Overall, HAL has gotten fat and lazy, just like most of its clientele. It doesn't make any effort to assure that the information they provide about ports is comprehensive or current. The furniture in the rooms is stained, dirty, badly beaten down and some of it is broken. The carpeting in the main entertainment center has shredded and ripped areas, which pose an actual tripping hazard. It makes no effort from start to finish on a cruise to vary the menu at the Pool Grill, Pool buffet, Main Dining room and Specialty restaurants. Food is heavily salted, fatty, starchy, and prepared in some of the greasiest ways possible. Even the salad bar lacks healthy choices as they load it with starchy choices along with numerous salads made with mayonnaise. HAL policies and practices are too rigid, but they manage to put the company's wellbeing ahead of the customer, at all times.
The embarkation process at Sydney was a complete third world experience. Computers shut down and needed re-booting but no one knew that for about an hour. Then 1800 people had to be processed through a temporary "tent" facility and put into large groups to wait to be called. When a group was called, people rushed up without regard for the group number they were in and the crew could not check because there was no card given that said what group number you were in. Check in took in excess of 90 minutes, regardless of when a person arrived. Pure chaos.
The cruise wasted two days (of the published itinerary) at sea doing nothing but circles and floating. This was an affront to us. It is misrepresentation when HAL used a sea day to go from one port to another when the actual travel time on the ship at 15 knots would be less than 12 hours. This results in false figures when making comparisons between competitors' cruises. Adding unnecessary days to the schedule, just to inflate the cruise duration is a misleading and crass practice. HAL knowingly went to a city (Noumea) that is completely shut down on Sunday. McDonald's was the only business open in a town of 100,000 people. All shops were closed, all museums were closed. Waste of time. The captain had the opportunity to rectify this problem when a storm caused him to re-plan 8 days of the cruise's port schedule once we were underway. He chose to skip a port, just to keep the scheduled arrival at Noumea on the day it was completely closed.
HAL does way too much nickel and dime costs once on board. Everything costs, even events that are free on virtually all cruise lines. HAL does everything it can to extract dollars from the customers pockets once you are on board. Not even water for the room is free. Bar costs are way too high ($7-14) for 1 ounce measured pours PLUS a service charge of 15% even if you don't have a waiter involved. Very high daily tip ($24) is automatically charged to your cabin for services provided by all the staff on board.
HAL caters to a clientele that is way too old, disabled, grumpy and low class.
Restaurant menus never change from day to day. Even in their specialty restaurants, the menus are so old that the covers are breaking up. I would expect this from a poorly run greasy-spoon diner, but not some operation like HAL who lauds themselves as being a class act. Entertainment during the main shows at night is more like amateur night. The lounge shows were between horrid and acceptable.
The person providing information about the various ports often did not provide accurate information about free shuttles. She was only interested in selling more excursions from the ship and actually gave us false information about services such as telling us we could only get into two ports by taking the ship's transportation which cost a hefty fee. At both ports, the local visitor bureau had free shuttles which did not require us to wait for 50 other people the waddle on board. The maps supplied by the ship were practically worthless and much of the information was dated and inaccurate, sometimes by years. When asked about the resources available at a local town, the staff always pleaded total ignorance about anything but the ship's excursions, yet they spoke in terms of the broad and expansive experience and knowledge they had regarding all the ports before the ship got to them. If a person wanted to watch the ship's office staff go mute, one only had to ask them where the free WiFi locations were in town. At a number of ports, the local visitors' bureaus set up free WiFi at the dock and even though the ship had been to the port before AND the huge "Free WiFi" signs were visible from the ship, none of the staff (except the waiters and cabin attendants) would "know anything" about free WiFi before a port. The actions of the crew makes one wonder if it was all another way to sell more shipboard internet time.
There are signs posted at one of two pools and at the heated spas stating that children under 14 are not allowed. Parents would ignore the sign or they weren't around the pool when their children used all pools and heated spas. When the ship's staff was approached to correct this situation, nothing was done, repeatedly. Therefore, we had to endure children as young as 4 jumping and screaming in both pools and all the heated spas for the duration of the cruise.
One of our email accounts was attacked by a virus provided through the internet service on board. The hacking was so malicious, we received thousands of emails which bypassed the normal spam controls and ended up in our inbox. The provider of that public email service had to shut down our account and we have subsequently had to terminate its existence. Thank you, HAL.
The ship makes a big deal about doing things environmentally correct, but every day our mail slot outside our cabin had 2-4 pieces of paper with junk advertising for the on-board shops, art auctions, gambling, future cruises and excursions. Our recycle trash can was full every day with just junk mail we had to discard.
The Cruise Director held an "event" on the last day at sea just to tell all on board that the ratings in the customer survey needed to be scored a minimum of 9 on their scale. Pandering good survey reviews in this manner makes the survey process a sham. Just another strike against the integrity of HAL cruises.