We flew from Charleston to Fort Lauderdale the day of the cruise. The flights were all on time and we landed around lunchtime. Unfortunately, my luggage never made it. We had to run around and shop to get me through the first few days of the cruise. Not the start of the vacation that we had been looking forward to! My bag finally arrived on Day 4 in Tortola.
Embarkation was very fast (we did not get to the terminal because of my lost luggage adventure until 3:00)and we were up having a buffet lunch at 3:30 once we dropped our stuff off in the cabin.
The ship is beautiful and this was the first time that we had been on such a new ship. Our inside cabin had lots of closet space and room to move around. The bed was elevated off the floor which was great and there were storage drawers under the bed (which I did not discover until the end of the cruise). The mattress and pillows were very nice. I felt that the interior furnishings were nicer than on other ships that we have been on, lots of dark woods and pretty details.
As we walked around the ship, a couple of things to mention. The pool area is pretty neat with some chaise lounges and other seating spread out. The furniture was very nice and comfortable. As previous reviews have mentioned there are the cabanas that can be rented on one side of the pool. We barely saw them used and on hot days, seemed stifling. The windows next to them did not open so there was no chance of any type of breeze. I have a feeling that those will be going at some point and more seating will take its place. The buffet area has some tables very close to the buffet lines which made getting to your table with your tray a bit daunting. I am sure that is done to insure lots of tables for the guests.
The staff were very efficient and friendly. Service was excellent and we thought that the buffet food and all of the selections for breakfast and lunch were good. The line for the grill (to get hamburgers, etc) tended to be very long but the wait was always worth it.
We ate in the dining room for dinner each night and our waiter was okay, not a lot of personality. Food selection was good, although on lobster night, portions were very small.
We ate in the specialty dining, the Pinnacle one night. Meal was great but they did charge extra for us to add a lobster tail to each person's meal. I felt that was a bit cheap since you are paying more to eat there and we did not find out about the extra charge until we got the bill. I did add that feedback to my comment card but not sure if that will change at all.
We also ate at the Tamarind for lunch which was really good. It was a fixed menu and very well presented.
Entertainment was good in the main theater but we did find that after about 10:00, there was never a lot going on at all. The disco was fun and we did that one night and spent most of the remaining nights in the Piano Bar. The piano player was very good and seemed to love his job. The comedian for that week was Jim LaBriola who we have seen before on our last HAL cruise. His show was very good and worth catching. The karaoke contest was fun to watch and was the prime entertainment one night.
Our ports of call were some that we had been to before and we tended to get off the ship for a bit and then come back on. We went to St. Thomas, Grand Turk, Tortola and Half Moon Cay.
Grand Turk was a bit depressing since once you got out of the cruise area, the destruction was everywhere. We did rent a golf cart and found a private beach and hung out there for a while. Tortola was very pretty and we took the ferry to Virgin Gorda and did the Baths, worth doing and easily done on your own. I would love to go back to that island.
St. Thomas and the private island were fine and we took advantage of getting some beach time at both.
Disembarkation was a nightmare and very disorganized which was very surprising. We were supposed to get off the ship between 8 and 8:30 and did not get off until 9:00. With a flight to catch, it was very stressful. We barely made our flight and would probably carry our bags off in the future.
Overall, we had a great time and enjoyed the ship. Service was very good and we felt the food was as well. The crowd was a bit older and we would probably not sail with HAL with our kids since it seems the line tends to draw an older crowd.