This was unfortunately a very mediocre experience in terms of food, service and activities. Sometimes the food was decent but the service was lacking, often both were just ok. This is not a ship for foodies!
Service: The staff seemed over worked and under trained. We often had to flag staff down for basics, go in search of staff to order from the cafes etc. Often food venues were supposed to be open but then weren't, with staff unsure of the hours- especially at the pool area. The staff seemed overwhelmed most of the time and short staffed. They were well meaning and friendly despite there apparent stress. I suspect that this is an area where budget crunching has cut staff to guest ratios.
Food: As long as your expectations aren't too high- you'll be ok. Go in expecting great food based on some forum comments then you'll be disappointed. The quality of food varied greatly- with some just average meals in the main dining room to better in the pinnacle and canelleto. The Le Cirque dinner wasn't worth it in terms of food quality, with frozen lobster tails, however it was probably the best service we experienced. We found that the shellfish was all frozen, and the produce surprisingly bad. In the height of tomato season in August, we were served inedible cellophane tomatoes. The desserts were definitely their weakest link.
Activities: this is not a ship for either the young or young at heart. We were a multi-generational group ranging from age 9-80. HAL appears to be trying to appeal to families, but they certainly don't succeed. The under 65 guests in our group were bored. Spent many afternoons in the hot tub (which isn't a bad way to spend your time) but for lack of more interesting things to do. Played bingo, even the young kids did since there was little else for them to do. The kids clubs were either empty or closed when the kids were in search of activities. There is one pool which never got too crowded. There was no saving of lounge chairs and with the exception of the clam bake night at the lido, we could always find seats at the pool area.
Entertainment: Reminded me of college muscial theatre acts. Lots of broadway show tunes sung by the same singers, one un funny comedian, and an average magician. The evening music in the bars is just plain bad- think bad wedding band. We sometimes moved from one bar to another to get away from the painfully bad singing. HAL might do better to put a DJ in the bars and concentrate their entertainment budget on a few good acts, or show some movies on large screens even.
Ports of Call: Bar Harbor is lovely- easily could have spent two days there- would be a better if we had. Halifax is walkable and charming but the other ports you either must rent a car, hire a driver or go on an excursion at least 30 min to 1 hour from the port. These ports are in industrial areas and simply not that exciting unless you make the time and investment in going further out of the area.
The pros: this is a quiet ship- there is no piped in music, no videos on the large screen at the re-treat and no pool games. You can find quiet places to sit most of the times, and there is room at the pool area. Embarkation went smoothly. The cocktails and frozen drinks were all quite good and reasonably priced, there is huge cocktail menu.