Background: This was my 3rd cruise within the past 2 years, my first on a HAL ship, my first time visiting European ports, and my first Trans-Atlantic cruise. I'm a woman in my 40's, traveled solo but had family members also on board, did most activities on my own.
Hotel Info: We were in Rome for 5 days pre-cruise and stayed in an apartment which we found through the Bed & Breakfast Association of Rome, after reading about it on our ship's roll call board. It was clean, large, nicely furnished, in a decent neighborhood (Trastevere) and it was convenient to a train stop that took us into the central area after about a 10 minute ride. It was also very affordable compared to the price we would have paid for 3 separate hotel rooms. Communication with our hostess was a bit challenging as she spoke little English and we spoke little Italian, but we knew that would be the case for the apartment we chose. I would utilize that association again for future accommodations. I enjoyed Rome and have already decided to go back after my next cruise lands in Barcelona next spring. I found it very easy to get around the city on foot and much less time consuming, enjoyable and entertaining than to utilize the public transportation. I found most people of Rome to be pleasant and helpful. I enjoyed the food and wine, especially at the restaurants in the neighborhood we stayed in.
Transportation from airport to Rome and from Rome to the Port: We arranged in advance to have a van pick us up at the airport then deliver us to our apartment, then pick us up at the apartment for travel to the Port. It went very smooth and was very affordable for 5 people and lots of luggage, at 55 euros from the airport, then 75 to the port. We used a service found on these boards.
Embarkation: It was quick & easy; we had filled out our immigration information online, had our boarding passes, and were on board quickly after arriving at the Port about 11am. Lunch was being served in the Lido, cabins were ready about an hour later, followed by our luggage in about another hour.
Cabin: My balcony cabin was on the 4th deck, starboard, only a few cabins back from the very front. It was large, the balcony was larger than I had expected, the storage was great and would have been suitable even if I wasn't traveling alone. The bed and bedding were very comfortable. It was nice having a bathtub.
Ship: I thought the ship was beautifully and comfortably decorated. The artwork throughout was interesting and I thought it was enjoyable to look at. There were lots of public areas, inside and outside, with comfortable seating. I like to walk outside whenever possible, but I found this ship not very conducive to that. The only deck one could really walk around on easily, without a lot of obstructions, was the Promenade Deck, and the only outside stairs were between the Lido and the Observation Decks. One area I particularly did not care for was on the Lido deck, the hallway from the front elevators is narrow and goes right through the front desk for the salon and spa. The layout of that hallway was awkward, frequently overcrowded, and the staff at that desk seemed to rarely smile.
Activities: The spa did have what I thought were some good deals on treatments, and the gym was nicely equipped with a fantastic view, but was too crowded many of the times I went there. The culinary demonstration area was also difficult to enjoy unless you went there way ahead of time. The in-room movie selection was good but lots of people couldn't seem to find their schedule - it's located inside the hard cover book that also includes the room service menu's and other usual hotel-type info.
Shore Excursions: I didn't utilize the ship's shore excursions except for Half Moon Cay, opting instead to explore the Ports on my own. In many Ports, we had to take a shuttle bus from the ship to outside the port area and then in the reverse. This wasn't organized, and most times seemed to result in a lot of pushing and shoving, downright rude behavior by passengers, and a couple times I witnessed bouts of swearing between passengers. It was these times that I found the general crowd to be made up of people I really didn't want to be on a ship with; men who seemed to abandon all thoughts of being a gentleman (even towards the very elderly folks with special needs), and loud, pushy women who wouldn't recognize lady-like behavior if they saw it. Truly it often was a disgusting display of human behavior.
I enjoyed all the ports but feel most of those are best discussed on the boards since this review is long enough as it is. However, I will say that Half Moon Cay was an island paradise. I had booked the horseback riding and swimming with the stingrays, which were both adventures I really enjoyed. Worth every dime in my opinion. The water was so nice that it was impossible to stay out of it.
Dining: Personally, I much prefer anytime dining. However, I enjoyed the dining room atmosphere, our waitstaff, and I found the selection on the menu to be nicely varied. Certainly there were repetitions, but it was a 16-day cruise. The dishes considered the chef's specialties were marked as such, which I thought made it nice to try new things. I never had a bad meal. The lobster was really good, which is not always the case on a ship. I always enjoyed the soups (hot or cold selections). One thing I really liked was that I could order room service off of the dining room menu during dining room hours. I simply had to call room service to ask for a menu; they were very nice and very quick. Once they forgot my silverware, but they brought it very quickly after I called. Next day I was surprised to get a nice plate of chocolate strawberries with their apologies. Ordering off the dining room menu truly was a nice bonus because about 9 days into the cruise I developed a nasty cold so was keeping myself away from other people. Had I not been able to enjoy the dining room food, and enjoy the ocean from my private balcony, I would have been a very sad, sick, puppy.
The Lido restaurant did a nice job with breakfasts and lunches, and I understand the dinners were very nicely varied, although I never had dinner there. Although the staff in the Lido seemed to be very on top of their duties, that's the other area of the cruise that I often encountered very rude behavior from fellow passengers. It was quite ordinary to have people literally trying to push their way ahead, or around, those already in line. I heard so many rude comments from other passengers about others that it was really disheartening. The rooms did get quite crowded at peak times, making it difficult to find seating especially when the weather wasn't nice enough to be outside.
Disembarkation: I thought it was the nicest I've experienced yet. I felt no rush to be out of my cabin, enjoying a room service breakfast and movie before leaving my cabin around 9:15 to hang outside on the Lido deck until we were called off about 10:30.
Summary: Beautiful and comfortable ship, great itinerary, very relaxing atmosphere. That said, it wasn't what I could consider a fun ship by any means, I was really turned off by the rude and generally unpleasant crowds, and I was way too young for this cruise. I had read that about HAL prior to booking, but booked because I really liked this itinerary. I don't think I'll be swayed again by an itinerary into booking with HAL anytime soon.