This was the first cruise for the family and we chose this one due to being out of San Diego which was convenient for us. We were a little leery of HAL due to the comments of it being for the old and nearly dead, but we decided to give it a chance as the timing was during a week the schools were out so we thought more families would be on board. We were right. According to the “HALs club” staff, there were nearly 300 kids on board. They mentioned that this was a high number due to the break and that next week’s cruise would also be high. However, the number would drop to about 30 for the first few weeks in March before increasing during spring break. So, one will get a very different opinion of this line depending on the week traveling. Our children were not excited about the “childcare” upon boarding, but buy the end of the cruise they were begging to go to the HALs club as they became enamored by the programs. The staff there did a wonderful job.
The cabin was a Verandah suite and was a bit cramped for the four of us. There were two twins that made a “queen” when pushed together. The third bed was a pull out sofa and the fourth was a bed the folded down above the “queen.” There was no room to move around when all the beds were open. However, the room stewards were fantastic. – two room sweeps a day – and kept the room looking nice. The kids always wanted to see what “towel animal” was sitting on the bed after dinner and looked forward to the nightly chocolates. We enjoyed the verandah with the exception of certain times when a neighbor’s smoke drifted into it. The suite furniture and bathroom floor were starting to show some wear, but was not a negative.
The shows were liked by all. The favorites were the magician and the “Elton John” impersonator. We did not attend most of the programs during the day so I cannot comment on them. The kids when not in the Club HAL spent the time swimming in the Lido pool. The Lido deck would get a little messy by the end of the day, although was cleaned quickly once the rush was gone.
We had one day at the spa and had a couples massage. It was excellent! My wife commented that she had not had a massage that good in years.
The food was overall good – with a different variety each day. I liked it better than my wife, but she is very particular about her food. There were a few glitches in service. The main dining room‘s service on the first night was not good. It was very slow, water glasses were not filled, the coffee did not come with the dessert, but well after I had finished it, etc. The coffee in the evening dining rooms was consistently not served hot and the vegetables I had at the Pinnacle Grill one night were lukewarm. My wife said the sushi one night was made with the smoked salmon from breakfast. But, other than what I have mentioned, overall it was good. The children loved the pasta, cheeseburgers and the chicken noodle soup.
If you are a wine drinker, take advantage of bringing your wine on board. HAL allows as much brought on as you want. We also a bottle of rum from the line and used it to spike our virgin drinks. At three dollars extra a pop for the “leaded version”, it did save money. You can also bring on all the soda and water you want.