We have been cruising for many years, and this was our 8th HAL cruise with our sons. We started cruising ten years ago with our children as 3rd and 4th passengers in a Neptune suite. They are now teenagers and are in their own inside cabin. Beware, when you make this switch, your children will lose their Neptune Suite benefits, even if you continue to book a Neptune Suite.
This was our first holiday cruise, and we already booked a holiday cruise for next year. It was that great!!! The ship was new, spotless and beautiful. The Christmas decorations were beautiful, and the staff was amazing. In addition, the atmosphere on the ship was very festive. People aren't always happy on vacation, but there was something special about a Christmas Cruise. Everyone seemed to be in great spirits, and lots of families were traveling together. We saw lots of groups of kids (likely cousins) traveling around the ship and having a great time. HAL provides a Catholic priest on board for mass, which we really appreciated.
Club Hal: Over the last 10 years, our children have experienced all three age levels of Club HAL, and it has been an absolute highlight for them. This was our first year where our 19-year-old son, has aged out and we were worried about him finding things to do, as he is too old for kid stuff and too young for the bar scene. We should not have worried. He met lots of other older teens and spent time playing cards and games in the Explorations Café, visiting the music venues, and shows.
Dinning: We appreciated the new dining venues on the ship as well. We at breakfast as the Dutch Café once and enjoyed it. We also ate lunch once at the New York Pizza Deli. My husband is from New York and was not impressed by the pizza. I enjoyed being able to grab a quick salad, but the sandwiches were not very good. They were all bread and little meat. We ate in The Pinnacle Grill once for dinner Christmas Eve and 3 times for lunch on sea days. It was excellent (but not quick) as usual. We also tried out Tamirand; it was good, but not great, and our waitress was not very friendly. We ate dinner once in Canaletto. On this ship, it truly seems like a seperate restaurant, not part of Lido. The food was excellent, and the service was great, but beware where you sit. We were seated directly across from the door to the Lido kitchen, and when Lido closed, the banging and crashing, etc. of all the evening’s dishes being washed was really loud – like can’t hold a conversation loud.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the new Rock and Roll venue, and the dueling pianos were much better than in past years. They had an interesting system going where one show would end, and you could walk directly across to the other venue and they would start playing within about 10 minutes. We enjoyed the magician on the main stage, but the comedian was so bad, that my husband and I both fell asleep. That has never happened to us at a comedy show before. Even people in the first row were getting up and leaving.
Fitness Center: My son used the treadmills in the fitness center. The fitness center is new and beautiful. I took a Pilates class. The class was fine, but we were at sea in high winds, so the instructor probably should have modified his routine to take out at least some of the balance moves, as they were pretty impossible with the ship rocking so much.
Ports/Shore Excursions: We booked jet skiing and a shade cover and chairs on Half Moon Kay, but that port was cancelled due to high winds, so we can’t review those. Our next stop was Aruba. Because we didn’t get to jet ski in the Bahamas, we called Delphi Watersports Aruba (https://www.delphiwatersports.com/), as soon as we arrived in Aruba (4 hours earlier than originally scheduled). It was Christmas day, but they were open. We booked 4 jet skies for 30 minutes at a very reasonable price and had a great time. We then took a HAL shore excursion in the afternoon sailing and snorkeling. We had a great time. We didn’t like any of the ship’s offerings in Curacao, so we booked a private horseback riding excursion with Criadero Babetti (https://www.criaderobabetti.com/). It was absolutely amazing. They picked us up at the Starbucks outside the terminal and we visited an aloe farm and ostrich farm on horseback (tied the horses up in the parking lots), and then rode to the bay to take the horses in swimming. It was a highlight of our trip.
The Cabin was HUGE! Large hotel room huge. It had a front window (giving you the same view as the bridge) and a sliding glass door out to the balcony on the starboard side of the ship. It did not have a bathtub, so keep that in mind if that is important to you. Also, the balcony is tiny and does not wrap around the front. The balcony was so small that the ottomans that go with the chairs were inside our room. It is not a normal Neptune suite balcony with a table and 4 chairs and 2 lounge chairs. It is also very high up and all the way forward. I personally love to rock, but if you have any seasickness issues, this is probably not the cabin for you. It is also very windy on sea days. Although we loved the size of the room, we probably would not book it again. We enjoy the large Neptune suite balconies too much.
Neptune suite benefits. This was the one disappointment we had on the cruise. The addition of Club Orange is horrible!!! It looks like an IHOP, and everyone walking by going to the main dining room stares at you through the glass. It's like being an animal at the zoo, with everyone staring at you. We prefer breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill, where the ambiance is beautiful, the wait staff is professional, and people are not gawking at you through the glass. In Club Orange, every morning, we ate next to a very loud woman who bragged to people at other tables that she booked an inside cabin, and for $25 gets to eat breakfast and dinner in Club Orange. As someone who paid several thousand dollars for the privilege, that didn't set well. We never experienced dinner in Club Orange because our children (who paid full price in a separate cabin, rather than a drastically reduced 3rd and 4th passenger rate in our suite) were not allowed in. In addition, Neptune suite guests are also supposed to receive priority tender service. This service is absolutely nonexistent. At Half Moon Kay, we stood in line with hundreds of other guests waiting to go ashore. Neptune suite guests are also supposed to receive priority dining reservations, but we were turned down when we tried to make a reservation at Rudi's Sel De Mer - and not just for one night - for the remainder of the cruise, so I’m not really sure what priority dining reservations means.
Things were a little chaotic because all the ships tours met in the terminal at the same time, but once we checked in and were picked up by the guide, we walked to a catamaran and sailed away. They took us snorkeling and for a brief hotel beach stop. It was a very enjoyable experience.View All 185 Snorkeling Reviews