Embarkation was easy, probably 30 minutes total and that was due in large part to the ship not clearing port authority/customs for new customers. A few cranky seniors complained about the wait, but what's new. Probably the worst part of the cruise, as all veteran cruisers know, is that first couple hours on board before your rooms are ready. The buffet area is packed, and people are just waiting around. That's what happened, but the rooms were ready by 2pm, and things thinned out quite a bit. During our wait we ate (of course), toured the Spa (nice but oh so expensive), and lounged on the aft pool deck.
We had a balcony cabin on deck 5; king bed was very nice and the pull out small couch was fine for 1 person, in this case a young child. Not big enough for 4 for sure. The ship was in tip top shape cleanliness wise at all times. DEcor was ok; I found some of it very appealing, some too modern for my tastes.
Dining was great - we had the late seating (8 pm); a fixed table for 4 and the 3 of us ate by ourselves with our son when he wasn't at club Hal. Great food, great service, really can't believe how friendly and attentive considering tipping was included. I preferred the formal dining area to the lido buffet, but that's just me.
Pinnacle Grill was very very good. Worth the $20 per person - the lobsters are pretty small and I wouldn't order since you get surf and turf in the main dining area on night 6 (last formal night) and you can have as many as you want. The filet and steaks rivaled any steakhouse. Lobster bisque was disappointing, but the service, drinks, house appetizers and deserts (go volcano cake) made the night perfect.
Off the bat, we didn't do any HAL shore excursions, no Spa, no Art & no pictures. We did get off the boat at each stop and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - just depends on travel style - we're very comfortable making our own plans. I did use the casino a little bit almost every day and found a seat at the tables always available and it wasn't too smoky.
For some reason, all of us thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment on board, starting with our Cruise Director Kerry and moving through the singers/dancing troupe to the comedienne (Julie Barr) to the Illusionist (Leo Ward). I felt the whole operation was well above average. Did one mixology class (not bad), one fitness class (pretty good), and between us used the Gym 10 times (not bad, huh?). They had several other classes, etc., that we just didn't have time for.
Seas were pretty choppy first night out, but calmed down on day 2 from then out.
Club HAL really worked out for us. Our son enjoyed the counselors (Amy, Courtney and Nicole) as they seemed to go out of their way to ensure he was having a good time. He made many friends through the time and activities he spent there. They were available each night from 7-10pm with activities (and he was there every night for most of the time) and open on mornings and/or afternoons depending on the day (sea day/port, etc). Was told several times there were 50 kids on board (2-18 probably), but only saw maybe 10-15 in the 4-10 age range). Never crowded or overrun. Activities included coloring, movies, food at night, musical chairs, story time, sports deck games, mystery solving night, 'camping' with s'mores, pirate night, bead making, video games, etc. At port in St Marten, our son wanted to stay on board so we left him with a fill in counselor named Missy, who was actually 1) an activities person (games and contests on board, etc.) AND a former club HAL person. She was great and treated our son to a tour of the ship, etc. They all really made our vacation what it was and are a big part of why we'll go back.
Ports - Grand Turk - spent our time at Margaritaville - great pool, drinks and fun. Very nice. Weren't there long but long enough. Port area was nice with easy shopping and no locals bombarding you with "buy this, etc."
Tortola - very pretty, we hired a taxi driver to give us a 1.5 hour trip around the island for $50. Mountains and sea everywhere you looked. Very cool.
St. Marten - went to the beach and just relaxed for several hours. Gorgeous. Shopping was best here probably as well.
Half Moon Cay - so beautiful, just relaxed all day. Kids area was really nice and kept our son very occupied. Lunch was good as well, small line, but there were two ships there. My favorite stop - didn't want to leave.
Pros: Very friendly staff across the board, servers, stateroom, etc.
Cons: Caribbean BBQ night was just ok, lido pool cover didn't work well so most of the cruise at least half the main pool (usually more) was covered. Chlorine smell and humidity reminded us of a Holiday Inn Pooldome.
Disembarkation was great we had room service and went to breakfast at the lido before walking off the ship about 10:30 (we wanted to go late because we had a late flight). Our bags were easy to find and we were at the airport in one hour from leaving our room to sitting at the gate for our flight. In summary, it was a great cruise. Staff friendliness was very high, food was great, ports were a solid A, and entertainment was really really good. Fun meeting new people as well. I will definitely cruise on HAL again.