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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2014

This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in ... Read More

This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canaries, Agadir, Casablanca, and Tangier Morocco, Cadiz and Vigo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal.

As usual the service on Holland America was excellent. There were only 900 passengers on this last leg of voyage which basically circumnavigated Africa for 88 days. With so few passengers, the crew was even more attentive than usual.

Many cancelled this leg of the voyage due to the Ebola virus. But, safety first, Holland America cancelled port calls in countries anywhere near the outbreak.

The weather was perfect throughout the cruise. During sea days we were kept busy with excellent lectures on topics concerning ocean travel, its luxuries and travails and on wild life. The usual crafts, dancing and bridge activities were popular. You could even attend computer classes.

The only portion of the voyage that did not measure up to Holland American standards were the shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers. Otherwise the entertainment was very good.

We're told Holland America will not be offering the circumnavigation of Africa cruise in 2015, but Princess has a comparable cruise on its website.

Bill Reynolds

 

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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014

Our Voyage took us from Istanbul to Cape Town - 93 days of exploring exotic ports. The ports were very good but the ship was a zero !! Very noisy in every location; especially on the outside decks as the engine noise is not muffled. It ... Read More

Our Voyage took us from Istanbul to Cape Town - 93 days of exploring exotic ports. The ports were very good but the ship was a zero !! Very noisy in every location; especially on the outside decks as the engine noise is not muffled. It is very difficult to have a conversation on the top deck or by the pool. The ship has a LOT of movement and doesn't handle the ocean very well. It is an OLD SHIP to begin with, and should not be sold as a luxury cruise ship at the current prices.It was built in 1989, and definitely shows its age. The ship has been "modernized", but the flow is very difficult as one has to walk through the main lounge to get to other venues; the ship is built like a railroad car, so you have to navigate through each room to get to the next. And if one room has a lecture or is occupied, one has to walk through the audience to get the next room.The room phone will not take messages .... you have to walk through the corridor to to your selected room and leave a note on the door to get a call back.The WiFi is not only SLOW, it is almost useless. Very difficult if not impossible to connect ones computer to the system ..... and then it drops off as you type an email.I have talked to the TI staff, and was told he has asked the UK office to upgrade this system for the past two years and nothing has been done; it must be a money thing ..... but they are not embarrassed to up the prices on shore excursions or anything the ship sells, including the price to book. The food is not outstanding .... more standard coffee shop variety ( Woolworth in the UK or Denny's in the USA). Service and the staff are excellent ... no complaints; however, their mantra when you order an menu item is "excellent choice" .... one get a little tired of hearing that three or four meals a day.The library books are from 1998 to 2008 .... must have been transferred from the MV Discovery ... get real... this is 2015. The life vests are dated 1999 and were last inspected at that time ..... does this seem correct for a cruise in 2015 ?? There is NO specialty dining room; that space has been converted to normal dining room service. The lunch at the Veranda buffet is the same as the dining room, and the variety doesn't change from day to day ... ditto for dinner. The ice cream that is served in the afternoon, after lunch, is always runny ... not hard ... as they do not have proper refrigeration on the outside deck where the ice cream is served. There is NO food service after they close the dining room or Veranda (buffet) areas. Once it is closed, you have to wait until the next regular meal time for snacks or any food ( except room service... which is limited). If you are an INDEPENDENT passenger, and do not purchase any shore excursions from the ship, you will be "stuck", and they make no attempt to assist independent passengers ..... you are entirely on your own .... even in port ..... when you are in a closed port, with no transportation, good luck trying to get to town !! The Brits love this ship as they enjoy being away from the UK ( weather). BUT, if you enjoy social activities, and want good shows, good entertainment, good stimulating lectures, etc .... look else where.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014

A message was sent by email the day before we were to embark on our cruise. We were already in Vancouver and did not receive this email until after the cruise. Even if we had received this message, it would have been expensive and ... Read More

A message was sent by email the day before we were to embark on our cruise. We were already in Vancouver and did not receive this email until after the cruise. Even if we had received this message, it would have been expensive and stressful to change our flights. Holland America did not offer any refunds or assistance in making alternate plans.

IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION:

Please be advised that we have been experiencing a heightened level of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) on the ms Volendam. Therefore, the ship will follow a special cleaning and sanitizing protocol developed in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prior to our departure from Vancouver, Canada, on September 17, 2014. Consequently, embarkation will begin at approximately 1:00pm for a 4:00pm departure. Our guests are encouraged to delay their arrival at the pier until 1:00pm, as there is limited seating at the Vancouver facility. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Holland America's Volendam cruise ship is obsolete, dirty and diseased. Check on the age of the ship before you book a cruise. Take a cab to and from the airport. The cab would have been cheaper and faster than the big bus with passengers coughing and sneezing during the long slow ride from the ship to the airport. I rarely get sick but I came home with a painful deep cough and sore throat.

We were handed a piece of paper while boarding informing us of an intestinal virus onboard. Too late to cancel. They had been having this problem for weeks. We would return from shore excursions to see people with rubber suits and what looked like gas masks working to sanitize a stateroom as we walked down the passageway. Not exactly reassuring. We were led to believe that this was a temporary problem but it persisted for the whole cruise.

The ship desperately needed repairs and upgrades including: newer TVs (ours had a blurry picture), gym equipment (parts were missing). Age appropriate music in the gym would have been nice (this was not the hip hop or rap demographic). The fitness staff was uneducated staff. There were rude employees everywhere. They were broken toilets in the common areas. Older passengers who move slower were having trouble finding a working restroom.

We were not allowed to borrow DVDs and books or serve ourselves at the buffet because of the virus. The servers at the buffet did not understand English very well so it was impossible to get your food the way you wanted it. They dumped buckets of dressing on the salads. Everything was over cooked. Most of the time the food was not hot enough, vegetables were limp and fish was dry.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014

We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The service, ... Read More

We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The service, the food, to cabin, and the excursions were all well thought out and executed. We had lovely weather which allowed us to enjoy the upper deck a lot! So nice to be floating along just enjoying the scenery for awhile and then exploring a town without having to pack and unpack or figure out where to eat that day! The locks were interesting to experience and see and the captain and his crew have our utmost respect. We would highly recommend Viking!

My only suggestion is to offer bike riding along the Danube as an excursion. We saw folks gathering for a ride while walking to the bus for one of our excursions.

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19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also.

Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California.

If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.)

There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice.

Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet.

Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise.

As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea.

Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality.

MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water.

Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen.

The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well.

Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere.

The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all.

HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port.

I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner.

What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service.

We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014

One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland ... Read More

One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland America's Amsterdam which left in Sept and was 70+ days around the Pacific. However, when I realized that HAL was doing a circumnavigation of Africa for the first time in 5 years with port calls at some places that were high on the bucket list, I decided to go with the Rotterdam instead. It was not listed as a "Grand Voyage" although the price was about the same as the Pacific cruise, but it was indeed grand!

Flying from Florida to London was not a pleasure, as opposed to leaving from Ft Lauderdale or even Seattle, but after having to change to a flight to Washington DC, then Amtrak to Philly, and then flight to London followed by "tube" to London Victoria Station, then coach to Southampton, I made it. The Rotterdam had left Rotterdam the day before with less than half the guests before embarking the rest of us. I boarded around noon and the bags were in the room before I was, a first for me. Lunch in the dining room a few minutes later and then back to 1852 (outside mid ship) to unpack in my new quarters where I quickly felt at home. Five separate closets with plenty of storage as the Rotterdam was built for long cruises. The Rotterdam was redone about 5 years ago with new bathrooms, comfortable beds, all the usual HAL goodies.

Room stewards couldn't do enough for me such as fresh fruit bowl and even some flowers. Cleaned every morning and turned down every night, and always asked me by my name if I was happy.

I prefer the dining room to the Lido when time permitted. The greeter, who also always used my name, made sure I had a table and server of choice. Most of the dining room staff were excellent. I was treated like royalty and often was served my usual choices without even asking! If I asked the server which entree was better tonight, he would tell me and ofcourse return to make sure. If you treat these folks nicely, you will be amazed how great service is. I do mostly seafood or vegetarian and with rare exceptions it was delicious and well presented. Breakfast in a quiet dining room with a sea view table and a good server, Rosenthal china, and great cooked to order food....life doesn't get much better for me.

The Rotterdam had about 1300 guests for the first 48 days, about 100 under "full capacity", with a lot of singles and no children. Well, one little girl who belonged to an officer. Never crowded, few ques, easy to find a seat for most everything, except some of the high quality lecturers. The lecturers were an important and quality part of this grand voyage.

Entertainment also good to excellent. The cast shows were great; thought they should have performed more often.

You could tell most of the staff were picked for this special voyage. Cruise director Michael and port lecturer KK were excellent. Many of the guests on this ship were frequent cruisers, some too frequent. By that, I mean, they were never satisfied with anything. To the staffs credit, they overlooked the TMC (Too Many Cruises) folks and still gave us great information and service. Keep smiling guys!

The Rotterdam goes into drydock spring of 2015 and it does need some attention. It did have some plumbing issues, but I was lucky to have no problems in my room the entire trip.

The dining room often had themed nights relating to the areas we were visiting. There were also special regional foods served around the pool area.

Entertainers from the various areas were also brought on to add to the grand style voyage.

We were the only ship in port with just a few exceptions. We only tendered in one port (Luderitz) and overnighted in 5 ports.

The Rotterdam was a great ship for this itinarary as it is one of the fastest cruise ships on the seas, better to out run pirates and storms. We did run without most exterior lighting in the pirate areas and often maintained 20 knots. An officer told me with all 5 engines going and a freshly painted hull, the Rotterdam can do 26 knots. That burns too much fuel. Also, this ship rides deeper in the water which gives it more stable ride. We did have to avoid a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. A lot of extra sea miles and $75,000 extra in fuel costs, but the Rotterdam did very well indeed.

I left on day 79 from Lisbon to fly home (flights were full from London so close to Christmas) only missing one port Vigo, Spain. After mostly great weather, it was getting cold and rainy as we returned to Europe and thus I didn't miss much.

I would urge those seeking a long voyage exploring unusual ports on a great mid size (60,000 tons/1400 guests) ship, to consider the Rotterdam on this itinarary. As Holland America builds new (bigger) ships, their older ships will be sold. Don't expect a 100,000 ton/2500 guests ship to do these great places and that will leave only the more expensive smaller cruise lines to do them. The smaller ships can't handle the rougher seas either.

 

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Sail Date: August 2014

This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. ... Read More

This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. The crew were always smiling and obliging, even when dealing with some demanding passengers!

This was our first time visiting Sitka and we felt it was the highlight of the ports of call with very lovely scenery. In each port we did our own thing which was good since flying excursions were canceled due to low cloud cover.

State room was balcony on floor 7. No complaints except for my husband who is 6'4" and had to stoop while showering!

Our adult, disabled son was traveling with us and had the fold out couch which needed extra foam and was brought by the cabin steward on our request. We had room service in the mornings twice and it was prompt. We chose to eat in the MDR for most meals because the Lido was a zoo making finding a table challenging and there are no trays which means going backwards and forwards for beverages etc. The Pinnacle was good as was the Cannelto.

Entertainment re the shows was well done. We especially enjoyed the Captain and his talk and the backstage tour with the performers. The group Recycle Percussion were exceptional.

The cruise director was energized and entertaining and ran the Dancing with the Stars competition for the passengers very well which resulted in the grand finale dance off with the qualifying passengers being paired with one of the professional dancers to perform on stage for their fellow passengers.

I availed myself of the enrichment classes that involved computer/camera lessons which I have enjoyed in the past and enjoyed adding to my skills again!

MDR was not as good as I remember from past experiences with HAL. The portions seemed smaller...my husband had ordered the appetizer with the descriptive "Tower of crab meat and avocado" which more accurately looked like a smudge on the plate.

Both boarding and disembarking were smooth and we were certainly accommodated with our son who has autism so we did not have to stand in the long lines to board. We greatly appreciated this.

The general ambience of the ship is one of understated elegance with dark woods and brass accents which was very pleasing.

The crows nest was a favorite spot giving great views along with comfortable seating as one sailed along. We used the gym daily and felt that it was adequately equipped.

Unlike other cruise lines we did not feel as though there was any undue pressure to buy.....be it in the bars or anywhere on the ship.

The afternoon teas have changed from the elegant service with the staff in their national costume to a self serve buffet which was disappointing. Also gone was the traditional appearance at Formal night with the march in of the Baked Alaska replete with sparklers that used to be carried aloft by the head chef with staff marching behind. Also gone was the midnight chocolate/dessert extravaganza....ah me.

The Lido also closed down at times and it was difficult to find something to eat! Yikes!

A lovely final touch however, was at disembarking as one crossed the gang plank to return to the normal life....the heads of each department stood on shore in a line waving all the passengers goodbye.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014

Consider ourselves seasoned cruisers - 20+ cruises since 1996 and 10 or so with RCL. Maybe it was coming off of a rather wonderful cruise on the Allure in September, 2013 or just the time of the year, but it certainly wasn't up to ... Read More

Consider ourselves seasoned cruisers - 20+ cruises since 1996 and 10 or so with RCL. Maybe it was coming off of a rather wonderful cruise on the Allure in September, 2013 or just the time of the year, but it certainly wasn't up to standards.

Time of year: week before Easter and Passover week so there was a plethora of youngins. Not much of a hassle on board but on the one snorkel excursion in Nassau, it was.

Living in FL full time we are used to snowbirds but failed to note that this was a week where lots of parochial school kids would be out and travelling with families. Had heard some spring breaks were cancelled due to the number of snow days.

It does NOT excuse the well below par food and service on the Enchantment. Our cabin steward DID find us a refrigerator when we didn't even have a mini-bar refrigerator the first night so we could at least chill (and freeze) water for shore excursions.

We chose My Time Dining at 7;30 and had the same waiter (Valeriano) & assistant, Arturo neither of whom can be faulted for their services. Both were excellent and always at the ready with refills. The food in the dining room is where RCL fell way below par whether it was the soups, salads, entrees or desserts. My last meal, the seafood "mash" was cold and overcooked. I remarked that the scallops were hockey pucks and the cod "fillets" were the hockey sticks. The baked potato barely melted the butter. They left off the "brulee" part of the creme brulee. We did do one dinner at the Windjammer and it was unsuccessful as well AND without the service we expect from Royal Caribbean. The "lobster" bisque was so fishy tasting in an awful red "sauce" that I spit it out. Even the seafood "crisps" on the Indian buffet were stale and soft. Lunch at Windjammer was OK.

The Park Cafe was the saving grace for this cruise. Breakfast had all we needed... warm bagels, a variety of cream cheeses, great lox and ok paninis. The BEST by far, hands down meal was the beef on weck (kimmelweck rolls) soaked in au jus for lunch each day. Small bit of horseradish made it even better.

Decided to do one snorkel tour with Seahorse excursions and it was delightful VERY short walk to the catamaran with FOUR crew members AND the captain. TWO heads which were checked throughout the morning by the crew. All the water and punch (spiked on the return) you could drink. Two cautions: 1. The water is COLD (by FL standards) about 73 degrees, so bring even a shortie wet suit if you want to be in more than 20 minutes (me) 2. Admit that you CANNOT SWIM and take a life jacket/BC from the crew. They were not mandatory and when people (children esp.) owned up to not swimming, it took longer to get them outfitted properly. Had to wait about 15 minutes to get back on board while these guys were getting off for the first time.

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Sail Date: February 2014

Firstly, I'd like to say that myself and my partner (both 26) were travelling on this 14-day tour of the south pacific islands for our honeymoon. As a bit of background we both enjoy music (playing and listening), theatre shows, ... Read More

Firstly, I'd like to say that myself and my partner (both 26) were travelling on this 14-day tour of the south pacific islands for our honeymoon. As a bit of background we both enjoy music (playing and listening), theatre shows, dancing, and partying as well as relaxing with a good book. So we thought this cruise would provide the perfect honeymoon as a mixture of relaxation, beach fun, musical and theatre entertainment and some partying too.

Ship: Pacific Jewel

Cabin No: 11212

Cruise: 14-days around pacific islands - Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia

Well it provided the beach fun and relaxation.... but thats about it. I'll elaborate more on the reasons why and what we did and didn't like about it later on.

The main reason for writing this review is to inform others on what you will actually get on this cruise as we were very disappointed with the on-board entertainment and would, as a result, never cruise with P&O again and would NOT recommend it to honeymooners, 20-30 year olds, or anyone wanting to be entertained on board. Sea days (6 in total) were boring... which is a lot of time to be bored on what isn't a cheap holiday. Definitely a cruise for the lazy or those who literally want to do nothing when on ship... this may be suitable for some but was unacceptable to us.

As I said we were on honeymoon. I booked it myself through the P&O website and was vigilant for anywhere I could use to let them know that it was our honeymoon, I had heard that on other cruises they would make you feel special, which I wanted for my new wife as she deserves it, and had also heard they would have a 'honeymooners club' with get-togethers on ship for all those on honeymoon - sounds good, right?. Finished booking... nowhere did it ask for additional information or special circumstances. Ok maybe I'd have an opportunity later. Forgot about it until less than a week before the wedding and my mother-in-law asked if I had let them know that it was our honeymoon. I had not... dammit! So she called and emailed P&O about it - they said "unfortunately we need to be informed at least 8 days prior to departure". We asked if there was anything that could be done - P&Os response "no"..... Right, well a little effort would have been appreciated but ok. So I decided to just let our room steward know on arrival to our room after embarkation. We let him know that we were on honeymoon, he congratulated us with smiles and enthusiasm (which was nice) and put some balloons and a sign up on our door to show it was our honeymoon..... that was the extent of 'special attention' given to us by P&O. Now I never expect special attention for anything but this was our honeymoon! Pretty disappointing - they didn't even organise a catch-up for other honeymooners despite seeing at least 5 other 'honeymoon' signs on other doors during walks around the ship.

Moving on - we were originally booked in for an outside cabin located midship on level 9 (we picked it specifically) and asked NOT to be upgraded. Somehow about a week before the cruise we were informed of an 'upgrade' to deck 11, one cabin from the back of the ship.... definitely NOT an upgrade. but the midship cabins are easier to sell so they 'upgrade passengers from those to accommodate last minute sales. Not happy but didn't complain as it was 1 week away and we didn't have time to think about it with our wedding coming up.

We were in room 11212 and ended up wit 'restricted view' out the window. Luckily for us we didn't have the 'chair scraping' issue that other cabins on deck 11 seem to have as we did not have any area of useable deck above us so for that reason it was quite good. It was also very close to the plantation restaurant (deck 12 directly above) and the oasis bar (below on deck 10). Cabin was clean and the cabin steward was very nice. On three occasions (over 14 days) we received towels in the shape of different animals.

After only being on the ship a few hours it was clear that the average age of passengers on this cruise would be around 60! Also, putting it as delicately as possible and really trying not to offend anyone... a very large percentage of the passengers would be classed as obese! Whilst this is fine and has nothing to do with us it did, without exaggeration make navigating hallways and elevators very difficult. This is not a reflection on P&O as its not something anyone can help but it is something to consider! It could be very uncomfortable at times as we were the ones expected to get out of their way.

Now you may think I have been quite negative so far but as reviews are generally viewed to get a sense of the negatives associated with the topic I will mainly focus on those and mostly summarise the positives at the end.

The embarkation process was fast and easy, welcoming onto the ship was good, all the stewards, waiters, bartenders etc were very friendly and always helpful.

The layout of the ship wasn't bad. The decor was simple, nothing opulent, and the common areas seemed a little cramped. The top deck consisted of a single common area with 2x small pools, 2x 6 person spas (for 1500+ passengers), a bar and 100+ lounge chairs with a balcony on the deck above overlooking this area.

Food on board was either at the main buffet (Plantation restaurant), Waterfront restaurant (no charge), Salt Grill ($50pp) or La Luna ($40pp) as well as a cafe and a grill place for pizza, chips or anything deep fried.

Buffet was reasonable. Food was very similar each day with small changes in variety of food supplied. Pre-made salads and baguettes/sandwiches weren't very nice at all. Had heard they do seafood buffets during the cruise - not once was this provided, which was disappointing. Some of the hot food was ok and was happy to try most things for lunch. Breakfast food was better than what was supplied for lunch or dinner.

After 2 days of buffet food we ate at the Waterfront every day for lunch and dinner. Service at the waterfront restaurant was very good but was highly dependant on the waiter that you were allocated - we were very lucky. Ours were very friendly and between dinner courses would do magic tricks, tell us riddles or jokes, or made us intricate objects/animals out of napkins! The food was quite good considering there was no charge and we always got 3 courses, and sometimes extras if we were particularly hungry and asked them.

We didn't eat in Salt Grill or La Luna so I can't comment on their service or quality.

Food in the cafe or pizza place cost extra and were reasonable.

Cocktails were very well priced at $9.50! We liked going out to the oasis bar on deck 10 and relaxing on the lounges with a pina colada! :) Considering the next topic this was about all there was to do during sea days.

Entertainment - now this is a very important aspect of a cruise considering we spent 6 full days at sea, not to mention being at sea every night. So as far as we were concerned there needed to be enough entertainment to keep us interested and of good quality. We were extremely disappointed with most aspects of entertainment. When looking at the 'Pacific Daily', which is the daily schedule of activities, it would seem that there is a lot to do... but on closer inspection we found it hard to find 2 things per day to go to. We were MOST DISAPPOINTED with the quality of the musical theatre productions on board. The pacific entertainers (the dancers and singers on board) were absolutely terrible, we get better entertainment from our local scout groups annual performance - which is really saying something. The singing was average at best and the acting and dancing was uninspiring. We usually enjoy all forms of musical and theatre entertainment, so it might sound like we're being picky, but these performances were terrible and each night less and less passengers came to them. We only continued to go out of sheer boredom - it was either go to that or go to bed (at 9:30). The on-deck parties (I think there were 3) were an absolute joke. The pacific entertainers were unenthusiastic and failed to really interact with the crowd, seeming bored with being there at all. Rather than trying to improve the feel of the party they seemed resigned to the fact it was losing momentum (at 10pm). Bands on board were talented but failed to judge the crowd well and played the wrong songs at the wrong times - for party music they failed to get the crowd going.

Now in all honesty this could have been due to the fact that 80% of the cruise passengers seemed to be over 60 years of age. Having said that P&O still should have made an effort for those who did want to say up until past 10 and enjoy some night time activities. Sigh... very lame.

Dance classes - 2x salsa and 1x jive. Hardly extensive.

Lots of bingo, at least once per day. Karaoke heats every day. Casino open most of the time. These seemed like the extent of regular activities- none of which i was interested in... sigh.

During Sea days I did enjoy some of the on board 'adventure' activities (extra costs) including rock climbing up the rear funnel. These activities cost between $20 and $60 per turn but can be purchased as a package if you think you will use it often.

To cut this review short and summarise:

- Entertainment => Poor

- Food => Reasonable

- Service => Excellent

- Ports => Great

Not recommended for anyone under 30 or maybe even 40. Even young families may find the on-board activities lacking. Most activities have additional charges and they are NOT cheap. Even the pensioners we talked to on the ship were disappointed and the entertainment seemed to be directed towards them.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2014

30 day Hawaii & Tahiti Cruise----Feb. 14, 2014, 16 sea days and 14 port days.

Although we are four star mariners on HAL it has been almost three years since we cruised with them. The following is a summary of the ship and my ... Read More

30 day Hawaii & Tahiti Cruise----Feb. 14, 2014, 16 sea days and 14 port days.

Although we are four star mariners on HAL it has been almost three years since we cruised with them. The following is a summary of the ship and my cruise experience, beginning with the positive followed by concerns.

Generally speaking—I find no significant degeneration in HAL's service or facilities. This was a very good cruise and I highly recommend it. Excellent weather and relatively calm seas all the way except Moorea, the port we had to miss due high winds.

* I recently read a review from a lady regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the Statendam in which she condemned the ship and company for allowing the ship to deteriorate. I find that not to be accurate at all, conversely, this ship is well taken care. The Statendam entered service in 1993 and, with the possible exception of the Prinsendam, I find it better maintained than most of the HAL fleet we have previously sailed on, most of which were newer ships. HAL has always enjoyed a reputation of taking good care of their ships; I find they still do so.

*The meals were better in general than I recall on most previous voyages, the only exception being the “Pinnacle” which is still good but has slipped slightly, we used it 6 times. The Lido buffet seemed to have a larger food variety this trip and HAL does a great job of making certain everything is sanitized. I love the fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning there. The Canoletto was very good and made for an intimate dinner, last time we were on the Ryndam they didn’t charge the $10.00 per that they do now in the Canoletto. However, on the Ryndam things were so crowded, probably because no charge for the Canoletto, that the tables, even for two, were so packed together that it was like joining a "6 conversations going at once club".

*Shore excursions were all pretty well put together and of quality. All escorts were tour knowledgeable and easy to understand. HAL did not overload the coaches and managed to keep most of the passenger loads to around 50% max. We also sail a lot on Regent which equally has excellent excursions, but their price is included in the cruise package which I greatly prefer.

*During our last 200 days or so at sea we have elected to take open dining. No more traditional for us. We experienced excellent service in the main dining room by HAL personnel and always got a table for two, seldom we had to wait, maybe twice for a minute or two. This is our second voyage on HAL using their “Any time you wish dining”, or, almost 60 days at sea with HAL using that service. It is my opinion that HAL critics of this procedure are flat wrong.

*The gym on this ship was excellent in that it had lots of modern workout equipment, was located up high with good views of the ocean and not overcrowded like so many of them are.

*The Statendam is one of HAL's "S" class ships. So is the Ryndam which we have also sailed on. It occurred to me that this class ship has more open deck public area per passenger than any ship we have been on. This proves to be a major plus for guests on cruises where a lot of scenic cruise days are involved, like along the coast of Alaska, glacier viewing, Antarctica, fiords of Norway and so on. All open decks on this ship are planked with Teak, and there is two 360 degree complete walk around decks, the promenade and the uppermost outdoor deck which runs around the top perimeter. Also there are many decks where public can gather to sightsee. On so many ships when approaching spectacular points of interest, like Hubbard Glacier at Yakutat, everybody is on deck trying to find nook for good viewing. Decks are so crammed that it is ludicrous.

One frequent criticism of the newer megaships is that they have little open deck space for observation, sunbathing or cozy quiet places to read, which used to be considered of value for traditional ocean travel of yesteryear. Instead, the ships are designed like shopping malls and amusement parks where guests are pretty much confined to interior areas. Even though these ships might have excellent space to passenger ratios, getting out and enjoying an open sea breeze is not a number one priority for ship designers anymore.

*Prior to boarding someone told me that HAL still had the same old selection of news service on cabin TVs. I dread being relegated to watching only FOX and CNN, so I simply leave the TV off. Imagine my surprise then, when I find MSNBC (My favorite), BBC, and FOX. HAL got smart and got rid of program duplicity leaving CNN out and giving their guests a “fair and balanced” selection of news choices and reviews.

*As always, HAL has provided a good selection of theme lecturers for a voyage. Three in particular I liked so much on this one I didn’t miss a single one of their presentations. On this voyage they have something new, a Polynesian, Kanioa, who works full time describing ports and history of the Pacific, he even does some Alaska and South America. He has an artful sense of humor that really cracked folk up occasionally. Quite a change from the old travel agent style delivery by someone speaking about everything in general with a delivery similar to reading from a text book. Both HAL, Regent and Princess are excellent in providing experts for areas being traveled, such as naturalists, biologists, anthropologists and historians. HAL is one of the few lines anymore that provides a protestant cleric for Sunday services and daily devotionals.

*We had a normal balcony stateroom located on deck 9 slightly forward of midship. Enjoyed it although would like a larger bathroom without the tub, but only a shower. Great balcony, larger than most. Even though this voyage has been very smooth, one time during the day when we couldn't get into Moorea I felt the ship take on a big one, I looked outside, through our patio windows, to see a wall of white water completely obscure the view for a few seconds. Being on deck 9, or 7 decks or stories above the water line, the spray must have reached 10 stories up.

*We had seven formal nights, which we like.

*I really like their hot tubs on the Lido deck, used them every day.

*Entertainment was pretty much on par for most ships this size. They had some great singers and performers and have pretty much done away with the bore comedians with their corny political jokes that leaves half the audience mad and the other cackling (although they do have a comic now and then that is very good they are now wise enough to stay away from ignorant politics or religious issues).

*Most unique port visited: Fanning Island.

*Best deals and quality on local made items: Fanning Island.

*Most exciting: Port: Rangiroa--Due to dicey departure through channel in order to enter ocean again. Also, best demonstration of Black Pearl farming found here.

*Most educational shore excursion: All day tour around Island of Tahiti which looked good in the shore excursion description but expensive. Later, when I checked it out on the ship it was closed out. But later yet they expanded it. Sure glad they did, besides being an excellent tour it included lunch at a restaurant that was out of this world, du Musee Gauguin. If we ever get back to Tahiti again we are definitely going to try to get there for dinner.

Regarding the down sides:

*HAL has definitely reduced staff levels. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that many apparent negative ramifications, although the reductions do have an impact. For instance, the laundry equipment was down more often than should be and all around staff effort isn't near as coordinated as it used to be so there is a lot of reacting and not enough anticipation of potential problem areas.

*I am not enamored with HAL's new wine policy. I do miss the old one where one could bring a modest amount of wine on board at any port without charge or restrictions, it was an unique feature of their sailing experience. Since they are determined to go the mediocre route in order to fit in with most of the other big cruise lines, the least they could do is provide a red wine selection that is more reasonably priced. For instance, a $12.00 bottle of Cab. from COSTCO sells for about $55.00 on board. If you buy at COSTCO and pay the $18.00 corkage to bring it on board, you pay about $30,00. I would gladly pay HAL $35.00 for this wine and eliminate the hassle.

*The price of Internet is horrible due to the slow speeds. I wish HAL would give free Internet perks like Regent does. I would greatly appreciate that over some of the other Mariner perks provided.

 

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