We were on this ship in May 2018 and were impressed enough to book for this sailing in February 2019. This ship went through a dry dock in December 2017 that updated the decor. They also stopped allowing smoking inside the casino at that time. I had always dismissed HAL as an option because of their smoking policy, so this was a welcome change for me. The only smoking currently allowed is now on an outside deck.
The crew are very well trained, friendly, and personable. They seem genuinely happy to be on board and also appear to get along well with each other. To me, that's always a sign of good management and work environment.
Dining was good to excellent in the main dining room and specialty restaurants. This ship has Tamarind as a restaurant choice, which is excellent (have eaten there four times now). The lido buffet has a nice variety of food that tastes good. As importantly, there is lots of staff around to get drinks and clear tables, which is an area where other cruise lines seem to have cut back. There are also a couple of fast casual options for burgers and pizzas, both of which serve excellent food.
HAL has invested heavily in its Music Walk concept. This ship has BB King's Blues Club, Billboard Onboard (two pianists), and Lincoln Center Stage (classical quintet music). All three provide lots of entertainment with a wide variety of music. They're great. There is also a partnership with America's Test Kitchen that includes cooking demos during the day. As fans of the show, this was a great way to spend some vacation time. The infotainment system in the room includes a pretty extensive library of current movies to watch. Recent releases were also screened in the main theater and then were available for in-room streaming as well.
Bottom line: HAL has a great product with a great staff for a relaxing getaway. I'm already looking forward to booking my next cruise with them!
Neptune Suites are awesome. Great layout, lots of space, and wonderful bathrooms (tub/shower combo + separate shower + double-vanity sink). The balconies are huge and include two loungers + a dining table with chairs. The different categories (SA, SB, SC) seem to be primarily based on location relative to the Neptune Lounge, which is the dedicated suite lounge. SA are on the same floor as the lounge, SB are on the floor below, and SC are on the floor below but further aft. We were in a SB category in May and in a SC for this trip and noticed no differences in the rooms other than location. Having to go upstairs to the lounge was not a big issue for us at all, and we dropped by several times a day. The corner aft suites on every deck are also classified as SB, presumably because that location is premium for some.
Tram ride around the island with a stop for "shopping". It was a nice overview and something else to do besides the beach. The tour guide was friendly and funny. The shopping was nothing to write home about but did provide a chance to stretch your legs and use the bathroom.View All 116 Island Tour Reviews
The last time I was in St. Thomas, the taxi drivers at the port were overly aggressive, so we ended up staying near the ship and then spending the rest of the day onboard. This time, I booked this excursion so I wouldn't be in the same situation. They provided a ride up to Mountain Top for scenic views from a gift shop then a stop at Magen's Bay for a couple hours of beach time. It ended with a stop downtown for "shopping" on Main Street (mainly jewelry stores). I'm not a shopper so the last bit was not for me. However, the views from the mountain and at the beach were great. It was a nice overview and gave me a better sense of the island than the first experience.View All 291 Island Tour Reviews
I'm not really a beach person, but this one was absolutely beautiful. Well worth a visit.View All 265 Magen Bay Beach Reviews