This was my 6th cruise having sailed before with Carnival, NCL and RCI. We arrived early to the port and were one of the first to get onto the ship. For the entirety of the cruise we never felt crowded, always found seating in all areas of the ship, which was nice. Our balcony room was awesome, lots of storage and plenty of space, they only thing better in comparison was that NCL has a separate shower stall and toilet which was nice for privacy, but we are married in our late 20s, so this doesn't bother us.
SHIP: Had lots of space, was very clean , modern and I can't say enough that the staff was incredible!!!! They really went out of their way to make sure you had great service and shared some laughs. We were celebrating my husband's birthday on the cruise and they did a great job with balloons outside our stateroom and a birthday cake the night of his birthday.
ACTIVITIES: There was always too much to do on the other cruise lines I've been on. This was my first time with HAL and they did have limited activities, however if you are looking to relax and do a few things you'll be fine. We only went to part of one show...still think NCL and RCI had the best entertainment, but if you are into cheesy mediocre shows like in Atlantic City and Vegas you'll like it. They casino was always packed at night, the club on the ship was crowded around 10, but after the shows you were stuck with drinking or hitting up the casino. They did have movies, but they were only shown in the afternoon, I wish they had these late night in the lounge. The culinary center was pretty cool, felt like you were at a cooking show...just wish there were more of these shows!
HOLIDAYS: For New Years there were 2 locations to party..in the lounge or in the night club. This was segregated into old people in the lounge and college age and mid-aged adult folk in the club. My husband and I do not have kids and weren't traveling with family so we were an odd demographic, but are able to make friends anywhere...the gave out really cool New Years hats and free champagne at midnight, we had a fun time, the crew even came out to dance! The only way this could have been better was to have food on the lido deck for before and after the new years dancing in the lounge and nightclub...I saw 2 trays of food in the lobby earlier that night, but that was all. The ship was decorated nicely throughout for the holidays.
FOOD: Between the other 3 cruise lines I've been on HAL is the best hands down!!!!! This is mainly for the quality of food...I will say Carnival is like cafeteria food, NCL and RCI were way above Carnival and tied, but HAL was delicious! At the Lido buffet they had great hot lunch dishes, salad bar, deli, snacks, asian and italian stations. Outside they had a taco bar and burger bar...burgers were great quality and they had sweet potato fries. For breakfast at the Lido they had multiple waffles, pancakes, omelettes, sandwiches and cereals. Dinner was always good in the dining room, although I was hoping for lobster tail on formal night and they had crab legs instead, but everything was always served beautifully and was delicious! Room service was always on the spot, but they have a limited menu after 10pm. On one of the nights they did a dessert buffet which was nothing like I'd ever seen before, it was amazing! There were also late night snacks, but it was very limited and didn't start until 10:30pm, NCL and RCI had 24 hour snack bars that I thought had a better variety of food.
-Grand Turk I expected more. We got snorkel gear for Christmas and were really glad we didn't do the snorkel excursion because the people who went said they didn't see anything. We saw a couple of fish off the beach and still had a good time, but felt the time there was short and it felt very commercial with all the newly built shops. There is a pool there and it is free, I've heard other cruise lines charge for the pool even though it is free.
-San Juan Puerto Rico: Walking around town was nice to see the interesting shops (highly recommend the Butterfly People, very cool). There is a free trolley and there are signs where it stops, but it runs like every 20 minutes. We saw the main fort and thought the best part about it was the views, not the fort itself. We are well traveled, so once you see one they all look the same. We ate at La Bombanara, a bakery that Rachel Ray and Samantha Brown went to on TV, a place for locals...highly recommend a mallorca with ham and cheese. We also ate at a restaurant close to the ship called Punta de Vista and it was amazing!!! I wish I had a second stomach to eat more! Recommend the pina colada there, fish and steak tacos and fried plantains with shrimp for an appetizer.
-St. Thomas: We took the champagne catamaran cruise. We were on a waiting list 2 months out for this, but heard that HAL waitlisted almost everyone, which I did not like. The champagne cat was awesome!!!! It took us to St. John to honeymoon beach to snorkel, the snorkeling here was the best out of the whole trip. We saw turtles, sea urchin, brain coral and lots of different fish. The water was amazing and the beach was untouched, which was nice. We had time to see St. Thomas when we got back, but Blackbeards castle was closed, so we didn't bother climbing the 99 steps.
-Half Moon Cay: This port was my second favorite port to St. John. It's HAL's private island, so it was just us, tenders take you into the port and you can use your ship card on the entire island. There were plenty of chairs, a hiking trail, water activities and pure bliss. We saw schools of fish and a barracuda in the water. HAL provides a lunch buffet which some great grill options.
I would recommend HAL to others for a relaxing vacation...Carnival is for people who want to be around lots of screaming children or drunken college kids. NCI and RCI are for families, but at times can be loud in public areas which also may contain children throwing things.