Embarkation/Disembarkation - when we arrived to the port we were not greeted by the luggage staff but rather our luggage was dragged, tagged and taken all without one word being uttered. However once on the ship we had our luggage almost immediately! We got to our stateroom, walked around the ship for a bit and then we returned to our room and it was already there! The disembarkation process was super easy - we chose to self disembark and we were off and through customs in a matter of minutes. There are shuttles, taxis and buses readily available.
Security - this area was rather chaotic - the conveyor belt ended about a foot after it passed through the screening device. All of the stuff just ended up on this table and was piling up but if you dared to try to get it you were reprimanded. The woman who was supposed to be "dispensing" your stuff to you was busy talking on the phone which created the backlog. A few of the staff there even grabbed people by the arms to move them from trying to get their stuff. Again, few words were spoken but rather orders were barked to move out of the way.
Stateroom - the room was absolutely wonderful! It was spacious and clean! We had a balcony so we were happy to see comfy outdoor furniture as well. The bed was very comfortable, bathrooms come with shower/bathtub, the room has a flat screen TV, TONS of storage, and a little mini-fridge (all of which came in handy with a little one). The stewards were amazing and really went above and beyond each day. They were the best staff we encountered all cruise!
Food - this was such a disappointment. We went to the Lido, Terrace Grill, Slice and used in-room dining. The other restaurants were not very family friendly and we were travelling with our toddler (2yrs). The Lido had very limited options and we essentially ate the same thing everyday - some type of chicken, french fries (no mashed potatoes?!), and some pasta. The spacing out of the stations was horribly planned out and you had to walk rather far to just get from one station to the other. If you went for lunch or the snack times you were pretty much out of luck - there was usually 1-2 stations open and the options were slim. I've never had so many turkey sandwiches in my life! The Terrace grill had VERY limited hours which was unfortunate because this was a great place for our little one - had hamburgers, hot dogs, etc... Slice was OK - nothing to write home about. The in-room dining was our salvation - few options but they were (oddly) better tasting than the Lido. It took about 45 minutes to arrive but we would have starved in the evening had it not been for this.
Staff - The staff on this ship just seemed disgruntled - few smiles and some downright rude. When we were doing the emergency drill one of the staff was separating families and putting women/children in one area and sending men to another area. He was yelling at people who brought food/drinks and telling them that they needed to take the drill seriously. Now, I understand this is important however the drill doesn't really provide you with great information other than how to put on a life vest - there is no need to get crazy about it. When I refused to separate from my husband he became very upset, very weird. The dining staff was essentially non-verbal and many times we just went to the bar to get our sodas instead of waiting for them to ask us if we needed anything to drink because it was faster. Several times we gave them our drink order at the table and our sodas came when we were already done eating.
Entertainment - This was another disappointment - nothing for families. NOTHING. We didn't bother going to the shows because once again this was not a family friendly environment. Fortunately, you can "borrow" a movie (for free) each night and there is a pretty extensive collection. There is also a movie pack which includes drinks, popcorn, candy, chips for $10 which we did a few nights.
Fellow Cruisers - To say that this is a 50+ crowd doesn't quite capture the crowd. There were a handful of families with younger children (about 5 that I can think of) and the rest of the cruisers were about 65+ years. This really created a non-family vibe and the cruisers with us were easily upset when our toddler would get a little rowdy. We endured many comments about them not appreciating young kids on the cruise. There were those sweethearts that really went out of their way to talk to her and engage with her which was refreshing.
Excursions - Again, not family friendly. Many of them had age limits of 4 or older. One of the excursions was to ride a ferry around the island and our toddler was too young. Too young to ride a ferry? Ridiculous.
The ports were really great and we actually didn't even need to buy any of the excursions through HAL.
Grand Turks - We just went to the beach right off the cruise terminal and walked around the shopping area. It was very well maintained and we had a lot of fun just right there.
San Juan - We walked off the ship and there were tons of people providing tours for a fraction of the price that HAL was offering. All 3 of us went on a New/Old City Tour for $15!! There are a few eating options right by the port and while the folks there will discourage you from walking and looking around yourself - it is actually pretty do-able.
St. Thomas - Very beautiful place and this is the one place you will need to plan for an excursion or at least grab a taxi and plan your own activity. There is not a lot by the port and there is only one small eatery.
Half Moon - The tendering process was super easy and accessible. Once again we just hung out at the beach which our toddler LOVES to do. We swam, build sand castles and relaxed. There is a stand there to rent beach equipment which a lot of people did. Once again, you can do a lot without spending much money here.
All in all we really had a great time but most of it was because we kind of did our own thing and had to get creative. If my husband and I travelled alone we would definitely consider HAL again however when we cruise with our toddler we will choose another cruise line. I think that will make us and the fellow HAL cruisers equally as happy.