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Sea Day #1 Q&A: Answers

Editorial note: Internet access remains uneven and generally woefully bad. As a result, my ability to post when I’d like and how I’d like is limited.

Now for your Sea Day Q&A answers…

What can you tell me about the aft verandah suites, especially #226?

As you probably know, #226 is two doors down for us. It’s one of the new cabins recently added during the ship’s renovations in dry dock. I believe it’s nearly identical to most of the other cabins in its class, though the balcony may be a bit larger and it’s obviously brand new.

A few other details: it has ample storage space, a full-size couch and chair, an abundance of pillows (firm, medium, and soft), the bathroom is pretty much standard cruise ship size (though this has a smallish whirlpool tub, which would be great if you’re less than 4’5” tall or like to bath while sitting in the lotus position). The decor is contemporary with a neutral color scheme and nicely veneered maple wood surfaces.

The little details are nice: two wool blankets in lieu of beach towels, access to a library of DVD movies, phone-based concierge for reservations, a coffee table that is height-adjustable, and fresh fruit / flowers. I just wish it had in room Internet access… but I digress.

I’m not sure what else to say. Is there something you’d specifically like to know?

Compared to other cruises, how’s the food on HAL so far?

It’s a little hard to say given the (relatively) limited # of meals. But, here are a few impressions:

The room service breakfast is excellent! We ordered omelettes (both tasty and still hot), breakfast ham (excellent), bagels (toasted and warm), fruit salad (very fresh and uniformly cut), orange juice (which tasted freshly squeezed), and decaf coffee (which was surprisingly satisfying). This was by far the best we’ve had on a cruise line.

The Lido Restaurant’s food tasted fine, but the selections were more limited than on other lines. I will say, however, that while we’ve often used the buffet for salads, sandwiches, and that sort of thing… we’re not usually enamored by the hot entrée selections provided on either NCL or RCI. This might not be the case on HAL, as the Lido Restaurant seems more geared toward serving up “proper” meals.

The only other downside to the Lido is the lack of self-serve areas (even before the “code red” precautions). This is just a bit annoying to us, as some of the patrons seem incapable of efficient ordering and there’s a bit of confusion on their part about “how it all works” as you move between action stations. Frankly, the ship was built in the era of “pile up a tray on the buffet line” and that’s just not especially conducive to the newfangled “get handed a plate from an action station” model.

Canaletto, the ship’s free (no surcharge) Italian specialty restaurant was good for the price. We’ve never had a great Italian dining experience aboard a cruise ship, and I’d have to say we’re still waiting. However, for the price, it’s right… especially if you stick to the staples of Italian-American cuisine (e.g., Libby’s “home-style” pasta was better than my attempted “gourmet” fish dish).

We’ve only eaten once in the main dining room. As such, I’ll reserve judgment for now. However, it seems to be pretty much standard cruise fare: it’s certainly not up to land-based “fine dining” yet. But, it also holds its own (and may be better than) the likes of NCL and RCI.

Would you recommend HAL for Alaska?

It’s a little early to say for certain, but I’d probably go with “sure” at the moment. Frankly, they’re simply one of the dominate players in this market along with Princess Cruises. We ended up on this cruise due to the low cost (less than $800/pp for our verandah suite) and desire to try HAL (because we’d have likely ended up taking them to more exotic locales in the future anyway).

We’re certainly not disappointed and indeed are generally pleased. In fact, if pushed I’d have to say that HAL is more “in keeping with our personality” due to its refined atmosphere and activity/enrichment/cultural focus. That said, I’ve seen nothing that would cause me to abandon other ships in favor of exclusively HAL.

More to follow on this question later…

What do you think of SilverSea?

We’ve never sailed on that line before. And, I can’t say we have any immediate plans to do so.

We select cruises based upon 1) itinerary, 2) dates [Libby, as a school administrator, constrains us a bit], and 3) cost. Recently, we’ve been cruising a lot because it’s both a comfortable and cost- and time-efficient way to get to many new places quickly. Likewise, it sometimes just provides a cheap and quick getaway from Florida. Bottom line: we’re travelers first, cruisers second.

We travel widely and frequently. Indeed, we reject (for us anyway) the concept of “the trip of a lifetime.”That’s a constant theme one hears in travel, but it’s one that I just don’t buy into. For us, it’s more like the “trip of this six months.” As a result, we prefer to go on more vacations to more places, knowing that doing so means we’ll sacrifice some luxury in the process.

As an aside, we also assume that we’ll get back to most places. This is why cruising, as a kind of “travel tapas,” doesn’t drive me crazy. We sample widely and use the findings to inform future travel. For example, we found that we really wanted to return to Malta but not Athens, who’d have guessed that in advance?

Anyway, we’ve sailed only on mass market cruise companies in the past, specifically NCL and RCI. We’ve enjoyed those trips and always had a good time. Based on industry positioning, HAL is more of a premium line (along with others such as Princess and Celebrity). In addition to being “more upscale,” these lines usually offer more diverse destinations and longer itineraries. In fact, new itineraries are the primary reason why I expect we’ll find ourselves on more and more on these premium lines in the future.

From what I know, SilverSea is a luxury cruise line (like Crystal) that also charges luxury prices. They have fewer and smaller ships. They also offer less schedule flexibility and longer itineraries (a negative for us due to practical limitations). I have no empirical evidence to suggest whether they are good value for money or not. Clearly, one is buying exclusivity and (one would also hope) truly first class accommodations, fine dining, and service. That said, we’re people who are inclined to skip formal nights and like the flexibility of what NCL calls “Freestyle” cruising (eating when, where, how, and with whom you want – even if that means paying for surcharge venues). Presently, I don’t have a sense for how well our proclivities marry with the luxury cruise segment.

5 Responses to “Sea Day #1 Q&A: Answers”

  1. Dick says:

    Howdy my friends.

    First, the comment link on Day #2 seems to be kaput… (that’s international for broke/not working.)

    Second, Cotton candy… Italian. I think not, it sounds like a HAL gimmick to me. I have never seen cotton candy in Italy. (Maybe I went to the wrong places, eh?)

    Keep the good posts coming – enjoying every one of them

  2. Mary Feikema says:


    “Did you know Cotton candy was actually a popular trend in Italy that began in the 1400’s. The old fashioned way of making cotton candy – or spun sugar as it was called – was to melt sugar in a pan and then use a fork to make strings of sugar over an upside down bowl. The sugar would then dry in strings and be served as a dessert.”

    HAL is evidently on the cutting edge of authentic Italian cuisine…

  3. Paul says:


    I’m going to go with “on the cutting edge.” Somehow that just makes me feel better knowing there is order in the universe! :-)

  4. Candy says:

    Thanks, Paul! I’m just excited for our upcoming cruise and feel like I’m getting a sneak peek! We are actually in 223, the starboard corner. The rooms sound great.
    I am enjoying your blog, thanks for posting.


  5. Dick says:

    Wow, I stand corrected on the cotton candy question. I must go back to Italy and conduct some extensive research.


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