This was our third cruise with HAL, the others being Alaska and Mediterranean, which they offered to us at an attractive rate for being returning cruisers. ( Mariner's Society members ). We cruised a sector of the Australian Circumnavigation cruise and found it a very pleasant way to get to Melbourne. The ship was sick with GI problems ( probably norovirus but this was not mentioned by name. ) and the crew handled this very well, making sure of hand sanitising, cleaning stair handrails, lifts, crew serving food in the buffet etc. The ship was beautifully clean all over. The food was fine. The ship was well furbished. Our stateroom was very nice - quite roomy as far as cruise accommodation goes - and kept well cleaned by our steward. We were in the lower portion of the ship and right in the middle so felt no rocking and rolling even in the Bight.
Our major complaint was the cost of the shore excursions and the lack of or inaccuracy of information about the ports. The shore excursion guide was a lady with quite a strong accent and she was hard to understand at times. She seemed a bit unsure of herself, or the information she was giving. She seemed to say, " ... and things like that." a lot.
What really made us furious ( and we were not the only ones ) was in Adelaide where we were docked, as is usual, at Outer Harbour which is quite a distance from the CBD. There was no shuttle. ( that's OK ) but HAL offered us a bus @ $AUS45 each for a return trip to the city. As we were there for 2 days, this added up to a cost of $AUS180 for the two of us. We decided to get a taxi and hope to share it with other passengers. Then we all noticed the train station 150m away from the dock. Hmmmm. We had asked about public transport and were told it was the bus or the taxi.Over the 2 days of our South Australian visit we shared that train with a large number of disgruntled HAL guests who shared our feelings. It cost us a total of $AUS15 for the weekend. My husband travelled at no charge on all forms of public transport as he is an Australian Senior. I bought an all-day travel pass for $AUS10 and also paid for a one way $AUS5 ticket on the first day.
At Kangaroo Island it was worse. The cheapest shore excursion was a whopping $AUS200 pp and the most expensive was $AUS595 pp and this got you a seat in a Landcruiser ( and a meal ) for the day! We decided to go ashore , by tender, and have a little look and then go back to the ship for lunch. On shore, the locals had put on some markets which included a $AUS50 pp boat and bus excursion for 75 mins. It was the best thing we could have done and we had a ball. They were the best photos I took on the whole cruise. We saw seals, dolphins playing close to the boat, cormorants and learnt all about Kangaroo Island from a local. The tour operator was thrilled because they had a full day's work taking happy people out in their boat twelve ppl at a time. It was very personal.
At Port Lincoln, a local tour operator cancelled a day's worth of work to accommodate HAL to be told the day before we were due that the excursions with him were cancelled as no-one had booked. No wonder HAL had hiked up the price so much. He was on the dock with a sign, trying to drum up business so he made at least some money that day.
The cruise lines do tend to put the frighteners on guests about the local operators and saying things like "We guarantee the ship won't leave without you if you use our ship's approved tour" and "We have checked out these tour for safety, comfort and value for money." Fair enough. But give the guests a choice, not just an expensive option. We are not risk-takers and would not go quad biking and bungy jumping ! We have never had a problem with any independently booked tour or shared taxi, although we have been careful, and were disappointed in regard to the HAL Shore Excursions