March 23-30 stayed at the Holiday Inn on rt 84. It was just right for our needs- comfortable rooms, free breakfast and a supermarket across the street. We purchase lots of wine, soda , water and back up sunglasses. Down the street is a delicious Cubano/Latino restaurant and a German style restaurant , which had authentic German beers. The only con was that it was difficult to get a cab and my wife had to walk out to the main strip to flag one down
getting on the ship was painless. There was at a maximum 5 minutes wait times
stateroom ( verandah 5119) was very comfortable for 2 people. Located in the middle of the boat so very minimal vibrations and rocking. The only con was that right underneath ours ( and others verandah rooms in the middle of the boat) is the lifeboat . One had a horizon view of the water but not a view straight down ( of course HAL did not mention this when we booked the room)
Food- breakfast room service every day. After the first day when the came at 8:40 when I asked for a 9 -9:30 delivery I wrote specific requests not to deliver before.... and they honored this request. Be sure you note that you want FRESH OJ, so you don't get the concentrated stuff. I ordered off the menu ( smoked salmon for bagels, soft boil eggs, pancakes, etc. ) and we always received what we requested. I did tip the room service waiter $2/ day.
We had no problems with the MDR- we had set dining which was enjoyable since we did get to know the table manager, the waiter and our section wine steward. All meals were excellent and (outside of the first night) professionally served.
LIDO dining- watching how other feel no problem putting fingers near or on food, while they make their self serve choices , we opted to only get food that the servers handled. They do make great sandwiches and feel free to order extra meat
Specialty restaurants- love the Tamarind- overall an outstanding experience and we all agree the wasabi crusted beef was the BEST piece of beef served the whole trip. We were totality underwhelmed by the Pinnacle ( based on other reviews) we ate there twice (lunch/dinner) and both times the service was either aloof or unprofessional . For lunch we had the last reservation and the hostess comment to us was "I will see if the chef will still be able to prepare your meal" and service went downhill from there. When I ordered the soup the waiter whispered to me ( and I am a guy) "this is usually a soup for women". During dinner the server would rather talk about himself then serve the food in a professional manner- if I wanted jokes played on us while having dinner I would go to the comedy club. Food was OK -- the much discuss hamburger was nothing spectacular- overall at the best a 3 out of 5 star experience. The wine steward continually hovered over us while we still had drinks . Abrupt he came over halfway in the meal to announce that he was removing the wine glasses as he reached over everyone's dinner plate
Entertainment was fun. HAL tried its best to have something for everyone. The BBK band certainly added a high level of energy but I was somewhat surprises by the short sets they would play. Many nights done by 11
Loved the fact that for a few nights there were happy hours from 4:30-11:30. Shout out to Club HAL and Assit. Cruise Director Brock for keeping the 400+ kids well occupied and out of site This was especially appreciated since many of the passengers that we engaged in were teachers on spring break ( as am I) and wanted to escape masses of kids for a week
Off the boats- there was only one negative experienced which was my own doing- going to the Rio Piedreas market in San Juan ( as seen on the Travel Network) was way out of our way and was nothing more than a bunch of small bodegas under one roof- took 4 hours between getting there, hanging out there and getting back so I recommend for other to not go there , spend time at the fort, beach or restaurants. HMCay- rent a clam shell for the $15. We did not always use it but it is nice to have a "base" to come back to
First cruise for us and I would think this could become a spring break HAL tradition.