We are avid cruisers in our early and mid fifties, cruising mostly on Celebrity, Cunard and HAL. We have taken five HAL cruises over the last several years but have been devoted Celebrity cruisers for the most part. This was our third cruise in 2012 and we took our adult sons over New Years as a celebration for both of them one completing his undergrad and the other starting his working career.
We had an excellent experience through embarkation, the gentleman checking us in was enthusiastic, friendly and very sincere. The most pleasant interaction and welcome ever!
Our stateroom was a typical balcony, size around 250 square feet. Balcony is wide but very shallow. Balcony tables were very worn out. There was evidence in the bathroom of a damage worn floor and cracked sink bowl as well a musty smell probably coming from the shower curtains. This was surprising as the ship is only four years old. The TV was a very small flat screen that was not interactive as on other ships. The storage was adequate but the top cupboards are too high and are dangerous to open and close as they are not spring loaded.
Our cabin attendants Alim and Yulius were excellent. Always a pleasant greeting and our needs were always looked after.
The ship itself is a practical size not too big or small, but the configuration is quite disjointed as the outside compartments are chopped up and you must climb up and down stairs on various levels to travel from one end to another.
The sail away was fun with the Hal band and entertainment staff dancing and encouraging everyone to participate.
I recognized a certain gentleman near the band, who`s picture I had seen before. It was the President and CEO of HAL, Stein Kruse. As it would turn out later that evening he was on board ship with his family and extended. We actually sat beside the three tables they occupied for dinner. It was interesting to see the staff hovering around these tables making an extra special effort to look after them. I wondered if it would take away from the service we received. It didn`t but trying to flag down a wine sommelier was next to impossible.
As the week progressed it became obvious to us that there was something dreadfully wrong with the service staff in the restaurant. The Indonesian and Filipino staff are usually friendly but they were overwhelmed, service was slow and it seemed that their service teams really were not working well together. Having to ask for a soiled tablecloth to be changed after we were seated for dinner was terrible. Having to ask for coffee and juice at breakfast, and waiting and waiting and then having to remind them, it became ridiculous. We opted for breakfast in the Lido after the first two mornings.
The food was average at best in the main dining room. We booked Tamarind their specialty Asian Fusion restaurant for New Years eve and although the service was excellent the food was uninspiring.
We booked an evening in the Pinnacle Grill to experience ``Le Cirque`` and all I can say is the original founder of this famed eatery would be ashamed to have his name sake associated with HAL! You pay $39.00 per person to receive sub par service, food that had to be returned and indifferent attitudes from the wait staff. This was hyped up to be a special culinary experience, shameful. I complained at the front desk the next morning and asked to be contacted by the Food and Beverage Manager or Restaurant Manager. I didn't expect to be contacted at all based on the service we had received earlier in the cruise. To my surprise the manager called and took my complaints and suggestions seriously. He wanted to extend an evening at Pinnacle Grill for us to make up for the blunder. We ate the last night of the cruise and I could not believe the difference! The food was from their regular menu and was excellent! The service was superb and the manager said we would have a special evening, he made up for it and kudos to him for taking us seriously. This was the only saving grace for this cruise. Do not waste your time and money on Le Cirque!!! Regular Pinnacle Grill is excellent and is only $25.00 per person. A bargain in comparison.
Tendering, we unfortunately had to tender into all the ports except Costa Maya. You have to go to the Queens Lounge a small club to receive your tender tickets. We had booked three private excursions and we had to be off on the first tender. This means having to arrive at the lounge an hour or before to make sure you are in line first. This venue needs to be changed to the Theatre as it is impossible to get two thousand people off loaded in a small venue. It is dangerous and people were panicking and were very upset.
New Years Eve party in the Theatre was a blast and JC the slick cruise director did a great job. The band played and everyone had great fun. The dancers and singers were very talented but their production scores with back tracks rendered their performance to mediocre.
HAL needs to get their act together in regards to their ridiculous alcohol policy. This became an annoyance! Our two adult sons are soon to be 22 and 24. They had their own stateroom and have their own room keys which state that they are age of majority. This is indicated on the room card key. If the letter M is shown this stands for minor and if it is not there they are old enough to consume alcoholic beverages. This was confirmed by the front desk and we were told that all food and beverage staff knew this. What a joke! Our son`s were constantly asked for ID even at dinner in front of us. I had too get firm with some of the wait staff and tell them they were of age and were our sons. Yes they are young looking but it became an unnecessary hassle. They were forced to bring along a driver`s license with picture ID. Maybe HAL has their reasons but the whole thing seemed silly.
In summary, I really don`t like to be so negative but we have a great basis for comparison with Celebrity and Cunard. Our family had a great time being together and doing our own thing on shore. Scuba diving in Grand Cayman, Zip lining in Roatan, Honduras, beach time and snorkeling and just relaxing. I am sorry to say though we will not cruise HAL again. The Eurodam is a beautiful ship and we were told that it is the top rated HAL ship in the fleet. If this is the case HAL is in great trouble. The management needs to be upgraded. We enjoy Celebrity Cruises and they seem to know how to deliver refined service in a friendly manner. We travel in Aqua class on Celebrity and enjoy the dining experiences and the personal touches we receive.
HAL needs to sell off their older smaller ships and invest in larger newer and upscale ones to compete. There Vista class ships and Signature class ships are a great size but the service and food need to go more upscale to keep up with the competition. In 2015 HAL will be introducing their Pinnacle class ships so hopefully this will revamp this once revered cruise line.
Stein Kruse you have your work cut out for you!