I am 53 years old from Rhode Island and this was my second time in two years on this beautiful ship. The dEcor and artwork all around impressed me as much as the first time! The ship was all decorated for the holidays and everything from stair rails to all the brass simply shined the whole week!
The trip began on a sour note starting with my non-stop flight from Providence to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest the day before sailing. Our plane coming into Providence from Baltimore was delayed over two hours because of snow and double de-icing in Baltimore. Not really an issue for me except our luggage in Providence was left on the tarmac in pouring rain for that entire time. By the time I got to my Florida destination for the evening, it was late. I opened my suitcase to find every single thing for my cruise soaking wet, many items totally ruined, dyes from clothing running into other clothes. Tried calling Southwest who said I had to return to baggage services right NOW with my luggage to file a claim. Well, that was impossible so I dried what I could and tossed what was irretrievable. My own fault that I was so tired, it did not occur to me to take photos to send to the airline for proof!
Arrived at the port at 11:30 and was on board at noon. As I boarded, I asked if there was a Mariner luncheon in the MDR but was told no and only the Lido was open. Several hours later, I discovered that there was indeed a Mariner luncheon. No big deal, but would have been nice to have been given the correct info. Met a great group of people in the Lido and had a good lunch and conversation.
Cabins were ready just before 2:00. I was in SS #8061 and when I arrived so did my two stewards, Thudi and Ramidi with my luggage which was great! The cabin was spacious with a TV, DVD player (free DVDs but I did not ever get any) with lots of closet space and storage (way more than enough for one person!). The bathroom had double sinks, Jacuzzi tub and two showers...nice! The only two negatives were the bathroom floor had not been swept prior to my arrival, but Ramidi took care of that immediately. Secondly, because of it's location on Navigation deck, I constantly heard the scraping and moving of chairs on Lido deck above me. I was unpacked by 2:30. My stewards were wonderful the entire week and I gave them extra tips at the end.
* I had pre-purchased three nights at the Pinnacle for myself beginning with our first night. I spoke with Sanjay the Pinnacle manager and was able to secure dinner there for all 7 nights. I just love the intimacy and level of service at Pinnacle and was totally impressed by my wait staff: Rocky, Ida, and Ronald. Enjoyed perfect meals and exquisite wines every single night! Had both the chocolate and vanilla soufflEs - both highly recommended!
*The casino was very, very good to me! On day three, I hit a Blazing Sevens dollar machine for $2000!!! Wow! Think I am still in shock. Also hit a couple of mini-progressives over the course of the week. Any time you come out of a casino ahead is a good thing!
* Met some wonderful people through our Cruise Critic roll call. While we did not have an official meeting, a group of us got together at sailaway for a drink. We would meet up occasionally throughout the week - a great bunch of people!
*I am an early riser (usually by 6:00 a.m.) so each morning, I headed up to Lido, grabbed coffee and sat aft with my book for about an hour, headed back in at 7:00 and enjoyed a leisurely, quiet breakfast before the crowds got there. There has been much discussion about the lack of trays, but I found it to be a good thing as I think it cut out a lot of food wasted. Oh and I should mention: the poached eggs were perfectly divine...in fact they offered about 6 or 7 varieties of eggs benedict...delicious!
*At Half Moon Cay, I was able to get on one of the first tenders around 8:30 and enjoyed several hours of reading, swimming, and relaxing...the beach was immaculate, staff was wonderful...just heaven!
*Mixology Classes - I signed up for all three on Day 1 (Martini, Margarita, and Cocktail)...what a blast! We laughed, learned, drank some great drinks, sang songs, and I thoroughly enjoyed each session. Our hostess for the event, Linda, was a riot as were the bartenders mixing and singing.
*Curacao's Cas Abao beach excursion - well worth the $54 to take this trip. There were 24 of us on the 8:45 a.m. trip. We boarded a brightly painted old school bus and had a wonderful driver and guide. On the approx. 40 minute trip, we got a lot of history about the island and saw some wonderful sights. The beach was one of the nicest beaches I have ever been on anywhere in the world. One word of caution: bring water shoes as the coral underfoot on both the sand and in the water is extremely rough on your feet.
*The staff: one of the reasons I love sailing HAL is because of the incredible staff and the service. No matter where I went or what time, I was always greeted, often asked how my trip was going, etc. In particular, and in addition to my stewards and the wait staff at Pinnacle, I would like to acknowledge Roy and Daniel, bartenders extraordinaire in the Sports Bar. Every night, Roy had my grapefruit cosmo ready to go immediately upon my arrival. The best martini anywhere! When I came back from my excursion in Curacao, I ran into Roy who was going ashore. I asked him if he knew where I could get a local hot sauce called Pika. He wasn't sure, but would find out. When I saw him again later, he presented me with two bottles of it! Talk about above and beyond the call! He was a fantastic person! If anyone is going on Westerdam, please tell him Tracy said hi!
THE NOT SO GREAT
*Bingo on the second day was completely disorganized and run by people who had obviously never done it before. They called wrong numbers, messed up the count for the snowball jackpot. I only went one other time to bingo and the lines were so long to get cards because they had only 1 person selling them. For the amount of $$$ they took in selling cards, the prizes were fairly low.
*Internet: the option I chose was $55.00 for 100 minutes. Well, it would take at least 5-6 minutes just to log on. It was frustrating on many days, and IMHO it should be cheaper to allow for the length of time wasted trying to check email.
*At muster drill, the captain was shouting at passengers over the intercom to KEEP QUIET or else! While I respect what he was trying to accomplish, his tone of voice and treating passengers like school children was unacceptable.
*Speaking of the captain, I will relate an event I personally witnessed. One evening in the Pinnacle, the captain and some of his officers were at a nearby table loudly mocking several passengers including fat passengers, women with facial hair and on and on. I was in shock! Hey, everyone has war stories and needs to let off steam about work, but certainly not in a public venue such as the Pinnacle.
*Passengers: As many nice people as there were on this particular cruise, there were twice as many not-nice-at-all passengers. Chair hogs had their towels draped by 6:30 every morning. I witnessed so many episodes of rude behavior, I cannot list them all. "Mr. & Mrs. Entitlement" screaming at a bartender because he would not give them his only wine opener to take to their cabin; people pushing to the head of a line whether it was to get off in port or get into the Mariner Brunch; screaming at staff for the most miniscule reasons, sitting (not playing) at a slot machine so they could watch their spouse play and refuse to get up so someone could play, etc. HAL should offer chill pills in every cabin.
*One other thing I want to mention is that on day 2, I ordered a monogrammed HAL bathrobe for my mother as a Christmas gift. She was too ill to travel with me and I thought she would love the robe. By Thursday, I still had not received it and called to inquire as to its whereabouts. Was told they "ran out" of robes, and I would not get mine. I told them they could embroider the extra robe I had in my cabin, but was told that was impossible! My cabin steward made many calls on my behalf yet was unsuccessful in getting me my order.
The good totally outweighed the negative on this trip for me. I loved Curacao and HMC more than Aruba and would go back again for sure. I loved having 3 sea days where I could just relax and catch up on books I never got around to reading. There is so much to be said for traveling solo: get up when I want, eat when I want, do whatever I felt like doing at the moment. I met some wonderful people and outstanding staff. After reading here on Cruise Critic the behind the scenes with a crew member, I fully appreciate how hard the crew works just to make MY trip enjoyable.