Embarkation was very quick. Lots of agents available and very friendly. Our stateroom (5082) was very comfortable. Probably the best bed I've ever had on a cruise. The balcony was a little smaller than I expected. Our room steward Doni was very friendly and helpful.
We're not into the activities and such so really didn't participate in many on-board activities. I did attend one of the cooking demonstrations lead by the executive chef. I wasn't that impressed with the dish that he made but it was very interesting listening to his stories and he was great about answering everyone's questions. I had a sinus infection and nasty cough for the duration of the cruise so didn't feel like eating in the dining room so we had buffet most nights - which hubby prefers. The prime rib was amazing. Other entrees were good but not amazing. I was very disappointed in the desserts overall. The Asian section and the do it yourself tacos were my favorite lunches. I wish they had the Asian section open for dinner. The Italian section was very disappointing. One night I had a dish that included chicken...I received one piece of dried out chicken breast about ¼ inch thick and 1" x 2". Some of the counter staff in the Lido really could brush up on their customer service skills - on the good side, those are the only staff that we ran into that weren't friendly and helpful.
Our ports for the first week were Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
At Half Moon Cay, we were the only ship in port. We spent the day on the beach and had a very relaxing time. The BBQ was great. I was really impressed on how they've kept the island as natural as they have considering the number of guests that go through it.
On Grand Turk, we rented golf carts and toured the island. That was great. It's not a ship activity and it's first come first serve to rent them just outside the port area.
On Grand Cayman, we organized a short private tour to go to Hell and see a bit of the island. Then we did a bit of shopping.
On Cozumel, we did the ship's ATV excursion. It was great. I can't say enough good things about the tour guides and how well they handled the guests. Trails were very rough but not difficult.
We went to the Pinnacle Grill and everyone loved it. Best meal of the week. Definitely worth the $20 per head. Based on the two meals we had there (once each week), I would recommend the crab cakes as an appetizer, the "land & sea" (filet & shrimp) or porterhouse as the entrEe, and their version of Baked Alaska as dessert.
One night they had a BBQ on board. It wasn't up the HMC standards. The steak was definitely better than the ribs. Same the second week.
The entertainment ranged from poor (Paul Tanner - impressionist) to very good (Mike Robinson - ventriloquist). In Paul Tanner's defense, it did seem like a large portion of the audience really enjoyed him. The ship's staff entertainment was an okay way to pass the evening but not amazing.
The day back in Fort Lauderdale was a bit of a waste. We waited in the vista lounge for well over an hour before we could go ashore to pass our passports past Homeland Security. Luckily, that was quick and they had us back on the ship in no time. Originally we were told we would have to do the lifeboat drill again but somewhere along the line it got changed so we didn't have to.
Our ports for the second week were HMC, Aruba and Curacao.
We did a walk around part of HMC this time and then spent some time on the beach. I ended up with a headache so that cut our time on shore. Unfortunately, we missed the BBQ.
Aruba was very busy. We just went for a wander around the downtown and some of the side streets. Once you got off the main streets, it was rather interesting to see how many shops and offices were closed and looked like they had been closed for quite some time.
Curacao was my favorite port for the second week. It's so pretty and there is lots to see within walking distance of the ship. We actually docked in the canal. The floating bridge is just the neatest thing to watch.
We opted for the expedited disembarkation and it couldn't have been any easier.. Customs was very quick. We had to wait maybe 10 or 15 minutes for our shuttle to the airport but that's all.
The one area that I experienced that I really think HAL needs to improve upon is how they handle the b2b customers. When we booked, we booked a 14 day cruise - not 2-7 day cruises. For some things, they treated us like we were on one cruise - billing, etc. But on other things, they seemed to forget we were there (and there were a lot of us). Any rewards in the casino expired at the end of the first week. The entertainment from the first week was almost all repeated in the second week. Breakfast in Fort Lauderdale mid way through the cruise was limited to the same shortened hours as the disembarking guests. However, they did provide us with a sit down lunch in the dining room...with free wine.
Overall we had a great cruise.