I'm a 3 star mariner with HAL. I traveled with my sister (both of us are mid 40's), her son and his girlfriend (both are 19).
Embarkation - smoothest yet. short lines, quick check in, rooms ready when we boarded.....
Muster drill - they did roll call, a first for me.
First impressions - mid aged passenger compliment, very few kids, not really older crowd. I'd guess most are 40-50 yr olds. And a greater mix of foreigners than I've cruised with previously.
One of the things I love most about HAL ships, is that it does not seem crowded. Even at 1pm on embarkation day there were no lines and lots of empty tables up in the Lido.
I am overall impressed with the passenger compliment. On our last 2 HAL cruises, there were plenty of T-shirts, jeans, and baseball caps in the main dining room; vocal complaints, and general rudeness to crew and other passengers on and off all week. People are pleasant and polite. While I didn't see anyone in a tux, the men almost all wore jacket and/or tie on formal night. My faith in my fellow HAL cruisers has been renewed.
Half Moon Cay - nice as always. We had left Port Everglades late and arrive at HMC late - the captain announced we would have some extra time on the island and we would depart late as well. We didn't really need it though. Everyone was on board in plenty of time. This was my first visit with the two story cabanas. I guess they are ok. The pirate ship has weathered and is starting to blend in to the look of the island. I'm still not a fan of the BBQ.
Ocho Rios - I arranged for a tour with Peat Taylor. Peat himself drove us to our first stop - tubing on White River. very enjoyable. Our guide was fun and took care of us. I met his puppy before we started and he let the puppy ride with me on my tube. Peat's son (aka RePeat) drove us to Irie Falls. Our guide didn't speak English the best, but was a nice young man. He escorted us through all the cool spots, helped us, and watched for our safety. I was under the impression from reading about other's trips with him that we could pick where we wanted to go for lunch. RePeat was not keen on going to Scotchies and dropped us off at Mama Marley's right near the port instead. It all worked out... And when in Jamaica - No Worries! The vendors inside the security area of the port were pushy and almost rude. Heaven forbid we glanced in their direction and didn't pay them for the privilege of looking.
Grand Cayman - my wallet was drained in Ochi, so we were going to see what we could work out with someone on shore. We negotiated with a driver for an Island Tour for $15pp. It was a kind of weak tour. "You will see ....." meant "the bus will pass and will pull over so that you can see ...." Not exactly what I expected. Our stop in Hell was rushed. When we pulled away, I was disappointed to see that we didn't stop at the official post office, but a store next to it. (Not sure if we missed anything, but felt like we didn't get the full experience). We next stopped at Dolphin Cove. We all really wanted to swim with the Dolphins but my budget couldn't afford 4 x $100+ for the experience. You can go there and watch others for free. A worker there offered us a deal - 1 x experience for $35 or 2 x for $45, both included a cd with their photographer's pictures. We could pick from a list including two dolphin pull, kiss, and a few others. This was too good to pass up, so I got our things out of the van and told the driver thanks but see ya! It was awesome. The guy told us this is something new they have recently started. We took the public bus back to the port area. We then went to snorkel at Eden Rock. From what I had heard, it was a great spot. It was a bit of a let down. Who knows if it was the weather, the time of day, or the slightly rough waters. We were exhausted, so after only 20-30 min we headed back to the ship.
Late night snack in the Lido on this night was Dutch themed. Poffertjies, gevulde koek. Sate, and Pea Soup. It's at least something of the Dutch heritage that I love.
Lunch on last sea day - Asian section of the lido has nasi and bami goregn, ketjap manis chicken, sate, kroepoek...
Food otherwise was better than on the last trip, but still not 5 star dining that they promote. Service was polite but slow, both in the main dining room and the pinnacle. (Appetizers were served in MDR almost an hour after we sat down.) We did the Canaletto the first night (free champagne!!) it was possibly our best meal all week. The Tamarind was also wonderful. The Pinnacle was good. I was surprised the Lobster Mac and Cheese and the kabobs were not on the new menu. Nevertheless, we were full and happy when we left.
Shows/activities: much to my pleasant surprise, the HALcats were all but non-existent. We went to several shows. Recycled Percussion was the big act. They were on the 4th season of Americas Got Talent (finished 3rd place). The show was packed. The guys were cruising for the whole week. They did a meet & greet both after the show and on the following day. The comedian was ok; he did a lot of impersonations, which were ok, but again, not great. The illusionist was good too. Notable missing activities were the Dessert Extravaganza and the kitchen tour.
Disembarkation was smooth. We were scheduled to be one of the last groups to go (btwn 10-10:15a). Our color was called at 9a. There was a decent line for a cab. Yet, we were at the airport checked in by 10am.