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Discover 7 Continents with Bill & Mary Ann as we sail on the 2012 World Cruise

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This was a wonderful experience for me to read each and every day.

There was times I would read out loud to my husband some of the experiences you wrote about on different days.

I would say to God the Glory that kept you and all others safe from harm all the 125 plus days.

May you now enjoy your home life, good health till your able to travel again

 

Eleanor

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Thanks for keeping us onboard with you vicariously ... we enjoyed 2011 and look forward to 2013 when we will be back onboard the WC again with you guys.

harry

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I just returned to San Diego from the 4 day MS Amsterdam cruise to Vancouver. I must say that my cabin 6116 was in perfect condition....toilet....air conditioning....carpet....just about everything on the ship was super, in my opinion....and every elevator worked!

I poked my nose in where it didn't belong a few times, first with a very frank discussion with the Guest Relations Manager, who confirmed that there were some prior issues with the World Cruise, but he would not elaborate. He said that he has 40 more days onboard and his year long contract will be up. I didn't know that tours were that long, I thought 6-7 mos.

I also talked to two plumbers who were looking for a hot water leak last night. They were a bit hesitant to talk about flushing toilets, but they did say that 99% of the mishaps are due to improper or overload situations, and that the vacuum system isn't perfect. There are some very small pipes involved, as small as 2" in diameter, when we are used to 3" in residential plumbing and 4" in commercial. It could be the fault of someone next door or two decks above, but the lower decks 2 and 3 suffer because of what gets flushed on decks above, and gravity takes over from there despite the vacuum system.

Anyway, I'm going to "brag" that I had the best dam Porterhouse steak last night in the Pinnacle Grill, and incidentally, I was seated next to a party of 4, two of whom had been on the WC....the other two had visitor passes (a clue that these were not your "ordinary" diners). I overheard that they would not book next year due to their stock portfolio not producing the type of profit that it did previously. Not all of us have that rationale, but I understand it.

I was disappointed that my wife of 26 years did not wish to sail, but I met some very nice and interesting folks in the lounges and in the men's sauna....almost all had sailed from FLL.

I wish that HAL would be more upfront with the "Happy Hour" thing, as the first night I missed it by 5 minutes in the Crow's Nest and the next night it was in the Ocean Bar.

How does one know?

My last comment is about the MDR menu. I know that it is a 4 day, but other than the tenderloin on the first day, the cuts of beef offered were not great. The only lamb on the menu was Osso Bucco. I miss the day when you had to decide between the Beef Wellington and the Prime rib, or between the dijon crusted lamb chop and the leg of lamb.

No lobster, only King Crab legs....etc. Wahhh. I still had a great time, met fine people, and am just amazed about how previous blogs about the cruise can come out daily.....great job to all of the 4 month long daily posts, every which of which I read and enjoyed immensely.

David

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Report # 145 May 20, 2012 Sunday The Good, Bad, and the Not So Ugly

 

Well, here it is, one week or so, home from the Grand World Voyage, and back into the daily routine that keeps us busy and happy. We've had time to discuss the many positive and negative aspects of this long trip, so here they are.

 

We're certain that you would want to hear the good stuff first, as there is a lot to be said in that department. There are so many reasons that we return to the HAL ships, but here are the best ones. You cannot find a better crew, especially the Filipino and Indonesian room stewards and dining staff. If we had a problem, most of the gals and guys at the front desk went out of their way to accommodate us. Actually, the only big problem we encountered was missing Carnival stock shipboard credit, which was quickly resolved once the Seattle office was contacted. What we appreciated is the fact that many of the front desk staffers know us by name, always making us feel welcome from day one. And while we are talking about the staff, we need to mention the help we got from the Hotel Manager, Henk. His office door is never closed, and he did assist us with several room problems this year. The bar manager, Willie, and Raymond, his assistant, are some of the good guys as well.

 

The complimentary laundry service worked extremely well this year. We never had to wait more than one day for clean clothes. Some days, the laundry came back in the evening of the day we sent it out. Shiv, the new manager of housekeeping, was always willing to be of service, as was his second in command, Mathilda. Of course, our room was located very close to their headquarters, so they got to know us well. When our room stewards indicated that they were having difficulties getting us two little bottles of lotion daily, Shiv and Mathilda made sure we had it, even adding a large pump bottle for us.

 

Even though we missed scenic cruising of Cape Horn and Pitcairn Island, Captain Mercer did go out of his way to take us to an isolated group of islands off the coast of Australia caled Lord Howe Island and Bols Pyramid. They were unlike anything we have ever seen.

 

We were just as happy about docking in Darling Harbour in Sydney, although we did not have the Opera House across from us in our usual spot in Circular Quay. There really was no reason for people complaining so much, because the city supplied a free shuttle to Circular Quay. We found the walk to downtown was even closer being docked in Darling Harbour. You can't please everyone.

 

The custom tailors that are always on the ship when we near Hong Kong provided excellent service and very high quality clothing. Every time we sail on the world cruise, we have always been leary about buying clothing from them. Yes, they were a bit pricey, but it was a good way to use some of our generous shipboard credit. They had to do a few alterations, but the clothing arrived before the ship left Hong Kong, and we were more than pleased. If anyone is interested in purchasing custom made suits, jackets, or dresses, we would recommend pricing these items out at local shops before you leave home, then you can compare.

 

It was a very good idea for the full service in the dining room and Lido go into effect at every segment, of which there were many. By this we mean all food is served as opposed to helping yourself. Unfortunately, there was a terrible virus that spread like wildfire from day one in Ft. Lauderdale. Not so much the gastro-intestinal bug, but a respiratory illness that left some folks locked in their rooms for days. Purell dispensers were placed everywhere on the ship, and you would be a fool not to use them.

 

"Pirate exercises" were added to the crew drills before we left Mumbai and headed at full speed towards the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Since this was a new drill, we snuck out on the promenade deck to watch the security staff members manning the firehoses to be used in an emergency. We would have felt better if the water pressure was better than what we saw. What did make a difference was the addition of coiled razorwire wrapped under the promenade deck to prevent access by pirates. Thinking back on it, the first time we noticed this wire on a ship was when the Seabourn ship docked near us. Bet a lot of folks thought that was a nifty idea, and bugged the Captain to do the same. Why them and not us? Thankfully, we made the crossing without incident.

 

Due to the high speed used to cross from Mumbai to Safaga, Egypt, we had arrived a day early to Safaga. This allowed for the shore excursion staff to add an overnight trip to Luxor, instead of driving the six hours in one day. That was a no-brainer for us, and our travel agency let us swap their tour with HAL's. It was a much better excursion getting to Luxor the night before, with an excellent hotel stay, dinner, and show, and breakfast the following day.

 

Several times during the cruise, the Captain and Hotel Manager gave us complimentary wine with dinner, mostly in apology for something gone wrong. For us, we had diet Cokes. Doesn't take much to make us happy.

 

On the Panama Canal sailing following the world cruise, the new Captain (Fred) sent a vase of flowers, a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries, spa discounts, and a complimentary dinner for two in the Pinnacle Grill Restaurant. In addition to that, we were invited to three cocktail parties, and a Mariner brunch. The second cocktail party was only for the 37 of us world cruisers that had stayed onboard to sail to either San Diego, Vancouver, or Seattle. We thought that was pretty nice, making us feel special.

 

Debarkation day in San Diego went much smoother this year. Perhaps it was due to the stern warnings from our cruise director, Bruce, telling the passengers that everyone needed to be seen by the customs and immigrations officials. We thank him for that and much more. Speaking of Bruce, we let him know we appreciated the better music being played in the lounges at night. By better, we mean more up-to-date. He assured us that every year he is pushing for improvements in that area.

 

And finally, our duffels arrived in one piece with nothing broken. Now the work begins....putting all that stuff away.

 

As with everything in life, nothing is perfect, and that is true of cruising the world. The more often you do something, the more likely you are to have something go wrong. That happened when we arrived to the airport in Miami at 11pm, gathered our luggage, and waited for our contact from HAL to provide our transfer to the hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. No one was there for us, and there never would be, because they were waiting for us at the Ft. Lauderdale airport instead. Duh....... This was the first time we had to use the special emergency phone number for HAL. Lucky for us, it worked, and the nice rep told us to get a taxi and a receipt, and we would be re-imbursed. We did and we were compensated with $100. shipboard credit.

 

On past Grand Voyages, the embarkation area at the pier was always decorated with balloons and banners with waiters dressed in colorful costumes offering soft drinks and cookies. Not this time. One check-in area was designated for suites and 5 star Mariner members only. That was fine. However, the rest of us were treated like cattle, and those of us that were 4 star Mariners had no special privileges. We were all told to sit down and wait our turn, because almost everyone was 4 star. The good part was once we were called to the desk, check-in was quick and easy.

 

By the time we boarded, the rooms were ready to drop off our hand carrys. Prior to the trip, we and our travel agent had called many times and reserved a refrigerator and a tower fan for our room. And the only time we enjoy the gift of the champagne on ice is when we board. Except none of it was there. And the beds were made as twin beds, not queen as we had requested. That sent us on a quest to make sure our requests were completed by the end of the day. Starting with our room steward, we went to the front desk folks, then made a visit to say Hi to the Hotel Manager, Henk. He always asks if we have everything, which of course, we did not. After going over it with him, the refrigerator, the fan, and the iced champagne eventually arrived. In the future, Mathilda from housekeeping told us to call or email HAL ship services and ask for a confirmation of our requests. That way we know the ship will receive the requests prior to sailing.

 

Two little things we noticed in the room were the smallest tissues we have ever seen in the bathroom. And the little glycerin soaps were absent too. We had counted on those being there and did not bring substitutes. Henk sent us a handful from his personal stash, which was really nice.

 

A couple of days into the trip, we had a notice that we could not use our compact coffee maker. In fact, the letter, which came from the Guest Relations Manager, Christel (Henk's wife), said it needed to be boxed and would be stored until the end of the trip in May. We never did find out why or who pointed that out. We made another visit to Henk, who said it was fine to use it, because it had an auto shut off. Don't know whose toes we stepped on with that, but we do know that on some other cruise lines, these coffee makers are in every stateroom.

 

The next change we noticed was in the dining room at dinner and really this belongs in the positive comments. The serving sizes had gotten smaller. Many people quickly noticed that the shrimp cocktail had only three shrimps, not four. Naturally, you can order several shrimp cocktails if you wish, but most folks will not do that. Overall, that can save the company lots of money fleetwide. As for us, we appreciated the smaller servings, because it left room for dessert. Most of the entrees were fine, but the quality of the beef was not up to par compared to last year's meat. The best steaks were definitely in the Pinnacle Grill.

 

The gifts were fewer, but better, for the most part. The smaller size of a duffel bag was perfect. And they were not canvas, but black pleather with a very small HAL logo. For us, they would be perfect for an overnight stay anywhere, and can be brought on the plane as a carryon. We have been told by friends that the logo gifts are worth a lot of money, and can be found for sale on ebay by returning cruisers. We are certain that the votive glasses from Tiffany's are expensive. Will have to do some research on the items. Never-the -less, people still compained about no gifts on formal nights. As you can tell, they have spoiled us.

 

The internet service was a sore subject with most guests. In the beginning, the speed was awful. After much complaining from frequent users, the service improved. The CEO of HAL came onboard in Samoa, and explained that the bandwidth had been widened at a high price for them. Everyone did see an improvement. And we have to say that if we ran into problems, and the manager agreed, we were given some minutes back. Since we are used to old fashioned dial-up, the speed on the ship was fast for us.

 

We have mixed feelings on the Mariner Appreciation Days with the arrival of the CEO and his group from Seattle. There was no missing the fact that the crew and staff go into overdrive to prepare for this event. Some of our friends stated that they felt the upheaval in the daily activities was taking away from their cruise experience. Others thought it was wonderful to see the crew building structures in the Lido pool area, closing it off to sunbathers. Our main gripe about this was that the main event of the Mardi Gras Parade and drinking party was way over-crowded. To the point of being a safety hazard for lots of elderly people. Many of our older buddies stayed "home" for the evening. Now the better way to have a party, was how they did it in 2008 in Istanbul. Everyone was bussed to the Cistern Party, under the city, and treated to an evening of exciting entertainment and special food. That was as good as it gets. Yes, it cost HAL quite a bit of money, but it left all with a lasting memory of an evening "over the top".

 

After listening to our tablemates discuss the nightly shows in the Queens Lounge, we came to the conclusion that most of the entertainment was poor. We did go a few times for the head-liners, and found their shows OK. The worst reviews came after a different group of HAL singers and dancers came onboard. We did notice that the lounge at 10pm was sparsely filled. Most all the guests chose the early seating, and filled the showlounge at 8pm instead. If people wrote their true feelings about this on the final surveys, then perhaps things will change for next year. Time will tell.

 

Everyone we knew complained about the high price of the shore excursions. Therefore, lots of people booked independant tours with other passenger friends. This is the first cruise that we did not take many ship tours, but chose to explore on our own and search out good lunch places to eat. More times than not, we made the better choice in doing our own thing. Some of the tours were not described as well as they should have been. For instance, we never would have booked Phi Phi Island in Phuket had we known that we would be transported in a boat we could not see out of for hours. Also, it bugs the heck out of us when we are not informed of complimentary shuttles provided until the day before we arrive to a port. That could change our whole plan for that day.

 

All ships need to be maintained at all times, but it seemed that way too much work was being done on the promenade deck on this cruise. Painting and scraping took place almost daily, and usually in the hottest areas of the world. Many of our buddies had to forgo sitting on the nice lounges, due to the noxious smells of paint and varnish. This work was being blamed on the previous crew that did not keep it up properly. Funny thing....the work ceased on this deck once the world cruisers went home.

 

TV movies need to be updated. And why these same movies keep popping up month after month is a mystery to us. The majority of passengers were on for the entire 112 days, so why can't movies be shown only once? We are not that old yet that we don't remember that we saw that movie just a week ago. The same goes for the sitcoms. There are so many good ones to put on the TV, there would be no need to repeat anything.

 

It is understandable that not all the proposed itineraries can be completed as promised. That can apply to Antarctica, where we missed one of the most photogenic channels, and a lot of scenic cruising. Disappointing, but unavoidable, we guess. The biggest problem was with the Great Barrier Reef Experience. It never really was an experience, because we missed stopping where we were scheduled to anchor. When asked about this change, the Captain said he was following orders from headquarters. The stops could never had been made, due to lack of time to get to the next port in Komodo. That was an error with HAL's planners who miscalculated the distance we believe. And they agreed with us, finally admtting they made an error.

 

Most times, the Amsterdam, while on a Grand Voyage, will take the better dockage in major ports, like Singapore. This time, we were in a container port. When the ship was supposed to be moved later that day, it did not happen on time. That delayed hundreds of people from boarding for hours, while waiting, and not so patiently, in the cruise terminal. On that occassion, we had a simple apology, and that was that. There were a lot of ruffled feathers that day.

 

On the Panama segment from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego, we checked to see if our credit had been added for the Carnival stock allowance. It was not, and had to be researched. Again, that had been approved months ago, but if we had missed the fact that it wasn't posted, we would have lost it.

 

And the last differences are almost funny. On the Panama trip, the jelly and jam jars were gone from breakfast time and the foil packs are substituted. And the butter was cut in pats and not in flowerettes. We can deal with that!

 

So, there it is. We are booked for next year's voyage, and God-willing, will enjoy every minute of it.......especially when we are here pulling weeds, mowing, watering, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, etc, etc, etc...........

 

And a huge thanks to all of you who took the time to send such wonderful comments. You'll never know how much that encouraged us to keep the blog going!

 

Until next time, adios!

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Thank you for all your reports and your summary report. I know it takes lots of your time doing these but for those of us who aren't on the ship with you, it makes for fantastic reading and vicarious sailing. Very much looking forward to 2013. Thanks again. Barbara

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Thank you for taking the time to write your experiences each and every day of your wonderful cruise. My day was not complete until each evening I sat down and read about what you did that day and where you were. It was so much fun to pull out atlas and follow along.

 

Maybe some day I will be as adventurous and travel for more than two weeks at a time, the longest I have been gone on vacation.

 

Thanks again and welcome home!

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Bill and Mary Ann

 

Thank you so much for your wonderful reports from your world cruise. I have enjoyed them so very much. In fact, I had to go to the doctor due to blog withdrawal!!!

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I appreciate the time and dedication required to post daily. I have 25 more years before retiring. So I will look forward to reading next year.

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I have so enjoyed your daily reports.I have not posted on this thread before,but am one of the 134,000 viewers of your reports.I'm not sure if I could be gone for that long of a cruise,but you have planted a seed for sure.Your writing made me feel like I was cruising right along with you.I will miss my morning travels until you take us along next year.

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Thank you for this final review in addition to all your wonderful posts throughout your Grand Voyage.

 

I'll be looking forward to reading your daily reports again next year.

Since we can't afford a world trip it's nice to be able to do it vicariously through your postings.

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Thank you so very much for your end of cruise review. It has been wonderful following you on World Cruises for many years and I look forward to reading about your 2013 World Cruise.

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