My partner and I just took our 27th cruise (second on HAL) and had a good time, however, we expected so much more, and the line under-delivered. Our first experience with HAL was about 12 years ago and we had a great time then. This time we expected just as a good service like before but were left just wanting it.
Great cabin (4158) with an extended balcony (that we paid for). Comfortable bedding, great bathroom with a very roomy shower stall;
Great cabin room stewards, friendly and very attentive;
Food quality in the main Dining Room is very good;
The ship is very pretty and quiet;
Few announcements and sales;
The same extended balcony we paid for was always dirty due to the discharges of soot from the ship stacks. Our cabin was in the AFT portion. Likely not in problem if we were mid ship or forward;
Service in the dining room was lacking, slow and disconnected. We complained and promised that they would serve "faster" on the following nights. They didn't. Servers were friendly and very polite, but somehow things were not working as they should on almost every night of the 12 nights onboard. Too much time between courses and several mistakes, like attempting to take an order without bringing the menus, skipping a course, dessert without the ordered coffee, coffee without cream (even after a week with same servers), etc etc. Maitre D would apologize but the service quality would stay the same: low;
Desserts are lacking quality and choices. Offerings are boring, repetitive and did not quite taste good. Dessert is like an afterthought on the ship;
Buffet: They do have a different service philosophy on this ship (don't know if this is a system-wide thing) but one needs the help of a server to get any food, and that means standing in line all the time, from station to station. One can't get a whole meal on one station, so one needs to stand in line again at the next, and then the next. When there was no line, the server would hide in the kitchen, so one needs to wait there till he/she comes back out. The food offerings have no signs showing/explaining what they are, so when it is your turn, one needs to ask "what is this" and "what is that" every time. Portions are usually given on a small plate, and then on the next station they will try to give you another plate... We actually hated this system, and avoided the buffet every chance we could;
Ship eateries and restaurant times are very restricted. At some obvious lunch or early evening times, one can find most of the venues closed. Off course they have several other venues, if you want to pay extra;
Alternative eating venues (at no extra charge), like the Dutch Café and the Explorations Cafe, offer not a single choice of a free drink. No water, no coffee, no ice tea at these locations. So if you come here, you either have to go several decks up or down to get a glass of water, or you have to buy a drink;
A lot of nickel and dimming on the ship;
Alcoholic drink prices are way too high; with the required 15% gratuity, the least expensive beer onboard costs $8, the wine by the glass $10.50;
HAL is not going to give you a single free cocktail, even on events we all expect to get one. On the captain's welcome night you will get a glass of pro-secco here (they might refill it) and the "party" to welcome and thank repeat guests has been replaced with a lunch, where you will be given ONE glass of pro-secco. Yes, not a choice to get a cocktail, not a chance to get your pro-secco glass refilled;
Top decks are difficult to navigate. One can not go for a walk on a top deck from AFT to FWD, anywhere;
Theater entertainment is very limited and boring;
Music on BB King's Club is very good (they have great singers and musicians on board) but the music is too loud (and I am not 80y.o.);
Ship does not offer shuttle services to bring passengers out of ports or into city centers. In Dubrovnik a Shuttle was offered for $16pP, when the city bus that stops right outside the port and brings passengers to the same final stop of shuttle in the old town costs $4.50 for an unlimited day ticket;
In 3 Port Stops we were left in alternative docking locations, which meant longer walks to required shuttles only to get us to the normal docking areas, very upsetting;
Overall a good trip with some great ports of call. But HAL could do a lot better. Please stop nickel and diming passengers, and deliver the experience we all expect.
Great cabin, nice easy decor, comfortable bedding, nice bathroom with a large and shower stall (glass door here, roomy). We had a large balcony (twice so deep as the regular balconies).
It would be awesome if HAL could offer a shuttle to passengers into a town center/square, or at least to the outside gate of this very ugly port. The town is very interesting, the port area is not.
The cute small old town in Slovenia, super easy to get off the ship and right into the town, but a port of call one could skip. Not much to offer here.
The surprise on this trip. Korcula is AWESOME! An amazing old town (like a little Dubrovnik) with amazing views, and crystal clear water, in which one can bath just about anywhere. We want to visit this small island again and have a longer vacation here. Well worth your visit.
Shuttle offered by HAL into old town costs $16. One can take the public transport right outside the port gate (a few meters away from the HAL shuttle) for only $4.50 for a day ticket (30 kunas). This bus (1A or 1B) will drop you off at the very same location that the HAL shuttle will drop you, outside the main gate of Old Town Dubrovnik.
We docked at an alternative berth here, which afforded us an ugly view of oil platforms, and added almost a half an hour to take the required water shuttle to get into and out of the port. Malta is very beautiful and well worth a visit. Avoid the HopOn Hop Off here. Horrible company with lousy service and complete disrespect toward their passengers. If you do it, take the "Sightseeing Malta" company, and NOT the "City Sightseeing Malta". It sounds like the same company with the same routes, but they are not. They won't tell you they are two different companies until after you buy your ticket, then when you try to board or reboard after getting off at a stop, they will tell you "not this company", "not this company"...