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Sail Date: January 2015
This is only my second cruise with HAL my first was five years ago on the Zaandam spending two weeks in Hawaii. We did say that due to the very high percentage of senior citizens on board we would probably not cruise with HAL again. ... Read More
This is only my second cruise with HAL my first was five years ago on the Zaandam spending two weeks in Hawaii. We did say that due to the very high percentage of senior citizens on board we would probably not cruise with HAL again. Although it is great that HAL accommodates quite infirm guests with drips oxygen tanks etc there was such a high percentage on board that the evening entertainment, (we had late dining) bars etc were lacking in atmosphere,however the itinerary of the Rotterdam cruise was the reason we decided to give HAL another go. Things did not get off to a good start, embarkation was a disaster. Our early flight from Gatwick to Dubai ment we arrived at the port early along with plenty of others.I did think that perhaps we would have to wait around a while although MSC were embarking their guest at the same terminal as us straight away and with entertainment. We kept being informed embarkation would start in another 30 minutes, this farce went on for a couple of hours then they brought staff to the front desk and started training them up in front of us, including teaching them how to process our credit cards. After no more then 15 minutes of training they let them loose on us and our credit cards! We weren't feeling too confident, however despite needing help to process the card we were given our stateroom card and hurriedly rushed away to find our room. We were pleasantly surprised to find the room ready and did not have to wait to long for our cases. All the staff on board were friendly and helpfull. We met some really nice people off all age groups, we had no problems finding a sunbed. We enjoyed the cocktail bar at the Mix for pre dinner drinks and the happy hour was most appreciated. We had dinner at 8pm, although the dining staff were very helpful, the food was a bit hit and miss for my taste. For example it had a lovely selection of fish, but was often spoilt by sweet sickly sauces. I only went to two shows, the flutist from Northern Ireland was very good, he left at Cochin and a new entertainer was to take his place but he did not arrive, and for the next week HAL had to improvise a bit.I did not hear any complaints so they must have managed to overcome the problem. The intinary was the main draw, with Burma being the highlight. I did not take any HAL tours and as we were in Burma overnight I arranged months earlier a guide to pick us up, he booked us a hotel for the night and gave us two full days of attractions to visit it was amazing with some great memories. All ports were reached without tenders, this you might think a good thing, however this often meant you were not near the main attractions and lengthy expensive cab fairs were needed if you did not want to make do with the nearest attraction to the port. This particularly applied to Thailand. There were some good lectures on sea days and the wine tasting seminars were very good. Overall this was a very enjoyable cruise with good staff good company and a great intinary, what more can you ask for (apart from a smooth check in) !   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
We sailed from Dubai, having had a casual greeting on arrival at the terminal. No great welcome, more a were you on the last leg and we've missed you? OK 1500 passengers, and a very pleasant staff, but just no feeling of anyone in ... Read More
We sailed from Dubai, having had a casual greeting on arrival at the terminal. No great welcome, more a were you on the last leg and we've missed you? OK 1500 passengers, and a very pleasant staff, but just no feeling of anyone in control. I was amazed that our luggage was already in our cabin when we entered, so a positive start after our non-greeting on arrival, but quickly followed by a disappointment when we discovered there was no fridge! However, ice was available in copious amounts, so we made sure that we always had plenty of cold water and drinks by buying a cold box, which we kept filled with ice throughout the time on board. First stop Abu Dhabi, and.a rather chaotic start, with maybe a shuttle bus, maybe not! Many people waited ages for a bus to take them to a local shopping mall 8 km away, but a shuttle bus to the port gates entailed a shorter wait of about 20 minutes. Port information was poor throughout the cruise, and the point of docking was only shown on the map on two occasions, making it difficult to make any last minute decisions about where to walk to or visit. This was a recurring theme, with ship excursions being pushed and little other information available. We did try a couple of excursions, but the organisation was poor, with getting from ship to bus a real bun fight, with staircases blocked for lengthy periods and on one occasion, coinciding with a ship exercise for staff, which cancelled any use of lifts when passengers in wheelchairs and with walking difficulties were trying to go down 4 decks to access the buses! On one of the excursions we took, one of the places to visit was missed completely, and the tour which was advertised to last 4.5 hours was completed in less than 3.5 This was not the general case however, as many of the excursions were more than 2 hours late, ensuring the late departure of the ship on several occasions! Excursions were expensive and not good value, and in the case of Komodo Island $ 120 for an excursion which lasted 1.25 hours! Drinks were pricey, with not all information forthcoming. Eventually we managed to work out that it was cheaper to buy beer by the bucket from room service and also to ask for house wine, which was not advertised in bar menus! The dining room was pleasant with adequate service, but there is a secret to getting a table for 2, if like us, you prefer to eat without having to be polite to absolute strangers. For the first few nights we failed to find the secret to solitary eating, but having been told that if we called, we could reserve a table. So we called, only to be told that there were no tables available to reserve for the next 5 nights and that it was unlikely there would be one available after that as most tables had a rolling reservation! Our secret was a show down with the dining room manager, which resulted in a permanent reservation of a table for 2 for the duration of the cruise. Whilst the ship was beautiful with large cabins and good public areas, there was always a feeling that we were an inconvenience to the staff! The cabin steward walked in to our cabin without a reply to his knock on at least 6 occasions and always before 8 in the morning. Well we were on holiday, so didn't feel that we had to be up at the crack of dawn every day! If that didn't get us moving then the vacuum cleaner in the corridor outside was an alternative method to make sure we were out and about so the cabin could be cleaned at his convenience, not ours! Bar staff didn't seem overly keen to get your order, with a 15% service charge automatically added to your drinks bill, they didn't need it fight each other to get our custom! Whilst the dining room staff were generally pleasant and efficient, leaks in the roof of the Lido buffet area didn't help, as there were wet floors and warning signs almost permanently, as after all we were in the tropics and we expected some rain! Some of the chefs who served behind the buffet were quite offhand on occasions, seeming to be more interested in their own conversations than the needs of the guests. However the food was excellent, wherever you chose to eat. Now I wouldn't want you to think that we didn't enjoy this trip, because we did, finding the ship very nice. We chilled out well, but were disappointed in the lack of apparent supervision, with the senior staff obviously well above our station as they rarely appeared anywhere in public. We did get announcements from the Captain, mostly giving us the daily excuse for our late departure for each port ( well not every port but about 75%of them). Excuses ranged from medical emergency to late tours stuck in traffic, to paperwork,to government officialdom............ All in all a good cruise but not a company that I would be in a hurry to cruise with again! Read Less
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