Food - Better than prior ratings on Cruise Critic led us to expect. In fact, we found the food quality and variety ro be quite good. We did not go to any of the fee-based specialty restaurants because our Dinner tablemates did not give them high reviews, especially in the light of the extra cost.
Transfer from London to Dover - We took the HAL transfer, which was a great mistake. It is a 2 hour ride, and our completely full bus was not air conditioned (It was represented to be so by the HAL representative at the time of booking). It was very warm that day, and the bus was a sweatbox. The cost of $158pp R/T was too high to begin with, but the 2 hour ride in a mobile sauna (you cannot open any windows) made the price absolutely exorbitant. I suggest you make your own transfer arrangements.
Exchange Rates - We were very disappointed that HAL penalized its customers with such aggressive exchange rates. I suggest that you get your local currency from More
ATM machine in the ports, use your credit cards whenever possible. The rates are much more reasonable. HAL had a Russian exchange company on board to exchange your money into Roubles. On a day when the published exchange rate was 28.72 Roubles for one American Dollar, this group (with Hal's blessing because they set up on board by the front desk) was paying 23 Roubles per Dollar - a 20% premium, which was much too much. I am sure HAL was getting a cut of this. I was disappointed HAL did not take better care of its customers and require the exchange company to charge a more reasonable rate.
Entertainment - Gary, a balladeer in the Explorations lounge, was excellent. The piano player and string quartet were both very good. The singers and dancers on the Main Stage were bland and not as talented as we have seen on other cruise ships.
The HAL Travel Guide (Ian) was knowledgeable, but boring because he spent so much time trying to be funny.
Casino - Well run, and adequate games for the number of players. Less