We embarked from Civitavecchia after three days in Rome. The ports of call were as follows: Livorno, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon and Funchal Madeira. I won't dwell on the ports as everyone's perception of a destination is completely different. I enjoyed them all and some were repeats and Malaga, Cartagena, Livorno and Madeira were new to me. I enjoyed Funchal the most as we were there overnight and the island is just simply stunning.
In my opinion HAL has been downgraded in several ways. The first thing I noticed was laundry was four days instead of next day service as advertised. I travel in the SA Class as I am used to getting one day service and therefore bring fewer clothes. When I complained I was given a lecture by my cabin steward (twice) stating they were understaffed and I should not expect the kind of service I am used to. I certainly am not used to this kind of disrespect from the crew and I was rather amazed.
The next thing lacking was entertainment. In the Crow's Nest, for instance, they had for the entire eighteen days one singer from eight until nine and that was it. No HAL Cats or anything else. There was some entertainment in the Ocean Bar and the Queen's Lounge but the quality was poor. The shows were typical cruise fare and generally were terrible.
On a positive note, the food was good, the Spa was great and the ship impeccably clean. I had lunch with the Captain one day and he was a jolly fellow, though quite serious.
The ship seemed very understaffed and lines in the Lido were long. Also there was an outbreak of the Norwalk Virus during the cruise which slowed things down around the ship with their prevention methods.
The seven Sea days from Funchal to Fort Lauderdale were dreadfully boring as there was little offered to the passengers during the day other than normal cruise ship fodder such as bingo and trivia games.
Embarkation and disembarkation in all ports was efficient. We tendered in Monte Carlo and that was smooth as well.
Another point of concern is now HAL has changed their Mariner recognition codes. I am now level three, yet no pin was awarded. I was told it will be mailed to me. We were given a lunch, but no personal recognition was given to long time passengers as in the past.
I have to say this was the first time I was happy to leave the ship. Usually I can't get enough. My future plans will have to be reevaluated regarding cruising.
One last issue. My travel agent sent me a bottle of Scotch for my cabin. It never arrived. I contacted the Cellar Master, a Erik Van Kampen, and he assured me credit would be issue to my account. This did not happen.
I will be looking at upgrading to Silver seas or Seabourn as I feel I was on a Carnival cruise on this last one.
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