Rather than a full review, I thought I would just give some rambling bullet points of random comments. We just did the 11 day Panama Canal trip. We live in South Florida, so there was no hotel or airport aspect for us. We stayed in a Neptune suite (and typically stay in suites on other cruises, which are mainly on RCCL).
The suite was very nice, comparable to a Grand Suite on a Royal ship
The attitudes of staff and crew were for the most part exceptional. Workers had smiles, were friendly as could be, some had incredible memories for names and we felt recognized whenever we returned to the same venue on the ship;
The ship itself was clean but tired/dated. It's hard to explain, but it lacked a certain "flow" to it. We have been on the Oasis and the Allure, which are about twice the size, and found those ships were easier to get around and more intuitive for some reason. There is certainly no "grandeur" to the ship, no "wow factor"...but that's OK. We didn't expect it;
The Neptune Lounge was very disappointing. Concierges were very nice, especially on the first day or two, but we found certain suite perks were a little less than what we were used to. Example...one afternoon we decided we would prefer to switch our dinner reservation to the Pinnacle Grill. Concierge said they were full at our requested time (7), so we opted for Cannaleto. When we went to the Pinnacle Lounge for a cocktail before dinner at about 6:30, Pinnacle Grill was fairly empty. My experience on Royal was that the concierge could get us in almost anywhere. The honor bar in the NL should really work with a drink package...it would have been a good option for us for cocktails before dinner if it did. So other than grabbing a quick cup of coffee or having an occasional snack, there wasn't much of a reason for us to go there.
Some other random suite-related thoughts: No priority disembarkation at ports/tenders or the end of the cruise, no designated/reserved suite seating areas in the shows. None of these are going to have any impact on my cruise, but I am merely noting they are different than what I have seen before. The laundry service/dry cleaning ROCKED. Great perk, took advantage of it and loved it. Breakfast in the Pinnacle was great and we took advantage of that as well on several occasions;
Food was very good for the most part. We found the MDR food to be tasty and surprisingly good most of the time...easily better than Royal. Pinnacle Grill experiences were very good as well, as was Cannaleto. The Lido buffet was a little disappointing. We didn't go too often, but I found the selections were so so, and the quality was only fair for me. Dive-In was very good;
We didn't really take advantage of the entertainment venues too much. Piano bar singers were a little cheesy, but people loved them and they served their purpose well. We attended America's test Kitchen a couple of times during the trip and it was a nice diversion;
Cabana...best part of the trip for us. We reserved one for the entire cruise and were there at some point pretty much every day. Attendants were great..took good care of us. Given the serious lack of lounge chairs by the pools, we were glad we did this. Had lunch up there many days and they were super accommodating. Very surprised that so many went unoccupied;
Norovirus scare- A few days into the cruise, we started to notice some procedure changes. The Lido was blocked off in certain areas, and NOTHING was self-serve anymore. Sure enough, the captain made an announcement that there were a few cases of gastrointestinal issue reported and they were going to a different protocol. Urged everyone to be more diligent in hand washing. That protocol continued throughout, and later announcements were stating that the issues hadn't seemed to spread, but they were remaining vigilant;
Ports were all new to us, so that was good. Enjoyed Caracao, and the highlight was the Panama Canal of course. Loved it. Had an incident on a private tour in Costa Rica where we were about 50 yards away from the coast guard opening gunfire along the bank of a canal we happened to be sightseeing in, and our tourboat was instructed by guides to "get down" as we literally smelled the gun powder. This is another post for another time, but thankfully everyone in our tour was OK and the tour continued.
Overall, HAL did a great job on a smallish, dated feeling ship and the food and crew made it a really enjoyable vacation. Happy to answer any questions if I can.