First a little introduction - We are just hitting our mid fifties - This was our 12th cruise with the last 4 on HAL. Seven of our first 8 cruises were on Princess.
Let's get all the perceived negatives out of the way first. Yes the ship is going into dry dock in 10 months for a refurbishment. If you look for it you can see signs of wear and tear. It was not something that spoiled our vacation - not even close.
We were unfortunate enough to miss two ports on the first seven day segment (high winds made it too dangerous to dock) but HAL has no control over the weather. We don't like rough seas but we rode it out. The worst part lasted for about four hours which we spent hunkered down in our stateroom. Other than that one 4 hour stretch we participated in activities as normal.
Demographics - The perception that HAL is a cruise full of blue haired seniors did not apply. There were kids, teenagers, young couples, adults and seniors. Not unlike what you see every day.
Now onto the good stuff.
Dining - We had fixed early seating with different dining room stewards for both segments. The first week had slightly better service, but nothing to complain about. We had one dinner in the Pinnacle which was well worth the extra charge. Breakfasts and lunch were split between the dining room and the Lido. We always found something to our liking. For Dinner, between the two of us we had a wide selection of appetizers, soups and salads. All were excellent with the exception of two soups that were not to our liking but our tablemates who had the same soups had no complaints.
Cabin - Our cabin stewards were as attentive and friendly as you would expect. On HAL we have experienced balconies, outside and inside cabins. We were worried that the inside cabin with only a shower would give us less space then the comparable outside cabin with a bath tub. This was not the case. We found the shower more comfortable then a cabin with the bath tub. As an added bonus, with only the shower, there was more room in the rest of the cabin. All the bathrooms are being redone during dry dock in April 2011 - We found the only issue was that they looked a little old and had some tiles out of place.
Staff - Always friendly and greeting you with a smile. Unlike some other cruise lines the bar staff were not constantly asking you if you wanted a drink as you tried to relax by the pool or in one of the bars.
Entertainment - The cruise director Linda Minnikin did a great job. Constantly visible (don't know how she did it) and a pleasure to deal with. We didn't have a lot of interaction with DJ Issa but you can tell he really enjoyed his job, as did Beth the librarian and Nancy the travel guide.
We really enjoyed all the entertainers. Comedian Julie Barr (just think pink and purple hair) - Very funny. She even did an adult show late one evening. She did a great job playing off the audience. Justin Miller - A fantastic guitar/mandolin player, but he goes well beyond that. He is also a consummate storyteller about the history of music. Michael Harrison - The ventriloquist from America's Got Talent fame kept us laughing. Jean Boucher - Magician/comedian - A well polished act who made good use of his audience. Livewire - A duo performing both Celtic and mainstream music. Definitely worth seeing. Maasdam Singers and Dancers - Not our cup of tea but they were a talented group. Gary in the Ocean Bar - A solo singer/guitarist who was a pleasure to listen to before heading off to dinner. The Neptunes, The HalCats and The Adagio Strings (three different acts) - There just wasn't enough time to enjoy them all.
The Spa - We went to the Thermal Suite almost every night. If you want to relax this is the place to go. Be sure to check out the mineral spa, steam room and heated stone loungers (make sure you have someone there to wake you up).
Shore Excursions - We only did 2 through HAL. Saint Anne's Canyon and Winery Tour in Quebec City and Bird Island in Sydney. We thoroughly enjoyed both. We did see a number of Puffins on the Bird Island tour but were hoping for more.
Ports of Call - This cruise was a sampler for us to experience Atlantic Canada and New England. Quebec City - So much to see and do. Definitely a place we would want to visit again. In addition to Saint Anne's Canyon we did a great walking tour from Les Tours Voir Quebec. Charlottetown - We never actually saw much of Charlottetown. We rented a car to explore the island on our own. We want to go back sometime and spend a week on the island. If you rent a car, consider Budget. Even though they don't advertise it they will pick you up at the pier. Sydney - Not a lot to see in Sydney but a quaint little town. Would have loved to explore the Cabot trail but their wasn't enough time. Halifax - We walked up to the Citadel for the firing of the noon day gun. They have a wonderful boardwalk to stroll along. We never got a chance to get out of the city. Bar Harbor - Small town and very picturesque. We did a tour of Acadia National Park on Oli's Trolley. Also a boat tour on Sea Princess scenic nature cruises that travels on sheltered waters so the seas are smooth.