I sailed out on December 6 from Fort Lauderdale. I flew down the day before on Jetblue on a morning nonstop. I was staying at the Rodeway Inn, which had a free airport shuttle. I had to wait for an hour for pickup, and when I got there, no room was available other than a second floor room. The hotel does not have an elevator, and so this was not an option for me. The hotel offered to shuttle us to a local grocery store for $5. They took up there promptly, but it took three calls and waiting for an extra hour to get picked up. The hotel is nothing special. They cater to cruisers, but it is poorly organized. I had dinner at the restaurant the night before, which was overpriced, and the food was bad. Adding insult to injury was the mandatory 18% tip. I do not recommend eating there.The shuttle to the port went OK
Embarkation-I got to the port about 10am. I got a number 1-which is the lowest number I have ever gotten. I figured I would be on by 11-wrong! The ship was late getting in, and the passengers were late getting off. No announcement was ever made -which would have been helpful. I finally got aboard around 1pm and had lunch in the MDR. Cabins did not open up till around 2pm. My one suitcase came quickly, but the other one did not arrive until nearly 7pm.
Cabin-I stayed in Veranda Suite 61. This is located in the aft-it is three cabins from the aft pool. There was a bit of vibration there-mostly at night, and sometimes there was a bit of noise from above in the Lido in early morning. I wore earplugs, and it never bothered me. However, the air conditioning seems to stop working around 11pm. I woke up most nights around 1am, and had to sleep with just a sheet after that. I sailed along, but even if I had a companion, there was ample storage space. I had at least 6 empty drawers. There is a small refrigerator in the room. It keeps things cool, but not cold. The cabin steward brought ice twice a day. The ice bucket is very small-after two or three drinks-it was empty.
Food-I had room service for most all of the breakfasts and lunches. Breakfast always came ontime or a bit early. Lunch came in about the 45 minutes promised. The food was fine-the only issue was despite calling, my lunch food did not get picked up-sometimes it was still there at 6:30pm!
Initially, I was booked for late seating at a table for 8. The first night, I was shown to my table where one man was. It was a table for 6. I ate at the Pinnacle the next night, and the third night, I showed up and I was there alone. The waiter asked me where the man was, and i replied I had no idea. The single man showed up fifteen minutes later, and told me he was switching to as you like dining. The waiter told us the table had only two other people assigned to it, and they had never come to dinner. I informed the maitre'd that I would not stay sitting at a table by myself for 11 more nights, and they switched the table to a table with 4 other couples. The waiter was super there and i was glad for the change. I was happy with the food. However, the budget has affected the menu. There is no tuna, swordfish, sea bass, or crab legs on the menu. I do not come on HAL to have meat loaf or short ribs. I wish there would be two seafood entrees on the menu every night, but that is not the case. I requested fresh fruit as a standing dessert every night, and this was complied with.
Entertainment-Here is where being a smaller ship really hurts. Some of the entertainment is pretty bad. The big cast show has 2 dancers-both women. I come to watch parter dancing-not 2 women twirling a streamer around. Shows have been cut to 45-50 minutes. The singer I loved from my previous cruise on the Maasdam (Karl Morgan) did a show-but it was the exact same show I had seen in March. The best show is the own with the 2 opera signers-but I have now seen it three times in 18 months-a bit much! There was no late night comedy show. There was no show for the late night dinner seating twice-the one night there was a movie for the early diners, but it was not repeated for the late night diners. The cruise show was considered a show for us, as is the Dancing with the Stars finale. I do not consider those as a evening show. I did listen to the violin and piano duo most every night in the Explorer's lounge. If you are looking for super quality entertainment-this is not the ship for you!
Ports-I came on this ship for the ports and it did not disappoint. We were late coming into Saint Thomas by an hour due to high winds-this is not the captain's fault, and we were alerted to this the afternoon before. The captain had difficulty docking in Saint Bart's and arranged a different location so people could tender ashore. I give him high marks for not aborting the port call. Any beach lover would love this itinerary! Saint Lucia is not known for its beaches, but Pidgeon Island is more than acceptable. Carlisle Bay in Barbados, Grand Anse in Grenada, Mambo Beach in Curacao-all super! I took a cab to Carlisle Bay-stayed at Harbor Lights-and then walked back. Took the water taxi to Grand Anse and back-if you go to the left when you get off the boat-the bar there makes a super strong, super delicious rum punch for $5! I took a bus to and from Mambo Beach for around $3 each way-fast, cheap and easy!
Disembarkation-This was poorly organized. The sheet needs to be revised to make it clear at what times people need to leave, and to avoid a huge snaking line through all the hallways. Once i got off the ship, I went to my booked tour of Sawgrass Mills. I had loads of time to kill, the mall is nothing special, but it was better than sitting at the airport for four more hours.