We decided to take a late September vacation in July and found that a guaranteed "N" category inside cabin was $499 per person! For a 10-day cruise we thought that was pretty sweet. At that price, we even talked our neighbors into going with us.
Approximately two weeks before embarkation, we were upgraded to category "J" on main deck forward. That was a pleasant surprise as for $50 pp per day we had been assigned to a room that was larger than most of the exterior staterooms on the ship!
We flew into New York from Dallas on Saturday and spent the night in Manhattan before embarking on Sunday. We were in no hurry to board, so we had a leisurely breakfast and took the subway downtown for a visit to the WTC site before checking out of our midtown hotel. We took a taxi over to the pier, pulling right up to the curb and our luggage was loaded by the staff straight away.
We proceeded into the terminal with our carry-ons and walked straight to the counter. We were approaching the photographer within 10 minutes of having stepped out of the taxi. Arriving after the rush proved to be an excellent strategy.
Our party walked aboard the ship and took an elevator to the lido deck just as it was announced that the cabins were ready. Everyone rushed to the elevators so we walked up to the buffet and enjoyed a super lunch before heading down to our room. By that time there was no wait at the elevator and we were able to head straight down to main deck.
Our room was spotless and spacious with plenty of storage. We freshened up a bit and shortly our bags arrived. We had just enough time to unpack and organize before the lifeboat drill.
Everyone loved standing out on the fan tail as we pulled out of New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. By that time it was dusk and we all headed inside to freshen up for dinner.
We had open seating for this cruise and enjoyed being able to eat on our own schedule every day. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting a number of different and friendly people in the main dining room as well as the lido. We dined at the Italian restaurant one evening, and also dined at the Tamarind and Pinnacle Grill, and the Terrace Grill. We also had room service for breakfast a couple of days when we had early excursions. All were very good in our opinion. Even our picky eaters were well-satisfied with the cruise fare.
The last week of September/first week of October proved to be perfect as far as weather was concerned. It was foggy the day we went to Bar Harbor. If you're going to Cadillac Mountain, I would recommend an afternoon excursion. It rained one morning on PEI, but was not cold and the sun soon came out.
Since we booked at the last minute, our options were somewhat limited for getting back to New York on the day we disembarked in Quebec City. We took the train from Quebec to Montreal and then flew back to New York that evening. We thoroughly enjoyed the train ride and the countryside between Quebec and Montreal was beautiful in all of its autumn splendor.
The entertainment was good. The singers and dancers worked their tails off for the audience. We liked the magician, the ventriloquist, and the comedian too. They all kept the audience engaged and interested as well as entertained.
Everyone in our party enjoyed the HAL excursions. Overall we found them to be informative and as represented in the descriptions. If I had one complaint about the excursions, it would be that some of the Canadian tour guides seemed to be a little free with their personal political opinions, which was both unsolicited and unappreciated, but that was more "luck of the draw" I guess--can't blame it on HAL.
Overall, it was an excellent experience. HAL is a good fit for my family. We rewarded them for the generous upgrade by booking a deluxe aft wrap-around suite for our Alaska cruise this summer. The majesty of Alaska deserves no less, and we're all looking forward to all the great perks we missed out on last time around.