We are a married couple and have cruised several times before on various cruise lines. We own CCL shares and once the cruise was paid in full, we faxed the required information to HAL and the $250 OBC for a plus 14 day cruise was posted to our OB account. The first leg of our 21 day B2B cruise was the Eastern Caribbean, followed by the Southern Caribbean. We arrived a few days early in Ft Lauderdale before the start of our cruise. We stayed at the Embassy Suites which includes a manager's reception, breakfast and a great pool area. It is centrally located and relatively close to all amenities for some last minute shopping and sightseeing. The evening before our cruise, several cruise ships were scheduled to depart Port Everglades. To get our cruise ship vacation started we walked down to the north jetty of the Port Everglades Inlet to watch all ships pass by.
The embarkation process was very easy as the terminal in Ft Lauderdale was well organized. Our room SS Superior Veranda Suite # 8082 was wonderful. A larger balcony, always fresh fruit daily, soft robes, slippers, a LCD monitor with DVD. It was clean, very adequate and quiet. The room stewards always greeted us with a smile and our rooms were always meticulously maintained.
We found the service and dining on-board to be 5 stars. Our main dining room stewards were always thorough and attentive. The menu was always tempting. We usually don't enjoy buffets, with the line ups and crowds, so we try to stay away from them as much as possible. With that being said, the food choices were excellent and the overall lay out of the buffet was good. We regularly ordered breakfast in our room which always was on time, hot and to our order, even with the special requests. On two occasions we dined in the Pinnacle. The first with our new CC friends was wonderful, with great service and menu. The second experience was a table for two at the Chefs Dinner with wine pairing which always makes for a wonderful evening.
We booked the Thermal Suites and daily enjoyed the use of the steam sauna, dry sauna, ceramic hot beds and hydro pool.
We were always in the gym daily and enjoyed some fitness classes. But found the facility small. We also enjoyed the full promenade deck to walk or jog.
The few evening shows we attended were at par with what we had experienced in the past on other cruises. The evenings were mostly spent dancing at the various venues or socializing with our new cruise critic friends. We attended two wine tasting events, that seemed hurried and more of a money making event for HAL. The pub crawl event and pool activities we found to be quite entertaining.
We enjoyed the couple of open deck BBQ's and the observation deck at the bow being opened for the scenic cruising.
St Maartin -- A private excursion with "Capt Alan" to snorkel, which we had the pleasure to swim with many turtles, a stop at Orient beach with a mud bath, and another beach stop at Pinel Island. A wonderful excursion and a Trip Advisor top rated.
St Lucia -- We were the only ones from the ship to book a speed boat ride from "Spensor Ambrose" to Jalousie Beach. It was wonderful to have the boat ride, a full cooler and beach mostly to ourselves for a few hours of beach time and snorkeling.
Barbados - We walked to the Boatyard Beach Club then enjoyed swimming with some turtles and snorkeling over the ship wrecks. It is a great beach with many amenities. The cruise ship crew love hanging out here.
Martinique - Stopping in on a Sunday with most things closed we opted to book a ship's excursion. We headed out with the "Snorkel Martinique tour". It was fun and as expected for a ship's tour.
Dominica -- We booked a private tour with Levi from "Bumbling Tours" again. The two of us and Levi's brother hiked up the Pedu Temps Trail. We had a great time hiking in the rain forest and helping ourselves to all the delicious fruit. With just the three of us we made good time on the hike and had time to snorkel at Champagne reef before making it back to the ship.
St Thomas -- With several ships in port, and having been to St.Thomas several times we were not really looking forward to this stop. We again booked a ship's excursion "Champagne Sail and Snorkel". It was fun, a nice way to escape the crowds and as expected for a ship's excursion. We then had a quick stop in Charlotte Amalie for some "World Famous Shopping ".
Half Moon Cay -- This is a great private island. We swam from one end of the beach to the other with our snorkel gear. It is not great for snorkelling but the water and sand was fantastic. We had a great time on the Aqua Trax Adventure and enjoyed a wonderful BBQ lunch.
Grand Turk -- The private snorkel excursion with Blue Water Divers was fun with two snorkel stops. The snorkel stop at "The Wall" would have been wonderful to dive at, but too deep to really enjoy from the surface. The walk to "Jacks Shack" afterwards was a nice escape from the touristy pier area, but not the touristy prices.
Dominican Republic -- This was the highlight excursion, "Tour with Terry", Zip Line, Beach and Waterfall. Along with our CC friends, we were very fortunate to make it ashore this day and have such a great tour.
Bonaire -- A private excursion with "Woodwind" snorkeling at Klein Bonaire was fantastic. We have snorkeled many places and with many outfits. This is a first class operation.
Curacao -- We ventured off the ship with our CC friends without a plan and ended up having a great day. The Dune Buggy Adventure that we booked was a great way to see much of the island. The cafe's, shops, swing bridge, sun set and people watching nicely filled in the day.
Aruba -- " Rancho Notorious" ATV Tour with our CC friends got us out on the far side of the island to see many of the natural attractions. It was a fantastic tour with time left over for a little shopping and some free Wi-Fi time on land.
Disembarkation -- This was well organized. We walked right off the ship when our luggage color and number was announced, and then walked right into a taxi for a short ride to the airport.
Summary - We loved this cruise. We found most of staff very professional and accommodating. HAL's policy of bringing wine on-board is a nice benefit that we certainly took advantage of.
HAL good for you.