The purpose of the cruise appeared to be selling everything: alcohol, jewelry, clothing, dining rooms, cabanas, art, and casinos. Free services such as the library kept very limited hours even on the "at sea" days when it would have been convenient to use them. The ship has an extensive and interesting art collection, and I would have loved to have taken the iPod tour but could never make it to the library to check it out.
The ship's public areas were kept clean, and I swear that I heard a vacuum cleaner in our hallway at 3:30 am! The staff "simonized" (their word) the handrails on the stairs frequently so that the railings were either wet or left a sticky residue on one's hands. The fitness center had broken equipment which should have been repaired.
All the personnel were very pleasant and helpful. It was reassuring to see the assistance available to those with mobility impairments. Walkers, electric scooters and wheelchairs were common sights as were manual wheelchairs assited by staff.
We were notified that a GI virus had affected both guests and crew. Purell dispensers were all around the ship staffed by crew to make sure that we used them. Each guest room also had a bottle of Purell. I heard from guests who had been ill that they had received wonderful care from the medical staff.
Food service was generally very good. The main dining room, The Manhattan, was very large, noisy, and very bright and glitzy; conversation was difficult. The menu selections were excellent with two vegetarian and one fish option as well as red meat and poultry; although the beef was the least well-prepared item, often dry and tasteless. The main buffet in The Lido often ran out of popular items: broccoli at lunch on the first day and bread pudding for dessert almost every day. The two sides of the buffet offered differing items under the same general headings so one had circle the dining room before making a selection. Several other dining rooms were available at an extra charge of $20-$30 per person. In-room dining offered a more restricted menu but was adequate and came at the requested times. Two formal dinners seemed excessive especially since the menu was no different than on other nights and the service was slower and less efficient due to the number of diners in the main dining room that night.
Our cabin was adequate but not roomy. It provided enough storage space with plenty of hangers and excellent lighting. The bathroom had additional shelf space as well as a retractable clothesline which we appreciated. The towels were extra large and fluffy, but we had to request clean towels each time as there was really nowhere to hang the bath towels to dry between uses. Even though the ship was only 6 months old, there were small details that hadn't been attended to. The sink drain did not work. The cabin steward attempted to fix it by tying it to the lever arm so that it didn't open or close. The front desk had to be contacted to get a better repair. The tub didn't drain when showering, and one showered in water up to the ankles. We were told this was because of the motion of the ship. There was also a hint of mold where the walls met the tub, evidence of not-too thorough cleaning.
Shore excursions were purchased through HAL since we had never been to this region before. We wanted to learn about the area, culture, and history, and they did provide that. Some drivers were more knowledgeable than others. On all of the excursions the drivers served as the tour guides, having to focus their attention on the roads as well as the sites.
We felt that the HAL website and phone center staff did not provide as much information as they could have to help first time ocean cruisers such as us. I understand that the ship has a tight turn-around time at the end of the cruise. They gave us a late disembarkation time and then proceeded to make up the room while we were still packing up, just moved our stuff out of their way!