We drove to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Comfort Inn near the port. It included free parking for the week and transportation to and from the hotel, excellent and I would stay there again. Upon arriving at the cruise port we went into the terminal and were directed to a checkin line. My Mom and I were rooming together so we gave our passports and credit card to the man and he proceeded to get us mixed up and we corrected him but it wasnt until I used my sail card in the Casino the first night that I noticed that my mom's name was attached to the card with my name on it. I went down to the front dest and yes they had our names and pictures mixed up along with our credit card info. We thought we had it all straightened out until we got our bill and charges were put on the wrong accounts again, then at the end of the week due to a shore cancellation I received credit for an excursion my mom had booked and payed for(not that I minded the credit) but this meant a third trip to the front desk to correct it. Other than the card mix up embarkation was a breeze and we were on board and eating within an hour of leaving the hotel. We ate in the main dining room since we were Mariner's, not that they checked, but we all liked being served and not getting caught up in the Lido crowd just yet. When we finished lunch our rooms were ready and boy was I in for a treat, I have never had a balcony much less an aft balcony. This by far was the highlight of the trip for me. I so enjoyed to views and just sitting on the back deck watching the ocean go by. We had breakfast room service 3 mornings and that was wonderful but the nice thing about where we were on the 7th deck, two below the Lido is that we could pop up to the Lido and get food and bring it down to our room!!!My aunt and uncle had the room beside ours so we were able to open the divider between the rooms and have on large balcony. The balconies had two lounge chairs, two regular chairs and a table.
Ports of Call Grand Turk(we rented a golf cart for $60/day and went all over the Island), San Juan(we walked the back side of Fort San Christobal and rode the free trolley to get to Fort El Morro), St. Maartin(we stayed on the Dutch side and shopped, sightseeing and Casino hopped), Half Moon Cay(sea's were too rough to tender inn, so this was cancelled)this is a great port, with beautiful beaches and clear blue water, rent a cabana if you go it is so worth it!
The food in the MDR was great, but the desserts were lacking in flavor and variety.
The entertainment was limited, but the two big shows done by the HAL singers/dancers was wonderful, the Filipino show not worth going. Also I thing HAL could offer more of a variety of onboard activities especially on sea days.
The ship overall was very nice and I would sail her again, the crew and staff were all friendly and helpful. Our wait staff was excellent and we requested them each night since we had open dining. I suggest for those that have the "As you wish dining" make a set reservation when you get on board for the week or you will wait 1hour or more to be seated. We did a 7:30 seat time each night and requested the same table and wait staff, It was great!! I do believe any cruise is in large part what you make of it, I had a fabulous time spending the week with my family and not having to cook or clean!! Thanks HAL for a wonderful week away from the Christmas hustle and bustle!!