What an experience. We arrived at the pier to find that the ship had returned from its last cruise with a number of sick passengers and crew (Norwalk Virus). Due to complete sanitizing, the boarding was held up until after 2:00 pm.
Once on board we went directly to our cabin to find the beds together. We asked our steward to please separate them. When we returned we found them separated but not made up; the sheets were not tucked in at all. Our steward was not a happy camper when we told him to tuck the bottom sheets under.
There was a lack of friendliness from the staff. Asking for assistance conjured up an apathetic reply from many (except for the room stewards and food servers who were very helpful).
Due to the "Red Alert" everything had to be handled by a server wearing plastic gloves - including coffee, jelly, salt, pepper, water, etc. Consequently service was extremely time consuming and the lines were long.
The dining room went from bad to worse. The second night we arrived at the dining room at 6:45pm. There was a long line. We were finally seated (in an almost empty dining room) at 7:45. Apparently arranged reservations are for 7:30 or 7:45 and the head waiter told us they had to hold tables for 90 minutes. We rectified this by a visit to the "Guest Relations Manager". The next night we were seated almost immediately.
On one formal night a member of our party was denied entry to the restaurant because he did not have a necktie with his jacket. I later walked through the restaurant to find many men tie-less. We then read all the brochures and could not find any reference to a tie being necessary. This person, who always travels as a single in a suite, then told us he was canceling his up-coming 35 day cruise and was never traveling on HAL again.
The food was flavorless. We did a taste test at our dining room table. With eyes closed we could not discern what type of vegetables and meats we were consuming. Salting the foods did not help. Even the deserts and ice-creams were without flavor.
Our meal and service in their specialty restaurant (Pinnacle Grill) was below adequate. I had a fish dinner that was inedible and consequently I was not charged for the meal.
The piped-in music by the pool was always loud and the wrong choice for most passengers - average age on this cruise was 65.
The shows were mediocre and definitely in need of improvement - the usual young singers and dancers, average comedian, average solo singers and instrumentalists. Movies were also shown some nights in the show lounge.
Our outside cabin was clean and comfortable with HAL's Sealy Posturepedic bedding.
Considering the ship's age, the overall decor is tasteful and well maintained.
I have taken over 137 cruises on many cruise lines and over 100 days on various HAL ships and probably won't be sailing HAL again (unless there is a really cheap Blue Light Special).