Just arrived back today (19 January 2014) from a South Pacific Cruise departing Sydney. Firstly, the cabin upgrade from verandah to veranda suite was a lovely surprise and was really appreciated.
Then comes the rest, not necessarily so good.
Food: Main dining room choices, style and flavour were very good as was the Pinnacle Grill.Temperature checks need to be done in the Main dining room, as often food temperatures were barely safe serving temperature.The Lido was passable with reasonable but limited choices.
Service standards and staffing levels: Open seating in the main dining room was a debacle from day 1 with a wait time of 45 minutes but ok, it was the first night. After attempting to book for for following nights, I was told that the only available times were 5.15pm or 5.30pm. Every night was line up and then wait for 30 to 45 minutes to be seated. Once seated, the service was good but it is obvious that staff numbers have been cut dramatically, particularly in Wine and Food Service and it is very noticeable. The wine waiters can only serve wine by the bottle. The food servers now take orders for all drinks including glasses of wine, this poses difficulties and takes more time. Our last cruise with HAL was Sept 2012 in Europe and the reduction of staff numbers is very obvious and having a serious impact of quality and service standards. No more coffee/tea trolley in the Lido, over the 14 days, we were lucky to see 2 trolleys go by. Ran out of clothe serviettes and cutlery on the last lunch day in the Lido. Cabin stewards are amazing, the work they do and the time they get to do it in is amazing, 10 minutes per room and no overtime. Those guys are worth every tip they get and then some.
Furnishing and fit out: VERY Tired,with the Oosterdam in real need of upgrade from soft furnishings right through to general furnishing. Lots of holes and stuffing showing through in cushions and lounges both in cabins and public areas, wooden tables, chairs and railings needing major sanding and revarnishing, worn carpets in all public areas including stairways and corridors.
We have a European cruise booked with HAL in September 2014 and I hope this shows some major improvements, otherwise this Mariner will be travelling with another line.