I thought I’d give a few thoughts about our cruise; several 5/21 cruisers have posted, so I do not have a lot to add. Here are our impressions:
Our embarkation was slower than it needed to be, but overall it wasn’t too bad. We’d been directed to the wrong line, I questioned it and I don’t think the person heard or understood what I was questioning. I tried again with a different person after about 20 minutes of waiting in line and was re-directed. DH is not a US citizen and by the time we changed lines, there were some slow people ahead of us. There was no one in line there when we arrived. This isn’t a problem unique to HAL; we try to clarify this and sometimes still get sent to the wrong place. No big deal. Hardly worth mentioning except that perhaps others will be more aware in future and save a little time. I found the porters intimidating and very in-your-face; that is a port problem, not HAL’s problem. I didn’t appreciate being scared into tipping and next time will just turn my back and try not to imagine our luggage missing the boat. DH was very irritated and if he had noticed the “tipping not required” sign (which I already knew about), I think he’d have pulled me away because their tactics were so pushy. We are generally very good tippers, but having someone’s hands literally inches from your nose and repeated loud requests for money does tend to put our backs up! Regardless, we were onboard the ship in a little under an hour and settled in our cabin shortly afterwards.
We LOVED our cabin. It was spacious and the balcony was much larger than we’d expected. We were in cabin 8090 and felt that our balcony was at least 99.9% private. If someone stuck their nose to the crack, they might have been able to peep at us. We spent a lot of time on the balcony. We ate breakfast there every morning, I think. We had appetizers out there almost every day and dinner there the night that we were in quarantine. Great balcony! There was a lot of storage space in the room, although it was spread out across several pieces of furniture. We had no trouble finding places to put things. We could have used a little more hanging closet space, but I just took too many dresses. My bad, not theirs. The bathroom was a good size and I loved the corner medicine cabinets which offered ample storage. A small criticism of the separate shower is that it’d be nice if the curtain was weighted. Every shower found me with the curtain stuck to my butt. When we started using the tub shower, that problem went away. Again, no big deal. Our cabin was very cold. We had no problems with air conditioning whatsoever. We ended up with the a/c at about the warmest setting and used an extra blanket at night. We were extremely pleased with the cabin and would love another SS. I did notice that the fridge wasn’t very cold, but the steward made sure we always had ice (including keeping a couple of bottles of wine on ice for several DAYS when we kept planning to drink it and had to repeatedly postpone). So, overall, we were very, very happy with our cabin, the balcony and the bathroom. Our steward was not quite as visible on this cruise, but he did an above average job and made us a towel animal one night. I did not get to see it. DH picked it up off the bed and brought it to the bathroom. I was disappointed because I’d never had a towel animal before and thought it’d have been cool to take a photo. (Yeah, I never grew up). Our bed was pretty hard, but we eventually solved that with an egg crate and started sleeping better and longer. We initially didn’t realize that we were waking up early due to the bed and I don’t think it was a major problem. Just a word to the wise if someone doesn’t quite notice that the bed is uncomfortable but do notice that they are waking up much earlier than usual. We brought clothes pins for the drapes, but we didn’t need them. The curtains stayed shut and blocked almost all of the light, so it was very dark in the morning.
This will seem petty to some, but it was extremely inconvenient and evolved into a problem so I will write about it. We flew in the night before and stayed at the Courtyard Airport/Cruiseport which was basically in the middle of nowhere. I had asked on this board several weeks ago about whether or not there were lighters for sale on board because, as a smoker, I was aware that I might need to purchase one. They had apparently sold out on the trip before ours and had not received their shipment before sailing. I asked in the shops, was re-directed to the bar and casino (where people thought I was insane for asking to buy lighters) and finally determined that there was in fact, not one lighter for sale on the ship. As I made my rounds, other louder and unhappier smokers seemed practically at my elbow, so I knew that I was not alone in my disappointment. I thought I’d try HMC and so we looked there (A bartender had said he’d have a lighter “tomorrow” and that was the day we went to HMC). At a certain point on the third day, I was getting tired of feeling like I had to tip every time I wanted a light and decided to talk to the front office about it and suggest that they make sure they were ordering more lighters than before. With people flying in to cruise and the security changes, their lighter sales are probably a lot higher than they were. This is where something that was inconvenient became a pretty large “problem”. The woman at the counter informed me that they had “never” sold lighters during the two years she’d been onboard and went on to say that lighters and matches were a fire hazard. She basically called me a liar when I said that someone had purchased one on board a few weeks before and said that the person in the shop was “new” and didn’t know what he was talking about. She was quite rude and confrontational about it and I was shocked. Later, I found out from the person in charge of the front desk, Pam, that they had indeed not received their shipment and that lighters were in fact normally for sale. At the time, I couldn’t remember the staff member’s name who had been so discourteous. When I later was reminded (as she practically snapped her fingers in our faces when we were a little slow handing her our surveys), I chose not to report her a second time. I was told that kind of behavior could result in termination and didn’t want to cost someone their job. However, that person definitely does not need to work the front office with her attitude. Sooner or later, someone will name her. I found Pam, the woman in charge of the front desk to be extremely helpful. I commented on the lighter situation when I submitted a comment card that also covered our plumbing problem. She was very responsive and we appreciated her efforts to rectify our problem.
The plumbing problem was something many people would have noticed. When we drained the bathtub, water came up from the floor drain. I don’t normally take baths, but my back was acting up, so I took advantage of the Jacuzzi tub. Three nights in a row I used it, the drain backed up, and I reported it. Each time, they said it would be fixed. It wasn’t. I sent in a comment card and they sent someone to fix it. The fourth time I used it the flooding was not as bad, but it still came up out of the floor drain. The water was yucky and foul-smelling, but it should not have been unsafe as I was told there are three separate water systems and the grey water (bath) is separate from the brown water (sewage). Anyway, they did try to fix it and it was better by the last time I drained the tub. I have a thing about wet floors and it drove me a little crazy stepping in water, but it was hardly life-or-death.
We used room service every day and had no complaints. Food arrived quickly except for a few times on the day we were sick and I’m guessing they were just extraordinarily busy at those times. We were confined on a sea day, so I bet a lot of people spent the day resting in their cabins and the staff were probably getting run to death. Our breakfast was always prompt and the orders were correct. The scrambled eggs were runnier than I like, so I quit ordering them after I’d tried them a couple of times; I don’t think they were necessarily under-cooked, but I like them pretty well-done. It seemed like it’d be hard to explain, so I switched to Special K which is probably better for me anyway. If you have multiple trays (as happened while we were ill), make sure they don’t remove your food when they bring a new tray. We lost a few food items when they took them in error. I thought the room service staff did an excellent job and were very eager to please. They were, without fail, friendly and helpful. The food was tasty and arrived warm or cold as appropriate. We enjoyed it immensely!
We enjoyed our shore excursions. Only one was a HAL excursion. That was the horseback ride/swim at HMC and it was awesome. The guides were very nice and we had a wonderful time. We shared this excursion with a couple of CC’ers and I think we all had an excellent ride. The men there also took fantastic photos of us, and so did our CC friends. Thanks ya’ll! We had a slight mix-up when we couldn’t find our shore excursion tickets (yeah, big pink envelope… I know…) and the onboard staff was surprisingly unhelpful. I finally located the tickets, but I was pretty miffed at that point because I’d talked to the staff a few times and found that they were not only unhelpful but also very impatient with me. Things happen and I thought they could have been nicer about it. I’m just glad I finally located the envelope. Let’s face it; sometimes when we’re on vacation, we get things a little muddled. I’m glad I was a relatively young person because I can imagine this happening to my mother and it wouldn’t have been pretty if they’d gotten snotty with her, LOL!!! I got the same kind of poor attitude in the casino, so I have to think that some of the staff are more customer-oriented than others. Our cabin stewards, wait staff and bar staff were all incredibly helpful and very nice.
We liked the ports of call and enjoyed our non-HAL excursions at Costa Maya and Grand Cayman. We also had CC members on those excursions and I think we all had a good time. I did learn that the Caribbean is too hot for me this time of year and I am not sure I’d consider this itinerary again when the weather is so warm. This is personal preference. DH had a great time. He overlooks the heat, and personal discomfort in general. Part of it may be cultural and part may be that he is a marathon runner and is much better at tuning out anything that is below the compound fracture level, LOL! I am very glad we did the cruise because the horseback riding, swimming with sting rays, excellent company and being catered to for a week was worth the discomfort from the heat.
We did become ill and were quarantined for 24 hours. This was not a big deal to us. People have thought it may have “ruined” the cruise, but it was actually a good chance to rest up and enjoy the cabin. We watched movies and the staff was extremely accommodating. I don’t know if I’d choose to get sick, but it just was not the drama that it might have been for some other travelers. We knowingly ate some food that perhaps we shouldn’t have eaten and we paid the price. DH has been on antibiotics for a couple of days and is finally better today (yippee!). I wouldn’t recommend people get sick, but if that’s what it took to get to settle down, rest, and recuperate from the shore excursions, then I am not that disappointed that it happened to us. Having the balcony was invaluable because my DH does get stir-crazy. I cannot stress enough that nothing ruined our cruise. There were some negatives, but we enjoyed great (or at least very good) service almost without exception, good food, and wonderful company.
I never made it to eat at Lido, so I can’t comment on that. DH had one meal there and ice cream several times. He was a very happy man! We saw Hunky Dory in the crew show and met Burt Reynolds in the dining room. We saw them on the ship with big smiles on their faces greeting people occasionally. Our dining room service was usually very good. We liked the dining room staff and enjoyed getting to chat with them a few times as we had long dinners; our companions were a great group and we tended to linger. I was a little disappointed in Pinnacle, but it didn’t matter. We relapsed later that night, so perhaps we were more under-the-weather than we realized and that contributed. Basically, we were happy in the dining room and see no real need to go to Pinnacle again. We’re probably in the minority, but we were so pleased with the company and food in the dining room that Pinnacle seemed a little sterile.
I didn’t enjoy the Crow’s Nest on this ship, but, to my surprise, I found I really loved Northern Lights. The music wasn’t as loud in there and I wish we could have gone there more. We also spent some time at the Ocean bar and enjoyed that, too.
DH and I both used the alpha capsule on Friday. I also had an aromatherapy detox wrap and massage in the spa on Friday. We had re-scheduled from Thursday because of the quarantine, so we missed a lot of time on Key West. No biggie; we can go back to Key West one day. The spa was fine; a little more expensive than on land, but the “hard sell” wasn’t too tough and I resisted buying all those goodies that I never use.
Sorry this is so long; I thought it’d be shorter. I actually took a few notes on the ship, but they are upstairs and I am downstairs. Too lazy to climb up and get them. If I see I missed anything important, I’ll post it. Any questions are welcome.