My wife and I have over 120 days cruising on HAL ships and this latest cruise in the Mediterranean and TA was our longest cruise to date. We have been on the Eurodam on an East coast cruise from Quebec to Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and loved ... Read More
My wife and I have over 120 days cruising on HAL ships and this latest cruise in the Mediterranean and TA was our longest cruise to date. We have been on the Eurodam on an East coast cruise from Quebec to Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and loved it, so booking its newest sister ship was done without looking at many of the reviews on CC. I was interested in how HAL compared with Celebrity since we had done several X cruises in the interim and Celebrity had become our new favorite cruise line. I have waited a few weeks to post this review after our cruise to let the highs and lows mellow a bit and add better perspective than the initial off the ship impressions that are colored by the last 4 days on the ship and our experience with luggage as discussed later.
We boarded in Civitecchia, Italy rather effortlessly but were a bit disappointed once we reached our verandah cabin on Deck 5 and realized that the lifeboats stick out so far in the entire middle of the ship as to fully obstruct any view of the water when looking down. Cabins either in front or back of the indent on this ship would be advisable if you would be bothered by this. Although this does not affect viewing straight out, viewing the top of the lifeboat is distracting and not expected when you book a the highest 1A category of verandah on this class of ship.
The really good parts of the trip on this particular ship was the good attitude, friendliness, and exceptional service provided by the Indonesian and Filipino crew on the ship. Dining in the Lido was very good both in atmosphere of the surroundings and attentiveness from the crew who brought beverages and refills whenever needed. On Celebrity, it is much rarer to get such attention in the buffet. The crew also did a great job in keeping the ship spotless, rest rooms very clean and stocked and cabins done very well in addition.
Shows on the ship were for the most part TOO LOUD and we often had to leave when our ears started ringing in protest to the assault from the production staff in particular. The best shows were done by the special entertainers, magician and comedians. The highly touted B.B. King Blues band was good but in the relatively small Queens Lounge, the amplified sound of the band could only be appreciated at 200-200 ft outside the room in the hallway. Personally we greatly enjoyed the cruise director Mario who had incredible energy and a good sense of humor that we appreciated but others have panned unjustly we feel. The string quartet that we remembered from the past has now been reduced to one violinist and a pianist and the former was adequate but not exceptional in any way. Others have commented on the lack of entertainment on the TA cruise we were on. Indeed, we also found it was strange how much of the entertainment was clustered at the same times rather than spaced throughout the day. There were stretches of many afternoons where there was little to do except read or nap.
Food on this trip varied from very good to having to send meals back as inedible rather than just bad. Prime rib, lamb chops and salmon were consistently good. We remember the melt in your mouth short ribs on many previous HAL trips and this time they were dry and very tough. Lamb shanks are also a favorite and although good on the NA they must have come from some VERY small lambs compared to what we have seen in the past. Usually I order more than one lobster tail but this cruise had lobster that was only passable and had a chemically-treated flavor. Wife had a beef dinner one night similar to slices from a steamship round with vegetable and a Yorkshire pudding. The beef could not be cut with the knife provided, the vegetable were mushy and the gravy on the meat was extremely salty while the Yorkshire pudding could double as a hockey puck in consistency/toughness. This is the new HAL we have not encountered EVER in the past.
GALA nights are a HORRIBLE idea and there is a very limited menu that does not list the "everyday" items of salmon, steak and chicken but apparently some could ask for these as special off the menu items totally depending on your waiter. On some of the GALA evenings, and when we had to send back our dinners, we would just go up and finish dinner in the Lido. We felt that the selection, quality and speed of service in the Lido far outstripped the dining experience particularly on the GALA nights. Fortunately I like chicken and oriental food and both were always good and plentiful in the Lido. We did eat one evening we were able to get into the Pinnacle and it was SUPERIOR. Lunches in the Pinnacle were also good depending on what you order but service is SLOW and asking it to be expedited just did not compute with the Pinnacle staff.
Another distinct difference we noted between HAL and either RCI or Celebrity cruises was the lack of any food in the Lido for many parts of the day and evening after the dinner time interval from 8:30 until 10:30 when a late snack is offered too late for most people before bed. No cookies, snacks or ice cream in the Lido during this interval when the food lines closed at 8:30 (strange). The only snacks during these times were limited to what was available in the Crows nest at the top floor at the front of the ship. But maybe that was a good thing involving enforced exercise!!
THE BAD: On the last 4 days of our TA crossing, the temperature in our cabin became uncontrollable and the room was very hot >80 F. Others on deck 5 we questioned also said their cabins were hot so we were not alone. Comments to our cabin attendant and calls to the front desk went unaddressed to fix the problem. On the evening prior to disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale I finally had to go down to the front desk and practically demand a fan to enable us to get through packing (we ran it all night). No one this entire time contacted us, explained why there was a problem or apologize for the inconvenience. REALLY BAD customer support we have never seen before from HAL. This is currently HAL's newest ship and we were using a fan!
Disembarkation was a fiasco from the delays in getting off the ship, waiting in lines and general sense of confusion. Once off the ship and retrieving our luggage, we could not find one of my wife's bags.....although there was another one in another section that looked almost identical to hers. Long story short, another passenger took my wife's bag without looking at any of the tags and left hers that fortunately had her cell phone number on the tag. Although this is certainly out of HAL's control, they had ONE woman in the luggage area to help MANY passengers who were having luggage problems. When we finally got her attention she called the person whose name was on the tag and confirmed that she had told her husband to take the wrong bag and would be returning to the port area to swap. After more confusion caused by the person who was supposed to exchange the bags outside the immigration area, we finally got out of the port 1.5 hrs after we had exited the ship. There was a HUGE line at immigration that we were able to bypass with a porter because of the luggage snafu.............anyone who was on this cruise and in that immigration waiting line probably remembers me going up and down the waiting line looking at your bags looking for my wife's. Can't HAL do ANYTHING to convince immigration that they need more staff............and we and that other woman actually went through with someone else's bag...........so how effective is immigration security?
MESSAGE HERE: CHECK YOUR TAGS CAREFULLY PLEASE......remember that old airport announcement about "Many bags look alike!"
In conclusion, it is sad to see some of the changes on HAL since our glorious cruises on many HAL ships in earlier times. The consistent ignoring of requests to have a reasonable sound levels in entertainment venues still is a company preference after similar comments from our previous cruises. We might cruise on the HAL Eurodam or the new ship Konigsdam in the future, but for now we feel that Royal Caribbean and particularly Celebrity offer better cruise choices and demographics. Read Less