Dinner was the only meal that I was not satisfied with at Hedo. For the most part while on cruises, we eat buffet breakfast and lunch, but by the time that dinner rolled around, I psychologically expected someone to wait on me, I suppose. That probably contributed to my dissatisfaction with dinner. There was lobster for dinner Saturday night, but, for the most part, main courses were kind of uninspired. There was, of course, no ability to order a steak, done medium rare, or to have a sauce omitted from a dish, etc. Of course, any main course is going to be somewhat the worse for wear from having been subjected to a steam plate to keep it warm for a while. For dinner there were around 4 main entree selections, but usually only around two hot vegetables. I thought the selection of vegetables was not good enough, as it was often rice plus only one other selection. Then, of course, there were salads and desserts. There was nothing in the way of a normal "appetizer", like you can get on a ship. The desserts were generally not of a quality similar to what you can get on a ship.
Dinner on most ships consists of several courses and, as such, takes a while to eat. I do not consider that to be a negative factor, but I'm sure that some do. Most ships provide a menu of appetizer, soup, salad, entree, desserts, cheeses, etc. You can generally order one (or more!) of each course, which should be delivered to you by your handy waiter. Service on ships, for the most part, consists of a waiter and a busboy, who are assigned to you for the length of your journey. You are expected to tip them at the end of your journey. Therefore, it behooves them to make sure that you are happy with your dining experience. Because you should see them for your entire journey, you develop more of a relationship with them than you do at Hedo, considering you generally are waited on a different person each day there.
Meal times at Hedo are basically "whenever you get there", so you are not locked in to "breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 12:00, dinner at 6:00", as you are on a ship. At Hedo, breakfast is served from 8-10:30. Coffee and water for tea is available at Delroy's at around 7:15. For early risers, there is no hot food available before 8. The fruits and some danish, etc, is available at some point before then, but not sure exactly what time. There may be coffee available in the dining room 24 hours, but I'm not exactly sure. There is no Equal available at Hedo but some sweet & low is available on the side of the restaurant where the coffee is, but none is provided on the tables. I would assume then that you just needed to ask your server to bring it to you.
Lunch is served at Hedo in the main restaurant from 12:30 to 3:00. McNude's Bar and Grill served sandwiches, etc, from around 11 to 5. Dinner is served from 7:30 to 10:00. There is a midnight "snack" every night, but it really is a "snack"--just some fruit and some cold cuts. For comparison, even though midnight buffets have been pared down quite a bit in recent years, midnight buffets on cruise ships are much more elaborate. On at least one night of a 7 day cruise, there are ice sculptures and a huge buffet, although most people go to the midnight buffet just to look and take pictures and not to eat.
Around this time of year, it gets dark around 6:15 in Jamaica and dinner is not served until 7:30. There were supposed to be hors d'oeuvres in the disco, I thought, every night, between 6 and 7. However, we only saw them there two nights. I would presume that during the summer that it probably wouldn't be a problem, but we thought that there was a "hole" in the evening between dark and dinner, with almost nothing to do and we definitely could have used some munchies to tide us over till dinner. Most ships provide an afternoon tea from around 4 to 5 P.M., which usually is cookies and desserts, and sometimes ice cream.
Hedo has a sit-down restaurant, which requires reservations. The IDEA of this restaurant is excellent--to provide a sit-down dining experience for those, like me, who don't enjoy waiting on themselves for a whole week. The service was pretty good, better than the main restaurant, but not up to the level of a cruise ship. We took around 1 1/2 hours to have dinner, without dessert. About standard time for us, but I would imagine that some think that it takes too long. The major thing which needs improvement here is the menu. There were four different kind of pasta noodles available (no lasagna, etc.) and four different sauces. However, the sauces were a selection of three fish and/or seafood sauces and one vegetable sauce. No meat-based sauces at all. The only other entre available was, I believe, either veal or pork, I can't remember. Eric had a pasta with seafood sauce and I had the pasta with vegetable sauce. Both were excellent. However, that limited selection of pastas and one other main course is just not sufficient. I would hope that they will be expanding the menu in the future. The courses included a choice of two soups, a single salad choice, the entree and two or three desserts. Toasted garlic bread was provided, which was very good and there was a choice of two red wines with dinner, plus either one or two white wines, which were not the same wines as served in the regular dining room, and in fact, were quite good. The garlic bread, soup and entree were all very good, but the experience as a whole was not as good as we had hoped.
The servers in the main dining room generally did a fairly good job, although it was kind of interesting a couple of times, as they were training a couple of new people, and we saw our waiters get yelled at a couple of times for not filling up our wine glasses more swiftly, etc. Servers in the dining room were responsible for serving you tea or coffee for breakfast and dinner, as well as water for all meals, and wine with lunch and dinner. I never really asked them to bring me a drink from the bar, but got the impression that if you wanted a drink other than wine with meals, you needed to walk over to the bar (they have one in the dining room) and get it yourself. Servers also were responsible for clearing the dirty dishes. They generally did a fairly good job. We certainly never felt ignored, although a couple of mornings, we kind of felt like we could have used another cup of coffee, which didn't seem to be coming too swiftly.
Seating for meals is one of the best things about Hedo. There are no assigned tables, ever, at Hedo (except at the sit-down restaurant). You just came into the dining room and sat down wherever you wanted and with whomever you wanted, which could be nobody, if you liked. The only exception to that appeared to be toga night, when the dining room was basically full and they seated people with people, especially down front. Hedo was absolutely full the week we were there, so I would presume that if there would be a problem with having enough clean tables, it would have happened our week, but we had no problems. On all except very exclusive ships, seating for dinner is assigned, usually with other people. This can be good or bad. If you are kind of shy about making friends, it assures that you have some people to talk to at least. There is some possibility that you can get stuck with some real winners. Even on cruises, you can eat all meals except dinner at the buffet and avoid bad table-mates, for the most part.
We noted a couple of relatively minor differences in peripheral items. One, photographers. On a cruise ship, they take your picture every time you turn around, which can be exceedingly irritating. On the average trip, depending on how many islands you travel to, you could have your picture taken up to 10 times or more. There is no obligation to purchase any pictures, but usually it's hard to AVOID getting your picture taken. You can usually sit for formal portraits, if you like. Again, there is no obligation to purchase the pictures and you can occasionally get some really good shots of yourself in formal garb. All pictures can be viewed while onboard ship, and you take them with you when you pay for them. Cost is generally around $6 for a 5 X 7 and $15 or so for the 8 X 10 formal prints. Hedo has photographers who take pictures occasionally. However, there is no obligatory, "Welcome to Hedo" picture (like there ALWAYS is on ships) and very few other pictures taken for the week. They took pictures in the dining room a couple of times, plus pictures at the toga party and the PJ party, and also took videos which they sold. Pictures were not the big deal or money making operation that they are on most ships. Pictures at Hedo were kind of "buying a pig in a poke", however, as they were only very small black and white film strip prints, which you couldn't really tell whether they were good pictures or not. You paid for them there and they were supposed to mail them to you. We bought one of our pictures (cost was $8 for 5 x 7) and they mail it to you, supposedly, but we haven't gotten ours yet.
Entertainment at Hedo is totally different than offered on most ships. You do not have your "Broadway type review" shows at Hedo, as you do on many ships. Also, many, if not most, ships offer some type of singers in one of the lounges, fairly late at night. Also, most ships have a steel band, who generally plays every day. Hedo had a small group of musicians playing in the lounge when we arrived, but no steel band music, that I saw, anyway. Most of the entertainment at Hedo is a single singer, etc. One night there was a Jamaican floor dance show. There are also beach parties at night a couple of times, plus toga night and the PJ party. There is a piano bar, which is sing-a-long type. I guess I would describe entertainment at Hedo as more "participatory" and on most ships as more "observatory". At Hedo, there are no TV's at all, except in the disco, and no movie theatre. One thing I really did miss at Hedo, as far as entertainment, is a casino. We don't go to Atlantic City while at home, but while onboard a ship, I love being able to drop a few quarters in the slots and to lose a few bucks at roulette.
One thing which was fairly important to us at Hedo was the clothing optional experience. We appreciated the opportunity for nude sunbathing at Hedo, which is usually not available on ships. Except for nude charters, with the exception of certain ships, even topless sunbathing or thong sunbathing is fairly well discouraged. If the ship happens to go to St. Martin, you can always head out to Orient Beach, or if you sail to one of the French islands, topless is always allowed. At Hedo it was nice being able to just come out of your room, wearing just what you were born with, provided you get a room on the "right" side of the beach. And, by the same token, those who don't want to get a tan all over can stay on the left side of the beach and not be "exposed" to the ones getting that all over tan, if they don't want to. In that respect, I suppose it should be noted here (for those that don't know) that Hedo is for adults only.
"Activities" are something which are not necessarily pushed at Hedo, or at least, not in the way that they are on most ships. The day's events are listed on a blackboard by the restaurant at Hedo. It would have been kind of nice to have pre-printed list available at the front desk, for those still de-compressing from home. One day we saw one guy making a fuss at the front desk, wanting his list of the activities for the day and saw another standing in the dining room, making his list of things to do for the day. Of course, I know where this guy got this impression that he needed his "list", as all ships that I know of slip a list of the next day's activities under the door of each cabin.
Activities onboard a ship vary a great deal from ship to ship, but you can expect to see, on many ships, some type of pool games, cooking demonstrations, gambling lessons, libraries and card rooms, skeet shooting, ping pong, 50's/60's nights, masquerade parties, scavenger hunts, etc., etc. There is also the added attraction of being able to visit several islands, sailing in and out of several beautiful ports, seeing unusual and different places, enjoying 3 or 4 or more different beautiful beaches--and unpacking only once!
One item which was interesting to us, but not necessarily indicative of anything in particular, is that all the staff at Hedo eats in the dining room with the guests, if they want. I have no idea whether the staff at Hedo pays for it or not. By contrast, on a ship, you NEVER see any staff eating with the passengers, except the officers and potentially some of the "better" entertainment and cruise director staff.
One item which is fairly hard to quantify, and the main reason why most people who are devotees of Hedo return again and again, is the "ambiance", for want of any better word. JJ and Denny and Rich and all the others can do a much better job of describing the outlook on life and vacations which is encouraged and fostered by Hedo. As JJ told me on the phone today, "Hedo is more a state of mind, than a place". You can do as much or as little as you like at Hedo. You are not required to do anything which makes you uncomfortable, but, if you want to, you can do things which you would not normally do at home. Cruises offer a much more "traditional", for want of a better word, outlook, complete with lots of activities, which are a little harder to NOT participate in on a cruise.
Finally, and this is probably the MOST difficult thing to describe--but everyone has their own definition of what it feels like to be totally content and at peace with the world. For me, that feeling comes most completely when I'm standing up on deck on a cruise ship, cruising along at about 18 knots. It's about midnight, the sky is filled with stars. I've just had a wonderful meal and won a few quarters in the casino. There is no one else around, except Eric and I. That, for me, is still "Heavenism".
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