7 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Sail Date: December 07, 2008 Cabin Type: Balcony Traveled As: Family (young children) Reviewed: 8 years ago
Great ports, great ship, great service.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Excellent, especially the lamb and the free cappucinos in the dining room. Terrific service by the waiters and bar stewards as well.
5 out of 5
The entertainment on board was very good. On our cruise, the evening shows consisted of several Vegas/Broadway-style sing/dance production shows, which were well executed. We also were treated to a crew singing/dancing show, comedienne Julie Barr (hilarious) and illusionist/comedian Leo Ward (awesome, though he's apparently heading home to New Zealand this week). We attended all of those evening shows, though didn't make it to the HAL version of American Idol. About the only critique I would offer is that the daytime entertainment options were somewhat limited, but on the port days that was a total non-issue, and on sea days we didn't really mind relaxing and reading either.
5 out of 5
How was Club HAL? Let's put it this way: The last night of the cruise, our daughter left half a chocolate chip cookie on her dessert plate, and asked us to take her up to Club HAL. When we asked her if she wanted to finish her cookie first, she said No, she really wanted to go to the club. The counselors, Courtney and Nicole, seemed to always keep the kids busy with activities that ranged from pirate night to movie night, and even took all the kids to one of the theater shows one night...
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Our waiters were Arsana and Jati, both of whom were terrific. Special requests were never a problem. Our wine steward, Jess, went way above and beyond the call of duty. Not only did he keep our wine glasses constantly full, but most nights he presented our daughter with his origami creations to entertain her. She now has a paper zoo that consists of an eagle, a hopping frog, a flying duck, a rabbit, and several other Jess creations. After the first night, Jati knew to bring us cappuccinos after clearing our plates - which was a really pleasant way to conclude dinner, and HAL scores bonus points for providing complimentary cappuccino and espresso in the dining room. We are not boozers (one drink a night during the show is our style), so I was rather shocked when one of the bar stewards recognized me on Half Moon Cay (the first port of call after departing Ft. Lauderdale), and immediately referenced the drink my wife had ordered the night prior in the Vista Lounge AND our stateroom #.
5 out of 5
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
The bed was terrific. There were 3 closets, as well as drawers in both the nightstands, and 2 more drawers beneath the bed. As our room was a triple, there were also two additional cabinets above the pull-out sofa. The living area of the cabin was comparably sized to others we've had aboard other ships, but the bathroom was far more spacious than the two previous cruiseships we've sailed on. The shower/tub combination was great, lots of water pressure. And a thoughtful mirror with a pullout door provided extra "countertop" space for toiletries. Another touch we really appreciated were the in-room curtains that effectively enabled us to separate the sofa area from the beds - by pulling the curtain across the room, we were able to read at night, without the light interfering with our daughter trying to sleep. The cabin location was also great. We considered this to be the most stable of the three cruises we've been on, even when we hit some choppy seas.
The weather was a bit rainy, which worked fine with our planned excursion - a city tour by bus combined with a stop at the Turtle Farm. Our daughter loved that, and got to hold a sea turtle, which was probably the highlight of the trip for her (at least that's what the photos suggest). As for the Rum Cake factory, don't waste your time: It is an overcrowded, chaotic hut frequented by every other tour group on the island. And the rum cakes, while delicious, are sold onboard the cruise ships at comparable prices.
Here we booked a private excursion (i.e. not through the ship) with Native Choice. We learned about the Chacchoben ruins tour through Cruise Critic, and as usual, Cruise Critic delivered. What can you say when one guide is Mayan by birth and the other guide's father discovered the ruins in 1942? David and Ivan knew every plant, every stone, every nugget of trivia you could possibly imagine. They pulled leaves off of trees, sharing with us the scents and tastes of the forests as the ancient Mayans must have done thousands of years ago. Keep your eyes peeled for fire ants on the ground at the ruins, and also the resident Tarantula spider, which we didn't find out about until after he posed for a picture with us (no kidding!). I would highly recommend this tour. One other recommendation: Anything you might want to buy at the Chacchoben ruins will be one-fifth the price back at the shops by the Costa Maya pier; don't waste your money at Chacchoben.
I would probably vote the water here to win the Turquoise Award, better even than Half Moon, which is saying something. We booked the Reefs & Rays excursion through the ship, and it was exceptional. A boat took our group of about 20 maybe a mile offshore to a coral reef called Round Key (Cay?) Reef, where we snorkeled amid colorful, tropical fish and the reef's resident barracuda. For someone who doesn't snorkel often at all, swimming within a couple arm's lengths of a barracuda is pretty spectacular -- especially since it didn't consider me lunch! After about 40 minutes of snorkeling, we hopped back on the boat, and headed to a tiny, uninhabited island (Gibbs Cay), where a family of Atlantic stingrays greeted us, and gobbled food (fish) right out of our hands. Our daughter joined us on the excursion, and while she stayed on the boat while we snorkeled, she enjoyed feeding and petting the stingrays.
Don't Miss: Snorkeling!
On Half Moon Cay, I went parasailing. It was simply breathtaking. Beyond that, we had fun playing in the water, and our daughter enjoyed the kids' area with the slides. The water could not have been more clear or beautiful, and referring to the sand as talcum powder does the sand an injustice; the talcum powder is more rough. The buffet lunch on the island was better-than-expected, with standard picnic fare (hamburgers, watermelon, etc) supplemented by barbeque ribs, grilled fish, pineapple, and other tasty options.
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