Having no experience on which to gauge anything cruise related...well, except the reviews on this web site, I had only my own set of expectations to act as guide.
Embarkations/Disembarkations. Very well managed and executed - obviously done all this millions of times, and learned how to do it well. Well done HAL and partners!
Safety procedures. I have to say I found this process somewhat chaotic! Thank goodness it was never needed in real life. Passengers were talking above the crew, who were trying to get some sense of organisation in place on decks, Those crew whose first language wasn't English, had difficulty being understood, and, of course some passengers were either in the wrong places, or not there at all. Not a good first impression to a first time cruiser...or any cruiser for that matter.
Cabin/Stateroom. Bijou, but with plenty of storage for 2 people for a week's stay. Needed to stay tidy though throughout the ship!! Bathroom - again, more bijou. Unforunately the toilet system went out of action for about a day...one of the days we were ashore thankfully. Both cabin and bathroom could do with a make over decor wise, as looked somewhat tired. Room service very efficient - no complaints. Compulsory tip added to the bill....no say in that matter then!
Dining. We had an open dining arrangement, which I thought meant you could wander into the dining room during the evening and just sit anywhere you wanted! Not so......first register your request at the restaurant front desk...then wait. Sometimes as much as 30 minutes before you were 'allocated' a table. In the meantime, nowhere to sit, have a drink in the area...just standing, with lots of others. The Pinnacle Restaurant was very good...but at a premium of $25pp, not something I'd budgetted for. Interestingly, the officers ate there.... Dining waiting staff were generally very polite, helpful and efficient. But, the noise level in the Rotterdam, was quite staggering...if you are hard of hearing, your aid would have been working overtime to cut out all the chattering noises. Not pleasant. The Lido was ok food wise - plenty of choices, just finding a table could be the morning challenge! The formal evenings were a bit of a joke really....if what some people wore as formal, wouldn't like to see their day clothes. Smart casual would better cover off this requirement I think.
Spending your money. On top of what I paid for this 'inclusive' cruise, I ended up spending another 1,000 (2 people) on extras. By the way, this way not wild extravagances like bottles of champagne ....just the odd cocktail, glass of wine with meal type of expense. And, everything you paid came with a hefty service charge - that certainly wasn't in my budget! Didn't like the idea that you couldn't even make a cup of tea in your cabin...sorry, stateroom. Maybe that was against health and safety, perhaps....! A lot of the activities also came with a fee, and of course the service charge too. All these expenditures mounting up over the week, didn't particularly want a 'surprise' on the last day when the bill arrived, which meant keeping a reasonable tally of what expenses were going out each day...
Entertainment. You could be 'entertained' from 7am to late, if you wanted what was on offer. I found it quite difficult to find a quiet space on board. Even the Discovery Cafe area wasn't particularly quiet as it is situated in a through way to other areas. The best entertainment I found was in the Piano Bar of an evening...though some of the best 'slots' were quite late into the evening.
General ship's management. Just about every hour of every day, staff were cleaning (outside and in), the public areas were kept pretty spick and span. Crew were mainly polite and helpful throughout the voyage.
Summary. Not sure if the above is just a HAL experience, or whether my expectations were/are generally misplaced particularly in relation to dining, 'optional' extra expenses on board, 'busy-ness' and noise levels and the hefty charges. Maybe the cruise environment isn't for me - having said that the locations on the voyages, were certainly places I wouldn't normally have had access to, so maybe that what any future cruise needs to offer me and the rest....well, do others 'do cruising' better than the HAL group, which I'd been led to believe was one of 'the better Lines' The jury is obviously still out.