Good cruise with five sea days on an 11 day itinerary. One comment that doesn't neatly fit under any category is the competency and great attitude of the photo studio staff. They were the best ever. We did not buy any of the "posed" photos. But the staff produced a superb 14 minute condensed video of our passage through the Panama Canal. The result was a lifetime keepsake at a low cost and a wonderful way to remember the cruise. Also, there was no real cruise director; instead we had a cruise coordinator/lecturer (not her actual title). While I missed the usually funny cruise director, this person was an excellent lecturer and her presentations regarding the history and functioning of the canal were great and enhanced our appreciation of what we were about to see and experience. A good cruise with a few areas for improvement.
4 out of 5
Excellent. We were told we could bring one bottle of wine per person on board not subject to a corkage fee. We did. We brought two more bottles, both were subject to an $18 per bottle fee. At embarkation we were told to see "a man over there" to pay the fee. We did. Subsequently we learned that few passengers saw the "man over there" and just brought their wine on board uncharged.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
We had anytime dining. Waited occasionally--not a big deal. However, guests with anytime dining generally ate in the 2nd deck dining room and received very good service. When these guests were asked to eat in the 3rd deck dining room, which catered to passengers with a fixed dining time, service was comparatively bad with wait staff fawning over their "regular" diners.
3 out of 5
Perhaps my biggest gripe is that, motivated by greed, HAL has eliminated about 25% of the seating around the primary pool and replaced it with about 10 "for lease" private cabanas. This dramatically reduced seating for passengers. With five sea days (four planned), the situation was untenable and seating just wasn't available after about 9am (people, as always, threw their stuff on chairs early in the day and left until later in the day--a terrible practice that most cruise lines tolerate. BB Kings, Billboard, and the Lincoln Center provided a great variety of evening entertainment choices. However, HAL has doneaaway with big show productions and, instead, installed single performers with varying results. A few were entertaining but most were terrible. We ended up most evenings in BB Kings or Billboard and it was great, though there wasn't enough seating and we had to stand on several occasions.
2 out of 5
Service and Staff
4 out of 5
Satisfactory service. Not fawning, not absent. We never met our room attendant but he did a good job. Restaurant service ranged from very good (2nd Deck) to miserable (3rd Deck). Service at the buffets and in the specialty restaurants was excellent. The best service was in the bars (waiters/waitresses excellent), the retail stores (the two men from whom we made purchases early in the cruise always said hi to us BY NAME as we walked through the area later in the cruise--we were shocked and awed, and by the photo studio staff (similar to the retail staff).
3 out of 5
Cabin / Stateroom
3 out of 5
Good size and comfortable; more than adequate. However, the sink was cracked. The faucet leaked relentlessly at its base, and the veranda door, on windy days, would not engage and close while we sat on the veranda. The attendant was good but attention to maintenance detail not so much. We never complained about these minor issues but if left to fester, they will become major. Much more attention to detail should be paid by quality control staff (if there is such an animal). Also, the cabin can be converted to a quad (bed comes out of the ceiling and sofa converts). Therefore, we had four lifejackets and sets of linens. Because there were two of us, all of this extra "stuff" took up precious storage space in the cabin. We asked early for the stuff to be removed; it never was. If there are two people in a cabin, any extra provision should promptly be removed. Our cluttered cabin was needlessly even more cluttered than it had to be!
Buy the laundry package in advance and pack less. The package is right-priced and a god-send with the results excellent.
Could not put out ramps to disembark because of high winds. Resulted in three consecutive sea days. Not HAL's fault. In fact, their concern for the safety of passengers is admirable. It was a shame that no substitute port could be found.
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