I have been on 9 cruises and this was my first with HAL. I traveled with my husband and my 6 year old and 16 year old. I never write reviews but I rely on them heavily and since most of the reviews were negative I felt compelled to share. The complaints I read were minor, I mean if the coffee runs out, they will get more just like at home. It isn't a life changing event or worth knocking off a star on the cruise review. Seriously, I don't sweat the small stuff. Anyway, my main complaint, and it is very minor, is that the food in the Rotterdam dining room wasn't the best I have had on a cruise. It wasn't horrible and it was much better than buffet. We are not fans of buffet anyway. Also the dining room seemed under staffed but everyone was very nice and did the best they could.
Embarkation/debarkation-The fastest and smoothest of any cruise I have ever taken. Saturday when the ship docked, we were checking into our hotel in Boston before 10 am. No joke!
Stateroom-We had a verandah suite and an inside room on deck 9. The rooms were very nice. Fresh fruit delivered daily, jetted tub in the sweet, movie rentals, large balcony with 2 chairs and a lounger, flat screen tv. Our state room attendants were awesome. We boarded the ship with already 4 days of laundry due to our stay in Montreal so we opted for the unlimited laundry. It said the clothes would be returned within 48 hours but it was back in 2 hours every time and they even pressed my sweats, pajamas, and my 6 year old's t-shirts. Very nice.
Entertainment- Maybe not the most exciting but there was something to do every night. The Bob Mackie show was wonderful and we pretty much were in the Crow's Nest every night for happy hour and dancing. The live band was very good. There was also the piano bar that was fun and of course the casino.
Ship-The ship was very clean and looked good considering it's age. Department of Health came on and they passed the inspection with flying colors. I called this ship/cruiseline the germaphobe because they were pumping hand sanitizer in your hands every few minutes even if you were holding something lol. I can't complain about cleanliness. Areas of the ship were never really crowded either and no long lines for anything. The gym was very nice, huge, and not crowded. I wish I knew there was an indoor movie theater on our cruising day it was a great movie for my 6 year old. I found out too late. The photos were very basic backdrops and quality and double the price of other cruise lines. We came home with 2 photos instead of 10 or 20.
Club Hal(kids club)- I was very concerned about this since my kids are usually on the "fun ship" with hundreds or more kids. I couldn't even find a review from anyone with kids. I was told there were about 60 kids in the teen program and about 20 in the age 3-7. My kids were very happy. They had friends the first day. The Club Hal crew were mostly American and because there were such few kids, they knew our kids by name and acknowledged them and us on the ship always. We paid for the late night babysitting (after 10 pm) which was only $5/hr and when we would pick him up, it would just be him with one of the crew playing WII and having a blast. They even hand wrote a goodbye letter to him and placed it in our mailbox. I was overall very pleased with the program. If anything could change it would be for the kids club to be open and not closed from 4-7pm. Our dinner was at 7 and we would come back onboard around 4 or 5 and he would want to go to the playroom and it was closed.
Ports/excursions-We only booked one excursion through the ship and did the rest on our own. My only advice here is in Sydney, dress for very cold weather if you visit the fortress.. We were in shorts with no jackets. It was 50 F or less and they tried to tell us it would be warmer there! At the Louisberg Fortress they said it is always cold there! I was freezing and could hardly enjoy it. It was so foggy too. We were tendered in Bar Harbor using the life boats. I had never been in the life boat before but it was great to see how large and well structured they were. Yes they were working on the life boats and it was noisy in the early morning but I would rather my life boat work so not worth complaining about like I read on other reviews. We enjoyed all the stops and primarily visited the forts, and historical buildings.
Dining-I already touched on buffet and main dining room. The dive in burger joint was really good. Too bad it closed at 5pm everyday. I personally didn't try the pizza but my son said it was not great and it was at an awkward part of the ship and closed at 5pm as well. There is no 24 hour ice-cream like the "fun ships" so this was tough on my family (not me). They knew exactly when ice cream was being served and Tutik in the Lido serving the ice cream knew my family well! The breakfast buffet was really good with great choices and the omelet and eggs to order line were never long maybe only 2 people every time I went. Self service was suspended in the Lido for the first 48 hours due to preventing the spread of germs. I had never seen this before but it was nice just getting served. Lido is never 100% self service the entire week. My son said the room service was amazing.
I was concerned about the fog the ship was cruising through at night. The horn blew every 5 minutes all night long in Sydney and Halifax.. We had to stay in Sydney 5 extra hours to allow the winds to die down. They did very little and we moved on to Sydney with wind and fog. The captain said "We're going to try this and if it doesn't work we will abort" The captain kept us informed and we docked only an hour later than scheduled. Not bad.
Overall the cruise went well. The staff were really nice people, primarily from Indonesia. Although most people were older than us we met many nice people of all ages from all over the world..My husband said he wouldn't do HAL again but if it were the only cruiseline doing the itinerary like this one, I would!