The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package.
Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm.
We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap
Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day.
DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out.
We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember.
Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate.
The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM.
The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course.
As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do.
The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again.
The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable
THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated
The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention.
We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself.
Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble