Dam good ship -â€“ we had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Our room stewards -â€“ Sonny and Putu were excellent, as were our waiters -â€“ Henry and Roni. As others have commented, it appears HAL has reduced the staffing but the crewmembers always have smiles on their faces, but there doesn't appear to be time for the extra conversations, etc. I don't know how they maintain such a positive attitude working 12 hours a day, seven days a week for nine months. The ship was very clean and all areas were in good repair. (Could we find problem areas -â€“ sure, but why look for them.) Air conditioning and plumbing worked well and we only smelled smoke in the smoking areas. We enjoyed the extra cabin and veranda space that comes with an SY cabin. It really is an ideal size for a cruise. Had breakfast in the room each day with selections from the very complete menu. Took leave of the main dining one night (Master Chef's Dinner) for Canaletto, which was OK, but not great. Shows were excellent with the exception of the comic (Jeff Nease) who was poor. Haven't heard so many old jokes in years. DW enjoyed the cooking classes -â€“ just like I need more great ship recipes made with lots of butter and cream. HEADS UP -â€“ if you want to do any of the extra cost cooking classes or the behind the scenes ship's tour -â€“ sign up when you board. They are unadvertised, but sell out quickly. Shows how many people read these boards.
The cons -â€“ Front desk is friendly and tries to be helpful, but the bookkeeping staff can only be described as inept. Eventually the charges came off, but I got to know the desk staff well. Keep track of your receipts and ask for print outs of your bill, otherwise you will be overcharged. Did not see a sommelier in the dining room -â€“ I think they have been replaced by bar waiters who will serve you wine, mixed drinks, etc. The dining room is now pushing bottled water for $2/liter. The officers seemed to be content to come out when required for social events, but otherwise were never seen except for Captain Turner. This is in contrast to Celebrity where they are visible and accessible. Previous posters have commented on a sewage smell -â€“ we passed it in the vicinity of cabin 6060.
Tours -â€“ Did independent tours in the ABC islands. Bully the taxi driver is outstanding as reported in other CC and TripAdvisor posts. Truly superb snorkeling with Woodwind Bonaire. Took a good local tour in Curacao. We did the Sea-to-Sea ship's tour on a small ferry boat through the Panama Canal to the Pacific and the Rainforest tram tour in Costa Rica. Both were excellent and met expectations and served delightful meals with no intestinal distress afterwards.
Summary - Would we cruise with HAL again? Absolutely, they offer a good product with many different itineraries. However, we have booked our next three cruises on Celebrity. The ships are fresher, seem more roomy -â€“ even with 50% more passengers, most of the ship is non-smoking, and there are more options for things to do.