We have been busy cruising in the last 12 months. We have sailed on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival and now HAL. I have previously sailed on HAL, but it has been about 12 years. We booked this cruise for a cheap getaway (no airfare) and to unwind, relax, and not think about work for a week. While we did manage thoughts of Coronas, sun, and cerviche instead of computers and customers, HAL turned out to be a somewhat disappointing experience.
What we loved...
In general, just about everything we ate we enjoyed. Desserts were very good. We dined at Pinnacle Grill on 2 nights and had enjoyed it immensely. Dining room food was all very good. Loved the Make to order items in the Buffet during the day and the waffles and omelets were worth having every day. I did have a few issues with the overcooking of fish, but all in all a fine dining experience.
We booked an SZ guarantee and were upgraded to SY (6102). The room was spacious, balcony large and a great deal for the price we paid. We spent a lot of time in our room due to how comfortable it was.
The weather was perfect... which is odd for this itinerary. It was sunny and warm all but Day 7.
Our days in Cabo and PV. With nothing at all planned we were able to just walk until we found something that interested us.
What we liked...
We liked the lack of announcements and the fact that the captain came on hourly on Friday to update the ship of potential tsunami. While many were aware of the safety, the entourage of calls I received on Saturday let me know that many did not.
The DVD players in every room and huge variety of movies you can borrow.
The Piano bar and Randall were entertaining. Plus there are 2 for 1 drinks in there at night. The price of alcohol was the least expensive we have seen on board a ship.
You are able to bring on board your favorite wines for in room and dining room consumption.
There was a large number of GLBT on this cruise and the crew was very friendly to us.
What we did not like...
The formal nights and the plethora of costumes. Men are forced to wear jackets, but let in passengers with jeans. The temperature in the dining room makes this whole evening very uncomfortable. If there are so many restrictions on what men can wear, why can women get away with short dresses, flip flops, etc. They need to either be all in or all out on the formal discussion.
The long lines in the Lido buffet. As much as we enjoyed the make to order items, they certainly caused longer lines. In general, the whole area is poorly designed. It did not help that they were serving us food for 4 days due to the 48 hour rule in place on HAL and then a heightened number of GI issues after those 48 hours. While I appreciate HAL taking precautions, they really need to teach their staff a little lesson on cross contamination when they are wearing gloves and how they should changing them when making contact with another person. The better idea is to have someone stationed outside dining areas requiring people to use the sanitation OR people should be responsible enough to just wash their hands.
The ship design and dEcor. The interiors are so dark and the lighting so poor throughout that I always felt so enclosed that I never wanted to be in the area. Also, with the sliding roof over the Lido pool taking up much of the deck above it, much of the open deck space is wasted. We did like the open aft pool area and its views. We also like the Crow's nest, though it was always very busy.
The vegetarian options on the main menu were not labeled vegetarian. It is pretty standard to have a V or some sort of recognition for those that choose to be a vegetarian.
What was appalling...
Service in general was a huge disappointment. Our room steward did the bare necessities of daily cleaning. He acted more as someone who turns down beds and replaces towels. We ordered room service late one evening, were told that it would be an hour. It never came. In the Piano bar during "happy hour" Jimmi had ordered a drink and it was made with the wrong alcohol (whiskey instead of Captain Morgan). When he told the server about this he assured Jimmi that it was made with the right alcohol and walked away. It was obvious that the server had accidentally mixed up the drinks, but never took ownership of his mistake.
The constant reminder to give high scores on the survey at the end of the cruise is annoying. Simple fact is that if you provide a level of service that is a 9, you will receive a 9. If you do not, you will not. Suggesting what score I should give you after giving me poor service will not change this fact.
The general condition of the ship - The Oosterdam looked aged. There were a lot of ripped cushions, broken tiles, torn lounge chairs, etc. Having been on a Princess ship roughly the same age less than a year ago, you can really tell the difference. Not sure when the last dry dock was, but she could use it again.
That HAL continued stopping at Mazatlan as long as they did. Our decision was made easy to stay on the ship as we watched the Federali helicopter circling and 25 hummer type armed and manned with 4-5 men lined up across the street from the port. It is a shame that there is so much violence here, it was just astonishing to me that HAL took their chances. I am happy that changes were made to upcoming cruises.
I guess you can judge my final opinion of HAL on the fact that I did not buy a future cruise credit as I do on almost every cruise. While I would consider them for another cruise, we are much better suited on Celebrity, Princess or Royal Caribbean.