4th cruise around NZ at Xmas in 5 years, the previous two on Volendam and this year decided to try the larger Oosterdam and do back-to-back cruise by combining the 14nt NZ with the following 10nt Pacific is cruise.
Remarkable difference in passengers between the two cruises. the Xmas/New year cruise was a quite old crowd, as had been the previous two years, but the second cruise beginning 02 Jan was much younger, noisier and double the families, showing the difference in pricing that HAL had offered. the Xmas cruise is always considerably dearer than their other departures.
Sup Verandah 6111 was an excelent cabin. Good location, little noise, spacious and like all HAL cabins, laid out with plenty of cupboards and drawers. Many complained about the lack of an Aust power point but we were prepared with an adaptor. We also bought the Suite Amenities package which I consider excellent value - 2 full size bottle of liquor, 2 bottles of wine, 2 monogrammed bathrobes, canapes or high tea in cabin every day, dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, 2 x $50 beverage cards an most particularly unlimited laundry and pressing. This is worth its weight in gold as you can take less clothes along and just keep getting them washed.
Food was consistantly good although rarely reached great. The Pinnacle Grill is worth a visit but really once only. We also did the Cirque dinner but found this a little disappointing and just a variation on the regular Pinnacle experience. HAL's policy of allowing guests to take wine to dinner with a corkage of US$18 is great as we were able to take better wines than their winelist.
Entertainment was a bit of a fritz. The Crows nest, arguably the nicest bar on the ship, was ruined by having the same very poor guitarist wailing away every single night, usually to a bored crowd of 10-15 people. The Piano Bar performer was handicapped by having an injured hand courtesy of a "female" passenger who slammed a door on his hand in protest about his temerity to hold a door open for her. The showroom performers were not of a high standard.
In the contentious matter of smoking, I congratulate HAL for still not treating smokers like lepers. I do question though why they can't put a door across the Sports Bar so nonsmokers would stop complaining and instead of allowing smoking on all private balconies, limit them instead to the rear 25-33% so the moke is always blow backwards away from the other cabins. Two smple moves that would appease nonsmokers without hurting we smokers. And Pooh Pooh to all the parents on the second cruise who would sit at the smoking outdoor Seaview Bar, drinking and smoking with their little kids for hours on end. There was a constant argument on the second cruise between adults who pointed out the the rear pool is adults-only and the families who insisted on ignoring that rule. HALstaff did nothing apart from putting up a printed sign which was gone the next day.
As a premium cruise line HAL was excellent on the first cruise but the second reflected the fact that HAL, like most other lines, has had to drop prices which in turn lowered the standard of the passengers. And agents have to direct people to the ships that most suit them. HAL is not a party line, and it hurts the experience to see people wandering around in thongs (flipflops) on formal nights.
But I would definitely travel HAL again.