My wife, Lynn; and I flew down and met my son, his wife, Yoko, and their two kids. We spent Saturday night in a motel and went to the cruise port in the late morning.
Embarkation: Well organized and smoothly conducted. We had immediate access to our rooms and the luggage came quickly.
We had a small Cruise Critic M&G in the Captain's Corner of the Crows Nest Bar on deck 10. That had to be set up through Facebook, but HAL's Facebook social space is fairly lame in terms of activity and not any threat to Cruise Critic.
The ship: Very clean and in good condition. Esthetically pleasing, a beautiful ship. Much less garish than Carnival, yet prominent art and interior decoration. Color tone in the interiors were on the dark side for my old, dim eyes. In the stairwells each floor is well marked with redundant deck signs, but we still had trouble reading them. The central public areas and shops differed from what we'd experienced previously. I don't think that lay out worked very well and had too enclosed a feeling. I don't gamble, but was surprised that the casino felt off the beaten path and tucked away.
The theatre: Very nice and the entertainment was entertaining. One great male singer who lives in Hawaii. The other singers were fine. The dancers were good, but not used enough. Great, hard working little band/orchestra. There are pillars that obstruct some views of the stage, but I'd rate the theatre above average and found it easy to find good seating.
Rooms: What can I say? My son was happy with their bathtub and balcony and quiet, comfortable room. He did have some trouble adjusting to the mattresses. They sleep on memory foam at home. We were upgraded to a mini-suite with double vanity, shower whirlpool tub and separate, glassed in shower. Fanciest room we've ever had on a ship, and we've had some nice rooms. Great balcony with space and privacy. Great place for evening cocktails for the four adults and two kids. Great place to babysit, which we did a lot. Our double return ventilation plenums were very noisy, but maintenance did their best to tone down the noise with some success. The TV was pretty good.
Fitness center: It opened at 6 AM, which worked for me. Not a large area but fairly well equipped and the treadmills look forward at the front of the ship. I watched my personal treadmill TV, but had to lift my eyes often to the beautiful view of the sea. The promenade deck 3 was as good as it gets on any ship for a walking, jogging deck.
Pools and hot tubs. No problem with selfish lounge saving. Always seating available and good use of the pools and hot tubs.
Activities: Certainly okay for a seven day cruise. Maybe slightly below average. Same problem of the staff having to use activity time to sell services that is occurring on ships more frequently.
Crew: Great crew. Great front desk. Great cruise director. Great room stewards.
Dining. A very good buffet with great service. Not hard to find seating. The dining rooms served very good food with a large variety. Good for lunch and breakfast as well. Our waiters at dinner were warm and friendly, but they seemed to assign us a low priority. They would promptly give us menus, but we'd wait 15 minutes or more for our orders to be taken, and even then we'd finally have to ask for them to do so. Asked for lemon with my water the first night. Never got it once. It was irritating watching the other tables in our section getting dessert menus above the time we got our first course. The first time my wife ordered a glass of wine, it didn't come for a long time. She finally cancelled the order, which upset the wine steward, but when we ordered a bottle of wine at a following meal it did come promptly. We vented about this on our evaluation form, but I'll say this for HAL, nobody pressured us to give laudatory ratings on the form. They asked us to be honest.
Ports: We had a great beach day on Grand Turk. The beach is right there when you get off the ship. Plenty of lounge chairs on the beach with tree shade. The kids had a blast. Some friend we made on board took a very long exploration of the island on foot. They had a lovely time, despite a brief intense downpour. Met wonderful locals. Enjoyed watching the donkeys and wild horses. Tim and Yoko took a ship tour in San Juan. We watched the kids and took them through old town and to the fort. A nice day. In St. Martin, Lynn and I did a two nation tour. Tim and Yoko took their kids on a See and Sea tour that involved an island tour and a semi-submersible sea life excursion from the French part of the island. Rough seas caused the submersible part to be cancelled, which was a bummer for them, but the ship refunded over half the cost of the tour. We had a fabulous beach day on Half Moon Cay, HAL's private island. That has to be the best private island, and the other two I've been to were very good. We had two great sea days on the cruise.
Disembarkation: This was easy, even with two small children and a foreign national wife. Our rental care company, Gold Coast, picked us up and took us to our rental Toyota Sienna, which we drove to the Palm Beach area to spend the day and evening with other family. We had a wonderful time and the next day our flights home went smoothly for all of us.