Every cruise had it's good and bad points. This was our second cruise with HAL and was chosen primarily because the timing and itinerary fit our plans. We had cruised to California with another cruise line and needed a boat back.
HAL has some of the best itineraries in the business. Sure, the ports are out of the way to nudge you toward getting their tour rather than striking out on your own, but they're still "off the beaten path" places that you wouldn't see otherwise. Porto Chiapas in Mexico was a delight as was Hutalco. Much better than the tourist clogged Puerto Vallarta.
The canal crossing in the Crow's Nest was spectacular. Previous crossing with Carnival had people jockeying for position standing by the rail in front. Sitting in a panoramic lounge drinking coffee and eating Panama rolls was much preferred.
Service was excellent. Amelia and Edward were great. We had a Nor virus outbreak during the cruise and they were constantly cleaning to keep it in check. Moses on the Lido deck was great.
It's hard to call a virus outbreak a plus but the ship's handling of it was. But for the Captain's constant nagging to wash your hands and the crew's non-stop cleaning it could have been much worse. Illness is an ever present threat while traveling but this ship showed that with the proper safeguards it can be minimized.
The shows were excellent but if you wanted to see them you had to get there an hour early. Since the main show was usually the only real entertainment at night, everyone went and seating was at a premium.
There wasn't a lot of entertainment. What they had was good but it was primarily one entertainer per night and then a movie or sales talks about shopping or port excursions. The windows classes were good but on a two week trip they became mainly reruns.
The fitness center was a disaster. There was one small changing area across from the showers. The area opened into the spa area and I spent one morning in a towel explaining to an elderly woman this was not the way to the coffee it was the MENs locker room. The last day I had a female employee showing a spa patron around trying to open the changing room door (ALWAYS lock it when you use it). Thank goodness I wasn't in the shower as they were open to this area and had a frosted glass door. The showers took forever(4 minutes plus) to get hot and then kept cycling between hot and cold all shower. I ended up with one heck of a cold. Told the attendants and they said they had maintenance look at it but it never changed.
Ports were chosen to promote their excursions. As I have mentioned, that was usually fine. But Caldera, Costa Rica was ridiculous. We docked in an industrial park filled with container and off loaded cars. There was nothing to do if you didn't take an excursion. And the unsavoriness of the area did not lend itself for shopping around the independents. Less than two miles away was Puertarenas which was where most cruise ship landed and had lots of tourist areas. This was an obvious grab for money.
Speaking of which, the upselling onboard was constant. I realize that a substantial amount of the cruise income is from the shopping and casino but at time I felt I was back in Cartagena with the street vendors following us around. Not cool.
Finally, the age of the target audience. I am mid sixties as is my wife. We were obviously ten years or more too young for this cruise. Walkers and disoriented people abounded. And when the virus broke out it became a disaster. The crew worked heroically but when you had disoriented people wandering around with their lunch on their shirt front, there are limits to what they can do. Also, the entertainments (such that their were) were geared to that age group.