First a word about our trip there. US Airways from Phoenix, 6 hours delayed to Philadelphia. Missed Amsterdam connection re-routed to Frankfurt. We were supposed to arrive 8 am day of cruising (I know that is cutting it close!). Arrived at 3 pm. We easily made ship but we were worried the whole time. Luckily our luggage made it. So a disaster was averted by US Airways so we can't say too much.
Now about the cruise. We have a 50 day pin after this cruise so we have been on HAL a lot. Next to Oceania, our favorite line. We also cruised RCL and Celebrity. The level of elegance and service is definitely not what it has been on our last HAL cruises. Especially longer Europe cruises which have been a cut above.
As You Wish Dining: Expect first day to be a zoo and people dressed poorly. It does get much better and we were able to get the dinner reservation we wished and sit with a few of the same lovely people. The service level was not what it was with fixed seating. No elaborate sauces, pepper offered rarely. I asked for sour cream on my potato and had to open up the potato myself. Also with some of the ship on fixed dining and some as you wish, the fixed dining people definitely looked down on the AYW folks. This was upsetting to some of our tablemates who had a very high level suite. Food was spotty some nights great some not. Also they seemed to want you out of the dining room.
Other high points were the bridge instructors and the culinary program. Both excellent! Ship has been re-done. A new library and bathrooms. Appeared very clean.
A note about shore excursions. Most were totally booked prior to getting on the ship. Never in the past has that been the case. Also when we were on the trip to York, guide complained that they put too many people in the groups. Not what HAL had contracted for.
Appears the dollar against the pound is hitting HAL.
In addition, the ports HAL sailed into were the ugliest grimy industrial places that they could stop. The cab drivers kept asking us why the ship stopped there. Money saving of course! There is a lot of staff turnover at HAL nowadays which could account for the lack of service. 60 new crew people on our leg. Long time HAl cruisers will not like the changes.