After reading many reviews on this ship we were somewhat concerned about our selection of this ship. This is my 5th cruise but first on HAL. I have been on Royal Caribean, NCL and Celebrity. This by far has been my favorite cruise for many reasons. I will review the areas individually. We wanted to make sure that others would also know this ship was great. Clean, a few MINOR things that need attention but these did not affect our vacation at all. My vacation didnt matter if a tile was missing on deck. Our windows were cleaned one day in port.
We arrived on Friday evening and stayed at the Embassy Suites in Lower Manhatten to tour around prior to our cruise. The hotel was fantastic and only a 15min taxi ride. $12+tip. I would highly recommend this locations for a pre/post cruise hotel.
Embarkation: We arrived at 1pm and quickly unloaded our bags and checked in. We were on the ship within 15minutes. Went to the front desk to ask about the cooking classes and was told there is only one we can sign up for on Friday and to watch the bulliten. I was disappointed this was hyped alot in the ads but didnt really pan out. Really appreciated the safety muster did not require wearing the jackets out. we were instructed to keep them in the rooms. So nice!!
Stateroom: Our room was ready and bags arrived in about 1 hr. Our room was to our satisfaction and set up well. The bathroom is a nice size. Bathtub but only big enough for kids or sitting. With 3 of us they set up the couch for our DD. If we did it again we would have them set up the bed from the ceiling so we could use the couch. Only two plugs we can find--one in the bathroom near the ceiling and the other on the desk. Neither worked with reg plugs. Would recommend bringing a plug strip for charging multiple items. The inroom hair dryer did work so werent too concerned until I had to charge my camera/phone battery. Notified the front desk and it was fixed within 1 hr. Seemed like alot of space in the cabins and closets. Our only issue was we brought 5 large suitcases (2 large dive bags) and had to get creative in storage. Ended up putting one under the bathroom sink, one under the desk/counter and the others in the closets. Loved the DVD player in the room, used it often and also the ship has 100's of DVD you can borrow!! Room air conditioning worked great. We had to adjust up upon arrival but worked fine. Steward was great, watched when we left the room to clean it very quickly.
Room Service: Breakfast was always on time. The toast was always cold but when we ordered eggs they were hot and good. Only one bad day, we ordered an apple, crackers and cookies for our daughter who was a bit sick from the first day rocking and it took 2 hrs to arrive. We pretty much gave up on it but would assume the issue was ALOT of the passengers with seasick and all probably ordering room service.
Entertainment: This was really the ONLY area that I was disappointed with. It was probably my least favorite of all the lines we have been on. The level of the 2 shows we attended was below average. I just wasnt impressed with the song selections or singers. I felt their voices didnt work well together. However, the comedian was HILARIOUS!! I laughed so hard I cried. This guys is NOT to be missed!! I would say the majority of the passengers were 60's plus and probably would appreciate the entertainment more then us. We watched a movie in the Retreat which was fun. Would love popcorn offered here to round it out. The screen is not perfect but fun. TIP- the movies shown in the evening are shown the next day in the room.
Food/Service: We ate in the Main Dining Room 5 of the 7 nights. Only 1 night did we have a wait of 20 minutes. All other night we went right in. I tried getting reservations after the 1st night. Most were booked however when we arrived there was no need for them. I would recommend just avoided reservations and just taking your chances. Service was great by my standards. I did hear some complain about the level of service between the upstairs dining and lower level but cant compare. We were never disappointed with the service. The food was great in the MDR. I enjoyed meeting the other passengers we sat with. We ate in the LIDO mostly for lunch--sandwich bar was great and made whatever we liked. My daughter loved the pizza and ice cream bar. Only small issue in LIDO was the line up. No big deal but did the sandwich/salads more often because of it. Most of what is served in the dining room is also service in the LIDO.
Shore Excursions: We did not do any from the ship. We chose to book our own on the island. We rented scooters which I would highly recommend if you have experience riding motorcycles on the street. We LOVED this and found that driving on the opposite side was no problem, just need to focus a bit more when rounding corners, crossing streets or roundabouts. We paid $45 per day with manditory $30 insurance. Used Cycle Rentals 1/2 block from pier in Hamilton. Walked around St George to the beach. Should have booked a dive trip this day. Was only able to dive 1 day while there with Dive Bermuda. Hurricane Danielle messed with our plans a bit. Heard a couple issues of ship excursions cancelled due to lack of participation.
Kids Program: Our daughter LOVED the Oasis and the teen area. To our surprise there were 80 teens on board (13-17). She loved hanging out, visiting, listening to musics with the other kids. She especially like the mixer the first night and the "Prom" on Friday night. It was all come as you want which all the teens loved.
Library: Our daughter is a huge reader and loved the library & chess tables. She would have loved a teen book area but I am sure there isnt a large call for it on HAL. The coffee bar was great, a bit slow but good coffee and pretty inexpensive by starbucks standards.
Shopping: The boat did not have a great selections of shopping items but for me less to buy. We were able to get some basic toiletries items/medicine when needed etc. Not big on the jewelry, watches etc. Be prepared while in port 3 1/2 days the shops and casino on board are closed!
Hamilton: Fantastic to be docked right in town for shopping etc. Very easy to get on and off the boat for any length of time. Definately no night life right off the boat beyond the Wednesday Harbor Nights. Most shops in Hamilton open 9-5:30pm, late on Wed.
Spa: Look the spa tour the first day. Silly you had to be present to win the drawing. We booked a 50 min couples message for the first night. Doing this the first day gave 50% more time. So our 50 minutes was 75 minutes. Wonderful!! Also was surprised that we were not asked to buy any products after the treatment which was a first. I have had a spa treatment on every cruise I have been on and the first time nothings was pushed.
Embarkation: Very easy. Took a bit longer on the first round but once they got going we got off about 45min after scheduled time but no issues for us since we were staying in NYC one more night. We woke up early on Sunday morning and watched the boat come into NYC. Beautiful photos of the sunrise that morning reflecting off the buildings and Statue of Liberty. Order room service that morning and enjoy the view.
Last bit of info, we loved our window stateroom. Always wonder about the benefits of a Lanai room. On this ship I would save my money. The lanai is on the 6th floor which is the walking deck. I would not have been comfortable leaving my door open since everyone on the 6th deck can look in. This deck is also the coolest area, due to the breeze and shade from the sun. Could find "unreserved" chairs easily to sit and read.