This was the third HAL cruise for me and second for my wife so we knew what to expect.
We were travelling with our three young children (1,4 and 6) plus my parents and 11 year old niece so spread across verandah cabins 10004, 10008 and 10010 on the Observation Deck tucked behind the Crows Nest. Embarkation was smooth however the obliging staff who allowed our baby to sleep through the ID photo was offset by the security staff who insisted she be removed from her baby carrier to go through security which resulted in screaming child. We only started cruising with HAL as they were the only line that would allow a baby under 12 months to cruise to New Zealand.
Despite their reputation for focussing on senior travellers we found the staff literally fawned on our children and assisted with emergency nappies and nappy bags etc. We had ordered the bubbly package to our cabin and nibbles and these were waiting for us. Our cabins had an incredible view although the only surprise was that the balcony dividers could not be opened as on other cruises we have taken which meant we couldn't connect as planned. But this was a minor inconvenience. Overall we had a fantastic cruise.
I've seen a few reviews saying that this ship is old and run-down but nothing could be further from the truth. With three young children running riot we got to see a lot of the ship and despite looking for signs of wear and tear we saw none. Dined in main dinging room several times but generally stuck to LIDO as more relaxing with the family. Dined in the Pinnacle 3 times (4 if you include the special Le Cirque evening) and the staff were only too willing to assist with time and table requests. Ronald the wine waiter was our pick of the Pinnacle staff. We did every single wine tasting offered as well as the whisky , port and champagne tastings. All were excellent although with a few only a handful turned up which was a shame as they were well worth the extra charge.
Free Room Service was great and having breakfast in your room felt very indulgent. For entertainment we stuck mostly to the Piano bar. The best of the main shows were the fantastic Éver After show which was a take on fairy tales and Glenn Starr who did a Michael Buble show and a 50s and 60s song night. Highlight for us was that we paid for the Renewal of Vows package online prior to embarking as our 15th Anniversary fell whilst onboard. It was around $160 but worth every sent. Donna from the event team was exceptional and planned everything and there were personal invites for our family members. The package included a cake, nibbles, certificate presented by the captain and dinner in the Pinnacle plus photos. Great value for anyone considering it. We expected a token appearance by Captain Peter Bos but he stayed for an hour chatting to us after the ceremony. There were rose petals on the floor and a towel swan surprise in our room later.
The staff in Club HAL (kids club) were great and looked after the three that could attend. Our kids were honestly looking forward to it each time and couldn't wait to go. Talking to another parent of an under 3 year old it is annoying that they can't use the swimming pool (we received a formal written warning in our room on embarkation). I can understand why for the health reasons but try explaining that to a young child who can't join their siblings in the pool).
We had a bad experience in the LIDO twice but the way in which floor supervisor AR handled it was impressive. HAL advertises that Pizza and Pasta is open till midnight. So after a great night out early in the cruise we turned up at 1150 one night and 1140 the next hoping for a late snack. Everything was closed both times. The second time it happened we passed AR as we were leaving and told him. He insisted we must be wrong and ran back to check. He went white and was aghast when he realised that they were closed. We told him it was fine and we would get room service. The next day he separately tracked down myself and my wife and apologised with two glasses of complimentary wine. He explained it was due to a new staff member on their first shifts.
We did the Chou Chou train in Noumea with HAL (well worth it) and a snorkelling trip in a glass bottomed boat at Port Vila. Both were around $60 each and well worth it. We loved Dravuni Island and Isle of Pines as the beaches were good.
WIFI still expensive ($100 for 250mins) but I loved being able to check your account and the days program on your phone/ipad regardless of whether you had internet. However, we didn't get an account under our door like they used to which was strange. Also, for those that have heard rumours that HAL no longer does afternoon tea I can advise that the Noordam did it every day in the Ocean Bar (sometimes hard to get a table). There was however no Royal Dutch High tea. Overall HAL did not disappoint and we'll certainly cruise with them again
We had cabins 10010, 1008 and 10004. We were originally in Ocean view cabins but took a last-minute upgrade offer and ended up on floor ten with three verandah cabins. Location was excellent (one flight of stairs up from the Lido and next to the Crows Nest). View was spectacular. Only downside was that unlike the lower decks you were unable to connect the balcony's which we always like to do as a family. Room was excellent and we were all very impressed with the Quad share room and how the bed dropped from the roof each day. We tested the storage limits of the cabin with 4 in one and 3 in another and it was tight but OK. Room was well maintained and whilst you could hear the lift chimes it was not too intrusive.
Did the Chou Chou train with a group of 8 and loved it (although the morning tea was underwhelming and the instruction to take only 2 pieces of cake seemed a little harsh). Nice restaurants near the quay.View All 68 Discovery Tchou Tchou Train Reviews
Loved the history and beautiful beach. Great little boutique shop up through the old fort gate
Great little tour only 50 metres from the ship. Also great range of stalls just on the pierView All 5 Glassbottom Boat Reviews
Great little island. We visited twice. Swimming with kids in the morning and then back for shopping at the stalls and walking the hill in the afternoon. Unspoilt
We walked into town (about 1km). The kids enjoyed McDonalds and we enjoyed the Lautoka Hotel and an nice Chinese Restaurant (don't be fooled by the exterior of the hotel-it's great inside and decent food). The markets were good to visit as well