After a 5:30 a.m wake-up and 2 flights from our Florida home to reach Quebec, the young lady from the visitors' bureau handing out apples to arriving tourists was a welcome sight. Security clearance at embarkation could have been better. I don't know that HAL had any control over the situation but it seemed that things could have moved a little faster. I didn't think the "priority embarkation" that is extended to suite passengers was anything special.
A few weeks before sailing, our agent called to offer us the penthouse suite for an upcharge. We decided to take it and enjoyed our time in this expansive suite. Even with all of the space, there were a few things I would like to see changed. The shower is some kind of small "beam me up, Scotty" capsule with jets everywhere, even when you don't want them. The bedside lights are very poor. To read, you had to turn on the bright overhead lights which wasn't conducive to sleeping for one's partner. Because of the port-heavy itinerary and iffy weather we could not use the extensive terrace as much as we would like. There was a Jacuzzi there which we never used. For a cruise in the tropics, the terrace would be great! Our stewards were pleasant and efficient. I swear they hid around the corner and the minute we left for breakfast they went in to clean because no matter how short our breakfast was, the room was made up for the day by the time we returned.
As suite guests, we used the Neptune Lounge frequently and the 2 young ladies there,Jersey and Katz, were always on hand and anxious to help. It was nice to have the lounge when you returned from an extended excursion and just needed a little bite to carry you over to dinner.
We prefer the anytime dining and find this works well for us. We never had a problem and never saw a line at the door when we arrived, usually around 7. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill several times and it continues to excel. The food and service are wonderful. I would like to see them offer smaller portions and I have not seen any menu changes from the first time we started going there several years ago. We have done the LeCirque Dinner in the past and since we saw no change in the menu did not try it on the Eurodam. Tamarind was a wonderful dining experience and I wish they had the restaurant on all of their ships. We had one lunch and one dinnr there. Our one disappointing meal was at the Canaletto. They are now charging $10 per person. The placement of the resturant seems an afterthought, tucked into a corner of the Lido. The food was merely passable and we will not eat there again, especially since they are now charging for a barely upscale Lido experience.
You constantly hear of HAL cutting expenses and you do see it in small things. One small thing they could eliminate are the corsages and boutonnieres for suite guests on formal night. I saw one man with one in his lapel and that was it. I think the formal nights need to be changed. There were men in the dining room with just blazers, no ties and a few with no jackets at all. Either enforce it or don't have it. Another area HAL should look at is their excessive use of paper--they should update their in-house TV system--put the daily menus on there, as well as access to one's account, etc.
Shore excursions on HAL are expensive, however in one instance we were glad we went with the ship. In Gloucester, we took an afternoon trip to Rockport and Beaufort Mansion (don't miss this gem!) and got back after the final boarding call. No problem, the ship waited. In most other ports, we took the HOHO busses or arranged independent tours. One interesting observation--in both Charlottetown and Cape Breton, the HOHO bus was connected to the HAL shore excursion office and even if you signed up when you went ashore, it was the same price as HAL advertised and they billed it to your ship's account. We had never encountered that in other cities.
Debarkation was what it always is--hurry up and wait.
Would we book another HAL cruise? We already have.