Sorry for the delayed review, I just wanted to give my thoughts regarding this cruise and am a fairly new Cruise Critic member.
We arrived in Ft Lauderdale one day prior to cruising; we stayed at the courtyard Marriott and got a pretty good deal ($120). This rate included the free shuttle to the port, a decent breakfast and shuttle from the airport. The accommodations were just OK, the room seemed really run down and the evening we arrived, there were 10 or so high school students that were in the lobby in tuxedos and formal wear, they were obviously drunk and were pretty rowdy.
My wife and I are early thirties and this was our second cruise, our first was Star Princess and we absolutely have nothing bad to say about our first cruise. We chose HAL because we had heard good things about this line, we were somewhat disappointed overall.
The ship itself was pretty run down, the windows were dirty, there was rust etc. There was a foul smell in one of the hallways en route to the dining room and our toilet had some issues flushing at times and maintenance was responsive in fixing this problem. The nightclub was horrible, we went there one night and the 3 couples besides us that were there were on oxygen and walkers and were "getting jiggy" (sarcasm added) with it. The cruise director was pretty cool and although it rained EVERY DAY (not HAL's fault) there were plenty of activities to participate in/watch. I especially enjoyed the chipping contest (into a floating putting green in the pool) as I am an avid golfer.
The food was spectacular and our table fell in love with our servers, they were very approachable and funny and anticipated our needs extremely well. We had window table with 2 other couples and one couple we have since been on 2 additional cruises with; this was probably the highlight of the cruise given the poor weather.
We snorkeled in the Bahamas but given the rain, this was a very chilly boat ride and we weren't too enthused to get into the water. The HAL private island was beautiful but again, it rained the whole time so most people stayed on the boat, we spent no more than an hour and HAL did refund the cost of the clamshell that we had booked.
The stateroom was pretty roomy, we had an unobstructed window (on our first cruise we had an inside cabin… never again). After seeing our friend's balcony stateroom, we decided we will ALWAYS do a balcony from now on. The room seemed roomier than the Star Princess but also seemed more dated and run down. The pools were nice, they had a sliding roof on the main pool which cam in very convenient given the weather. The entertainment was OK, not real high praise for the "crew" attempting to entertain us, don't expect Broadway.
Embarkation/disembarkation was pretty smooth, nothing negative to say here.
Summary, when we first got home from this cruise, we berated HAL in comparison to our first Princess Cruise. After being on several other cruise lines, we have since realized that HAL is a pretty well run line, other than some updating and elbow grease, this was not so bad. We would go on HAL again if we were able to take advantage of a low rate, we still prefer Princess but thought this was a good second option.
Good Meals, service, quick response to stateroom issues, daytime activities especially given the rainy cruise
Bad Nightlife was poor, shows were not very entertaining, rain (nobody's fault here)