You may wonder why I only gave this a 4 star review, when for all the sub-items below I have rated them as 5 stars. The answer is because the ship had just come out of a two week dry dock, and as a result, many cabins, and some hallways ... Read More
You may wonder why I only gave this a 4 star review, when for all the sub-items below I have rated them as 5 stars. The answer is because the ship had just come out of a two week dry dock, and as a result, many cabins, and some hallways had been flooded, and had no hot water or HVAC. One is always warned never to take the first cruise after a refit, and fortunately, I was not significantly inconvenienced, suffering just 3 days without hot water,(and in the Caribbean, that is not really an issue).
However, what was of concern was the lines of 40+ people every day for three days at the front desk trying to get new cabins, and the complete indifference of the staff, and captain, to their plight.
I am a management consultant, and while every customer expects everything to be perfect, sometimes things go wrong. When this happens, the company should acknowledge their mistake and try to make amends (although a number of customers will never be satisfied). In the case of the burst water pipes, the captain should have had all of his engineering staff working flat out to fix them, instead of just putting buckets out to catch the water, and should have put all of his administrative staff on front desk duties to relieve the load on the three regular staff. He should have instructed those staff to acknowledge that there was an issue rather than trying to minimize it, and given out free drink vouchers to affected passengers. An announcement of apologies might have helped as well.
His failure to do this led a very large number of passengers to swear that they will never take a HAL cruise again, which is a shame, because where the ship was ship shape, it was sparkling. The food was excellent. The Lido restaurant has been improved so much in terms of service level and food choice that I ate every breakfast there.
Lincoln Center Stage provides erudite performances for those who want "a cut above" in terms of entertainment, but the enlarged piano bar is also obviously a huge success as it was full to overflowing every night.
Long time cruisers please note: Main Stage entertainment times have now been brought forward half an hour, to 1930 and 2130, so that it is difficult to attend the second performance if you are on the late Fixed Seating. As a result, I moved to "As You Wish" so that I could attend the performances.
This years "cost cutting miserlyness" has been the removal of all small flower decorations from dining tables, and most large ones from the public areas of the ship. As a result, it looks somewhat spartan and minimalist, and I wonder how many hundreds of thousands they paid some nit-picker at head office to do away with something which added class and panache. Such nit-picker can probably tell management how many thousand dollars will be saved by not providing flowers, but what he can't ascertain is how many sailings will NOT be booked by customers who see this as a downgrade of their overall experience and will transfer their loyalty to Oceania instead.
Embarkation was efficient, although the "VIP Lounge" was just a separate seating area - no snacks or coffee - very disappointing. Debarkation was the most efficient I have ever encountered. 45 minutes from leaving the ship to being at my departure gate at FLL!
BTW, do NOT use taxis from the port. I learned from my last cruise that they are corrupt and take you two miles north before doubling back, and thus charging $20+ for a 20 minute ride. The taxi commissioner does not care. So use shared vans or Uber as they take you the direct way, 4.1 miles for $11 in 7 minutes.
Finally, this itinerary was fantastic for me, as a diver and snorkeler. There were options to do this on almost all the islands. I will be taking this itinerary again, as I enjoyed it so much. And I will take Volendam again as the cabin and dining stewards were so exceptional. Read Less