This was my husband an my first cruise. We chose a NY port because we live 1+ hours away. I had nothing to compare it to. I've been to Aruba 11 times (we have a time share) Cancun 3 times, Barbados 2 times USVI 1 time, and Bahamas 1 time. Being there in August there were all kinds of ages of people. I can't believe when I hear people complain about the dumbest things.
1. embarking and disembarking were well organized and quick. I think it was WAY better than taking a plane. 2. Upon arriving on the ship we were escorted to the lido deck for lunch and afterwards before the room was ready and we sailed away we had time to explore the ship. So what if it's older? It's plenty big and the ship is CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. During the trip there were maintanence workers on the outside and inside of the ship cleaning, repairing, varnishing, etc. 3. When exploring the ship before sailing, I thought the spa people were a little pushy, but then again, that's how they make their money. 4. The food was excellent. We ate at the lido for lunch and breakfast. Dinner was the Canletto once and the rest in the Rotterdam. I made reservations for private tables 2 days in advance and only one day did I have to change my time because of a full time. If you couldn't find something to eat that satisfied you, you didn't look hard enough. 5. Spent most of time at the Retreat pool. I was glad because we don't have small children anymore and it was mostly an adult pool. Parents and children were at the lido main pool. The last day there was a young mother with her diapered child in the retreat pool. I complained TWICE to the front desk because no one pointed out to her that the sign PLAINLY SAID "No children with diapers or un toilet trained children allowed in pool." Finally some one came and informed her. Really that was my only complaint was that someone wasn't policing that. (I don't need to be in a shallow pool that a baby has released themselves in.
6. Docking in St. George was nice, we walked to the beach. Uphill there but downhill back! You can take a cab but my husband it cheap. It was nice that we arrived back to the dock to wait for the tender and the HAL staff had iced towels and water to cool us down. Tendering to the boat is a pain, but so what. 7. Hamilton was great. The ship was right at the dock on Front Street and that made it easy to explore the island. Shopping was ehhh. Aruba and St. Thomas has better shopping. If that's not your priority, then it was fine. 8. The cabin stewards were wonderful and would bend over backwards for you. So were the waitstaff and food handlers. 9. Entertainment was spectacular. The entertainers were very talented with impressive resumes. The cruise director was a personable guy and entertaining too. 10. The shops on board were ok, but then again, I'm not there to shop, just to enjoy myself. 11. I'm a very small gambler so the casino was fine.
All in all, for a first time cruise I didn't know what to expect and I enjoyed the trip. HAL can't be all that bad if there were MANY people who were part of their Mariner club. I would cruise with them again.