When we disembarked in Singapore I was ready to write a really nice review.
The Food - I didn't take the cruise to eat, and basically the food was good, we had open seating so we were put on the lower lever, and the first night was a zoo, but we believe that was due to the safety training at the lifeboat stations, so everything ran behind. Like other reviewers said...anything extra be prepared to pull out that card because it will cost you...we enjoyed eating at the Italian restaurant because of the small plates offered, and we enjoyed the pinnacle grill, it would have been better had they offered different daily menus.
I enjoyed the spa, but I hate the sale pitch at the end, all I want was the spa treatments and not the products. Can't offer any insight on the shows, we didn't attended any.
All of the staff we encountered was always nice and courteous (see end). Being on deck 7 we had access to the Neptune Lounge, and John C was a great Concierge and always so friendly and helpful.
The excursions - Halong Bay we did hedeluxe where lunch was included and it was fun. The islands were beautiful, the guy friendly and attempted to tell jokes, if you go on shore be prepared for girls on motor bikes to pull over and want to sell you pearls...which we bought for the grand girls (better than a t-shirt). Just go back and forth on $. We had private drivers in the other Vietnam locations because we're not big bus people and this was a return trip for my husband so it was special. THe one tour we did that wasn't from the ship was a country side and cooking class http://www.vietnamprivatetour.com great great tour, and it was less than other tour cost, plus it was so much fun,
Big bus tour in Cambodia, just be prepared it's a 3rd world country, there are little children smiling and saying money but they are clueless to what they are asking for. Unlike our brats that cry because they don't have, or they need...they looked fine happy and dirty because they don't know what they don't have. If you don't want to see this, then don't go...if you want to educate yourself and want to make a difference someday, then go! We did go to the pepper plantation which was interesting. also big bus to Thailand, and pretty much it was what we expected.
Departing in Singapore, easy.....But then my nightmare. My fault I know it, but when getting ready I got distracted and then the call came for us to depart. I left my ring, necklace and bracelet on the table. As soon as I cleared customs I realized it. Ran back thru security had to have an escort back on board, in tears ran in to the suite and in less than 30 minutes time - they were gone! GONE, I was sobbing, tore the room apart went and got John, told him the 2 guys that came in the room to clean balcony as we left, about the guy that was in the room when I ran back in (he came to get breakfast tray). My 2 days in Singapore was miserable, my ring which I just got for Christmas, my priceless necklace that my deacsed dad had given me back in the 70's gone. They did a 2 week investigation and were sorry to inform me it had not be found. So no matter how nice, helpful or whatever - it doesn't matter. I would have gone on another Holland vessel, but never again.
This was our 30th anniversary cruise. It was a 10 day southern Caribbean itinerary and our first time on HAL. We have several cruises with Celebrity and have been on RCCL once and Carnival Once. We have never had a “bad” cruise and once again enjoyed ourselves immensely. We still have to say that Celebrity is our favorite line. It is not dissatisfaction with our HAL experience as much as it is our overwhelming satisfaction with Celebrity.
In this review, I will try to recap each day. “We” are my wife of 30 years Sandy (age 53) and myself also 53.
Day 1 Embarkation day is finally here and our long wait is over. We have everything packed and the car is loaded. We only live about 85 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale in Port St. Lucie. I have made this trip many times and know the way. We hit the road at 10:00 a.m. just as planned. Beautiful day and all is well. We head south on the turnpike and I set the cruise on an easy 65 MPH…I will let everyone else be in a rush now because Iam on Vacation and I want this baby to last. We get into the cruise mode with reminiscing about our previous trips and thinking about what we will do on this one. Next thing I notice is the Miami Dade county line…uh oh we missed the exit to cut over to I95 for Port Everglades. No big deal because we can turn around. Okay things did get a little tense as traffic going north on 95 is heavy and if we would have just taken 95 from the start we wouldn't have missed the exit. We get there at about 12:00 noon and so has everyone else. I drop my wife off, check the bags, and head to the parking garage ($12 per day) which is right across from our terminal and is covered. Get in line (sunny and hot) we slowly move into the terminal to be greeted by another huge line. We wade through that line and I can't help but think why didn't they steer us all inside and get us out of the heat and into the a/c. They then give us a number (for what turns out to be no apparent reason) and head us to the express check in line. Those that didn't do the express are sent to another line. Guess which line is shorter? (memo to self, forget “express” check in) the other is shorter and thus faster.
We get aboard at about 2:15 (that's a 2 hour and 15 minute embarkation!!!) and are taken right to our cabin 6165. It is amidships close to the amidships elevators. Starboard side. (all the southern carib ports would have been better on the port side) The cabin is beautiful and all the gifts from our TA are there (4 bottles of wine, Pinnacle Grill, and complimentary photo. There is the beautiful arrangement of flowers for Sandy with the note “I hope the next 30 years are as great as the next 30 years” Not quite what I said but the message gets through and the arrangement is BEAUTIFUL and lasts the entire cruise.
It is our first balcony and we go right out on it and notice a funky odor but assume it must be Port Everglades. We go back inside and decide it is time to check out the Lido. Up we go for the usual buffet fare. Pickings seem especially lean but we figure its' around 3:00 and it must be shutting down. The ice cream is excellent and on a waffle cone is hard to beat. The hours on that are generous and we took advantage of that feature a lot!
We go down to check out our table. Our dining assignment is 5:45 upstairs. Our table number is 33. Aft window table for 6. We had wanted the 6:15 dining but decide the window seat is beautiful and we will see about our tablemates before trying to switch. We look at a lot of the rest of the ship and it is just as beautiful as we imagined. The Volendam is divided into a lot of little rooms with plenty of private spaces to while away the hours. The décor of flowers is everywhere. The artwork is impressive and the furnishings are comfortable and classy at the same time. We are very excited about this trip.
Back to our room to prepare for dinner. Casual tonight and I am glad. We head down to the dining room, no time for a cocktail and we arrive 5 minutes late at about 5:50. Our tablemates are already there and we introduce ourselves. John and Barb Toye from L.A. He is a retired Presbyterian Minister and she a retired school teacher. Dave and Chris King. Dave is director of the YMCA in Portland, Oregon and Chris a homemaker. We hit it right off. It turns out that Chris is the daughter of John and Barb. We all love wine. We have 3 grown children and so do Chris and Dave. The conversation never slowed and we were nearly the last to leave every night. There would be no changing this table and it was one of the highlights of our cruise. We are hoping they will come to the Princess Emerald cruise we have booked for next summer.
I had the Mahi Mahi with sauce and my wife had the Prime Rib end cut. My fish was excellent. My wife's end cut was dry and tough but that is how it often is. Our waiter Hance offered something else but she declined and doubled up on desert I think. Hance and his assistant Winnie were a good team. Hance had a soft manner and easy smile and although I believe Winnie was stretched too thin as far as tables went the service was efficient and we were happy. The wine steward Enrique also was stretched thin. He paid us more attention than others after we ordered a bottle of Opus One. We rarely were without his attention. It still makes me uncomfortable when I know that the surrounding tables were being slighted and we were receiving the favorable treatment. I just do not understand short staffing.
The heat in the dining room was unbelievable. I attributed this to our being seated upstairs. I later found it to be the case in most of the dining area including on deck 4. This is a shame and I am sure that over the course of the cruise this affects our enjoyment and certainly contributed to our missing a couple of dinners here.
In general we were quite delighted with our first day. We went for a stroll on the promenade. Stopped and had a couple of drinks. Listened to some music at the lounges. We met Reggie in the Oceans bar and listened to the String Trio.
We went back to the room and I went out on the balcony again. The odor was still there…I was sure it couldn't have followed us from FLL. It was an annoyance at worst, and our bed had already been turned down by Eddie…The bedding is the absolute best I have ever slept on, the BEST
Day 2 day at sea We awoke after a beautiful nights sleep on that fantastic HAL bedding and I went up on the aft deck for some pictures. I got them, of the sunrise. I love this time on the ship when it's waking up. I find the morning people fun to be around and easy to engage in conversation. I went back and got the wife and we went up to the Lido for our first breakfast. It was the usual fare. I did try the Musseli and thoroughly enjoyed…had some each morning thereafter. I also had the full contingent of other offerings. FRESH SQUEZZED OJ!! MMMMMMmmmm…scrambled eggs (blechhh) toast was not fresh ( I ordered a bagel from then on) Coffee was outstanding (it mysteriously changed to too thick mid cruise, but Explorations had been discovered by then and maybe that's what put me off the regular stuff.
My wife then went off and I went to the main pool. Here I met a delightful woman of 85 whom I spent a couple of hours mostly listening to. She had a lot to offer and I usually like to spend my time listening to stories and sharing current views. No doubt Ruth does too because we shared quite a bit in that time. The sun was beautiful and I LOVE the freshwater pool. I wonder how the temp goes from Ocean temp of 84 degrees to the just above freezing the pool water felt? Around 11:30 they began to close the overhead cover, I guess this was due to the windy condition? In any event it soon got too stuffy in the area so I left. Lunch and then the library. Did I mention how beautiful this area is? Loads of little areas to sit with a book. Current periodicals, and music stations to sit at. There are also plenty of computers. We brought our own laptop and was able to connect in a number of spots around the ship but not in our room.
We went to the Lido as I was not feeling up to another hot night in dining room. We had dinner here twice and to be honest I wish they would just give you your entree when you order it. Instead they give you a number and then a waiter in training comes looking for you and your number (really just the number) The problem is this leaves the waiter wandering around always and even after he has delivered your food, and he can see you eating he comes by again and again looking all over for a matching number. Bad system. This first night my wife orders fettuccine with neither sauce… Plain and something else. I just order the shrimp bisque. When the waiter hooks up with us he has the fettuccine sauced with a thick alfredo and my soup is beef bouillon something. We eat what comes and get some ice cream for dessert. We love the ice cream and its' availability. It is very good.
A donation at the casino and time for bed again. Oh yeah we do stick our head in several shows and as my mother said if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. Enough said.
Day 3 Day at SeaAnother beautiful day at Sea. We enjoy to the max.
Dinner at our table and I am anxious to spend some more time with our table mates. They won't be joining us but they do have the courtesy to advise (as we did the night before) and so it is just the 2 of us and we have a lovely dinner. I do not remember what either of us had. We just enjoyed ourselves and the service was excellent.
Day 4 Aruba We meet up with Pat and Scott, another couple we met onboard from Galveston Texas. We do a little shopping and then get a cab to Palm Beach. We go through some pretty tough spots on the way to the beach. It is very dry in Aruba and our driver advises that they have not had appreciable rain since February! The beach is nice but I would not rave over it (maybe that's because we have very nice beach's here) In any event we have a nice day. Pat and Scott advise that they have the late seating main floor and they are not going at all any more…too HOT…too bad because the Lido is less than satisfactory.
When we get back to the ship we get ready for the Pinnacle. Our TA gave us a certificate good for dinner. We have reservations at 6:30. The setting is beautiful and we are introduced to our waiter. He is the only one we are ever introduced to. He did a fine job but I must say he did not out service Hance in the regular dining room. Sandy had the Crab Cakes. I do not remember what I had but I can tell you I wish I had the Crab Cakes. In this regard I have to fault our waiter as he never made any suggestions. He showed and described the meats but that was it for flair. We each had the Filet and I ordered Scalloped potatoes and Asparagus. Sandy had Mushrooms and Rice. All very pedestrian. Filets were cooked to perfection and presented beautifully. Taste not exceptional. Not even in my top ten for dinners which I think it should be. After all it's called the Pinnacle! Desert? Sandy had baked Alaska and I had the chocolate molten volcano…that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
Day 5 Curacao A delight! Colorful and sights all around the ship where we docked. You could get right off and walk to shopping which we did. Or shall I say Sandy shopped and I took in the local color. There are beer gardens sprinkled all over town. It makes waiting very pleasant. The weather has been perfect every day and this is no exception.
Dinner in the Rotterdam and we get reunited with our tablemates. We recap whats been going on and find that all is well for them too. I have the duck (my first time) I enjoy dinner very much and the wine even more. Service again outstanding and the maitr'd fills in for Winnie and does so very well. I must admit this is the first time I have seen a maitr'd serve table and I applaud them for pitching in this way.
Day 6 Dominica This was the highlight of the trip. We booked with Beno on line. This island is so beautiful. I have over 200 photos. I will not try to describe what I have seen but will be posting pictures soon. Thank you Cruise Critic for the Beno tip. Our guide was Desmond so you don't have to have Beno and you will still enjoy!!!
Dinner in the Lido and no my first impression was not wrong. Same Chinese Fire drill. (no offense)
Day 7 Day at Sea We have this down pat now…it does rain this day but it didn't bother our reading or naps one bit. We really enjoy the spacious room.
Again on this day our toilet works intermittently. They always come and fix it but what a job and frankly it embarrss's me!!!
Day 8 St. Thomas What is there to say here…I go to Snuba which is over by Coki Beach. I am with Tom and we have a great experience with Frank from VI Snuba. I get back and we walk to town for some shopping. I must say I do not enjoy this and always feel a little bit Carnied here. Sandy loves her jewelry and this is the price I pay to have such a great spouse. Gladly pay!!!
Day 9 Half Moon Cay So much hype here…except it is not hype. If you love the beach this amazing. Sand like talcum powder and water crystal clear. We had a clam shell and I recommend that. We shared it with the Westerdam and I feared crowds but it really did not feel overwhelmed. The barbecue is a joke and a lot of work for the crew. Skip it or step it up with full time crew on the island. JMHO
Day 10 boo hoo You all know this story so I shall skip it.Over,done kaput. Suffice to say we had a great cruise on a great ship with a great crew! This is my review of the Volendam. We are glad we sailed her and are thankful to all on the boards who helped us and led us to the best she has to offer. Oh yeah, the bar service was fantastic and we enjoyed Reggie in the Oceans bar especially. Best of luck to him in the future. I was a little disappointed in the HMC bar service. They did not seem too interested in serving here, but I can get my own drinks. They did not know what a Coco Loco was and at the main bar they only had Bacardi Limon rum???blechhh.
My preference for Celebrity has a lot to do with the little things. HAL has a fine product and certainly outdistances X in many respects. It may have something to do with your first love. In any event I spoke to many loyal X cruisers and not a convert to HAL in the bunch. I will say this, I am looking forward to a cruise on a Vista class ship, but that will be after a couple of doses of the X treatment again. I am glad for all the options and hope that everyone finds the line they LOVE.
Now, how far until July 16th?
Just finished cruise on Volendam. This was my fourth and shortest cruise. The ship was smaller than other ships I was on but was well laid out. It was very easy to get around on. The food in the main dining room was excellent but sevice through out the ship, I believe, was poor. If it were just me complaining, I might say I was expecting too much from this crew, but others that I talked to during and after the cruise had the same opinion. Poor service that I encountered was at the front desk having to resubmit a request for a voucher to the airport on three separate occasions before my request was filled. The seemed to have lost all my paperwork twice before again submitting it and getting a voucher.
The bar keeps and drink servers, save one, got an attitude when presented with my soda pop sticker for unlimited soft drinks. This was present on all decks and included the dining room personnel. Others I talked to had the same problem. Greetings and salutations of the ships company beeing encountered in the passageways were missing or lowkey. I can live with that but it seemed the crew wasn't a happy crew.
The entertainment was good and they made a great effort for the limited stage that the worked from. My room was the largest of any of the ships that I rode. I did miss a stocked refrigerator. My cabin was well cared for and I have no complaints. The ship seemed to have a vibration. I have rode US Naval ships that were much smaller and were going almost twice as fast to make that kind of vibration. At our average speed of 13 knots, we should have felt nothing at that sea state. The vibration was felt from midships-aft. I worked on ships and this felt like an out of balance, bent screw (propeller), or out of sync. screws if it had two counter rotating screws. All in all, this was not my best cruise, but like sex, none are bad but some are better than others.
Since this was my third time on the Volendam, I pretty much knew what to expect, but there were some changes. I'll get the unpleasant stuff over first.
Embarkation was the longest I've ever had in more than 25 cruises - over 1-1/2 hours. I don't know why; maybe a bunch of buses unloaded at the same time. I got there at 11:30 a.m. and didn't get onboard until well after 1 p.m. But (as I advise all first-time cruisers) I just blocked it all out and didn't listen to the people crabbing and saying, "this is unacceptable." That's the way it is today, so deal with it!
Luggage arrived in my cabin by 2:30 p.m. and I was all unpacked before the lifeboat drill at 4:15. Since my last HAL cruise a year ago, there have been some pleasant changes. Hair dryers are in the vanity drawer, much more powerful than the wall-mounted ones in the bathroom; the fruit basket is back; and there are wonderful, cozy robes in every cabin (even in the "cheap seats," like mine).
The food in both the dining room and the Lido was beautifully displayed,very tasty, offering great variety, and pleasantly served. I had snapper in the dining room one evening and it was the best I've had anywhere, ever. People at my table complained there weren't enough choices, but I certainly couldn't agree - there was something for everyone in every category of the menu.
I found the food to be wonderful and beautifully presented in all venues. Morning coffee and rolls from room service were promptly delivered and the order was correct and nicely presented daily.
The production shows were good; the kids are so talented and try so hard, but HAL needs to spend some money on costumes. Theirs looked like they came from high school productions. The magician (Bob) was wonderful and very funny, as was the comedian (Tom Drake, husband of cruise director Dottie Kulasa). The Piano Bar was a great disappointment, as this is my favorite after-dinner spot. The performer was Johnny Panama (can you believe the name? And he's a Brit!). He was unfriendly, unsmiling and arrogant; he refused to play requests, took way too many breaks and generally was rude and ineffective. He had NO rapport with the crowd -- which is the job of a Piano Bar entertainer.
The Portofino Strings in the Explorer's Lounge were wonderful for an after-dinner coffee drink -- very talented, eager to take requests, and displaying good crowd rapport.
The band in the Ocean Bar was Italian and quite good – they played some wonderful Brasilian Jobim-type music and the dancers seemed to enjoy them. The Crow's Nest had a group called Rain, a run-of-the-mill rock/pop group with a girl singer who seemed uninterested in it all.
The cruise staff is young (as usual) and mostly quite good. The Cruise Director, Dottie Kulasa, is wonderful - a funny lady and perfect for the job. I met her about 10 years ago on the Norway for two or three cruises, and it's a great coup for HAL to lure her away from NCL. The few flaws in the young staff will be remedied under her guidance.
The ports of Nassau, St. Thomas, Tortola, Dominica and Barbados are as wonderful as ever. If I ever hear someone say, "Why did we stop here - there's nothing there" again, I will scream! This seems to happen in Tortola and Dominica a lot and it annoys me - don't they read the brochures? Aren't they familiar with the itinerary? If they want a mall and Diamonds International, MacDonalds and The Gap, why not stay home?
The BEST new thing about HAL is that on the morning of disembarkation, you can now order a room service breakfast and stay in your cabin until your number is called -- no more lugging your stuff around for two hours trying to find a place to sit! It makes the very sad departure day much more pleasant and much less stressful.
Once again I lucked out with wonderful table companions (which can make or break your cruise when traveling alone). They were so thoughtful that one evening when I was late for dinner (because of a too-long nap after too much sun at the beach in St. Thomas), they called my cabin to see if I was O.K. I rushed to dinner and thanked them for their concern.
For the first time, I booked a Dolphin Deck (very lowest deck), ocean view (window) cabin. I was on a fairly strict budget this time and couldn't do a balcony/verandah cabin. I found I really enjoyed being where I was; at night I would crawl into the "window seat" and have a glass of wine while watching the sea – almost within my reach, had it not been for the glass. It was most relaxing. It was also only one deck down to the gangway at every port - very convenient! I will definitely book a lower deck again.
The new "tips added" policy had me and others somewhat confused. While I did not object to the plan of $10 a day, I felt some people were being overlooked, so I tipped the waiter, a few favorite bartenders, the room service person and cabin steward more. I heard they were "duty bound" to pool those tips as well, which I think might create some ethical situations for them. I still have mixed feelings about this policy. I understand that the "behind the scenes" people deserve compensation, but I sincerely hope those who serve above and beyond know they are appreciated.
All in all, it was a wonderful cruise - perfect weather for 10 days. Half Moon Cay is still the best place on earth for me. And I made new friends - what more could one ask for?
Oh, I know -- another cruise!
I blame myself for not reading the reviews on this ship prior to signing up. I would have known that this was a floating nursing home. While it was hearth warming to see how well the crew treated all those in wheelchairs of all kinds, using canes and variety of walkers, we would have not sign up on this ship.
We are older people also, but the general mood on the ship was lethargic, spiritless. Tere were a handful of people on the dance floor around 7 pm, by 10pm bars were pretty empty. Walking around the public rooms during the day one saw just about every seat/couch occupied by passengers who were asleep. I guess everyone woke up to stand in the immensely long lunch line in the Lido deck.
Service was excellent in every aspect, captain, crew, all officers were great, friendly, caring. Food sounded good until you tasted it. Soups and desserts are excellent, main dishes are nothing to write home about. Dried out porkchops, overcooked venison, thougher than tough lobster, mushy red cabbage, tastless wursts, pheasant that was actually a cornish game hen, and so on. Once tyhesabove mentioned items made it to the salad bar, there was improvement, the various dressings softened them up a bit and the taste was better.
Ship is very good, state rooms are comfy, we had a balcony that was lovely.
Airconditioning: we felt as we were in a meat locker, brrrrrr, perhaps 65 degrees? We froze everywhere except in our room. Perhaps the heat and humidity outside (just about 100F the whole way through) made the temperature difference more profound. I have seen people wearing an overcoat, smart.
Entertainment: during the 16 days, we had a few comedians whom we liked. The too were old, with old-old jokes, but at least we laughed. The rest of the shows we didn't care for.
Like the reviewer before me, I too say that the experience was bittersweet. While there is nothing wrong with being elderly, we don't have to pay $6000 to be on a floating assisted living facility.
I traveled with 8 family members last week to Alaska, including 2 grandchildren under age 5. We had an absolutely unforgettable week!
The crew was exceptional.
The "Name That Tune" competition at the piano bar was great fun (we won free drinks 3 nights in a row for the best "team name.")
The ports and excursions were wonderful; be sure to ride the Kawasaki Mules in Skagway.
My only disappointment was the food. There was quantity, but not quality. Even the cookies weren't as good as the Pillsbury slice off variety from your dairy case! We loved the ice cream every day.
Our king size bed was so wonderful I'm going to order one for my home (they tell you how to purchase their special "mariner's bed.")
There was something for everbody on this cruise; a quiet spot to read or a swimming pool for kid's fun.
I would also add the crowd was a bit "dowdy." The information on dress code provided by Holland America gave a description of "Smart Casual" and to some folks, that obviously meant a baseball T-shirt and jeans.
Great ship with the best crew on board, however it seems that it's already in need of a facelift. The food needs improvement and also the entertainment.
But the great Indonesian crew makes up for everything else that is not up to par.
The Panama Canal is just that -- a way to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific thru the use of locks.
Very intersting on how it is done.
The city of Colon was not that impressive of a port to visit.
The ten days on the ship was just right with mostly elderly passengers on board.
The service on this ship was excellent. We did eat in the grill one night, and service was terrible, we told the hotel manager and he arranged for us to have dinner there again. Needless to say the service was much better. We had a few outstanding dishes in the formal dinning room, but mostly average. For some strange reason, we got flowers on our breakfast tray in room, and when they removed the tray they removed the flowers, this happened three times.
Wonder why? We did see whales in Dominica, gal on boat says it happens about 7 out of 10 times, so we were lucky. I had a bad cold and just did not feel like going to Halfmoon Cay and snorkeling trip, our money was refunded. We would go on this ship again.
Ship was clean, staff wonderful, dining room staff - fantastic. The persons in the next cabin - also on a veranda were non-stop smokers, morning, noon, night. We were unable to use our veranda and required to keep our veranda door closed most of the cruise due to the extreme heavy odor. The ships staff was informed and aware.
We were given a bottle of wine for our discomfort - not adequate compensation at all. The food excellent, Pinnacle food mediocre at best and entertainment not up to par for Holland America.
This was my 9th HAL cruise.
Embarkation was smoother than expected, even though the couple which I was with and I are from Canada. Check-in was rapid, with few line ups when we arrived some time after 11:00.
I was in a cabin by myself, with the couple I travelled with being 2 doors away, on the 'Dolphin Deck'. Unpacking was easy for me, and, being one deck below the main deck, just Aft of the Atrium Staircase, the Front Office, Excursion Office, etc. were easily accessed 'upwards'.
The Life-boat drill (which some people, as usual, did not take seriously) was held in a misty rain, but since men stand in the back, I did not get damp! The drill was efficient, and we were able to tick our names off quickly with a boat captain who was able to read off all the names of people with a minimum of confusion and mispronunciation.
We docked first in Nassau, and, because of the too short stay of the ship (early a.m. to just after noon), did not go on any tours, but went to visit friends who reside there. It would havebeen better to stay in Nassau a little longer; the port is small, but there are very interesting buildings, and there is a market as well.
We stopped at St. Thomas, shopping palace of the USVI, but owing to the number of cruise ships, we were positioned at the former submarine base in Queen's Bay instead of in the downtown port area. The 3 mile bus ride into town was only $3.00, was well organized by the ship, and we had a good time.
Road Town, Tortolla (BVI) a hop away, was fantastic. I did not book a tour early enough, but I went on one not organized by the ship, one which gave the participants many unforgettable views of that set of beautiful small islands. The 3 of us went to sample the "Pusser's painkiller", and I recommend this place for people who like rum. While we then experienced a huge downpour on the way back to the ship, we were ready for it, having been warned, and had dressed lightly, so getting completely drenched was not really a downer!
People doing this cruise need to get up early in the morning for Dominica (after Tortolla); some passengers were dropped off near Portsmouth at the North of the island for an ambitious 6-hour tour. Just before arriving near Cabrits, you can see the French possessions of Marie-Galante to the East, and, Aft, to the North, the island chain of Les-Saintes which is overshadowed by the dark looming hills of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. Dominica is an underdevelopped place which is very welcoming to people and also has great views for camera enthusiasts.
Barbados had rainy weather, and so ship tours were cancelled, but a number of people enjoyed the mini-submarine tour of coral reefs arranged dock-side by locals. The port has a small shopping area which was good for buying trinkets & things before setting off back to Ft. Lauderdale.
During the cruise there were occasions where the seas were quite rough, with both the pitch (front-to-back) and roll (side-to-side) movement, despite the ship being 85,000 tons. Being on a lower deck meant less movement: Going up the Forward stairs to the Crow's Nest at the top of the ship we could feel the roll of the ship despite the stabilizer fins. I should say that the 3 of us do not suffer from sea-sickness, so there never was a problem, although one of our party on formal nights had a hard time of it in high-heels walking along the Veranda Deck to get to the dining room! Anyone above the Upper Promenade Deck could have had a rough time of it, so this is somthing to be said for cabins on a low deck in high seas!
The lido was an improved version: At breakfast, the Omelette Station also included breads and bacon and sausages of different types; one could get fruit & juices at the Continental Breakfast station and did not have to wait in the general line-up.
The dining room was very good at dinner, the 3 of us were at a table for 4, lower (158). The only strange thing was the dummying down of the menu on formal nights where Lasagna was offered! During breakfast and lunch, the choices were less (unless one ate at the Lido) and sometimes things arrived cold.
The Pinnacle restaurant was a little disappointing, in that the service was not as good as it usually is.
Because of the weather, a couple of movies were added in the theatre, when tours were cancelled. The movies were ok, but for short people this is not easy because of poor seating sight-lines.
The pools (Aft, outside) and the Lido pool (Amid-ships Aft, which has a moveable roof) were well maintained, there were always towels and spills of food & water from the pool were quickly cleaned up. The level of the water in both was too high on rough days, even when they had to be closed, since the water sloshed over and the flooring outside the Lido pool, not being teak-wood, is very slippery.
The Crow's Nest bar, high up on the Sports Deck, Forward, had a very good band, "Rain", and we went up there almost every night. It was not well populated during the early part of the cruise because of the ship's roll.
The Dolphin Bar had comfortable bar stools, they could have used more staff during happy hour, which should have been longer (it was only from 4-5 p.m.)and was dominated by a loud group of 10 or more people who spent their time blaming the ship for the weather and generally complaining about nothing to do. I think they were on a freebie.
I never saw any of these people in the Library, but they may have been considered too noisy there, or in the card room nearby. The Library lacks an encyclopedia for the daily quiz (that is a first for me on a HAL cruise), but is comfortable.
Our room stewart was high-end of HAL: The rooms were clean, and the service was very good; there were almost no plumbing problems.
We will be on HAL again...