Meh. This was my eleventh cruise, (4th on HAL) first in 6 years. It didn't rank highly, in fact it has somewhat put us off cruising, at least for anything longer than 10 days. By about day 11, we were ready to get off the ship. We felt there had been some (post Covid?) cutbacks.
EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION (Fort Lauderdale/San Diego)
Both were fantastically swift, the best we've experienced on a cruise, perhaps mostly due to the fact you fill in a lot before you go and take your photo/upload Covid vax, etc. You also get given a boarding time. We did not wait AT ALL to get on-board.
DO NOT PURCHASE A CABIN ON DECK 3 AFT!!! Unfortunately, we purchased a 'partially obstructed window' on deck 3 aft, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The room was very noisy and rumbly, obviously near some vibrating machinery. After one night, we asked to move and were moved to another deck 3 room which was worse. It was still noisy and rumbly, the bed literally vibrated like a 4.0 earthquake the entire time. We could hear footsteps above from the kitchen back and forth and we could hear loud toilets flushing from all around. The other issue with deck 3 is that people are walking past your window on the Promenade track. We did not sleep for two nights in these rooms and I sat up in bed and cried in the middle of the night in the second room, knowing I couldn't stay in this room for 15 more nights. We asked to move again and were moved to deck 1, which was MUCH quieter. The divider curtain was broken in the room, but we didn't care. By this time, we'd wasted about 3 mornings on the ship, packing and unpacking, which was highly annoying, although the front-desk crew did what they could to help us out. THEY SHOULDN'T EVEN SELL DECK 3 AFT ROOMS!!!
As far as the decor and amenities, the glass shower was really good and quite spacious. There was ample closet space and hangers, a hairdryer, a couch and desk. The TV had live stations and streamed shows, movies as well as 3 music channels (They weren't great) and live bow and aft camera stations. The announcements did not come into your room unless you turned on the TV. We were given animal towels and chocolates on the 3 formal nights only. The room was clean, but I wouldn't say sparkling and I made sure to wipe down all surfaces/switches/remotes before settling in. There was rust in the window well -- signs of the ship's age. There were dispensers on the wall in the bathroom with soap/lotion/shower gel/shampoo and conditioner. My other main beef is that there was ONE ELECTRICAL OUTLET in the room, which is not near the bed. You can ask for an electrical multi-plug outlet extender. When you're trying to keep your phones and Fitbits powered up, more outlets would be appreciated.
We barely had 5 hours in port, so there wasn't much time for anything. We were nervous to do our own thing in Columbia, so we took a walking tour excursion through the cruise company.
They took us by bus to Getsemani where we walked around and the tour guide narrated. We had a lemonade drink on the deck of a hotel where we could also use the bathroom. (We were there way too long). We stopped for a quick (rushed) 25 minutes for souvenir shopping at some barrack style buildings and walked through the old town. It turned out that the souvenir shop at the cruise terminal was much better, so in the few minutes we had before the cruise ship left, we found a souvenir spoon, magnet and Christmas ornament there. There were long lines, so plan accordingly!
The tour was marked as 'strenuous' due to walking, (It was not strenuous for the average mobile person), but there were a few people on the excursion with canes and walkers, which surprised us. Two people got lost and the bus went back to the ship without them, leaving a guide behind to find them and put them in a taxi, probably at their own expense. The traffic in Cartagena was very busy and crazy.
We talked to people that did their own thing by taking a taxi into town. I would have liked the freedom to have done that and had a coffee in cafe, etc. Be aware that there are several vendors that bother you to buy hats and have their photo with them, etc. but if you politely tell them no thank you, they typically go away. Some people in our tour group did purchase from them.
We took a public bus for $5 return trip to Eagle Beach. The bus terminal is about a 7 min walk from the cruise terminal. Pay at the kiosk and wait for the bus! It was about a 10-15 min drive to the beach where we went for a swim. Eagle Beach is one of those that appears on the 'Best of World Beaches'. The water is aqua! Umbrellas and loungers can be rented. We then walked 30 mins to Palm Beach (It was hot!) and had a drink and snack at Bugaloe Bar which has stunning views of the water, beach and resorts. You can partake in water sports like banana boats, etc.
We took the bus back to the capital of Orangestad and walked around and shopped for souvenirs. The town was not as upscale as we'd imagined and some shops were closed down. The souvenir shops on the cruise jetty were just as good.
We decided against taking an excursion as there didn't seem much to see on Grand Turk. We walked around the shops at the cruise terminal, went in the sea for a swim and had a cocktail at Jack's Shack at the far end of the beach from the terminal. (The cocktails at Jack's were VERY strong!) There is free wifi at the Starbucks at the cruise terminal. There were also a few vendors, a free swimming pool, Margaritaville and an exhibit about the splashdown of NASA's Project Mercury in the 1960s. We purchased a souvenir spoon, Christmas ornament and magnet at the cruise terminal. I would not visit this port again.
Having been to Costa Rica before, Punta Arenas is not a good example of Costa Rica. The town is small and not much of it, so I would recommend an excursion in Punta Arenas.
We took a cruise excursion to the Espíritu Santo Coffee Plantation and Oxcart Factory. The bus journey through the countryside was about an hour and a half and was partially narrated by the guide.
We had a guided tour at the coffee plantation and were given a dixie cup sized coffee sample. We were educated on the picking, drying, roasting, etc. of coffee berries. There was a gift shop at the end where you could by coffee, mugs and other souvenirs.
The guide at the Oxcart Factory was a little difficult to understand. We were shown the process of making Oxcarts, as well as a demo of the painting of them. They are beautifully done in bright colors! After a sampling of fruit and a drink we were left to wander the large gift shop and use the facilities before boarding the bus back to the cruise ship for another hour and a half. We were supposed to see the largest Oxcart in the world, but it was being dismantled and maintained while we were visiting!
Back at the cruise terminal area, we had time to wander the vendors in the small town and get a drink and wifi at one of the restaurants right on the beach. There is not a 'cruise terminal' with shops like you experience in other ports, but there were market vendors set up in town.
We had been to P.V. before, so we decided to take an adventure excursion through the cruise ship this time. The excursion took us by boat and Jeep to the Sierra Madres to take a zip-line/mule ride/rapel/rope-bridge/water slide adventure. It was AWESOME!
It was advertised as 'strenuous', but I would say it was 'very strenuous'. We are 49 and 50 and the other 3 couples on the excursion ranged from probably 40 to 65. You should be able to walk well, be in decent physical shape and not be afraid of heights.
You wear your swimsuit under your clothes, (You will be immersed in water a few times!) take a bag for your clothes, wear sneakers or close-toe shoes and wear reef-safe sunscreen.
They suit you up in harnesses, a rash guard and a helmet and give you very clear safety instructions before each individual activity. All your belongings (clothes/personal items) go in a large bag which they secure. You are not allowed phones/cameras and you can purchase a video/photo package at the end for around $100. Most people purchased it!
We did a few zip lines, including one upside down, one on a 'roller coaster' metal rail and one on a suspended surf board. We rappelled down a waterfall, we went across a few rope bridges and went down a couple of water slides.
Afterwards, you can purchase souvenirs or a drink and chill for a while before the journey by Jeep and boat back to the ship. The boat ride is about 30 minutes and was quite bouncy. The entire experience was about 7 hours. It is not for the faint of heart, but we were all on such a high afterwards!
We only had half a day in Cabo San Lucas and had been there before, so we decided to do our own thing. We like breweries, so we walked about 25 minutes from the ship around the marina to 'Baja Brewing' which is on the top level of a beachside hotel with fantastic views.
After enjoying our drink, (they have food too) we paddled in the ocean, wandered in the shops and walked back around the marina to our waiting tender boat. Cabo is beautiful! Quite a few vendors will bug you, selling everything from souvenirs to excursions. You can also eat in one of the many bars/restaurants along the waterfront.
Sailing out of Cabo, we were able to see 'Los Arcos' and the surrounding scenery.