BACKGROUND: The wife and I are in our mid 50's and we just started cruising again. This was our first on HAL. We chose this cruise to simply relax and have fun (versus the cruise itinerary). We are not the chronic complainer types and merely wanted to enjoy the food, wine, and ship life. Sadly, the "bad" far outweighed the good. HAL should be embarrassed to put this product on the market and the folks who designed the ship and who currently run it need to be "pulled aside". Our three most recent cruises were on the Brilliance, the Grand Princess, and Eurodam. We give the Brilliance top spot, HAL second and Princess third.
The Good: The ship is new, the room and verandah (V cabin on deck 8) are a 9, you can bring as much wine on board as you wish, the shows were above what we expected, the room service and the menu was top notch, the flowers on the ship were a nice touch, and allowing you to leave the ship at 10:00 am allowed you a less stressful last day. We had dinner at the Pinnacle twice and the Tamarind twice. However, as good as it was on the first nights in each restaurant, both went downhill the second nights. The Canaletto was a major surprise in that the food was very good and the staff just could not have been better. Hats off to the Maitre'd and his staff.
Our cabin stewards were a solid 8. However, when we came aboard, we tipped them both (well) and asked that we always have ice. It just did not happen. We did disembark at every port to wander around and do a little shopping. One nice touch before we got back on the ship was being given a chilled towel.
On the fun side, most of the staff are Indonesian (except the bar staff). We took a CC members suggestion and attempted to learn a few phrases. Everyone appreciated it and they were always helpful l in attempting to expand our "vocabulary". It was especially fun in the Tamarind. So, give it a try, you'll have fun.
The library area and lounge are outstanding. No need to even take a book. They have a wonderful selection. And, last but not least, the folks at the dice tables were just the best. They were not only helpful and treated you well but they were fun. The casino manage knows how to run a top flight operation. And, now the
BAD: THE SHIP: The ship is inherently unstable and we encountered no major seas or storms. The ship's roll was pronounced except in the calmest of seas. If you try this ship, save your money, go aft, lower, and starboard. At the Tamarind both nights there was so much motion our wine glasses were moving on the table and we had to keep one hand on them so as to avoid a spill.
The ship LEAKS. The theater is in the bow and one night it was leaking so badly from the top of the stage, they had towels spread out on the front half of the stage. It dripped (the wife says poured out) like crazy during the act. Some in the front row port had to move because of the spray. Thank goodness it was comedian night. At the end of his act, they brought out an umbrella and did a little impromptu "singing in the rain". Additionally, there were plastic buckets setting throughout the ship to catch drips. It appeared to be an air conditioning issue but we did not ask. However, ONE BIG No No we spotted was in the Lido at lunch, we sat by a window, behind us was a plastic bucket, thought it was a leak bucket & passed it off. Then a waiter came by and put a rag in and wiped off another table and the servers counter. That was not good and makes a joke of HAL Standards.
Finally, because on the design, there was not room for a Centrum as on the Radiance class ships. This ship felt cramped and crowded. They have a lot of bars and lounges but they just don't provide you the views or they seem almost as an after thought.
ROOM: As said above, it has a lot of good features. However, in balcony cabins, the builders have a choice of putting bed first and the sitting area by the balcony door (as Eurodam does) or sitting area first (as the Brilliance does). The sitting area fist allows you to have more dressing room and is one of the little things that make a difference.
LIDO Deck: This deck just does not work. As others have said, it is cramped. The cabana's just crowd the area more. They really do not provide the person renting them any appreciable privacy and they were bad joke amongst the passengers. The Lido Dining area was horrible. The stewards basically did nothing but rush back and forth (looking as if they were busy), cutting in front of you when walking with your tray, not clearing the tables after others had left or setting the tables with silverware. The stewards don't seem to understand that we are the customers and they should be giving way to us vs. our having to maneuver around them. The walking area between the buffet area and tables seated on the floor was cramped to say the least. If you were standing in line, you would constantly be bumped by others trying to pass. I am surprised we did not see any "accidents" of trays being dropped or food spilled. The passengers who chose to eat at the tables on the floor across from the buffet must have been terrified of being run over or having food dumped on them. That arrangement is a definite design flaw and should be addressed.
REMBRANT: Urgh......... We had anytime dining and ate there only once. The room is crowded and very noisy. The food was good but, again, the service is just not up to snuff. Also, the tables for two are nothing more than a postage stamp and generally next to the busy traffic isles. We tried it for lunch once and left after 15 minutes and no service. We tried it again for dinner, got our table for two, because an eclectic scooter was place behind my chair I could barely get into my seat. Then, after another 20 minute wait without any service we left. We tried to get into the Pinnacle that night and they were full (even though there were tables empty) and finally went up to the dreaded Lido only to find it was closed at 9:30. (My wife said I looked a tad crazed by this time) and an officer asked if he could help. He did, he escorted us to the Rembrandt, and we had a wonderful meal and service. But why did it have to come to that?
Embarkation: A word to the wise. Do not get there early. Because of our plane flights, we arrived at the airport at 11:00. After a fast stop for some wine and we hit the pier about 11:30. It was a zoo. Bus after bus was dropping people off and the line was about an hour long. The cab driver said we should come back at 2:00 and it would be a breeze. We should have listened. Also, it you take wine, remember you have to lug it through the line, then security (everything has to come out of your bags), check in, and then hold on to it until you can get to your cabin. We bought too much wine and regrets "I have a few............". Conclusion: The ship has some design flaws that make it cramped and hard to get around. The crew does not seem to understand customer service and this is what HAL prides itself on. Couple the two together, and this new ship just did not shine as it should. I doubt we will cruise with HAL again. We and a number of our cruising friends agree the Radiance class ships and RCCL just offer a better product.