One star for Lincoln Center Stage and One more for our waiters and cabin steward, I'm behind generous.
We chose this 30 day itinerary, round trip Fort Lauderdale, because we were anxious to sail on the Amazon River in Brazil and see the towns and villages that were scheduled. As always I'll try to indicate the good points and not so good experiences so you can make your own decisions as to what might matter to you.
The good points were very few:
> Lincoln Center Stage was a home run and became the one on board offering that we enjoyed whenever they played. Flawless.
> The evening meal in the MDR was very good with both food and service meeting our expectations. We enjoyed late seating and were very lucky with our wait staff. We enjoy wine with meals, bought two different wine packages that were OK but quite expensive for what you got.
Sadly, that wraps up the positives,
If you book, choose your cabin carefully. We took a cabin on deck three (promenade). The mornings were very noisy with crew moving deck chairs. I didn't love the lack of privacy on that deck. My fault in not thinking through my decision.
They were not successful in many ways:
> If you enjoy dancing you need to bear in mind that there is only one very small dance floor on the entire ship, in the Ocean Bar. The trio will be playing mostly foxtrots and waltzes with most music having been written in the 30's through 50's. There is no longer a dance floor in the Crow's New as the floor has been carpeted over and the bandstand removed.
> Staying on the topic of music, besides the LCS which was great and the down tempo, pretty boring after 3 days trio, they offer dueling pianos (not our thing). Most importantly they have no "band" at all. The small orchestra that plays on occasion on the Main Stage never entertains anywhere. No band. No live music on the pool deck, ever. Such a waste of space, the Crow's Nest was a ghost town in the evening. Imagine a ship with nowhere to throw a party and no band to play. The "Orange" event in the Ocean Bar was music off a laptop and was far too small to accommodate the ship.
> The rumor has always been that HAL caters to an older crowd. I find that to be somewhat exaggerated, they simply act older as the entertainment and daily schedules are so boring.
> The buffet was very mediocre with food that was consistantly served at the wrong temperature. The poolside grill produced very ordinary burgers and dogs most often after a wait of 20-30 minutes. Ridiculous. The specialty coffee shop doesn't offer anything to eat (unlike the International Cafe on Princess) and we never, literally never, over 30 days saw them make coffee for anyone that didn't work on the ship.
> The evening entertainment was terrible. 2 or 3 three good headliners over the entire cruise. No singers and dancers, no production shows and no energy whatsoever.
> The Cruise and Travel Director had one job too many as he was the absolute lowest energy CD we've seen, and we've seen many. The daily activities were a joke. The enrichment programs were very hit and miss with the main speaker as his very strong accent made his, probably interesting lectures, meaningless to us because we simply couldn't understand him. That was a shame.
A few things to note that may or may not be specific to this cruise.
> The tender operation was the worst we've seen. We gave up twice and stayed on the ship instead of waiting for hours in the cold theater.
> The ship ran aground on the river, settling on a sand bar where we sat for eight hours until we got free. As a result we got to that days port after dark, left the next morning at eight (so we missed the port completely) and then, because we stayed overnight we missed the next (once in a lifetime) port as well. The captain took no responsibility for the mishap, blaming the pilots. Very unprofessional in my view.
> The excursions were managed terribly. On one occasion, after spending 2.5 hours on a bus and in a city that we were just supposed to drive by (maybe 20 minutes) on route to our overnight in an Eco Lodge, I complained. A HAL employee on the excursion told me if I wanted to get off the bus we could leave, get to the ship on our own (in a very third world, unsafe environment) and as far as the $1300 we paid, I could discuss that when I got back.. We chose to continue but the point is that we did not feel well taken care off, we didn't get we bought and our safety seemed irrelevant.
> Aside from our steward and waiters the crew was grim, literally grim. I suspect they felt as I did that not much more could go wrong.
There's probably more to say but I'll leave it here with the following summary. Dancers beware, if you like uptempo music beware, if you relish a good evening in the theater beware, if you're booking a trip with tender stops beware, if you enjoy some energy throughout the ship beware, if you like a live band that plays rock and roll, disco, latin music beware. Imagine a cruise where they didn't have the capacity to sing the corny songs like YMCA or Last Dance. If you like going to your cabin after dinner to watch a movie, this is the ship for you. Just my humble opinion.
Not really terrible in Santarem, terrible that we didn't get to go on our excursion or see the City because the ship got there after dark with no means to get to city center and left at 8 the next morning. HAL insists we visited the port but as a practical matter we didn't
Five stars for the Eco Lodge (although very expensive) but no stars for the "land" portion getting us to the ferry. A drive past the highlights turned into 2.5 hours of nonsense with a confused guide and a nasty crew member from the ship. They tried to ruin the highlight of the tripView All 1 January Ecological Park Reviews