I've been on HAL before and had high expectations for this adventure. They failed miserably in several categories. First off...the food. We were part of a large group so I can tell you it was not just me personally with this experience. In the dining room, I received over cooked meat constantly. From the duck, to the osso bucco, and even steaks. We also received items that were simply not fresh, like cheese and sushi items. HAL talks about having Celebrity Chefs do their menu, but I doubt Charlie Trotter would have been happy about the temperature of those steaks.
My next gripe has to do with staffing. We never saw the captain. He didn't bother to show up for the farewell crew show at the end of the cruise. Nor did I ever run into him aboard ship. Also, it's high season and there were a ton of kids/teenagers on board (I think I heard 450). HAL should have been prepared with staff monitoring and policing the pool and common areas. They used to be very strict about this stuff. HAL did finally send out a letter half way through the cruise reminding us parents to watch our kids, but those were just idol threats. They did nothing to kick the kids from the front 2 rows of the theater. I felt sorry for the entertainers. (And keep in mind that our group was traveling with 3 kids.) Or to keep the teenagers from rough housing at the pool. The cruise director, Dave, gave a half-hearted plea to keep mind of your kids and explain that they simply have more kids this time of year. MY RESPONSE..."Well then plan ahead for it. Don't let 25 kids and obnoxious teenagers ruin a cruise for everybody else."
Our cabin stewards rarely remembered to fill our ice bucket or give us fresh towels after a couple of days. We are in the Med. It's hot and nothing dries.
The wine steward did something that no high end restaurant would ever do. He tried to switch champagnes on my Dad to a far inferior brand. After presenting the inferior bottle, he then told my Dad that they were out of what my Dad requested. I've waited tables before and you should return with the wine menu and ASK what to do or offer another selection as a replacement (And not one that costs $25 less.)
Last gripe, they charge ridiculous prices for everything now. The photo department wanted $40 for a formal night pic and you were forced to buy an 8x10, a 5x7, and 2 wallets. We had several great pictures taken during the cruise, but you no longer get to pick a size or package. It's $40 for formal night and $20 for other. The HAL tour prices are ludicrous, especially the ROME transfer. I expect this up sale on Carnival.
NOW FOR A FEW POSITIVES...the Nieuw Amsterdam is a lovely ship, although the layout is odd. The entertainers brought on board for the showroom were all fantastic...From the concert pianist, to the GRACE trio, to the wonderful comedian Scotty.
And if you do go, please go up and listen to Chris Toler is the Crow's Nest. He is a rare talent with his mash-ups and not to mention, very personable.
Lastly, I want to give a huge thanks to Club HAL. My son and his cousins loved their enthusiasm and activities. He rarely wanted to hang out with us. They are really great and tried to keep the kids happy with a wide array of things to do. Kudos to them.
This might be my last HAL experience. I really missed the higher end touches that once made HAL my favorite cruise line. If I pay more for a cruise, I don't want to be nickel and dimed. I want more interesting food and more importantly, well cooked food. It was under average most nights. HAL didn't do theme nights where everybody dressed up. I missed having Dutch night with the fun hats and Dutch food. We talked to cruisers with more than 200 days on HAL and they too were disappointed.
There used to be this air about HAL that they were the best and knew it. No more. The lack of discipline comes from the top. The staff seemed ill-equipped to deal with the simplest of problems that arose...from my problem with a bar drink, to issues around the pool area, to problems with something in the lido ding room. I hope they get their act together. This was not the HAL of old.