Embarkation: This was our first time cruising with HA and thought that the embarkation process would be similar to other cruises we had taken. We arrived at about 10:30 knowing that the port opened at 11. We were in a holding pattern in the port terminal for at least 2 hours, which we had never experienced before on other cruise lines. Once the process got moving it went quickly and smoothly. After arriving on the ship and seeing hand sanitizers everywhere, the smell of bleach and ship personnel serving the food and drink it was obvious that there had been a problem with the Norovirus and that sanitizing the ship could be the delay in boarding.
Fellow Cruisers: After reading on CC that the age of many on this ship would be 50+ we thought it would be an OK cruise for a group of 6 of us ranging in age from 40-65. While I appreciate the older generation you could clearly see that the average, much older than 50, age of the cruisers on HA impacted the entertainment and activities on the ship. There was a lot of sleeping in the lounge chairs on deck 3 and around the pool. This setting became almost depressing at times.
Food: Breakfast is by far the best meal of the day on the ship. For dinner we opted for the dining room traditional seating. Dining food was just OK. Menu was limited and entrees were not always hot. The night of the surf and turf the fillet looked like a flank steak at best. Nothing on the menu was anything to write home about. The late snack/buffet-options were once again limited and didn't really appeal to many in our group. The pizza, available at the back of the ship, was not good at all. Pre made frozen crusts, fake cheese etc. The food was a real disappointment. I would have thought that HA would rival their competition with food done well.
Entertainment: We attended the show the night that the performers did a tribute to music though the years. During the first portion I felt like I was watching a rerun of the Lawrence Welk Show. The music was not in chronological order. The vocalists were very good the dancers were average. There was not much to do between dinner- early seating- and 8-8:30. The piano bar didn't open until 9 most nights so that left the casino as our only option. The casino was small and on sea days was busy and hard to get on a machine. The slots were tight and it didn't take long to blow through our gambling money for the evening on them. We did this for the first few evenings and then lost interest in trying to win anything on them. The bar tender at the sports bar by the casino was fun and got to know us a bit. After we lost our money in the casino we would stop by there to get caught up on sports and have a drink. We went to the Jeff and Lindy show just to have something to do. It was entertaining but nothing that we had not seen before.
Pools: We rented a cabana 3 days in the retreat area and that was money well spent. The cabana attendants were friendly and very accommodating. The pools rarely had anyone swimming in them and closed very early. Music around the pool was relaxing-to the point of being boring. Hearing Ave Maria on the steel drums just isn't a melody or delivery that is very 'fun'
Ports: We had been to St Thomas and Puerto Ricco several times. Neither of these ports were very interesting or added anything to our trip. Half Moon Cay was amazing! We rented a villa and again it was well appointed and well serviced with friendly staff. The white sand beach, turquoise water and a beautiful day made this stop one of our favorites. The barbecue for lunch was relaxed and was good. It would have been fun to have been able to stay their longer and watch the sun set.
Staff: We never heard about or from the cruise director JC- it was only when the disembarkation video was running in our room that we saw him. I have read a review since then that the had been injured in a fall and maybe he was still away due to that. It may have made a difference in the energy of the cruise had he been present. I was not impressed with Julie-if she was the interim cruise director- they should have looked further for JC's temporary replacement. Our cabin steward(s) and wait staff did a good job, but were not overly friendly or interested in getting to know us. Most servers on the Lido deck were very friendly. Beverage service on the Lido deck was limited. There was a 50-50 chance that the bar tenders would be friendly.
Ship/Cabin: The cabin was smaller than others we have had on other cruises. The ship was very clean. tastefully decorated and I did like the smaller gathering areas the ship had to offer.
Disembarkation: I liked the idea of having the process of leaving the ship on video to watch at our leisure but the information of the process came too late in JC's talk that I never saw it. The jokes went on for at least 15 minutes and I got tired of listening to it and had moved on by the time he got to it. We took our own luggage off. We got down to level 2 about 7:30 and it was very slow going for a little while. Once it got going it went smoothly but took a while for that to take place.
Overall I would give this cruise a 5 out of ten. Maybe I was expecting too much since it was HA. I do like that HA is steeped in tradition and has stuck with those traditions over the years. I just would have liked some more accurate accounts of the ages of our fellow passengers and been informed that music is somber, soft and slow and that nightlife on this ship is nothing more than a snack and bed.