Pros: Food was just a hair short of outstanding in every venue. We dined in Canelletto, Rudi's Sel de Mer and Tamarind as well as the MDR. Canelletto: Menu is much, much improved. We enjoyed Suvat's service (such a smile!) and I felt combining regal Lamb and Truffles with humble beans and polenta was a master stroke. Moist, wonderful. Breads served warm, the various dips served with were excellent. Appetizers, desserts spot on. I could and should have gone back. Rudi's Sel De Mer: Dined twice. First experience was mostly outstanding. I spoke with Constantin regarding the beans served in the Confit and was told their interpretation of the classic duck dish allowed for "toothy" beans. For me, that was really not a realistic answer. Beans in Cassoulet should have absorbed the flavor and it wasn't perfect. Still, a good meal (the duck itself was incredible) and the $49 for a Haut Brion personating wine was right priced and carried to the next visit. My wife loved the amuse bouche - puff pastry shaped as fish filled with salmon and cream cheese. Wife ordered the seafood tower (for lack of a better word) and really felt it was wonderful.
Second experience, the 12 ounce lobster tail came out gray and curled, like a hand tortured by arthritis. Worse still, Constantin and his partner dropped off the overcooked tail without taking it from the shell. My own bouillabaisse was cold by time I shelled the fish out - and at no point was the broth hot enough to help the garlic rouille melt into it. To be completely fair, the broth was well flavored and no seafood was overcooked.
An apology was made regarding the server's inexperience for not taking the shell off - even though the restaurant manager himself was there at the delivery. Sorry, that's a bullshit response and the weak way out. The MDR serves some 4000 lobster tails and takes off the shell of each and every one.
When I spend money - a lot of money - for additional dining there is no room for mistakes. (We noticed the next two lobster tails headed to other tables looked better, and were properly served.) This may seem picayune to some. But we paid to eat on a cruise ship five out of seven nights.
To the plus side, the haricots verts and ratatouille were spot on, as were the desserts once again. Although I didn't ask to have them comped, the management did not charge for the desserts. Tamarind: Dined twice. Just incredibly outstanding in every way I can imagine. If they are available, ask for Anita and Sukma ... great service. So good on our first visit we dragged two other couples for our final night at sea. They are incredibly hard graders and agreed with us. What to pick? Everything. Satay sampler, Thai beef salad, lobster and shrimp stir fry, Wasabi beef, the duck (perfect. Their MDR interpretation normally is horrible) ... the fortune cookie was stellar among the desserts but I enjoyed the mango dessert as well. MDR: Surf and Turf on Gala night, spot on. No part of that meal was wrong and I enjoyed the Sea Bass as an appetizer. Thanksgiving, I had asked to get stuffing with my filet mignon. The serving was literally a #2 scoop, barely a golf ball and the same shape. I couldn't stop laughing - but frankly I wouldn't have eaten more. Really wasn't that good, neither was my wife's Turkey dinner. Lido: good as always for breakfast and lunch. The one gala night, I actually went down to try the Filet Mignon and thought it was better than the MDR that night. Dive-in: Outstanding. NY Pizza: One small pizza and it was ... fine. Veendam experience was better. Room service: only ordered on our final morning, but on time, hot and excellent.
Grand Dutch Cafe: Super, just super. Have the pea soup, the apple pancake, the chocolate puff pastry, chocolate chip cookies ... really, anything. Although I was waiting when they ran out of some things - thankfully, nothing I wanted that day. I would strongly recommend this as an alternative to having the same thing morning after morning in the Lido. Entertainment: Comedian was funniest when he wasn't involving the crowd. Mentalist Wayne Hoffman will have you shaking your head - and one of our "crew" is literally a magician. Dance group was good and the involvement of technology was seamless. Other shows in the room were great.
BB King band ... I just can't say enough. I watched them frequently for 3 shows. Imagine doing three sets, every single day. When this high energy band completed a night, they were stretching themselves to their utmost limit. Great stuff. Other music was ... a bit better than fair. Dueling pianos included a great rendition of Etta James' by the female performer. Embarkation: We got to Port Canaveral at just about 11:15 and it was a waste. Get there closer to noon and you should walk right on to the ship. But flawless. While the original poster had troubles getting off (I guess), we were called on time at 9:45 and were off the vessel by 9:50 and found our bags nearly immediately. I do appreciate being able to sit in my room until being called. Excursions: Nearly none other than horseback riding at HMC. I understand it's worthwhile to take an excursion at Puerto Platas. Cabin appointments: Stayed in room 4086, a partially obstructed Verandah. Great, great, great value. Obstruction merely prevented me from looking straight down. Big deal. Bathroom isn't big but fair enough. Bed, as expected, wonderful. If you like a cold room at night, this ship gets it there. Bottom line: nearly flawless in every regard. When you compare the costs of this trip to what heaven forbid the Edge or Regal Princess offered, there isn't a chance you'd sail elsewhere. In fact, one of our guests took Edge and Statendam back-to-back and said they preferred the food on board HAL. Cruise received nearly uniform 10s from our cabin.
It's highly unlikely we will cruise another line in the near future and booked an additional 40 days on three trips while onboard.