To qualify this review, I would first have to say that I had previously been on a south pacific cruise with Princess, and because I liked the location so much, I booked this cruise. The Locations on this cruise I would probably give 4.5 stars with the exception of Fanning Island, which is a pure waste of time with the exception of possibly it being a charity stop.
I would have to rate the overall service personnel as also a 4.5. This rating would cover all of the wait staff, and cabin stewards, as well as the bar staff. Also I would have to say the same about the servers behind the counter in the buffet area. For the most part I would have to say that although the mark is high, it really is no different than I would give any other cruise ship staff, as in general I find the service personnel to be good.
The ship itself I would not be so generous with. I would give it 2.5 out of 5 stars, and I think this is probably generous. The plumbing problems you have read about seems to be accurate, way more issues than I have ever seen on any other cruise ship, however, I do believe that to some extent the passengers were exacerbating the problem by flushing many items down the toilet that simply are not meant to be flushed--such as depends. My personal concerns as I never had a plumbing issue in 31 days was dealing with the ships poor layout, and design. The theater was a remodeled disaster, beside the poor lines of site, and placement of a/c vents directly over seating the major problem was that it simply could not seat all of the guests. For some reason somebody decided to place a dance floor in the middle of the theater, and some tables and chair to take up even more space. The pool on the back end of the ship was removed in favor of this new retreat concept, where lounge chairs were placed in an inch of water where the pool used to reside. Why?? Who knows? What was clear is that nobody was interested in this boneheaded concept, I say this because on the busiest day only a half dozen people chose to sit on those chairs.
Dining I would give 2.5 stars. The buffet was pretty similar every day, the meats for the most part overcooked and dry, and most dishes served at room temperature. Although I did hear complaints about the food, I would have to say that most people on the ship didn't seem to mind, they piled there plates high with the food, and fortunately there was plenty of help to get the full plate back to your table. At night the dining experience was much the same, overcooked meat, served at room temperature. One night I ordered lobster, I received a shell with some mushroom soup and stuffing in it, no actual lobster, the waiter said everybody had the same complaint, than offered a different dish. The quality at the Pinnacle Grill was better, but again the preparation was poor, the meat again over cooked, sent back, undercooked, sent back again still undercooked, on the 4th attempt it finally came out medium.
The entertainment on this cruise left something to be desired, the days were long with little to do. The nights were even worse, poor shows in a poorly designed theater. What a disappointment, most nights you would have to arrive an hour early just to get a seat, and after that long wait most of the shows were a complete flop. Entertainment is truly subjective, however, some of these acts would make it as entertainment for a child's birthday party, do they ever preview these people before hiring them.
One last review would be for shore excursions, even though I did not take any. I would give them 0 stars, and my reason is simple they are unreasonably overpriced. I don't mind paying a few bucks more for the convenience but anytime you more than double the price something is wrong. In addition, all of the same tours could be purchased as soon as you arrived at shore, many times from the same tour operator, the only difference: Price, and a lot less people on your tour.
Although I won't give a rating to the cruise director or staff, I would say that they really did nothing at any time to make the cruise more enjoyable. For this reason I would have to say they failed to perform their main task. There secondary task would have been to help organize the tender procedure's, this was a fiasco. And finally they were to assist with disembarkation, which was a complete and utter failure in every way possible.
Overall I would give HAL 2.5 stars, and will not sail with them again. I have been on 20+ cruises and would rate this as one of the 3 worst I have been on. One thing I did not mention was the age of the passengers. Clearly the older passenger is drawn to this line for whatever reason. The average age on this ship was in the 70's to be kind, the problem wasn't the age as much as physical condition. Many of the passengers looked to be very ill, in fact my understanding was that 11 people needed to be taken to the hospital in Hawaii, I didn't stay up to date on that number, but I'm sure it ballooned. One passenger I was traveling with, who happens to be 67 y/o, described the ship as reminding her of a convalescent home. I am not sure about that but there definitely was a record amount of ride on scooters.
As with any cruise or vacation I still had an overall good time, mainly due to a nice itinerary, and good tours that I booked on my own. And of course good company.