Background Information: My wife and I are reaching our late-sixties and HAL is still the preferred cruise line for oldies like us. This has its advantages and disadvantages, the cruise is less hectic, more relaxing and with less emphasis on shows, drinks, and other strenuous or superficial activities. Of course that watching struggling senior citizens all over the ship (including ourselves) can be somewhat monotonous and for the younger folks may even be depressing and boring (the estimated mean age on this cruise was about 60-70 yrs).
• Ship Info: The ship is nice, new, well maintained and clean. It is the largest of the HAL fleet (approx. 85 KTons, 12 decks, 2 swimming pools, several optional restaurants . The ship tended to move and rock a little, maybe it was the weather....
• Service: Excellent. The tipping policy (paying up-front through HAL) has not completely eliminated the run for more tips. Nevertheless, the crew is outstanding.
• Stops: Except for San Juan, PR the other stops are rather insipid beach places. If you are a scuba diver this impression would probably change.
• Port of Embarkation: Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale is close to hotels and airport. It is very convenient. Embarkation was well organized and we arrived at 11 AM, were on board at 11:50 AM and had lunch at 12:15 PM. Our cabin was ready at that time. Luggage arrived around 2 PM.
• Stateroom: Very nice with an ample balcony. The bathroom is also quite comfortable.
• Dining: Very good to excellent in the main dining room. Good to Very good in the Lido. The quality of food has deteriorated in the past years. Probably this is true in all cruise lines in this price bracket. Nevertheless, there is a large variety of food and you could still find something edible at all times.
It is a pity that the main restaurant was not open all days for lunch as was mostly the case in the past.
• Health Issues: Being a medical professional, I was quite concerned after observing several passengers licking their fingers while serving themselves at the Lido. The mandatory use of Purell hand wash was not enforced at all. These are common problems on all cruise ships with self-service eateries. It is really a pity that many passengers have such a low level of public health concern and education. HAL distributed several leaflets warning about this and other public health issues, and that is very commendable. In addition, smoking should be prohibited in all staterooms, balconies and public places (except a designated outside bar near the ocean-view bar)
• Entertainment; I did not participate in many of these, but it seemed ok. We enjoyed the Adagio string quartet several times after dinner. They are a group of talented Polish musicians, they played classical string music as well as semi-classical and operetta tunes, tangos and other folk or popular songs transcribed for strings.
• One salient and probably the best feature of these ships is the Explorations Cafe, a fusion of coffee house, library, and internet cafe. It is very nicely done, with excellent library and internet managers. The internet is slow as in all ships, but quite well organized with the manager always ready to help.
• Disembarkation: Fast and efficient.
In summary: This is an excellent cruise line that is trying to keep up their traditional high standards offering average prices. Improvement in food quality would be well received, even if the price would reflect it.