Our hotel shuttle arrived at the pier around noon. Check-in was smooth and we were on the ship and depositing our carry-ons in no time. We met our room steward, Wuziker (or Wuz for short). He and his assistant (I can't remember his name) were wonderful. Having our twelve and ten year old with us, I was afraid the room would be hard to keep clean, but I was constantly on them to put their things away, and Wuz and his assistant did the rest. Every time we went back things were tidyed and the sheets smoothed. The kids loved the towel animals, especially the monkey. The room was a little tight for the four of us, but we made due with the space we had and the verandah really helped.
We got the notice that I think might be commonplace now, saying they'd been experiencing a higher amount of norovirus and asked us to remember to use the hand sanitizers, which we all did religiously. The salt and pepper shakers came out about the third day or so and I never heard of anyone being sick. I had a chest infection coming on the ship and was on medication, so I was a little worried my immune system would be down, but no problems at all.
The food was excellent! The only thing I didn't like was the escargot, but I'm thinking that might be more of a personal preference. It was only the third time I had them, but I didn't remember the gritty taste I tasted the night they were served. Otherwise, I'd never had better surf and turf and all the soups were divine. Our dining steward, Andie, and his assistant, Hendra, were fabulous. We kept them on their toes because some of our group didn't eat with us every night, and a few nights we invited a couple who ended up tagging along on the cruise with us to our table. They were wonderful about it. We were able to talk to both of them. Andie really struck a chord in my heart. He talked about his eight year old boy back home and how, a few years ago, he got real sick. Andie found out ten minutes before early dining was to start and he wasn't able to get home for weeks afterward. But he talked about his work with HAL with a smile, and he truly loves what he does. My husband and I both said we could take some lessons from Andie and all the staff, as you never saw them frown and no matter how they felt they always made you feel at home and cared for.
We tried to sit in the same spot every day in the Lido. War and Win were my favorites. War made flowers our of napkins for us women and remembered everyone's name. Win was his boss and War says in his country they call their bosses "Dude". So every time Win walked by War would say "What up, Dude." And Win would turn to us and wink. They were lots of fun. The food was good. I think I liked the selection on Princess better, but HALs food tasted better.
We did the pub crawl, trivia, bingo, shuffleboard, my husband contributed to the Casino and he and our son played the steel drums both times they offered it. We went to every show. Hilby, the tall, skinny German juggle boy, was our favorite. He had us all rolling in our seats. The singers and dancers were top notch!
Day one was Half Moon Cay. I read and read here on CC, so I knew I would love it, but I had no idea just how much I would want to stay!! I think I would have been just as happy if we would have come back to the island every day. We were there with the Neiw Amsterdam, and yes, it was crowded, but I didn't even mind it. The BBQ, though, left much to be desired. Not sure what kind of hot dogs those were. On the flip side, the banana daiquiri's in the souvenir bottle were to die for. Oh, and the new ship bar is open for business. Day two was a sea day, three was Jamaica. Not my favorite place. We climbed Dunn's River Falls, and I thoroughly enjoyed that, but on the way back to the bus was nerve-wracking. My daughter was pulled on twice, once to braid her hair and once a man wanted to show her some wood carvings. We got lost in that stupid village, my husband was approached by another who wanted to show him something he had in his trunk, and by the time we saw the buses I wanted to run for safety. But then, after Dolphin Cove, they took us to the shops even though they told us they would take us back to the ship. The driver acted like we had to get off, that he wasn't going back to the ship. About then my dad and mother-in-law started to lose it and get testy. Finally he took us back. I'll probably never go back, even though I know the country is probably beautiful. The next day was Grand Cayman. I'm not a big shopper, and by the time I got through the maze of shop trying to find the only two I really wanted to shop in, I pooped out and went back to the ship. Some of our party went to the beach and around town. I wish we'd have done an excursion here, and my husband and I both said we'd like to come back someday. Our last day was at sea.
The only real downer was Club HAL. Thankfully our kids are fine with us or on their own, but when they did want to take part in an activity it was always one that was grouped with all ages. Since there were four times as many younger kids, the activities were geared toward them and our kids left feeling like their time was wasted. When we checked-in the first day, the young adult helping us seemed a little intimidated, as if this was his first time. And my daughter said there were twin 6yr old boys who kept getting into trouble and causing the activities to halt. This wasn't a huge problem for us because our kids love to hang with us and we had enough grown-ups doing different things that they were never really bored, but I can see where it would be a problem for others.
In all, the worrying I did about the dress code (for my dad) and the kids was all for nothing. No one ever made a comment that they saw our kids walking the lido unaccompanied, and I saw every kind of attire to make me realize that, especially on a 6-day Caribbean, no one cares.
I wish we could book another cruise right away, but my husband will be starting a new job in a couple weeks and our income will drop significantly. But I will find a way to save, little by little if I have to, to set sail again as soon as we can!