While this cruise was definitely the most expensive one I've paid for to date, we had a lovely cabin - #196, which is at the aft of the ship, has a very large balcony and wrap around floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto a small but public outside deck. Our windows were the kind that no one could see in during the daytime, but we needed to shut our drapes at night. No biggie. The cabin was lovely with lots of storage and a great walk-in closet. Beds were comfy. The cabin was a little squeaky at times and vibrated quite a bit when we would be entering/leaving ports, but other than that it was quiet and smooth.
We had early seating for our dining room and we enjoyed our table, our other tablemates (we were 8 single women) were fun and interesting, and our dining staff were very attentive and, contrary to others' opinions in their reviews, we would definitely be able to pick them out of a lineup!!!
I found the food to be very good. The presentation was very well done, the food was always cooked properly and save for one time at breakfast when my coffee was poured lukewarm at best, I thought very highly of our dining. The selection at each meal was varied - beef, lamb, chicken, fish, vegetarian, one night we had a venison choice, great soups, nice salads, pretty good desserts. Nothing at all to complain about.
I thought that the crew on the ship was very friendly, everyone always smiling and saying good morning, good evening, etc. I found the office staff to be polite, but I would say that the library staff that rotated left something to be desired. One young woman in particular was dense as a thick forest and she spoke very loudly all the time which annoyed the crap out of me, especially in a library.
The entertainment was varied. Personally, I don't care for the singers/dancers troupe that perform every few days, but lots of people like that sort of thing. I prefer to see the individual acts that come on board and for the most part, they were very good on this cruise. The violinist was the highlight for me, Vincenzo Gentile. I could have listened to him for hours and hours. The magician we had on early in the cruise was really good too. My only complaint was that they repeated 3 of the entertainers and I thought that was a bit tacky. HAL should be able to not have to repeat performances.
A big shout-out to our Dutch Housekeeping/Hotel Assistant Manager, Michel(sp?). Handsome, pleasant, hard worker, --- wish I could have taken him home in my suitcase. Great representation for HAL.
Ports - I don't know why people complain about the ports when they know up front what ports they will be visiting. Most ports, no matter where in the world you are, a just that - ports. Not always very pretty. Industrial. Hello? What I think is more important is what kind of access to places past the ports there is that you would want to visit. For example, Edinburgh. The port was ugly. The trip into Edinburgh was about 40 minutes by taxi or coach. Expensive and time-consuming since we were only in port from 8 AM to 5 PM. And it was raining. But what can you do? If you want to visit Edinburgh for a longer period of time, the ship could either have stayed longer, or you would go there on a land tour, not via a ship cruise. On the other hand, we stopped in Liverpool. The port was right there at the door to the city and getting around was quick and cheap and easy - lots of things to do and see within 5-10 minutes from the ship. Liverpool's port itself is busy and undergoing lots of renovations, so it was messy and a bit ugly, but you have to look past those things.
I especially enjoyed being able to visit smaller places that I most likely would never have the opportunity to see - such as Milford Haven Wales and the enchanting island of Guernsey. What a delight!!!
Ships tours - HAL's tours are over the top expensive and with the exception of one tour that I took as a last minute thought (and there was space) we set up our own private tours before we ever got on the ship. For example, we used a private tour company in Belfast to spend the whole day out going to Giants Causeway and tour Belfast. We were 12 people on a smaller coach, with a fun and knowledgeable driver. We enjoyed a beautiful drive out the Antrim Coast, almost 2 hours at Giants Causeway, and then about a 2 hour tour back in Belfast later in the afternoon. It cost us each $61. If you took the same tour with HAL you'd have spent $244 and been on a coach with 60 people. So, it pays to shop around first. Cruise Critic is very helpful with that - use the boards and search criteria and you'll see!!!
The ship itself - very clean, beautiful flowers everywhere, the public bathrooms were gorgeous - I only wish my own bathroom at home looked like them! My only complaint was that during the daytime hours there were work crew on board that were banging and banging doing some sort of repair work. The noise made me crazy, and when I finally snapped and went and yelled at someone about it, within 5 minutes the noise stopped. I understand that they had to do the repair work, but it just made me crazy because it was right back near our cabin. What can you do.
Overall, a great cruise and I feel that for the most part, I got my money's worth. Everything is expensive these days, especially in Europe.