Let me start by saying this was my first cruise. My girlfriend came with me and she has cruised on every line out here and cruised about 15 times. My expectations are what she had described to me from the performance of Royal Caribbean and Carnival.
AT THE PORT IN NEW YORK
Everything went smoothly until we got to the check in desk. I had pre printed my boarding pass about 1 week ahead of time to avoid headaches. This apparently didn't mean I wouldn't have one. They booked my cabin to a different person but not only that my credit card was linked to someone elses sail and sign. I had access to someone elses credit card with my card. After HAL pondered this simple fix for 2 hours they put us in a different room and they had to jump through hoops to re route our luggage to get it to the new room. Then I had to spend another 45 minutes explaining the predicament to the inept front desk of foreigners who neither understand nor speak English. Once they understood I wanted to make sure my credit card issue was settled could the cruise begin. This was before the surprise gift (cigars) ordered to the room by my girlfriend had to be re routed to the new room. The front desk lady ended up telling me what it was. Thanks for the surprise.
The rooms are nice and the hospitality staff was outstanding. COREY, our steward was the nicest guy ever and showed us how he made towel animals for 10 minutes. He called me sir at all times and was just the consummate professional.
The food was not good at all. Only Unsweetened iced tea and water are offered. How exciting. The coffee is gross and the limited soda card is a complete ripoff. The room service had a choice of a salad, omelet, burger or a club sandwich late night. Not a great selection. The Lido dining was poor and closed very early. This cruise line tries to be a 5 star dining facility and should just stick to making edible food. Mango and cream cheese stuffed chicken or sour cherry soup or watermelon gaspatcho is just nasty. Chicken parm and penne a la vodka are a bit more normal and are much harder to screw up. The Vista dining room was the same story. The service was great but the same wanna be 5 star mentality shined through. Ginger flavored Tofu and cheap fatty skirt steaks are not high end. This boat made it hard to get food as 90 percent of the ship was sleeping by 12am. Late night food is non existent unless you want the 4 item menu.
Overall the ship is decorated is a gaudy gold and mirrored motif. It looks like my grandmas house which has not changed since the 1960's. The quality of the decorations is great but it caters to 1960's and 1970's glitzy gaudy over decorated style.
Entertainment was so so. DREW MURDOCK was outstanding and just worked with his 100 year old demographic. I thought he was a stand up comic and director in one. Hats off to Drew. Unfortunately pictionary, bridge, and shuffleboard aren't mind blowing activities. The comics were not funny at all and forgot half their jokes during their bits. Drew was funnier than both of them and 2 hours of stand up from him would have been great.
Excursions I cannot comment about because I went out on my own for those.
RETURN TO NEW YORK
On the way home on the first of two days at sea we are notified that we have to turn around and go back to San Juan to Helilift and sick guest. This is after 6 hours of going north from San Juan. We were under the impression we were going to be very very late on wednesdays proposed 8 am arrival. We were told from the front desk by a "new employee" that a complementary phone call would be given to us to rearrange our travel plans. The next day we are told we have to buy a 25.00 phone card for a measly 12 minutes. The next day after the phone cad does not work they tell me they will give me a complementary call but I have to keep the phone card and it is not refundable. ISSUE one--nobody speaks the english language. ISSUE two--everyone tells a different story and there are too many supposed supervisors.
Overall my first cruise was a nightmare. The best time were spent off the ship. They offer only Unsweetened ice tea and water forcing you to buy a limited soda card. Many of the activities are less entertaining than what a nursing home offers and this makes GAMBLING the only alternative. The slots don't pay out so I made a sizeable donation to HAL. Overall HAL needs to work on things. Not everyone cruising your ships is 100 and on crutches. They cater to the grumpy rich retired senior citizen and neglect all else. When you current cruisers are gone and the younger ones get older you line wont be top choice.