Travel to San Diego: We flew from Seattle to San Diego. The airport in SD is just a few minutes from the dock. Friends picked up us at the airport and we parked right across the street from the ship. Embarkation was a breeze; HAL was very well organized. All was explained in the packet of information we received several weeks prior to our trip.
Cabin: We had a main deck cabin with a window and unobstructed view. Very nice and worth the extra to upgrade from an inside stateroom. Room steward was excellent and kept our room spotless and well-supplied. Plenty of closet space and a nice if small bathroom.
Crew and ship cleanliness: All the staff was friendly and the ship was immaculate. The ship has lots of polished brass, chrome and glass in the decor and it was kept gleaming by round the clock housekeeping. There were hand sanitizer dispensers located throughout the ship and the crew was dispensing it as you came on board after a port of call, and before meals. There More
were reminders all over the ship about handwashing and the restrooms were also kept very clean.
Food: The food was excellent at both the Lido restaurant (cafeteria style) as well as at the Vista dining room (evening meals served in courses). There were other food venues such as the grill for burgers and hot dogs, a taco bar by the midships pool, and other special meals set up in buffets around the ship. We did not try the Pinnacle Grill which offered exclusive dining for an additional fee.
Ports of Call-Cabo San Lucas: Very disappointing place to us as it is totally Americanized with high rise resorts and mostly populated by Californians. We took a city bus to San Jose del Cabo and that was the best part of the day as we had a chance to visit with the local people. The bus took almost an hour to travel 20 miles since it stopped at all the high rise hotels that span the beach between Cabo and San Jose. San Jose was a little better than Cabo. We found the original town square and church and spent some time walking around there the but prices we paid for lunch were American prices and the food was only so-so. Most of what we saw in the shops was tourist souvenirs from China. We recommend you don't bother--just stay on the ship and enjoy a day at the pool. Taxis here were a rip-off and beware of people selling tours and timeshares and everything else where you get off the ship. People were persistent to the point of following us and grabbing our arms to sell us stuff. We managed to run the gauntlet and get past these people but one lady on our ship managed to get caught up in a time share promotion deal (advertised as a "boutique hotel opportunity"
Ports of Call - Mazatlan: We took a 4 hour city tour sponsored through the ship. It was a good overview of the city and worth the money we paid. Our driver was knowledgeable in the history of the area and pointed out a lot of interesting sights to see on your own. There is a gringo section of Mazatlan which is very Americanized with expensive hotels and high priced jewelry and leather shops. This did not appeal to us although my friend who was shopping for jewelry said the prices were good if you were willing to negotiate with them. We asked to be dropped off back in the old section of Mazatlan when the tour ended and spent a lovely afternoon wandering around on our own. I speak a little Spanish and that was sufficient to get us by. Many people spoke English but they seemed to appreciate the fact that I was trying to speak their language. They are a very gracious people. The architecture in old Mazatlan is wonderful and the cathedral there is worth a visit.
Ports of Call - Puerto Vallarta: We did a self-conducted tour and thoroughly enjoyed Puerto Vallarta. We preferred the older section of town with its narrow winding cobblestone streets and wrought iron work. We spent some time along the boardwalk that runs south of the main town along the Playa del Sol and Playa del Muertes. The water was a little cold for swimming but we stuck our feet in and sat basking on the sand for a while. If you want to have a shaded table or palapas, you will need to either get a day pass from the hotel that lays claim to that stretch of beach, or plan on ordering food and drinks from the restaurant that has tables along there. There were locals who had brought their own beach umbrellas and chairs but since we didn't, we joined a restaurant there and had some excellent food and beverages while we lazed away the afternoon. Taxis were very reasonable here--$7 to go back to port from the very south end of the beach area.
Entertainment on ship: There was a great string quartet from the Ukraine that played in one of the piano bars every evening. We saw all the floor shows which were very well done. We enjoyed the casino although if you are really into gambling then this is not the ship for you. The Casino is small and pretty low key. There was a multitude of dance venues with a variety of music. The pools were lovely--one family pool at mid ships with a cover for the windy days, and one aft designated as the adult pool. Both pools were fresh water but not heated and there are two hot tubs at each pool. The pool deck and area was kept very clean--something that I really appreciate. Lots of lounge chairs in the various decks available for sunning and a nice snooze. None of the entertainment areas ever felt crowded. It was hard to believe there were 1900 people on board.
Disembarkation: All went smoothly and on schedule. I estimate less than 20 min. to get off, through customs and find our baggage.
All in all the cruise was a delight with top notch service. Only one time did our room service order come up missing something, and that was remedied right away. Later we found a basket of chocolate covered strawberries in our stateroom with a note of apology from the Dining room manager for their mistake. Less