What an experience. And not one we are likely to endure again. Being 3-Star Marinermembers, we really expected better out of HAL.
Embarkation Day found that the profile we had set up - cash deposit to take care of our onboard expenses - had been "mysteriously" changed to the charge card we had used to pay for our trip. As I had already withdrawn the cash for the deposit and had written checks for the full month we were to be gone the shock that some checks might bounce was shocking. After working up the empty-headed front desk people ("there is nothing we can do" blank stares) to the purser we finally got the hold taken off our charge card. What a way to start a cruise.
The Westerdam is in very poor condition. We found hand rails loose or missing, parts held together with masking tape, dirty dishes and glasses everywhere. The cabin was filthy - you should see the bottom of my slippers and the drapes were black with soot and grime. We ended up cleaning the cabin all over again upon check in as the former occupants' toiletries in the bathroom and their underthings under the bed.
The food was pretty poor. We had pre-paid for the Pinnacle Grill for 10 nights and after three tries, finally cancelled out the rest of the reservations and got our money back. The manager, Roger did his best, but it was very apparent that the kitchen was out to get even with anyone who had the nerve to send food back - one night rotten fish which smelled up the table. Le Cirque's night was a joke. The soup was made with canned cream corn and my husband was showered with beef grease as the waiter tried to hack up the steak. The main dining room was an endurance contest. Could you get your food before you pitched in the floor in exhaustion? Food in both venues were consistently cold when finally being plopped in front of you. Any time dining? Rather more like Never Time Dining.
The Liddo Deck food venue - heaven help us - was the only place where you could get something to eat that was hot. These people did a pretty fine job considering the limitations of steam table food. Lunch became our main meal and we opted for a little pasta or salad for dinner.
Shore Excursions, again the weakest point for HAL, went beyond inept. Joe the excursion boy has now sunk to rude. We were booked on a snorkel excursion in the Turks where we were told it was a law of the country that we wear a snorkel vest. This is a lie. The vests were molded and stunk of body sweat. I declined to wear it and more money wasted. This should have been disclosed in the booking description and I would have brought our own vests. When my husband went to complain, Joe in Shore Excursions, got nasty and told him that once we booked an excursion we "were screwed." Nice to know that HAL operates like that. We cancelled the rest of the excursions and would book our own when we went ashore. This resulted in much better excursions and much LOWER prices. Buy a travel guide and do your own leg work.
I ran across Joe Excursions before our encounter over the snorkel trip. He had been tasked to help a handicapped woman go through the mandatory off/on the ship thing after the first leg of the cruise in Ft. Lauderdale. He was making nasty faces behind her back as he pushed her along as though such work was beneath him. We really thought he was going to tip over her chair as he pushed her up the ramp. Quality staff there.
We never saw any of the senior staff except one Q&A the first week with the captain. Someone asked a rather stupid question of him - ok, there is always a crack pot in every bunch - and the man reacted poorly. After that never saw him or any other senior officers again. It was quite apparent that HAL is running this operation as though it were a freight company and the passengers are cargo.
Congratulations HAL - you have now lost the best customer to have, the one that comes back.