This is our 5th HAL cruise and as always a great experience. You sometimes wonder what kind of travelers cruise the world because some of the reviews from past seasons spoke of untrained staff, tired looking ship, poor food etc.
This was NOT our experience. Staff was GREAT, helpful and polite even with difficult demanding passengers. The ship had been in dry dock in October so I will not comment on how it looked prior to that but in December 2013, the ship was looking clean and very well maintained. Hardly any visible rust spots on the exterior.
EMBARKATION: Easy and hassle free. We were using our French passports so did not require visas. Luggage delivered promptly.
MEALS: Food always excellent on HAL although I will say that on previous cruises on different HAL ships it was probably better. At times, especially at breakfast in the MDR food was often "lukewarm" rather than "hot". Food quality was however very good. Soups both hot and cold always EXCELLENT. Meat cooked to my requested doneness. Pinnacle Grill excellent as was the Caneletto except for our first evening there where my pasta was overcooked.
STATEROOM: Large, roomy and tons of storage. This is a real "plus" that HAL offers. Room clean and in good condition. Bed super comfortable. Bathroom clean and working well but in need of upgrading. Patio furniture also looking tired.
ENTERTAINMENT: We seldom go to shows every night and HAL is not the specialist in large Broadway like productions. I prefer the invited guest entertainers more than the HAL troupe but that is personal to me. Piano Bar player was very, very good and funny. Also the violin player in the Explorer's lounge was exquisite. We listened to her every single evening.
Many thanks to our terrific stateroom attendants: Made and Joe
Neptune lounge concierge: Shirley
Pinnacle Grill staff: Made and Elvira
MDR: Tatang, Francisco
Shore excursion specialist: Patrick
Our Captain who kept us safe, informed and was very present throughout the cruise and did not hesitate to wake everyone at 7 am when a fire alarm sounded. Everything turned out OK but its nice knowing that HAL officers take safety seriously. This is why we keep cruising with them.