Carl Reller Jr. M.D.
1 Review Written
Sail Date: February 2006
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only ... Read More
This is our 7th cruise. The first cruise with HAL. We drove from Palm Springs to San Diego and boarded at approximately 2 P.M. for a 5P.M. departure. The parking was across the street from the terminal and was $12/day. Handy, as it only took a few minutes to park and start the boarding process. This went very smoothly and we were in our cabin within 15 minutes. Our first observation was the ship was looking a bit worn. (Passage walls scuffed up, the carpet in places slightly coming apart). The cabin,with a veranda, was adequate size and medium range in its finish. The bathroom had a tub with a shower. The weather was excellent with daytime temps in the 80's and lots of blue sky. We wonder sometimes why we leave the desert this time of year but the weather was better than at home. (low 60's and overcast most the week). The first night we were "comped" into the Pinnacle room because of our platinum AMEX card. I had read various reviews of the Pinnacle and we were anxious to try it. The furnishing of the room were nice but I would say "funky" as the chairs were wrought iron and not really "elegant" and the rest of the room rather plain. The service was very good. I ordered the porterhouse as they really touted their beef. My wife had the scampi. The steak was cooked correctly but tough and not too tasty...I think we get better beef at Costco. The shrimp came with their shells on and after struggling a bit with the shells the waiter came to help my wife, he also struggled but finally torn the shells off and her verdict was, they were "O.K." not great. The appetizer were forgetful...we both forgot what we ordered. The best part was the desert, a chocolate soufflE-like dish that was tasty. We made reservations for the last night in the Pinnacle. The next day I stopped to ask if we could have a table where we sat side by side as we hate yelling across the table and the Pinnacle is quite noisy. I was told first come, first served. What is the point of a reservation? They only have one seating in reality. After thinking about the low quality of the previous dinner and thinking why spend $40 for this I cancelled the next day. I think you are better off to apply this at Ruth's Chris and get a really good steak. We ate in the dining room the rest of the nights and I had one good meal, prime rib. The rest of the dinners were either poor choices on our part or nothing that great to order. My wife ordered veal one night and it was over cooked, tough and had no taste. The potatoes, vegetable etc. with the dinner was not to appealing, like it was prepared much earlier and was dried out or cold. They also had a number of standard items such as vichyssoise "style" soup which they were able to mess up quite handily by adding apple. Getting fancy didn't cut it. The Lido we used for breakfast most mornings and for lunch. I tried their sushi and found it to be unlike any I have ever had and hope never to have again. My wife being Asian refused to eat it after the first taste. The sandwiches they made were good because of really good bread. So that was our take on food. Our room steward Ardi was the best! He was almost clairvoyant to our needs. He was always smiling, cheerful and really a very nice guy. If only we could take him on every cruise with us. The rest of the staff were friendly and we surely had no complaints about them. We did get a call from the office on the 6th day asking how everything was. I suggested they read my review at Cruise Critic. The other passengers were definitely the older crowd. (At 65 I consider myself not quite there yet.) Most were "snow birds" and seemed to enjoy the cruise. The entertainment was O.K. Their stage productions were somewhat weak but we were not on the cruise to go to the theater. A "Beatles sound alike" group was good and a comic had a few great lines. A "Hollywood Idol" program was really quite good with the ship's Cruise Director, Jimmy being a great "Simon". The next night they had a "Newlywed, near newlywed and not so new newlywed" game. It was really a stitch! We laughed so hard it seemed some of the responses had to be rehearsed. The shore excursions were very good. Cabo San Lucas being the weakest. We went on a 40 minute boat ride that was good and then to a hotel for a "great view". For the length of the ride the "view" was a let down. We have been to Cabo four times previously, the last in 1997 to marlin fish. The town is so overgrown and American with American prices it really has lost its charm. Next was Mazatlan. We did a tour with a great guide, Sheila. Saw the cliff diver and then a folkloric show that was really very good. After that a great buffet at a local hotel and an afternoon walk along a very lovely beach. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Up at 6 A.M. to leave at 6:40 for a dune buggy adventure. What a kick, 3 1/2 hours of thick dust, muffler less engines and a real kickbutt ride over outback roads and a visit to a few small villages. My wife thinks she is Mario Andretti and really got to live her fantasy. We came back caked with dust and were really happy campers. This made our trip. We took a bus into downtown Puerto Vallarta that afternoon and had a pleasant walk back. Disembarkment was well planned and speedy. We were called at 9:10 A.m. for a 9:30 departure and were on the road by 9:30! So assessing the whole thing we could only say we were somewhat disappointed in HAL as a cruise line. The food probably made the biggest difference and the physical condition of a ship built in 2003 was also a downside. Our last cruises on Celebrity (Constellation in the Baltic and the Xpedition in Galapagos Islands) gave us some prospective in evaluating HAL. We have a world cruise segment planned for next year with HAL (the Amsterdam) because they are going to places we really, really what to see. We also have another cruise with them in 2007 from L.A. to New Zealand and have decided after this to probably cancel and fly there. There are too many days "at sea" and I would have trouble looking forward to eating with HAL that many days. So we would and are taking them again but mainly because they are going to where we want to go. Read Less