We booked this highly-touted HAL EXC 6-Week Japan/ Western Pacific cruise back in May 2018, & expected great things. Suffice it to say that it turned out to be the most over-hyped & disappointing cruise we've every endured! We feel that the HAL marketing team sold us a bill of goods, & are guilty of false advertising at the very least! The HAL EXC cruise concept (available only on Maasdam) promotes the heavy use of its fleet of on-board Zodiac small craft (exactly 9 of them were strapped down on the bow) for more indepth exploration!! Right up until the day we departed TX for JAPAN, we received HAL emails recommending we book our HAL Zodiac excursions in advance, because there were limited seats & they were selling out fast. Imagine our surprise (once we embarked in Yokohama in mid August) to learn that there would be NO HAL EXC Zodiac tours available during our entire 43 day odyssey down to Sydney!!
The HAL EXC concept involved a heavy schedule of lectures on sea days in both the showroom at sea and the Wajang theater, covering Pacific region flora and fauna, WW2 battles & history, Asian/Japanese cultrure, photography, future NASA Space exploration, etc. Unfortunately HAL has chosen to eliminate the staff videographer position & none of these EXC presentations were videotaped for the convenience of those who would have preferred to hear the lectures in the privacy of their rooms. Thus, the lecture venues were always jam-packed with ill-tempered passengers jostling for the best seats. Unfortunayely Maasdam staff frequently jammed extra folding chairs into the aisles creating extremely unsafe conditions that would have given fire marshalls heart attacks.
The male cruise director, who shall remain nameless, was the most unfriendly, colorless, unexciting, boring individual we've ever encountered in almost 50 cruises. He let everyone know, on a daily basis, that he was even more eager than we were to be disembarking in Sydney at the end of his contract!! We feel the cruise director was overworked, under-staffed, & in way over his head!!
Well located on lower promenade by forward elevators, with atrium as our game room!!!
Toured on our own.
Toured on our own. I had been stationed in Japan and had visited 40 years earlier!!
Toured on our own!
We had booked HAL's tour of the Northern half of the island in the AM, to be followed by a HAL tour of the southern half of the island in the PM. Unfortunately, at the last possible moment our afternoon tour was cancelled by MAASDAM without explanation, even though we had our tickets in hand!!
We attended a rather unorganized outdoor cultural extravaganza on the grounds of the Madang resort. There was no emcee, and no announcements as to what native group was performing and what the dance routine signified. Rather disappointing!!
Pretty underwhelming!! There were not as many WW2-related historical sites in the area as I had imagined!!
For whatever reason, HAL booked us into Noumea on a Sunday when the place was dead as a doornail, and took us to the lonely, Isle of Pines just south of there on a Monday!! It would have made much better sense to have reversed these two port calls, if at all possible!