It's been a few years since we last sailed with HAL, having cruised several times with Princess and once with Celebrity since. We got a good deal on the 16-Day South American Explorer and looked forward to traveling with HAL again. They've eliminated a few amenities over the years, but are still a small step above Princess in our opinion. Overall, the food was consistently better and less repetitive, and the entertainment was generally better.
I'm not going to go into great detail, but will hit some of the highlights, both good and bad. We thought the ship (Veendam) was beautiful and appreciated the extensive artwork in the public areas. The food in the dining room was excellent, and just OK in the Lido. Service started out badly, but quickly improved. Warning - if you have a choice of sailing dates, try to find out if there's a crew change prior to the date you pick. It took a few days for everyone (office, dining, and housekeeping) to figure out who was supposed to do what and where things were located. Things got noticeably better as the trip progressed. Judging from other reviews, the new sanitizing efforts must now be standard procedure. For the first three days, you couldn't serve yourself in the Lido, making for long lines. They've also eliminated the trays, a big inconvenience. Perhaps it's another sanitary thing since they probably don't sterilize them between uses. We got lucky with the weather, with calm seas around Cape Horn and we were able to stop in Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Scenic cruising and HAL shore excursions were all average or better. One standout was the 4WD Jeep drive to the penguin colony in Stanley.
We tried the new Spa Verandah cabin and were generally pleased with our choice. We didn't use the spa, but appreciated the iPod dock and desktop waterfall, even though they took up space on the tiny counter. The big problem was with the A/C. It wasn't very strong, but we didn't miss it until the last couple of days before reaching Rio, where the climate gets hot. As a result we didn't report it until the morning before the end of the cruise. We thought it was limited to the new spa cabins, since the hallway in that section was noticeably warmer than in the rest of the ship. However, in reading other reviews, it may be a more general problem. Overall, we had a great trip and would do it again.