The original intention of this cruise was to get us to or near Japan where we would visit with old friends.
This was actually a segment of a segment of the world cruise that was meant to begin in Mumbai. When we saw a shore excursion opportunity to Angkor Wat we priced it and decided to begin the segment in Singapore instead, and spend what we would have spent on shore excursions for a three day holiday in Bangkok, three days in Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) and three days in Singapore where we would meet the ship.
The cost of those nine days in 5 star hotels and air from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Singapore equalled what we would have paid for a two and a half day shore excursion offered by HAL for each of us! Such are the costs of shore excursions.
The vessel is what you would expect from one of HALs flagships. It seemed to be in terrific condition. From cabins to public rooms, the ship is beautiful. I didn't see evidence of aging. Our cabin had a leak in the bathroom and there was an occasional odor of diesel fuel just outside our door, but neither interfered with our enjoyment of the ship.
People are always interested in food.
HAL seems to be putting the money out in the food and beverage department. The usual comfort food was available poolside, as was an assortment of pastries for a good part of the day in the Lido. Breakfasts were unremarkable which is not a bad thing. They were breakfasts and hard to fault in the Lido or DR.
Lunch was a different matter. The stir fries were awful, and truly an embarrassment. The vegetable chicken stir fry had a single piece of chicken and when I asked where the vegetables were, the server found one with his tongs and added it to my dish. I would not mention it except that I saw a video of the executive chef talking about his wonderful "fresh fresh fresh" stirfries so I thought it was worth a notation.
I think dinner was what you would expect for a vessel catering to North American taste. The steaks in the dining room were of generous portion. I don't think they did vegetables well and on the whole I thought dinners sort of missed. Or - it may just be that we don't eat those sorts of dinners anymore. I heard no one speak of the food in either positive or negative terms. Oddly enough, complimentary champagne flowed on two nights.
As to the atmosphere of the ship, well, that was a big surprise.
We were used to going on vacation cruises with other people going on vacation cruises - with all the positive energy that that implies. Cruisers are usually excited, and that rubs off on the crew.
Well the majority of people on this ship had been aboard for a very long time, with a long time to go. They were "residing" on the ship as opposed to cruising on it. It seemed to be less a vehicle for a cruise than a giant apartment building with a rolling view. The atmosphere was flat. You saw it in the passengers and you saw it in the staff. I have never seen staff so ambivalent. Not nasty or lazy - they just didn't take the pains to give a darn.
This was an observation confirmed to us by other cruisers who came on for a while in Singapore. "Boring" was the word that kept coming up to describe their experience.
The ports themselves were interesting. Cambodia and Viet Nam were both worth the visit. though the port was quite a distance from Ho Chi Minh city.
I would say I do not agree with HALs new policy of requiring no signature for beverages purchased under $20. I myself have disagreed with charges on my cruise bill on previous cruises and by producing the original signed bill, the issue was resolved.
Business should be done in a business-like manner, and charges should be signed for.
Bills, however small, must be signed for in the shops. When I enquired as to why, they said their experience was such that bill signing was deemed to be imperative. I agree.
Also, HAL has a policy of not allowing your internet time to lapse if you are still connected with your computer. The rationale is that it is a courtesy to allow you to finish your business. But if you forget to log-out and leave your computer or ipod or device connected for an hour or so, you will be billed. I asked the administrator how that could be as it would be clear that a machine was not used over that time. He said Windows machines send message packets out periodically and that constitutes use.
So Moral Hazard hit HAL. Wall Street sails the high seas.
Guest Relations was surprised to hear of the new policies which are fleet wide. They sent a message to HAL about both issues. HAL sent a subsequent communication stipulating the $20 rule must be followed. I heard nothing about the internet rule.
We disembarked in Singapore in what was a smooth process, and we were on our way.
Would we sail HAL again - probably, but not based on their performance on this cruise.