BACKGROUND: My husband and I are in our early 50's and this was our 6th cruise. We have previously cruised on RCI, Princess, and Celebrity. I was hesitant about cruising with HAL hearing that the majority of cruisers would be older than us, but our group wanted to try this line. I went with an open mind because there were 11 of us, and I knew we would have a good time regardless. However, we were one of the first groups to board and we were surrounded with cruisers in their 70's and 80's, some with walkers or in wheelchairs. We saw only a handful of younger adults in the 20-50 age range. However, back to the beginning...
TRAVEL AND FT. LAUDERDALE HOTEL: We made reservations with an internet agency. We flew down on Air Tran from PHL the day before. The flight was ontime and uneventful. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard, Dania Beach. They offered free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the ship. The only drawback to this location is that there is nothing to do nearby. The pool was closed and a taxi is necessary to get around. The shuttle took us over to the port at 10 am, and the check in process was quick. While we waited in a holding room to board the ship, we were served with refreshments which was a nice touch. However, we found that this would be the only good service for the week.
CABIN: Clean, spacious, and plenty of storage. The attendant was friendly and excellent.
FOOD: The food onboard was good overall. Service in the dining room for dinner was extremely slow the first night. It seemed that the waiter and wine steward had too many tables to service. However, after we complained to the head waiter, the service improved greatly. My only complaint would be that the servers were not personable, that they were merely going through the motions. On Princess and Celebrity, our servers gave us their honest opinion about the menu. They would joke with us and bring us desserts that we didn't order just so we could sample it. We even had some waiters that literally ran from the kitchen with our dinners (which I realize is probably a rarity)! They really made us feel like kings and queens, and the dining experience became an important part of our cruise experience. We went to the afternoon tea once. The sandwiches were just ok, but the desserts were excellent and service was good. The Super Bowl food ran out fast and wasn't replenished. I heard that I missed out on some good wings and appetizers. We ate dinner in the Pinnacle Grill the last night and it was excellent as was the service. I would recommend going there. The buffet at the Lido was ok and coffee was decent. They had an ice cream station every afternoon with some delicious flavors but ran out of sugar cones 2 days before the cruise ended. Room Service brought us breakfast twice and it was always on time and good. ART
AUCTION: I didn't like any of the artwork on display so I didn't attend any of the auctions.
CASINO: There were plenty of tables but they were not always open, even when there were plenty of people around to fill them. The dealers were always grim faced and not at all personable or friendly. No one ever came around for a drink order. SHIP: The layout was fine, the artwork boring. It was clean and we always saw the crew wiping down handrails. Since the pool had a retractable roof, there were no chairs on the deck above overlooking the pool. As a matter of fact, there wasn't a great amount of areas for sunbathing compared to the other ships that I've been on. Forget about getting a cold drink. Service was practically nonexistent. We sat in the Crow's Nest a few times. The chairs were very worn, the carpets stained, and there was a musty odor near the windows. One night it was closed for a private party.
ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed the juggling comedian and the Amazing 88's (dueling piano's). I wouldn't recommend seeing Danny Storts, the stand up comedian and the Indonesian Crew Show. Some nights the disco was very lively, and other nights it was pretty dead.
SPA: I got a manicure and pedicure which was fine. I enjoyed the pilates and stretching classes, and the instructor was excellent and very friendly. However, the gym was small. Yoga on the beach on Half Moon Cay was also good.
PORTS: GRAND TURK-We had a great time around the pool at the cruise center, and there were a nice selection of shops.
TORTOLA-We arrived at noon. I was looking forward to going to Cane Garden Bay beach after reading posts from other cruise critic members, but there was a problem with the tenders. After waiting almost 2 hours, we didn't get off the ship until 3 pm, too late to go to the beach. I didn't find anything interesting in the shops.
ST. MAARTEN-We shopped in Philipsburg and ate lunch at a restaurant on the beach.
HALF MOON CAY-Nice day, good food, beautiful blue water.
EMBARKATION: Smooth and painless. Plenty of taxis.
SUMMARY: Although we had a good time with the people we were with, I wouldn't cruise with HAL again. It seemed more geared to older cruisers. Also trying to get a drink was next to impossible unless you were sitting right at the bar. My 2 girlfriends and I sat in the Ocean Bar for 30 min. and no one came by to get our drink order. This may not be important to some, but service is a major part of my cruise experience. I enjoy a more lively and active cruise with more of a fun but classy atmosphere similar to Princess.