November 2014 - Nieuw Amsterdam to Caribbean
4th cruise on HAL. Food was better than last cruise, by a little. Lido jammed all the time and hard to find a table. Found the burger hot dog stand had long waits unless ordered plain Nathan's hot dog (very fast). Great hot dog BTW. Found pre-made sandwiches on the buffet very good. Bento Boxes from Tamarind were outstanding, but available only for for eating in the cabin in the evening. Canaletto again just so-so. Master Chef dinner good, but not near as good as dinner with the chef on smaller ships. Room service breakfast always on time. Pinacle food was good and service very good. Getting tired of what seems like the same menu though. HAL needs to hire a real pastry chef for main dining. Pinacle and Tamarind deserts were very good.
Ship's dancers were outstanding, but the rest of the entertainment just so-so. Ship's band is also very good. BB King much much too loud. I guess they were trying to cover lack of talent. Metal drum person was good, but once was enough.
Ship was very clean. Cabin stewards outstanding. For the first time on a HAL ship, the cabin a/c worked properly. Was in signature suite and found the whirlpool tub very relaxing. Really nice having 2 sinks in the bathroom. Except for the Neptune lounge and boarding, we enjoyed this as much as the Neptune suite we had on our 2 most previous cruises (Eurodam and Zaandam).
Had late dining. First week table captain was outstanding. Second week (we changed tables to get a window) was the reverse, so did as you wish and specialty restaurants after two days.
Really tired of the huge jewelry and watch shops. No real bargains. Too much photo pressure and prices are high too. Internet speed.very very very slow, so becomes very expensive very fast. No network TV shows, but lots of news. Movies on TV were so-so. Yes, I did spend a little time in the cabin because there was so little to do while at sea. On our Transatlantic and Hawaii cruises there was lots to do while at sea.
Leaving the ship in Fort Lauderdale was a mess. Worst I have experienced on any cruise. To make matters even worse, there were no taxi cabs available. Yes I mean none. Three cabs arrived in the first 20 minutes of waiting outside with our luggage to get to the airport. When we did finally get a cab, on the way out of the port, I saw long lines of cabs waiting in front of other ships. Because the airline changed our flight home we had to be one of the first off the ship. The ship offered no assistance with luggage (my wife and I both walk with a cane), so we had the luggage go with everyone else's and were first off to wait for it to arrive. Then had to wait until the door were closed so we could get out luggage a few feet from where we stood. No porters to help get the luggage to customs or to the taxi stand. That said, a port supervisor saw us struggling and helped us get from the front of the building to where the cabs are supposed to be. All previous 8 cruises were head and shoulders better when it came time to leave the ship.
Overall: We took this cruise to relax. That we did. I found the constant shaking of the ship while under way annoying. It was like being in an old 'magic fingers' bed when in bed. Ship needs a yaw damper to take the wiggle out and make walking easier. Note: sister ship Eurodam rode better, without vibration too, in seas much much worse. Did not miss having to skip the private island on the second week. Great cruise for those that like beaches and nice nature. Bargains for shopping ashore long gone. It is like every port has the same stores and the same high prices. Did not appreciate being grabbed by the arm and being nudged into stores.in St Thomas. Too many ships in port at the same time in two ports. Nothing like having 15 thousand passengers (6 ships in one and 7 in the other) all going into town at the same time. Makes sidewalks wall to wall people. Each HAL cruise feels like HAL offers a little less than the previous cruise. I like the cabins and great cabin stewards. But the rest seems less and less each time. . .