The staff are exceptionally friendly and contact between staff and clientele is encouraged. The barstaff would dance with us on the dance floor. You can invite an officer to dine with you. This takes staff friendliness to a new level. It makes it more fun. I loved this aspect of HAL.
Entertainment - impeccable. The shows really are Las Vegas style - fabulous costumes, scenery. No gimmicks, just good singing, dancing & style. The band Gen and the HALcats were the best I've ever seen on a cruise ship. I really loved listening to them.
Food - superlative! The Rembrandt restaurant was excellent and I think the food was the best I've ever had at sea. We chose open-seating which meant we could go whenever we wanted. We didn't mind sitting with other guests and had some really fun evenings this way. The Lido Buffet wasn't as good as Celebrity's and HAL insists that their staff serve the buffet, instead of allowing you to help yourself. This makes for long queues and sometimes the food 'backs up' as the staff try to streamline the service. This can lead to errors and then the dish has to be scrapped and started again, causing more delays.
Ports of Call:
La Goulette - went on Best of Tunisia tour - it was fantastic.
Trapani - took Segesta tour - wonderful and walked round Trapani afterwards. Civitavecchia - we didn't go to Rome as we've been to Rome many times and will be back there in August, so after 2 days of tours, we had a look at Civitavecchia.
Sta Margherita for Portofino - independent travel to Portofino - absolutely spectacular.
Monte Carlo - we didn't get off and took the opportunity to relax onboard. Everyone I spoke to seemed to enjoy the tours.
Downsides - my husband complained that the loudspeakers for the tender service to Monte Carlo woke him up at 7am, as they could be heard in the cabins. Maybe there is a way you can turn this off?
Check in - very streamlined and easy. Check out, equally good.
One last thing: on the morning of departure, I went to the Lido restaurant and left my handbag with passports, money, credit cards, camera, mobile phone, etc behind. By the time we got back to the cabin, the phone was ringing and front-desk was calling me to say my bag had been handed in. Everything was untouched.
I'm a fan.
Easy to buy a ferry ticket to Portofino just on the dock, where the tender comes in. You can buy a single or return. The ferry runs once every hour - the journey only takes about 15-20 mins. It is a picturesque trip. The coastline is beautiful and looking at all the expensive houses and villas is a sight in itself.
There's also a bus, but to be honest, the ferry is better as it takes you right into the centre of the port. I think you have to trek up a hill to get the bus back.
The Medina is a typical souk, labyrinthine streets, dealers offering to bargain, but not too aggressively. When we stepped down from the bus, a Tunisian woman greeted me happily with 'Bonjour', but not everyone was so friendly. Our guide said if we got lost, everyone would be able to tell us how to get to Kasbah. We had quite a bit of time to wander the souk on our own and we did end up lost. I asked various women (in French) for directions. Some just ignored me completely and others shrugged their shoulders, although they were obviously familiar with the area. Even a female police officer was vague and unhelpful. Another group of young women tried to help, however. The ship information said that if we didn't want to go to the ubiquitous carpet shop visit, we should say so, but I saw someone try this and the guide explained how difficult that would be for him, how he had to tell eveyone where to meet etc, etc. In the end, the couple just came to the demonstration. Having said that, it was more interesting than most, as we saw a woman at work, weaving a carpet and it was nice to see all the different designs.
Sidi Bou Said was a picturesque town, but I felt we spent too much time there. I would have liked to spend more time at Carthage or the Bardo museum. Nevertheless, a very informative and interesting tour.