We chose HAL as it was our understanding that this was a better standard than the Costa, Royal Caribbean etc we had been on before. This was our eighth cruise in total and sadly was on a par with our disappointing MSC experience 6 years ago.
We boarded in Rome for our 12 day cruise and the process was very smooth and speedy. The ship is lovely - recently modernised and tastefully decorated there is a nice ambience and flow to the ship. The housekeeping and dining staff also very very friendly. The same cannot be said for entertainment staff. Whilst skilled I witnessed three sarcastic comments that weren't meant for client ears.
Being brits we aren't used to constant air con and ours was exceptionally noisy. We asked whether this could be tuned off or down on our first night when still trying to sleep at 3am. We were advised this was controlled centrally and nothing could be done. We mentioned this again to the room attendant after being shown a friends cabin and the air conditioning was significantly quieter. One week and about 4/5 hours a night sleep later and not being able to wear contact lenses we again approached reception (in person) who sent a maintenance person who flicked off the vent in the ceiling and proceeded to twizzle a few bits and 30 seconds later the air conditioning flow and noise is reduced. Shame we had to wait a week for this.
The food is average - especially when compared to other experiences. Portions are small. Not unpleasant but certainly nothing special. The main dining room has 4/5 choices per three courses. One gala night we had steak and lobster tail.
As oppose to previous cruises there is not so much of an emphasis on Gala night - not many passengers appear to embrace the spirit.
This may well be our error in choosing the line/ship/route but there is no nightlife. If you find 4 people up after midnight then it's a miracle. Entertainment in general on the main stage is alternate nights of some entertainment and then a movie/film on the following night. No big productions and many evening entertainers lasted about an hour.
The spa is very expensive and some gym classes were additional - $12 for a yoga class!! Drinks were as we would expect although a 15% service charge is added to everything PLUS the $12.50 per person per day service charge. When docked in Spain an additional 10% was added on top.
No iron or laundry room available on ship therefore items must be laundered or ironed using the ships service.
We disembarked in Barcelona. We were forced to leave the terminal on departure from the ship and advised we could not reenter the building. Our pre arranged transfer was 3.5 hours after disembarkation - be warned if disembarking in Barcelona! There is nowhere to get a coffee or snack.
Don't travel with HAL if looking for wow as you won't get it. We found them of a lower standard than Costa who at least you know your getting what you pay for (and we did have a good cruise with them!). HAL would like to be luxury but the standard of food, entertainment and customer service does not warrant this tag.
We would overall score lower but this would be unfair to the majority of staff who do work very hard to maintain the housekeeping and feed the masses. It's not a line we would choose again or recommend to anyone.
Very very small despite paying for an upgrade to guarantee a minimum grade. It was however adequately furnished and the housekeepers kept it very clean. The size of the cabin wasn't actually the problem for us as we were using it for sleep only but the air conditioning was a big problem and virtually ruined the holiday for us as we are just back from a supposed relaxing holiday and are so very tired. Surely that's not how we should return.
We did not visit St Tropez - diverted to Villefranche
Walk the F1 route - you get to see great parts of Monaco
We chose not to visit Pisa. Average fishing village.
Private city tour with Marco. Very worth the experience to be shown hidden secrets of Rome
Land train is grat value