A comprehensive review of OUR HAL EXPERIENCE on the 09/28/16 Oosterdam 12nt Mediterranean Dreams cruise follows.
Summary: With the exception of the two very negative experiences, our overall HAL cruise experience was nothing out of the ... Read More
A comprehensive review of OUR HAL EXPERIENCE on the 09/28/16 Oosterdam 12nt Mediterranean Dreams cruise follows.
Summary: With the exception of the two very negative experiences, our overall HAL cruise experience was nothing out of the ordinary. I highly recommend reading through all of our experiences listed, while paying special attention to the deal breaking experiences detailed at the end of this review.
This was our 34th cruise, 7th and LAST on HAL. The people, both staff and guests were a good bunch, we met new people and made some new friends. The itinerary was decent and the aspects of some ports, as well as this cruise experience, were better than others.
For those who are concerned only with QOS (quality of service) and food, this cruise was par for the course with HAL. Due to our belief in the HAL brand, we paid a small premium, a bit more than we usually would, to go on this cruise. Unfortunately, the faith and trust which had been built over years in the HAL brand, was quickly obliterated in a matter of three weeks (one post cruise).
In essence, terrible decision making by HAL ship side management and shore side executive management, ruined our cruise experience and earned (the hard way) a trifecta of terrible ratings in Overall Rating, Onboard Experience and Value for Money. If I could give a negative rating in these experiences, I would.
Embarkation: Poor and mismanaged - slow, long queues.
Service: On par for HAL, friendly and excellent. In particular the cabin stewards, bar and lido staff.
Food: The Dive-In burgers, all beef hot dogs and taco bar were a nice alternative.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: In the Lido Buffet was very good; the staff and management were most accommodating to our needs. Port day lunch included a pasta bar, tasty sushi rolls and Asian dishes.
Main Dining - never bothered due to queues and the variety and quality of the food being literally identical in the Lido.
Entertainment: Average at best - The BAND is gone? BBKing and the Ventriloquist Magician were excellent; New dueling pianos, meh. Sing around single pianist was better; Shows, not very good.
Enrichment Activities: Average, the computer classes were a nice touch.
Family and Children: Not applicable
Fitness and Recreation: Clean and average; pools, jacuzzis, free men and womens locker shower, gym and dry sauna.
Public Rooms: Average - On average, a mostly orderly ship.
Ports: Average - see detailed review below
Shore Excursions: Not applicable
Disembarkation: Poor - swift and merciless. Fastest we have ever been given the bums rush. Hundreds were awaiting buses, shuttles and cabs, many with reservations for a hour or two later.
Cabin Review: Excellent, see details in optional review below.
Venice: Romantic, but expensive. Buy a vaporetto pass and validate it before riding. Visit Venice, stay and eat on the Lido.
Sarande (Albania): Quaint beachfront esplanade. The best and least expensive "greek" food (15E for two) on this cruise.
Kerkira (Corfu): Scenic historic city center and park walks await.
Katakolon (Greece): Waterfront, two streets, four blocks of shops. Olympia ruins and Giorgio's Bike Bar ride await.
Nafplion: Trendy beach front, downtown and exhausting bay fortress walk await.
Athens: Best Duty Free, Parthenon and Acropolis ruins await. It's a big city.
Mykonos: Quaint is now over commercialized, Big money bought out the independent's.
Iraklion (Crete): Historic city center now glorified brand name outlet mall. Knossos Palace ruins await, big AM queues, empty after 1PM.
Santorini: Take the funicular, beware of queues, avoid donkeys. Overrun with small shops.
Naples: Capri, Sorrento, train to Pompeii, Herculaneum ruins await. You must be cautious, a young couple was victimized. Do not get on a bus or train without a validated ticket and announce the fact. You will be legitimately fined or caught in the typical Napoletano "we are the police" scam. Pick pockets, purse, phone, camera and jewelry snatchers galore. If you value it don't bring it ashore. As for your bank card and getting cash, do not use the ATM's. Theft of cash, identity, card eating ATM's and non dispensation of cash, while debiting your account are common here.
Rome: Nice beach at port of Civitavecchia. Take train to Termini station, see the Colosseum first. Like Naples, it's the big city, beware.
Negative experience #1: The Petri Dish Experiment
We gave ample monetary consideration in the form of time off, airfare, transfers, excursions and the cruise itself, only to be subjected to a lack of hygienic common sense or a virus known as stupidity on the part of HAL ship side management.
To be clear, in 34 cruises taken over a 50 year span, I have never been exposed to such unsanitary conditions and unhygienic practices. In 34 cruises, 31 ships, 9 lines, 122 ports, this was the first time I have contracted any type of illness on a cruise. Many were afflicted as witnessed by multiple conversations with passengers and crew who were impacted and aware of the situation.
Aside from the "hacking" going on all over the ship, outbreaks of diarrhea and influenza were brought to my attention by several crew and passengers in the know. Two passengers made the unsolicited comment which I cannot take credit for, "this ship is a floating petri dish".
Some of HAL's guests suffered, my wife and I to the tune of 14 days of downtime, misery and inconvenience from influenza (including the last 6 days of the cruise, hence impacting our overall rating and onboard experience). Whether HAL violated CDC health regs is beside the point, as their wanton lack of common sense, ultimately violated their guests trust.
The cause? In the prior 33 cruises, I have never seen beverages or ice dispensed in such a haphazard fashion. From the beginning of the cruise, the non touch ice beverage dispensers in the Lido buffet were occasionally non functional, i.e. did not dispense ice or water. When they were functional, unprotected pitchers were often positioned on the drip tray blocking their usage, forcing unnecessary manual usage of make shift ice chests and pitchers.
Rather than no touch, the process required a minimum of eight full hand to surface contacts on three different surfaces; chest lid; ice scoop; pitcher. In addition, the ice chest was compromised by the complete insertion of a hand during the scooping process. These conditions were mysteriously allowed to persist for the duration of the 12 night cruise. An email to the Office of the CEO and President at HAL, solicited the following response.
"Interestingly enough we had our public health specialist on board this cruise. Non-touch beverage/ice machines were functional during the cruise and not disabled as suggested. There was no outbreak of influenza or diarrhea as suggested. We are not in a position to provide you with a monetary refund."
The above response from HAL's Office of the CEO and President (Stein Kruse and Orlando Ashford) shot a clear message across my bow regarding the complaint. Their "Special Advisors" denied all circumstances and issued a complete refutation of my on board experience.
The response which in essence called me a liar is so many words, left my family feeling cheated, deceived and lacking any future trust in the HAL brand. We also copied Arnold Donald the CEO of Carnival (Kruse and Ashfords boss), and never received any response. If you think that's the end of this story, sadly it only gets worse.
I thought paying to unsuspectingly participate in a covert infectious disease or immunization program, was hitting rock bottom for HAL. Not even close, after reading below, plunging to new depths with U-boat Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Das Boot) will seem like a step up from HAL.
Negative experience # 2: Terrorizing The Guests
We had the extreme displeasure of witnessing a family of six with toddler, having their twelve night vacation completely ruined by HAL's front office and immigration administration. Some one in HAL's shipboard administrative office spotted a clerical error on a Visa, measured in mere hours and decided to flex their authoritative muscle in threatening to throw the mother of the toddler off the ship.
Shortly into the cruise, HAL staff informed the family that the mother must debark the ship, a night prior to the cruises termination in Rome. HAL claimed that the mothers Schengen zone visa would terminate during the family's privately arranged post cruise transit to the Rome airport. The following day, HAL claimed the administrative error or visa oversight had been resolved.
The next day, HAL staff reversed course again and like Schettino's Costa Concordia ran aground, insisting that the mother would have to debark in Naples. The husband made continued attempts to appeal to common sense. After a long weekend, the husband finally put his foot down and informed HAL staff that they would have to "physically remove" the whole family from the ship, along with their possessions. Magically, HAL staff finally "resolved" the administrative "problem" with "port authorities" and said all was well.
The emotionally wrought disruption of this families vacation by HAL was unconscionable. Worse yet, for nine out of twelve nights, we watched this poor family being held hostage and terrorized by HAL's administrative Yo-Yo's (not ok, ok, not ok, ok) as they whimsically waved the sword of Damocle's over this poor families heads. Sailing with distemperate Captain Queeg (The Caine Mutiny) would be a step up from HAL.
HAL administrative staff exhibited a complete lack of common sense and misguided application of policy and authority. Paying to be a guest, then being held emotional hostage, replete with psychological torture, redefines hospitality and service as well as taking it to new depths.
This is how HAL treat their paying guests? Perhaps HAL should change their name to SSC or Stockholm Syndrome Cruises? Being Christian Fletcher and suffering the harsh punishment, criticism and abuse of Captain Bligh (Mutiny on the Bounty) would be a better fate.
At the end of the day, apparently no one in HAL management ship or shore side has ever read Conrad Hilton's BE MY GUEST. In hospitality and service, misrepresentation should not be rife, with "caveat emptor" as the maxim of the day. HAL sure seems to have taken this to heart, as they apparently have forgotten about their most important resource, the customer.
HAL is in the hospitality service business, at least that is the rumor which their hygienic practices, shipboard administration and post cruise customer service rapidly dispels.
HAL's shore side upper management attitude and lack of customer satisfaction in problem resolution has left this formerly satisfied customer feeling like, sailing with Capt. Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl (Pirates of the Caribbean), would be an upgrade from HAL.
In an effort to deny reality and just recompense, I shudder to imagine what HAL's professional deflection tactics and denial system aka "wall of non stick voodoo teflon" at the Office of The President and CEO, might cook up and attempt to serve future victims. Because of late, that is exactly what the HAL experience left us feeling like. Caveat Emptor. Read Less