Our background. Family of 4 Parents in 40 something bracket, European, two kids 15 and 8.(20yr old stayed at home) 5th cruise, all with HAL. Transfer from Rome Fiumicino. Arranged our own €150. Air con door to door, excellent. Embarkation. A breeze. (We did pre-register, it does help)
Ship 1st Impressions. Beautiful...and it stayed beautiful all cruise. Room. Outside room on forward main deck, a bit small for the 4 of us, but when we win the lottery we can afford the balcony. A bit noisy in the AM when ship was maneuvering into port, but only effected this ol fellah, who is v.light sleeper.
Dining. Food was very good, have to say not as good as the Westerdam last year, but there is a reason and here it is.... My Gripe: They are 'trying out' the concept of open seating, and HAL are you listening ????? It does not work Guys !!! Lines to get to your dinner table (20min!!!), passengers hungry and not in good mood, some quiet irate, staff therefore not in good mood, all in all did not make for a successful concept. As a result when you did get to your table, you had different staff every night, you did not get the chance to build up the rapport with your waiter, that I feel is a very enjoyable part of the HAL experience. The food was good, but with the basics wrong I felt the standards had slipped from previous cruises. Gripe over, and I trust this experiment, back to assigned seating please, not perfect but 1000 times better than this experiment.
Entertainment. Good, did not go every night, but those who did enjoyed it. Being from the country of origin of the comedian, I had heard all his jokes before, but the audience seemed to like him. Piano bar, Jimmy was excellent...and patient with a few inebriated loud patrons on a few nights. His wife was there for early part of cruise, and they did duets, which were magical.
Excursions. Did not do one ship organized excursion, did all the on shore travelling ourselves and in terms of budget and enjoyment we suited ourselves and a resounding success. Highlight was trip to Capri on the Naples stop...breathtaking. Do not know why they stop in La Goulette Tunisia, other than to see what that part of the world is like, but feedback from many was, "well been there, saw it, and wont be going back" Carthage is worth visiting but that's it. Staff. This is what makes HAL, excellent and always give that extra bit to make you feel welcome.
Disembarkation. A breeze. Was off far too quick for the lump in my throat to disappear, and arranged own transport (as arrival) which was good. Summary Would still never travel on any other cruise line, HAL take the biscuit, and if they sort out that blip on the radar re the dining room they are excellent.