Embarkation: It was interesting. We were not supposed to be able to board until 3 PM, but there was speculation it would be earlier. We took a chance (and earlier train) by arriving early, and were onboard just before 1:30. That was a nice start. Everyone was being sent to the Lido (Deck 9) to eat lunch, but we walked up the 2 decks to Deck 4 and went to our aft Veranda cabin. We met our cabin steward, Anom, stowed our carryons, and went to the Lido to eat some lunch.
Cabin: The cabin was very efficient with a flat screen TV (it should have been wall mounted), a mini-fridge (full of extra cost mini-bar drinks but room for our wine and water as well), a very comfortable bed, and quite a bit of wardrobe space. Hanging space and shelves are plentiful, but be warned that drawer space is very limited (2 small ones in each of the night stands). There is no lighting in the wardrobes and it was difficult to tell if we had cleaned out the safe except by feel. The bath was also efficient, but be careful when using the shower. The shower curtain is too short and unless you use the shower head as a hand-held (standing so the spray is toward the wall) the floor will be soaked when you are finished. Durability of the design might be a concern - wallpaper was starting to peel in the room and the flimsy shower curtain track had already pulled loose (I had to snap it back in).
Service: All the staff we met were invariably friendly and willing. This was a high point for us. Was the delivery 100% seamless? Of course not, but the effort always seemed to be there and that rates high in our book. One nice touch was the Lido staff helping passengers (those who needed it) with their trays without being prodded. The staff in the Tamarind (outstanding), Canaletto's (excellent), Pinnacle (excellent), and the Rembrandt (excellent) were all worthy of mention. The overall staff in the Lido was also very good. Our cabin steward was good to very good and always seemed to deliver what we requested on a timely basis. Cleaning in the bath (hair in the bath before we ever used it) and cabin (vacuuming so-so and a rubber glove dropped by the veranda door one day) were somewhat spotty, but I think he was new.
Public Rooms: A big disappointment. They seemed small (not intimate) like HAL wanted to build a 100,000+ ton ship a squeeze it into the Eurodam's 85,000 ton hull. The atrium is a real let down small with an odd pinkish-purple stalactite chandelier. It certainly did not seem to be the hub of the ship. The ship's daily bulletin listed 12 bars. That seems like a lot and resulted in small venues that, in many cases, seemed like passages turned into a lounge (Explorer's) to closed off the rooms (Piano Bar), to strangely decorated, uninviting areas (Northern Lights). The shops are in a setting like a cheap shopping mall with the same pull down security grates. Not inviting at all. The high points were the Screening Room (a great place to see a movie but seats for only 36 people!)and the Silk Den (a beautiful, calming bar across from Tamarind). Artwork is always subjective, but we enjoyed only a little - antiques, old photos, "theater" art pieces, and the asian decor in Tamarind and The Silk Den.
Dining: Tamarind was just outstanding. We dined there for lunch (a no charge set dim sum that is a steal!) and it was excellent. The decor, service, and food were the best on the ship and we cannot recommend it highly enough. Book on-line before you go. Caneletto's is a separate area of the Lido and does not take on-line reservations. we dined there the first night and the food was again excellent. With no surcharge, it was another bargain. Pinnacle Grill was a disappointment. The decor was very attractive and the service was very good (I had no forks when we sat down), but the food was only average - tough filet (medium rare), warm (fresh but not hot) baked potato, and a so-so souffle (ordered in advance it should have been much better). Rembrandt's - a mixed bag. The Rack of Lamb was excellent but trying to pass off a thin lido breakfast pancake as a crepe is inexcusable.
Activities: Not as many as one might expect. Perhaps it is the norm for HAL or it was the 3 night itinerary or the many TAs/media/VIPs that were supposed to be onboard but, with no ports, we expected a few more choices during the day. With a new ship, a few new twists would have been welcome. Instead we got the same old/same old. Even some that we would expect were not there - wine tastings, enrichment talks (perhaps on the long, distinguished history of HAL), etc.
Casino: Small. Intermittent Hip Hop music seemed a very strange choice given the average age of the clientele. One plus is that it did not seem as smoky as casinos on other ships we have sailed.
Spa/Gym: We toured these areas but did not utilize them. Other posters will be more qualified to comment.
Pools/The Retreat/Cabanas: We did not use these facilities but they seemed very popular.
Overall Organization: No one seemed to know when the Muster Drill would take place. We did not find out until it appeared in the daily bulletin - 9:30 the morning after sailing. We have never had it the next morning. I am not sure the shore personnel had any idea when Embarkation would take place, but we chalked that up to the Coast Guard inspection. Calling the boarding numbers was an adventure since you could not hear the gentleman making the announcement unless you were pretty close to him. Disembarkation was a real challenge and detailed below.
Disembarkation: A disaster. The ship was to be cleared by 10:00 AM, but we docked late (how does that happen on a cruise to nowhere?). We were not taking HAL transfers (on Amtrak) so we were assigned Expedited Disembarkation and would take our own bags off. We considered this a real plus so we could by pass the usual traffic jam claiming bags and grab a cab to Penn Station. It was to be coordinated by deck. That was the last communication we had and resulted in a mass rush for the gangway when it opened. We were not even told the deck or location (forward or mid-ship). We were fortunate to be fairly close to the gangway (totally by luck since we decided to wait in the Explorer's Lounge) but others were caught in a real crush of people. At the hatchway there was a small child running around (no parents in sight) with a cruise card distracting the security guard from his duties. Horrible organization and communication.
Overall Impression: Pretty average, which is disappointing for a brand new ship. No WOW factor. Some definite hits and a lot of misses as noted above. On the whole, an OK ship we would not purposely seek out to sail on again. We have to ask - is this the best of HAL or a disappointment for seasoned HAL passengers?