April 2014 we were in French Polynesia and had a wonderful time. This time we choose a Volandam cruise Seattle - Sydney - Bali because we thought the itinerary looked great as well. It was partly great indeed, but also partly disappointing. e.g. To me it is a mystery why the ship went to Mystery Island. A lost day. In Honolulu the hop on hop of bus was not available. HAL had rented it for some excursion. We never join HAL excursions because you can save half of the money when you book ashore.
Climat control in the lounges and bridge room were inadequate. Most of the time it was freezing there. The tables and chairs in the Lido restaurant really should be replaced. Take care for the buckets in the corridors when it's raining.
Unfortunately the quality of food was worse again. Good bread and fresh orange juice, but cold soup, melted ice cream, bad coffee and overcooked meat and fish. Less expensive fruit and meat. Little variation as well. What a difference with 8 years ago!
HAL has become a budget cruise line, though they will never admit. A good idea not to use the slogan "Signature of Exellence" anymore! HAL tries to save money where it is (im)possible.
At the entrance of the dining room the new dress code was unknown, so they tried to give me a jacket when formal night, which I refused. A fellow guest got really furious when his entrance was refused. Well, we got an invitation for a "rijsttafel" dinner. A pity that it was planned one day after our disembarkation.
Fewer shows, more movies. Less musicians.The smaller HAL Cats Orchestra seemed to be uninterested. Live music in the lounge at dinner time but not during the happy hour. Some mediocre "singers" came back a second time "on popular demand". Whose demand?
The atmosphere on board was not nice at all. Too many crew members were very unfriendly. Take care for them in the buffet restaurant, for they will not stop when you are approaching with coffee and breakfast in your hands. No crew present at the meet and mingle. Don't ask for service. They don't know that word. An exception was our great waiter in the dining room and his helper. In the always cold Hudson Room the lights are switched off at about 23.45. Probably bed time.
The bridge Tournament Director during the first part of the cruise was good. Unfortunately his wife was not and (the TD told this to me!) she insisted to do the lessons herself though the TD was much better. The TD during the last part of the cruise was incompetent, lazy and very rude.
Hotel Director JH was the rudeness in person. Once he said to me: Why did you book this cruise when you were already disappointed this spring on the Rotterdam? When I answered that I booked this cruise about a year ago, he suggested that I might have had my money back via my insurance company....! What an attitude. Then we won a pearl necklace at a raffle. We were told it had a value of 1250 Australian $. After a bit investigation it proved to be fake. When I complained to JH he got rude and said "do you expect me to pay that money myself?" Of course not the smartest question ever and not relevant as well. It's just about responsibilities dear Hotel Director. Some weeks later we heard that the jewelry seller was dismissed in Sydney.
Before disembarkation we got a letter: "For your convenience the individual cards have been pre-filled for you". That's nice. At the end if the cruise a little service. Unfortunately they wrote down wrong pasport numbers. Another visit to the front desk needed.
We had planned to disembark in Bali together with about 50 other guests. Unfortunately the ship could not enter the port because of some dredger. Ofcourse we were unpleasantly surprised. I asked the captain why we could not disembark by using the tenders. He said the tender platform would be under water now and then. This sounds a bit strange but okay, he is the captain. So I asked why not entering the tenders where you have to enter them in case of emergency. Now the mysterious answer was: "because the passengers would not be able to return to the ship". Personally I don't see the problem, because those 50 guests wanted to leave the ship and definitely not embark again. Well, he is the captain and did his study.
So we had to stay one more day at the ship and rebook our flights. When we arrived the next day about 15.00, a vulcan at Lombok just had erupted the same morning. When we disembarked, nobody at the ship told us that the airport was closed. The taxi driver at the pier told us. What a HAL-service and how dishonest (or incompetent?). Because HAL had send a letter to all 50 guests that HAL would refund all extra costs because of the delay we claimed 3 days Bali. Without success HAL tried to convince us that they were not responsible. So all is well that ends well. The days on Bali where some of the best days of the holiday.
Back home I contacted HAL and the lady in the local office was very understanding and helpful. She contacted the jewelry and they gave some compensation. Well, only after they tried to mislead the customs without success, saying that I send the necklace for repair....
Only because HAL gave us a future cruise credit we will return one more time to a HAL ship. Ofcourse after having checked that JH will not be on board.
Our outside cabin smelled terribly caused by cleaning fuel tanks during 10+ days with a liquid that probably is a poison. Though we avoided to use our cabin as much as possible, it caused a headache and it took a week to get another cabin. This time much noise caused by an airco-room. Better than being poisoned. Nice to see the beautiful flowers when we arrived. What a gesture. A pity that they had put it on our bill however.