This was our first cruise with HAL but our 8th cruise overall. As far as comparing this line to others that we have taken (Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean),we think HAL was the best so far. There were 9 people in our party, 4 adults and 5 children. Here is a summary of what was great (and not so great):
Embarkation: Quick and easy. The most organized one we have experienced so far.
Cabin/Ship: Cabin was very big for an inside cabin. There was so much storage (we didn't discover the drawers under the beds until the end of the week) that we actually were able to store all 5 suitcases under the beds and have lots of room for all of our things. The ship was easy to find your way around. It is supposed to be going into dry dock in December to be outfitted with new mattresses, etc. Some of the furnishings in the cabins did look a little bit worn but everything was very clean.
Club Hal: We have two children who did attend some of the Club Hal activities but did not enjoy this Kid's Camp as much as they have on other cruise lines. I think that the staff just did not have enough activities planned. We did take advantage of in-cabin babysitting and loved the staff that came to babysit.
Food: We thought that the food was wonderful. Our wait staff in the Dining Room was fantastic and bent over backwards to take care of my kids. We did eat one evening in the Pinnacle Grill. It was well worth the surcharge. I would highly recommend it -we made it an adults only evening and had the babysitter watch the kids.
Staff: Very friendly and accommodating. The best crew that we have ever encountered. My son became attached to one of the waiters and every morning, Buddy would have hot chocolate waiting for my son when we appeared at breakfast. Our other waiters in the Dining Room (Herry, Arun, Doddy,and Jayson were super as well).
Ports of Call:
Half Moon Cay: Beautiful island with a lot of things to do. We did the eco lagoon cruise - it was okay, would probably opt to do something else next time. Our friends did the kayaking and loved it. Some of our other party did the Deep Sea Fishing and had a blast.
Costa Maya: Very rustic part of Mexico. Other than where we were docked, there was not much to do there. We arranged to do some horseback riding through a excursion company ahead of time (Costa Maya Excursions). We went through the poorer parts of town (which made us appreciate what we have here in the US)but did not ride on the beach. A little disappointed by that but if you want to see the "real" Mexico - it was worth it.
Grand Cayman: We have been here a number of times and so we opted to do the Stingrays and tour of Hell and the Turtle Farm. I arranged it through Captain Marvin's ahead of time and saved us some money rather than booking through the cruise line. We enjoyed the snorkeling and playing with the stingrays. My oldest child was a little freaked out by it but my little boy loved it.
Key West: One of my favorite places to go. We just wandered around the town. My husband took the two kids to the Artifact Museum to see all the shipwreck items. I did the Harry Truman Little White House tour by myself. We then had lunch at Hog's Breath and then it was back to the ship. Our friends did the sailboat race that got a little bit scary when some thunderstorms started rolling in. We did have a problem with people not coming to clear Customs which held us up from disembarking until about 10:30. HAL needs to do a better job communicating the importance of this to the passengers.
Disembarkation: Quick and painless. We were allowed to stay in our staterooms - which was great. Once we were called, we quickly got our luggage and were at the airport within 20 minutes.
We would definitely cruise HAL again.