crew - it was very entertaining.
Disembarkation: Very smooth. Just wait in your room until your ticket number and colour are called. We had to wait in a line to get through Customs, since we aren't Americans. They really could use more people in the Customs area. There were only two people, to look after a long line of cruisers.
Summary: It's too bad that this ship won't be sailing to Bermuda after this year. I would definitely had done this cruise again. It was GREAT to be docked in Hamilton ... much better than out at the Dockyard with the huge ships, where everything is a taxi or bus ride away.