We concluded pretty early on in the cruise that HAL were the best for food – while there were still small niggles (too early for the late or ‘main’ dining time being 8.15 – [8.30 or 8.45 would have been preferred as was on other ships] and how they closed the lido buffet at 2pm most days [too early] – this was certainly made up for at the ‘sailaway buffets’ that were provided on most port days as well as other culinary arts displays throughout. The Pinnacle Grill service at the start of the meal left alot to be desired also (I was ready to leave before we even received a menu as it took so long to be acknowledged) – that night we celebrated our anniversary – but it slightly improved and the head chef came out to speak to us as well as other guests in an unobtrusive manner which I thought was a nice touch. The food was very well worth the additional $ charge. We also used Canaletto on the first night purely because we could reserve a table there up to 9.30pm and with sightseeing in Venice we knew we wouldnt make our 8.15 main dining room time. Service here turned out to be fantastic as well as the food gorgeous. We had to skip dessert in both places due the the sheer amounts of food that came beforehand! We have never experienced sailaway buffets on the previous 3 cruises we have done in the past – each afternoon on NA between 4.30 and 5.30 for example chefs would bring a full kitchen set-up and cook bbq’d food and provide full culinary art-style displays on the main pool deck for all to enjoy. We simply had to partake due to the quality and tastiness of the food, but piling your plate high at 5pm didn’t really allow for an appetite 3 hours later for your main dining room sitting! However we always obliged and found room for each meal – part of what we like about cruising: good food on tap! The BBQ’s were a special treat we thought and we wondered the necessity of them, but it was a nice touch and I looked forward to them. Entertainment was bottom of the league. We did do alot of research prior and did expect this, but we found that some places were very underused and where there was interest (Piano Bar was tiny and packed out most nights with queues for a seat for up to an hour) why didn’t they switch venues to accommodate? We concluded that P&O are very top of the list for entertainment – we took a TA/Caribbean cruise 3 years ago on Ventura and out of the 4 cruises under our belts the quality of ents was brilliant with P&O: regular cirque-de-soleil style performances in the atrium and main theatre, topping with Brian Connolly comedian on the penultimate night. I would rate Celebrity Equinox 2 years ago the same as HAL for entertainment – while the most modern and stylist of all 4 ships we have been on the ents was almost non-existent. HAL was an older crowd which we expected – we don't go on a cruise to party/rave the night away, but and if it wasn’t for Pianoman Michael Sara goodness knows what we would have done. They could have also moved the jazz band to another more intimate room. The cruise director was very young (younger than 30?) for such an ‘older’ proportion of guests. Plus he want the best with his announcements – a very minor matter however. The shops and layout were definitely better on other ships, but we didn’t choose HAL and NA for these! We had a couple of issues early on – Craig used their Tux service to save on room and luggage weight as well as the cost of hiring one for 2 weeks from home. We were told before departure that there would be 2 formal nights. However once on board were told there were 3 – the first being the day we left Venice. They got his order wrong (placed several weeks beforehand) and it took several trips to the front desk to make us feel comfortable that somebody was actually dealing with it. To conclude they did sort it out and that third formal night turned out to be a bonus as he had to miss the first night due to their mistake. We have never felt such a fish out of water. At the same time the suit scenario was going on, we had immediately reported the noise level of our aircon fan as we entered our cabin for the first time. We have always used inside cabins and realised immediately this noise level was not normal. About 6 trips to the front desk later and one very ‘demanding’ trip from myself after a sleepless night finally sorted the problem some 30 hours after we originally reported it. We wondered that if we were in suite-grade would this have been sorted within a couple of hours of reporting? Not sure if I was lucky as the lady I spoke to ‘once and for all’ was actually a ‘white-jacket’ and employee of the month we realised, who took it upon herself to sort it without my desire to get management involved, but we were very close to emailing yourself just to seek advice and how any compensation process would start! Our issue was going to be ‘you are selling a “Mariners Dream” bed and we simply cannot sleep’. At one point they offered us ear plugs – we nearly hit the roof – we always take these with us anyway, but as I say it finally was resolved. Apart from the above it was lovely. Service was pretty much spot on and more friendly than other cruises and they widely acknowledged and valued their Indonesian and Philippino crew traditions which was nice as the crew felt more inclusive – it wasn’t just ‘them and us’. We had to miss Mykonos which we were very very disappointed about – a first for us – as the tenders simply couldn’t be launched due to 6-9m sea swell. While coudless skies and warm temperatures it was severe winds that day and was obviously unsafe. The compensation was a glass of bubbly ‘served after dessert at dinner’ – which we had to hunt down, and an overnight in Kusadasi – captain put his foot down to arrive at 7pm after we aborted Mykonos just after noon. I felt very safe in the hands of the captain in light of the horrific events from Costa in January. He was efficient and we often arrived at ports up to an hour earlier than scheduled. Apart from sailing away from Mykonos on that windy day with a substantial list and movement never once did we know we were on a boat. The ship itself was elegant and full of subtle, interesting and beautiful art works and ornamental sculptures etc. Not the cleanest ship I might add alot of carpet stains and I didn't see anybody like I have on previous cruises cleaning/polishing handrails or maintaining inside or out, but on the flip side they were tight on serving us our food in the buffet throughout (even if it did cause frustrating long queues, even after the first 48 hours norovirus control period) as well as with hand gel etc. While a world away from Equinox and different again to Ventura and QM2 it was an elegant ship and a good size and I would choose HAL again if the itinerary was right, as the itinerary is what we were drawn to this time, even though we knew we wanted to try HAL one day.