My husband and I sailed on the ms Statendam, May 5th through May 10th. We were in a veranda stateroom.
I had previously notified, via our travel agent, that we are vegans. When we embarked, we made our first night's dinner reservation, and I told the person handling that about us being vegan. He told us that there was nothing to be done for that evening, but our restaurant steward would give us the vegetarian menu for the next night.
I was very dismayed to discover that over 75% of the items on the vegetarian menu contain eggs and dairy products. This left me with a small number of items to select from. I was even more dismayed to discover that this one menu was meant to meet my dining needs for the entire cruise. When I asked about a small change to an item, I was informed that such changes were not possible. So, not only was there just the one menu, but for the entire cruise I would be selecting from 5 items.
The food was obviously steam tabled for an extended period of time, with very mushy, overcooked vegetables, and dried out breading on items. Since we had dinner reservations, the cook staff knew when we would be there, and could have prepared our food accordingly.
We tried the Lido, as well, as I figured I could put together something tasty from the buffet. No. If there was a "vegetarian choice" on the Lido, it contained eggs, dairy, and once, even bacon! I'm not sure who their head chef is, but this person apparently does not have a clue about what vegetarian means. There was basic lettuce mix, without any sort of variety, and a few salad items, like tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. I could not even get oil and vinegar on the Lido buffet.
This is totally not acceptable. When we go on a cruise, fine dining is part of our experience. This was lousy dining.
We sailed on Princess last fall. Every evening, the head waiter would bring the REGULAR menu to our table for the next evening, go over it with us, and make note of all the changes required to make our meal vegan. We had an amazing variety of food, freshly prepared, and did not feel in the least that we were settling for less than what others enjoyed.
Not so on the Statendam. I felt like I should have brought my own sack lunch.
After dinner, I asked for a soy cappuccino. I was told that I could not get soy. Excuse me? Later, our steward decided that we could, indeed, get soy milk in the dining room.
Oh, and when asking for things at dinner, the stewards do not repeat back what you said. This allows a fair amount of mistakes. Our steward would not repeat back "soy cappuccino". He would only say cappuccino. How do I know that he comprehends that it must be soy milk?
I was less than impressed with service on HAL. While there seemed to be a lot of staff, they apparently will not go one single extra step to provide service. I asked for coffee at one of the bars (my husband was getting a mixed drink at the time), and was told to go get it from the Lido myself. This shocked me. On Princess, when my husband ordered a drink, coffee was provided to me, without complaint. What really surprises me about this, is there are coffee-based drinks on the bar menus! How do they manage to make those, if there is no coffee?
There was no attempt made by any server on board to learn our names, or our preferences.
I was also a bit disturbed by the Explorations Cafe coffee bar. While there is a lovely barista machine, with proper cups stacked on it, whenever we would go there for a coffee, the espresso was obtained from an automatic machine instead, the shots allowed to go sour before the soy milk was added, and the drinks were served in paper cups. Paper cups? Well, I suppose the quality of the espresso drinks only deserved the paper cups, but it did seem rather cheap and tacky to me. The barista machine was, apparently, only for show.
I did not have a great cruise on HAL. The service levels were really substandard, and the food was of poor quality, and extremely limited selection. I will go back to Princess, where I will be able to enjoy truly fine dining, and the personal service. Princess coffee bar staff know how to use a barista machine, too.